The Lake County Board of County Commissioners met in special session on Monday, August 4, 1997, at 9:00 a.m., in the Board of County Commissioner's Meeting Room, Lake County Administration Building, Tavares, Florida. Commissioners present at the meeting were: William "Bill" H. Good, Chairman; G. Richard Swartz, Jr., Vice Chairman; Rhonda H. Gerber; Catherine C. Hanson; and Welton G. Cadwell. Others present were: Sue Whittle, County Manager; James C. Watkins, Clerk; George E. Knupp, Jr., Sheriff; Ava Kronz, Director of Continuous Quality Improvement; Barbara Lehman, Chief Deputy Clerk, County Finance; Sarah LaMarche, Director of Budget; Kevin M. McDonald, Senior Budget Analyst; Tracy L. Zeller, Senior Budget Analyst; Julia A. Wilson, Budget Analyst; and Sandra Carter, Deputy Clerk.
The Chairman opened the meeting.
FOLLOW-UP ISSUES (CONT'D.)
Commr. Good informed those present that the Board had been addressing some Follow-Up Issues, trying to set a tentative millage. He stated that they were in the process of looking at a baseline budget, with a few enhancements, however, they had some requests that might make it difficult not to increase taxes. Ms. Sue Whittle, County Manager, informed the Board that this date was the last day, by law, to set the tentative millage. She stated that the Board had been provided with a package of Follow-Up Issues, containing questions that they had asked at the last budget workshop meeting. She noted that the Clerk of Circuit Court, Mr. James C. Watkins, was present at this meeting, as well as the Sheriff, George E. Knupp, Jr., to address the Board regarding some questions they had concerning their budgets. She stated that the Board had also been provided with new Pages 18, 19 and 20 (General Fund Summary for FY 1997-98), to be placed in their Budget Books. She stated that the Tax Collector's budget was presented to the Board on August 1, 1997, which is required by law, so his actual numbers had been rolled into said pages. It was noted that his budget increased by 8%.
Sheriff George E. Knupp, Jr, appeared before the Board stating that he had made a previous presentation to them, regarding his budget, therefore, he would be brief. He addressed his need for additional deputies, at which time he noted that to hire them would amount to approximately $5.24 per household, per year. He stated that, at the Budget Workshop held on July 30, 1997, Ms. Sarah LaMarche, Director of Budget, provided the Board with a handout indicating amended and baseline budget figures for the Sheriff's Office, however, had noted at the time that she did not feel it was totally correct, that it had been prepared mainly for Commr. Hanson, upon her request, to give her a general idea of his office's budget figures. He stated that it was not correct, therefore, he took it upon himself to correct the figures, at which time he distributed a printout of the table, containing his calculations.
Ms. Linda Carter, Director of Finance, Lake County Sheriff's Office, appeared before the Board and explained why said corrections were made.
Commr. Hanson stated that the Board needed to know what figures they could count on each year from the Sheriff's Office.
Sheriff Knupp discussed various ways that his office generates funding, however, noted that he cannot tell the Board exactly what those funds are going to be year after year.
Commr. Hanson stated that the handout distributed by Sheriff Knupp will be very helpful to the Board, as well as to Ms. LaMarche, noting that the Board and the Sheriff should have the same records.
Sheriff Knupp discussed further his need for additional deputies, at which time he displayed and reviewed maps indicating the various zones in the County - Present and Proposed. He stated that the average city response time is three to four minutes; however, the average response time for the County is 16.4 minutes, with the exception of Zone 3, which is 25 minutes. He stated that that is totally unacceptable, therefore, noted that he would do his best to get the 16 additional deputies. He briefly discussed the issue of setting the millage, noting that, if the Board decided to go to roll-back, they would be saving the taxpayers $2.04; however, it would not allow for the additional deputies. He then addressed the issue of his Correctional Officers, stating that he requested enough funding to bring their starting salaries up, because he is losing them to the State of Florida and to the Federal Government.
Sheriff Knupp stated that, if the Board were to take the County Manager's recommendation and set the millage rate at 4.805 mills, it would cost the taxpayers $5.26 per household, per year, which would fund the 16 deputies, as well as everything else that is being requested in the budget. He stated that it is the Board's responsibility to make sure that he has what he needs to protect the citizens of the County and he does not have it, therefore, will do his best to get 16 additional deputies on the streets by October 1 of this year. He stated that it will cost the County $495,331.00 for said deputies and noted that they will be staged in, during the year.
