A SPECIAL MEETING OF THE BOARD OF COUNTY COMMISSIONERS
MAY 13, 2008
The Lake County Board of County Commissioners met in a special Budget Workshop session on Tuesday May 13, 2008, at 9:00 a.m., in Training Room 233, Lake County Administration Building, Tavares, Florida. Commissioners present at the meeting were: Welton G. Cadwell, Chairman; Jennifer Hill, Vice Chairman; Debbie Stivender; Elaine Renick; and Linda Stewart. Others present were Sanford A. “Sandy” Minkoff, County Attorney; Cindy Hall, County Manager; Barbara Lehman, Chief Deputy Clerk, County Finance; and Susan Boyajan, Deputy Clerk.
Ms. Cindy Hall, County Manager, explained that for some of the items on the Agenda, they would need some initial direction from the Board as they went about in preparation of the budget that would come to them in July, and some of the items were just status reports. She commented that she believed the updates were good news and that she did not think the County would have to make any drastic changes. She also pointed out that things were a little different than what they had shown the Board at the last budget workshop.
PROPERTY TAX RATES AND REVENUES
Mr. Doug Krueger, Budget Director, stated that they would focus on the rollback rate, which changed on the last day of the legislative session, and then he would discuss the revenues using the current millage rate, which was the direction the Board gave them in February. He pointed out that the big change was Senate Bill 1588 adopted by the Legislature on May 2, which changed the methodology for calculating the rollback rate. He related that prior to that date, the rollback rate was calculated in a way that tried to compensate for the loss in the tax base from Amendment 1, but it was now required that they add back the value of the loss in exemptions from Amendment 1 before calculating the rollback rate. He explained that the importance of that was that the rollback rate was the benchmark that the State used to determine whether there was a tax increase or not, and since the current millage would now be higher than the rollback rate, they would advertise it as a tax increase in the newspaper. He stated that another rate mentioned in House Bill 1B was the statutory rate, in which local government was going to be allowed to use current rollback rate plus the growth in per capita personal income. He noted that currently the millage rate and statutory rate in Lake County were very close, and if the current millage rate turned out to be higher than the statutory rate, it would require a two-thirds vote of the Board to pass the current millage rate.
Mr. Krueger recapped that the known variables were the current year tax base, tax rates, revenues, and CRA payments; and the unknown variables included the tax base growth based on the reassessment, new construction, and final numbers associated with the exemptions from Amendment 1, which were currently being gathered by the Property Appraiser’s Office. He also stated that the growth in the tax base before Amendment 1 was going to be about 8 percent, which was previously estimated at 5 percent. He presented figures which showed that the FY 2008-09 Lake County tax base would be 22.3 billion, a six-tenths of a percent decrease from last year. He reported that they anticipate receiving $100.7 million in revenue this fiscal year, based on the current millage of 4.7, but rollback of 4.5 would result in a loss of revenue of $5.4 million from last year’s revenue. He pointed out that if they went with the current millage rate of 4.7, however, the loss of revenue would only be $400,000. He also related that a homeowner with a home valued at $175,000 would see a decrease of $128 under the rollback rate and a $90 decrease under current millage for general fund property taxes. He went on to report the rates for the Ambulance MSTU rates, noting that there would be a loss of revenue for the County of $500,000 at rollback and virtually no loss if current millage was adopted. He gave the numbers for the Stormwater, Parks and Roads MSTU rates, noting that a rollback would result in a $300,000 loss of revenue, whereas the current millage would result in a $100,000 loss in revenue.
Mr. Sandy Minkoff, County Attorney, noted that there had been substantial changes in the Value Adjustment Board (VAB) process, which might result in them not knowing the final tax roll until April, May, or June of next year. The changes he cited included things like putting two citizens and three elected officials on the VAB and taking away the presumption of correctness from the Property Appraiser. He also related that the County Attorney would be prohibited from being involved in the process and that the VAB would have to hire its own attorney. He commented that they were also anticipating a lot more appeals to the VAB this year.
Mr. Krueger stated that in the current year, the Fire Rescue Budget including the EMS expenses were funded by a residential fire assessment rate of $197, and he showed on a chart the rates required for this budget if this policy continued in future fiscal years, starting at a rate of $212 and increasing five percent each year. He showed on the overhead the funding options for the EMS portion of the budget, using both the assessment and millage rate. He pointed out that the $20 million budget he was presenting was a bare bones budget with basically current service levels with the exception of adding six firefighters for the Harbor Hills fire station. He stated that in future years, the only other non-growth related capital improvements were some renovations to the Umatilla and Clermont fire stations. He mentioned that the future impact fees would help pay for future renovations to stations in Paisley, Astatula, and Altoona, as well as the one on State Road 19 and US Highway 27.
Mr. Krueger explained that there were two options that could be used to fund the Fire Rescue Budget for FY 2008-09, one being the funding of both the Fire Rescue and EMS with an assessment fee, which is what the County was currently doing and would come out to a residential impact of $212. He related that if they opted to go with an assessment fee for Fire Rescue and a millage rate for the EMS portion, that would be a rate of $218 for the average homeowner.
