The Lake County Board of County Commissioners met in special session on Wednesday, September 9, 1992, at 5:30 p.m., in the Board of County Commissioner's Meeting Room, Lake County Courthouse, Tavares, Florida. Commissioners present at the meeting were: Michael J. Bakich, Chairman; Don Bailey (arriving at 5:45 p.m.); Richard Swartz; C. W. "Chick" Gregg; and Catherine Hanson. Others present were: Annette Star Lustgarten, County Attorney; Peter F. Wahl, County Manager; Ava Kronz, Assistant to the County Manager; Barbara Lehman, Deputy Clerk in charge of County Finance and Internal Audits; and Toni M. Riggs, Deputy Clerk.
Commr. Bakich, Chairman, called the public hearing to order, with the Pledge of Allegiance being given.
Mr. Pete Wahl, County Manager, stated that the 1992-93 proposed budget has been prepared at the direction of the Board of County Commissioners at a "hold-the-line" level. This Board has, for the fourth year, stated a goal for the millage rates not to be increased. Since July 28, 1992, staff has refined and solidified revenue and expenditure figures where possible. The budget office has prepared, on Page 31 of the budget book, a summary of adjustments to the General Fund budget. At this time, the amount of $93,412.00 remains unappropriated within the General Fund at the current millage. In addition, staff is proposing to reduce the transfer to the Clerk's budget by $114,701.00, reflecting a net reduction resulting from the Clerk's reorganization. The Clerk has increased his proposed excess fees by $89,315.00. This yields a total unappropriated amount, at the existing millage, of $297,428.00. The proposed budget does include a stage cost of living, adjusted as directed by the Board, and based on annual salary, and includes a merit pay plan of 0-3%, available to the employee on anniversary date. The proposed budget, as presented,
also depends heavily on contract revenue for inmate detainees from the various federal agencies. Lake County has received a significant influx of federally funded people over the last several weeks, as a result of Hurricane Andrew. The County has insufficient history in the normal program to demonstrate a revenue projection history. While it was the desire of the Board on July 28, 1992, to look at achieving a rollback millage rate, Mr. Wahl stated that he is again cautioning the Board against taking this action at this time. With no revenue history in the operation of the federal jail contracts, and a heavy dependence on that revenue in the Corrections budget, Mr. Wahl stated that it is inadvisable to recommend the adoption of the rollback millage rate. Mr. Wahl stated that he would recommend that those unappropriated dollars be placed in the Board General Fund Reserve, thereby addressing another stated goal adopted by the Board. Mr. Wahl reviewed
Page 5, which stated the action needed by the Board. The tentative millage rate, as adopted by the Board on July 28, 1992, is 4.938. The same millage has been in place for the past three years. The rollback millage rate is 4.864. The adoption of the current millage represents a 1.51 percent increase over the rollback millage rate. The impact to a residential property valued at $75,000.00, with the $25,000.00 homestead exemption, is $3.70. The Property Appraiser has stated that most residential property evaluation has remained unchanged this year, except for certain improvements. The majority of the property that has seen revised evaluations is commercial property.
Mr. Wahl stated that this meeting has been properly advertised as a public hearing. He stated that the budget before the Board represents a realistic work program for the upcoming year, and staff has responded properly to the direction of the Board. At this time, Mr. Wahl extended his appreciation to the Board, the Constitutional Officers, and staff, for their hard work in the preparation of the budget document.
Ms. Dorothy Barber appeared before the Board and discussed her tax bill. Ms. Barber also discussed raising her children in Hollywood, Florida; the problem of not being able to drink water from her pump on her property; paying school taxes; coming back to Lake County due to the illness of her sons; and the problems she has had with owning a mobile home, which is located in Lake Highlands.
Commr. Bakich recommended that Ms. Barker contact Mr. Ed Havill, Property Appraiser, to discuss the problems she has indicated regarding her assessment.
Ms. Alice Parker, Mount Dora, appeared before the Board and stated that she lives on Fournier Avenue. At this time, she discussed the problems that have occurred, due to this being a sand road. She stated that she has called AAA Refuse and requested that they not use this road, due to the damage caused to the road. She further discussed the problems with the mosquitoes, and stated that the County will not spray in this area.
Commr. Swartz requested that Mr. Jim Stivender, Executive Director of Public Works, contact Ms. Parker and discuss the road problems and possibilities for an assessment. Mr. Stivender stated that he would also check on the spraying for mosquitoes on this road.