The issue of Teen Court was briefly addressed, at which time Sheriff Knupp was questioned how he felt about it. He stated that he was not for it, elaborating on the matter.
Commr. Swartz informed the Sheriff that, if the Board voted to go to roll-back, the County could provide him with an extra $1.167 million. He stated that it is less than the $1.8 million he requested, however, he is getting 65% of the new dollars. He stated that it is hardly a case where the Board is not trying to fund the Sheriff's Office, although they are not able to fund it as much as the Sheriff feels they should. He stated that the Sheriff has done a great job of running the Jail, however, noted that the County has funded it. He stated that the Board is projecting a 0% increase in the General Fund Budget. He stated that the Board operated its budget last year at $19,674,937.00 and they are plugging in exactly the same number again this year. He stated that the County turns money back in each year, too, and noted that, since Ms. Whittle has been with the County, it has not had a mid-year budget increase. He stated that, year after year, the Board has taken that money and put it into Contingency, because it was abysmally low. He stated that, if the County had had a major catastrophe, it would not have been able to fund it. He stated that the Board has been able to get the Contingency Fund to a level where the County can fund unforseen circumstances, should they occur.
Commr. Swartz briefly discussed the reason for putting funds into the In-House Support Fund. He stated that, to phase in the deputies is a good idea, because the Sheriff will only be hitting the budget this year for $495,000.00; however, the problem is that next year, when the deputies are hired, it will be a $700,000.00 plus hit for the County, so there will be an automatic increase in next year's budget of $200-300,000.00. He stated that he did not feel the County should have a tax increase, unless it absolutely has to. He stated that he has supported increases for the Sheriff's Office in the past and will probably continue to do so, but he cannot see increasing property taxes, when the County is already funding $1.167 million of the Sheriff's request, that will allow him to give the raises that he needs to give and still be able to hire some deputies, although it will not allow him to hire 16 deputies. He stated that the Board has funded Law Enforcement significantly, over the years, and he feels they will continue to do so, because they believe the Sheriff is doing a good job, but it cannot get to where the Sheriff wants to be in one budget year. He stated that this year the Sheriff wants to do two major things, being (1) he wants a significant budget increase, because of competition from other agencies; and (2) he wants to significantly increase his road patrol deputies. He stated that the Board cannot do both in one year.
Sheriff Knupp reappeared before the Board stating that the increase he is requesting is to bring the starting salaries of some of his employees from $21,000.00 to $23,000.00, that it only effects a few employees, and that it falls in line with what the County plans to give its employees. He stated that his employees see the County giving pay increases and they want them.
RECESS AND REASSEMBLY
At 10:05 a.m., the Chairman announced that the Board would recess for five minutes.
Mr. James C. Watkins, Clerk, informed the Board that the Clerk's budget for FY 1997-98 has no new programs, no new equipment, and no new employees. He stated that his budget is a baseline budget, which will enable him to give salary increases consistent with those that the Board is giving this year and that were given, mid-year, during the plan that was implemented when Mr. Pete Wahl was the County Manager. He addressed the issue of the Museum Budget, noting that it was cut $23,000.00. He stated that, apparently, the County plans to phase in some things, rather than bring it all in at one time. He stated that, over the years, he has cut his budget, as the Board requested; however, this year he cannot do it, unless he cuts employees or programs. He discussed the various services that the Clerk's Office provides for the County, as well as the State Attorney's Office, that impacts his budget and noted that, should Teen Court become a reality, his office will be the one asked to fund it and run it, and, if 16 additional deputies are put on the roads, his office will be the one doing the paperwork for the deputies' cases that come into the courts system, which will further impact his budget.
Mr. Watkins addressed the issue of excess fees being returned to the County, noting that he would like to settle it once and for all. He stated that there is a difference between returning monies, unspent, that the Board budgets and returning unspent fees. He stated that, this year, his office will be returning to the County in excess of $110-120,000.00, which he noted will fund what Commr. Swartz would like to have funded, because it is unanticipated revenue. He stated that he hoped the Board would fund his budget, as presented, and fund it at the recommended level. He stated that he felt it could be funded, without impacting ad valorem taxation, through the use of excess fees.
Commr. Swartz questioned Mr. Watkins about the issue of salaries, at which time Mr. Watkins stated that the Board did a salary adjustment in 1995 and increased the salaries of County employees, mid-year, which he did not have the ability to do. He stated that he could budget for it and give the increases in October, but the Board did it through unexpected revenue, mid-year. He stated that this year he budgeted for salary increases, plus the ability to enhance the salaries of the Clerk's beginning employees to what the County's beginning employees receive. He noted that his budget also contains funds for computer enhancement training for the year 2000.