Ms. Irene Mokley, Fournier Avenue, appeared before the Board to discuss the mosquito problem. Ms. Mokley also discussed her tax bill, and the problems with Fournier Avenue. She stated that she had considered moving here from Kentucky this winter, and would be willing to assist in a process to improve the road.
Commr. Swartz requested that Mr. Stivender also contact
Ms. Mokley to discuss the possibilities for improving the road.
Ms. Linda Rozar, Concerned Citizens, appeared before the Board and commented on Page 66 of the Tentative Budget regarding the Children's Services Council, and questioned the funding for the services, and the "holding-the-line" budget the Board had wanted to establish. Ms. Rozar stated that she had hoped that the citizens
would have a chance on a referendum to make a decision about the money. She further discussed the volunteer process being used by the nation to assist the victims of Hurricane Andrew, and stated that the County might have been able to coordinate some services, so that the funding for the Council could have been reviewed closer. She stated that the Concerned Citizens had consistently recommended delaying the approval of such a Council. She questioned the $50,000.00 to be contributed by the County, and where the money would be coming from.
Mr. Wahl stated that the $50,000.00 would be coming from the General Revenue, in the recommended budget, which is made up of a combination of fees, and the $200,000.00 is anticipated to be gained from contract revenues, donations, contributions, bequest trusts, etc.
Commr. Hanson informed Ms. Rozar that the County is looking into a volunteer program, which will be coordinated with the Children's Services Council, and that the Services was established with the idea that taxes would not be raised, but that programs would be reviewed and prioritized.
Ms. Rozar stated that she was concerned with the County getting involved with the legal fees from some of the cases that have been brought to Lake County involving children's rights.
At 5:58 p.m., the Chairman called for further public comment. There being none, the public portion of the public hearing was closed.
Discussion occurred regarding a 30% increase in taxes, with the year being noted as the 1989-90 tax year.
Commr. Bailey stated that he discussed the millage rollback with the County Manager, at which time Mr. Wahl stated that the goal set by the Board on July 28, 1992, was to "hold-the-line" at the current millage, with a desire being expressed to go to the rollback millage. Mr. Wahl further stated that an amount of $297,000.00 has been identified, with there being a need for $336,000.00 to get to the rollback millage. He then stated that he
has recommended that the Board not take this action at this time, but to take the unappropriated dollars and place them into the General Fund Cash Reserve, so that, in the event any revenue items are identified in the budget fall short, the County will be in the position to make this up. Mr. Wahl stated that he would be very uncomfortable making a recommendation to go to rollback at this point in time, and that this would be something to look at next year.
Discussion occurred regarding the contracts the County has with the U. S. Immigration, Marshall Service, and Bureau of Prisons, with Mr. Wahl stating that the County facilities are full, due to the results of Hurricane Andrew. He stated that the County does not have a history to make a future projection of needs, which is why he is taking the position that he has on the budget.
Commr. Hanson discussed the goals that were set in January, and the fact that she suggested, at the time, to go to a rollback millage, but working with Mr. Wahl, the Board decided on holding the line of millage. She stated that she agrees that the Board needs more history on the County's revenue, and would like to set aside the goal now for a rollback millage rate, until next year. She further stated that the County has not gotten into the Palm Beach strategy and study, and next year may be the time to renew this possibility, and to set this as a goal. Commr. Hanson discussed the cash reserve that Lake County should have on hand.
Mr. Wahl informed the Board that there is approximately 2.3 million dollars in reserve, which amounts to 5.3 percent of the General Fund budget. He stated that his recommendation was not less than 10 percent, with the Board setting a previous policy of trying to maintain a 15 percent level of reserve. He stated that this does not include the $297,000.00.
Commr. Bakich discussed the Board prioritizing its expenditures, and stated that the rollback is unwise, due to the fact that the revenue projections are unstable, and he is not comfortable with the contract held with the Federal Bureau of
Prisons. He stated that the Board did make a commitment of 15 percent. At this time, he discussed the possibility of future disasters, and stated that the Board needs to look ahead and properly plan, and that he cannot support the rollback millage.