Commr. Swartz stated that the Tax Collector's budget and Excess Fees figures that the Board had just received gives them an extra $95,000.00 in new dollars, which will allow them to give the Clerk's Office new dollars, in the amount of $211,093.00, as opposed to $244,396.00 - a difference of $33,303.00. He stated that the Board would continue to look through their budget for more funding and requested the Clerk to do the same.
Mr. Watkins stated that his staff reviewed his budget very seriously the week prior to this meeting and they feel it cannot be cut any further.
The Board thanked Mr. Watkins for interrupting his vacation to attend this meeting, to address the issue of his budget.
Commr. Gerber noted, for the record, that the Historical Museum Committee will be watching the Museum's budget very closely; therefore, she will be requesting updates from Mr. Kevin McDonald, Senior Budget Analyst, County Finance, regarding the expenditures for the Museum, so they can budget for them more closely next year. She stated that they will, hopefully, be getting the fund raising arm started next year.
FOLLOW-UP ISSUES (CONT'D.)
Ms. Sue Whittle, County Manager, informed the Board that they had a list of Enhanced Items that she was recommending they fund. She stated that the General Fund items total $833,014.00, which includes the Library Services Program Coordinator and Technical Services Assistant - Part-Time (previously grant funded). She stated that she had reviewed said positions and was recommending that the Board approve them.
Commr. Swartz stated that any excess monies that exist need to go into the Special Infrastructure Repair/Maintenance Contingency Fund that was discussed at the Board's last retreat.
Commr. Hanson stated that she was not willing to go with a figure less than what the County Manager recommended, for enhancements, and that she felt the Board needed to go along with the requests from the Constitutional Officers. She stated that that would keep the County in between roll-back and holding the line at the present millage rate, which would be 4.805 mills. She noted that she did not believe in roll-backs. She stated that the County is looking at increasing the level of service for the Sheriff's Office and noted that there is a great deal of population growth in the rural areas.
Commr. Swartz stated that, if the County is reaching a point in the unincorporated areas where there is not sufficient law enforcement, it needs to have a millage that is paid for out of the unincorporated areas.
Commr. Good stated that the County is either going to have to start putting more people in uniforms, or they are going to have to start addressing crime where it needs to be addressed, through programs that the Board is funding. He stated that he felt the Board's message to the Sheriff needs to be clear that the roll-back budget says to him that the Board supports what he is doing, but they are not going to continue to give him funds, at the expense of all the other programs that the Board is trying to fund. He stated that, if growth is not paying for itself, the County cannot stay at roll-back. He stated that the Board needs to hold the line and go to roll-back and say to the Constitutional Officers that they need their cooperation, because it is what is best for Lake County. He stated that it is the right thing to do and he believes the Constitutional Officers will work with them, regarding the matter.
Commr. Gerber questioned whether Ms. Whittle would still recommend a 4.805 millage rate.
Ms. Whittle stated that she would, because she felt the County would be able to offer better services.
Commr. Swartz stated that the Board had found, in the last few days, that the Sheriff and the Clerk would be turning additional funds back to the County, in excess fees, that they had not counted on, which will go toward enhancing both the Clerk's and Sheriff's budgets. He stated that he feels the proposed budget is a responsible one and one that funds the Board's needs.
A motion was made by Commr. Swartz that the Board set the tentative millage at the roll-back rate of 4.733 mills.
The Chairman passed the gavel to the Vice-Chairman, Commr. Swartz, and seconded the motion.
Under discussion, Commr. Cadwell stated that, if the Board went with the County Manager's recommendation, it would lower the tax rate and, unless one's property has been reappraised, the property owner would pay less dollars, therefore, he felt that would be the way to go.
Commr. Gerber stated that she wanted to make it clear, for the record, that her vote would not be based on the fact that next year is an election year. She stated that she does not feel the County can go to roll-back and find the money they need to fund the Sheriff's needs and she feels the Board needs to support the Sheriff. However, she feels that, when the County gives the Sheriff funding, it is money that the cities could have used for their Law Enforcement budgets. She stated that she expects to see the issue of the millage for Law Enforcement pursued strenuously and aggressively, until those issues are separated. She stated that she was torn between the two, because she wanted to do what is right for both sides.
Commr. Good stated that it is not fair to ask the cities to pay for law enforcement for the County's rural residents.
Commr. Hanson stated that she felt the County needed to use the next fiscal year to bring the Sheriff on board and that they probably need to create a citizens' group that will look, with the Sheriff's help, at other funding alternatives and what the County can do differently next year, rather than facing that issue this year.
Commr. Swartz stated that there is going to be a garbage increase and, due to that fact, he did not want to see a property tax increase, as well. He questioned how the County can justify a tax increase, when it is providing an additional $1.3 million to the Sheriff, the Clerk's budget is coming in close to the $244,000.00 extra that he wants, the Property Appraiser and the Tax Collector will be funded at their full requests, and the Supervisor of Elections submitted a budget .37% less than her budget last year.
The Vice-Chairman called for a vote on the motion, which failed, by a 3-2 vote.
Commrs. Gerber, Hanson and Cadwell voted "No".
A motion was made by Commr. Cadwell and seconded by Commr. Hanson to set the tentative millage rate at 4.805 mills, which he noted was a lower rate than the existing rate of 4.909 mills.
Under discussion, Commr. Good stated that it was still a tax increase.
The Chairman called for a vote on the motion, which was carried, by a 3-2 vote.
Commrs. Good and Swartz voted "No".
A motion was made by Commr. Swartz and seconded by Commr. Cadwell to approve the Disposal rate for the 423 Account at $83.24 and the Self-Haul rate at $12.68, which are both at the 10% increase.
Under discussion, Commr. Swartz stated that the County is going to have serious problems in Solid Waste, as a result of some commercial haul issues, but, the County will be looking at a significant increase, with regard to the Ogden Martin Service Agreement, and it better start trying to renegotiate it.
Commr. Gerber stated that she hated to see the disposal rate for residents increase by 10% - from $75.50 to $83.24, when the Board has not addressed the commercial assessment issue yet.
Commr. Cadwell stated that the County has to keep its head above water, with regard to Solid Waste, and he feels this is the only way to do it.
Ms. Whittle, County Manager, informed the Board that, as Ms. Barbara Lehman, Chief Deputy Clerk, County Finance, indicated to them at the last budget workshop meeting, the Solid Waste Enterprise Fund currently has a fund deficit.
Commr. Swartz stated that that is why he felt the Board should go to roll-back.
The Chairman called for a vote on the motion, which was carried unanimously, by a 5-0 vote.
NORTHLAKE HOSPITAL AMBULANCE TAXING DISTRICT
On a motion by Commr. Swartz, seconded by Commr. Gerber and carried unanimously, by a 5-0 vote, the Board adopted the millage rate for the Northlake Hospital Ambulance Taxing District of .158 mills, which is the existing millage.
Ms. Whittle, County Manager, informed the Board that there were some questions about the contract with the ambulance company and whether or not everything the County could do, under that contract, had been exhausted. She stated that she had spoken with Chief Craig Haun, Senior Director, Fire and Emergency Services, regarding the issue of dispatchers and that he had provided the Board with some information regarding same, contained in their Follow-Up packets. She stated that she agreed with Chief Haun that the County needs to improve the situation with dispatchers, however, whether it could be done by a formal notice to the ambulance company, or not, she did not know. She stated that the contract the County has with Florida Regional states that they will dispatch the County's ambulances; however, it does not state under what parameters, training, etc. She stated that she felt it would be prudent for the County to go back and deal with the issue, prior to hiring its own people.
Chief Haun appeared before the Board and answered questions, with regard to a statement that was made by Sheriff Knupp that Fire and Emergency Services dispatches a fire truck to every accident. He stated that, when an accident is reported, the Sheriff's dispatcher receives the information, but they cannot tell whether there are injuries in the accident, or whether there are hazards on the ground, such as spilled fuel, anti-freeze, or other contaminants released from the vehicles, or whether there are people trapped in the vehicles, thus, the reason for dispatching the fire trucks. He stated that the fire trucks carry all the extrication equipment - neither the Sheriff's Office, nor the ambulances, carry said equipment.
On a motion by Commr. Swartz, seconded by Commr. Gerber and carried unanimously, by a 5-0 vote, the Board approved for funds to be placed in a Reserve Fund, within the Fire and Emergency Services Account, and that the County notify Florida Regional of its desire to discuss the issue of dispatchers.
There being no further business to be brought to the attention of the Board, the meeting was adjourned at 12:00 noon.
WILLIAM "BILL" H. GOOD, CHAIRMAN
JAMES C. WATKINS, CLERK