Commr. Swartz stated that this is the first time that the Board has had to avoid a tax increase. The total amount that has to be reduced from the budget in the General Fund is $336,000.00. He discussed the past budget shortfalls from the State, and the procedures taken by the Board that were used to reduce the budget last year, in the amount of 2.9 million dollars. Commr. Swartz stated that he supports going to the rollback rate, taking the $297,000.00 in adjustments, as identified by Mr. Wahl, and supplementing it with the approximate amount of $39,000.00 from Reserve or Contingency, and allow Mr. Wahl to review his revenue projections, which are extremely conservative. He stated that he would be willing to take the same action, should calamities occur, as the Board did a year ago.
Commr. Bailey stated that this would be a good opportunity to present to the taxpayers a year of no new taxes by approving the rollback millage.
Discussion occurred regarding the Board prioritizing expenditures, the state of the economy, and the present surplus of revenue.
Commr. Gregg discussed the state of the reserve monies in previous years, and stated that the reserves have gradually been built back up. He stated that he has mixed emotions on going back to the rollback millage rate. He discussed the recession, and the opportunity that the County has through the prison contracts, due to the misfortune in south Florida. Therefore, he stated that he feels it would be wise to go to rollback.
Commr. Hanson stated that she does not feel secure with the proposed budget for next year, and that she is against the rollback, but that she would like to make it a goal for next year, 1993-94, for the Board to go to rollback. She stated that this
will give the Board time to prioritize the expenditures and programs, and to prepare for a rollback for next year.
Commr. Gregg made a motion, which was seconded by Commr. Bailey, to approved the 4.864 rollback millage rate with a zero percentage increase.
Mr. Wahl directed the Board's attention to Page 5 of the proposed budget package. He stated that he did not have any objection to the direction of the Board; however, should something occur between now and the final budget hearing, there will be no opportunity for the Board to do anything but adopt its stated position tonight, without giving individual notice to all taxpayers in Lake County.
The Board recognized the fact that Mr. Wahl has been very conservative with his estimation of the revenues, particularly relating to the jail.
The Chairman called for a vote, with the motion being carried by a 3-2 vote.
Commrs. Hanson and Bakich voted "no".
On a motion by Commr. Swartz, seconded by Commr. Bailey and carried unanimously, the Board adopted the tentative budget, as proposed, making the necessary adjustments to reflect the action of the rollback millage rate.
Mr. Wahl stated that the Board also needs to continue the public hearing to September 22, 1992, at 5:30 p.m.
Ms. Eleanor Anderson, Executive Director of Management/Budget, appeared before the Board and stated that the rollback millage is .222 for the Northlake Ambulance District.
On a motion by Commr. Hanson, seconded by Commr. Gregg and carried unanimously, the Board approved the rollback millage of .222 for the Northlake Ambulance District.
On a motion by Commr. Bailey, seconded by Commr. Hanson and carried unanimously, the Board approved the millage of 4.000 for the Greater Hills Municipal Taxing Unit (MSTU).
On a motion by Commr. Bailey, seconded by Commr. Hanson and carried unanimously, the Board approved to continue the public hearing for final adoption of the 1992-93 proposed budget to September 22, 1992, at 5:30 p.m., or as soon thereafter as possible.
COUNTY EMPLOYEES/COUNTY POLICY
Mr. Pete Wahl, County Manager, informed the Board of two other items regarding pay for employees called for National Guard Duty, and relief for South Florida, and stated that the County Attorney has indicated that the Board cannot take action on the items at this meeting, but that the Board will have to ratify them at the next Board meeting, September 15, 1992.
Mr. Wahl stated that the first request was in regard to relief for South Florida, and recommended that ten (10) employees be sent to replace those who are returning from this area, but reduce the period of time from ten (10) days to seven (7) days.
Mr. Wahl stated that the next issue involves personnel who have been called to service by the National Guard, and have exhausted their two week military service allowance. The Board had adopted a policy during Desert Storm to supplement the difference between the National Guard pay and the County salary. He recommended that the Board approve the same policy for this instance.
On a motion by Commr. Bailey, seconded by Commr. Swartz and carried unanimously, the Board authorized the County Manager and the Chairman to proceed to deal with these issues, as stated above, and to bring them back to the Board at the September 15, 1992, regular meeting, for ratification.
Commr. Bakich extended his appreciation to staff for the energy it has displayed in presenting a well organized budget.
There being no further business to be brought to the attention of the Board, the meeting adjourned at 6:25 p.m.
G. RICHARD SWARTZ, JR., CHAIRMAN
JAMES C. WATKINS, CLERK