Commr. Cadwell asked how using the MSTU would affect the bottom line of the total millage.
Mr. Krueger believed that it would cause the County to exceed 110 percent of the statutory rate, which would take a unanimous vote of the Board.
Commr. Cadwell opined that that was the reason he was in favor of staying with Option 1, which was what they had been doing.
Mr. Minkoff pointed out that there were legal risks to going with Option 1 and cited a case from the District Court of Appeal that indicated that EMS costs were not assessable, because they did not provide any benefit to property. He explained that the GSG (Government Services Group) has recommended that those costs be isolated and not be funded with the assessment, because either the entire assessment or just the EMS portion could be struck down based on that precedent if they were challenged.
Ms. Cindy Hall, County Manager, stated that they would be preparing the budget for inception in July, and in order to do that, they needed direction on how the Board wanted to move forward regarding this particular funding.
Commr. Renick asked if separating the EMS portion from the Fire Rescue assessment and creating a separate assessment would reduce its vulnerability.
Mr. Minkoff responded that if they did two assessments, then only the assessment for EMS would be struck down.
Commr. Cadwell was concerned about the increase in the millage rate and that there could be a stalemate if a unanimous decision was required. He stated that after they went over the next couple of issues, they would talk individually to the County Attorney during the break and come back to that issue later in the meeting.
SOLID WASTE ASSESSMENT AND FUNDING ISSUES
Mr. Daryl Smith, Environmental Utilities Director, informed the Board that the County’s tonnage was decreasing, resulting in a decrease in landfill space consumed as well as a reduction of revenue and less flexibility to pursue some alternative management of the solid waste. He was also concerned that the County may not be able to make the 163,000 tons per year per their agreement with Covanta in the future, in which case they would end up paying for services they had not received. He explained that the decrease in waste was a result of the municipalities’ and commercial waste going elsewhere. He recapped that they previously discussed going out for competitive procurement on the services, but after researching that, they had decided that they wanted to move forward with negotiations with the franchise collectors instead. He commented that they were in a good situation, because they had a clause in their contract which allowed the Board to make a decision just to extend the existing contract for another five years, effective October 1, 2009, as a fallback position. He noted that their contract with Covanta will expire in 2014, and that an extension of five years in 2009 would just coincide with that agreement.
Mr. Smith stated that some of the potential contract changes they were looking at was adding cardboard to the curbside recycling program; providing only one garbage collection per week rather than two times, which he did not think would be received well by the public; and mandatory separation of recyclables, which would be hard to enforce but might result in the leverage to encourage increased participation in the recycling program. He also stated that they had been involved in a regional planning group called the Heart of Florida to look into some cooperative and regional solid waste management approaches, which would help to increase the tonnage coming in, expand the Covanta plant, and have more economies of scale. He related that they have commissioned the University of Florida to do a study to determine what solid waste was being generated in the communities and what would make sense in terms of a regional approach, and they would be coming back to the Board with a request for $4,000 for Lake’s share of the cost of that study. He stated that they were looking at the potential for out-of-county waste, and they believe that there was some opportunity to enhance their revenue. He specified that they have had some preliminary conversations with Marion County and Hernando County.
Mr. Smith talked about the Solid Waste Assessments as it related to the budget, stating that they have been receiving less revenue, but that was offset by the reduced expenses projected for next year. He mentioned that they were working on their final numbers and determining the overall impact of other enterprise funding. He opined that if they did not increase their assessment, they would be continuing to undercharge their residential customers. He brought the Board up to date on the new landfill construction, reporting that they were moving forward with the two landfills as scheduled and that they would be completed by the end of this year or the first part of next year.
Commr. Renick asked if it was possible for the County to change to one garbage pickup a week for most of the year and two for the months when the weather was hot.
Mr. Smith stated that they had an opportunity to look into that, and 2200 customers were currently receiving once-a-week pick up in the rural part of the County and were satisfied with it.
Commr. Renick inquired whether the tipping fees were responsible for the decrease in municipal and commercial usage.
Mr. Smith replied that even with the artificially low tipping fees due to the subsidy from the general fund, the cost of the waste energy facility was still a little too high, keeping them from being as competitive as they would like to be.
EMPLOYEE SERVICES ISSUES
Ms. Sharon Wall, Employee Services Director, stated that they were realizing substantial savings with Blue Cross/Blue Shield as their third party administrator, as well as better medical management and better discount rates. She pointed out that even with the trend of 12 percent increase in medical costs, the proposed budgeted health cost per employee this year was $8,734 as compared to $10,925 last year, and they were looking at leaving employee contributions the same. She explained that they were thinking of making some changes to the sick leave program, giving the employees choice while staying within a certain cost limit that they had. She talked about giving the employees the option of either staying with the current plan or going to a plan where they would have a reduced number of eight sick days a year with the added benefits of things such as a short-term disability plan and cancer insurance.
Ms. Wall recapped that they would have a $1,000 across-the-board merit increase for employees that receive a satisfactory performance evaluation that would be effective on the employee’s anniversary date. She explained that to make sure their ranges remained competitive, on October 1, 2008 they would adjust their pay ranges two percent on the minimums and maximums. She informed the Board that they have had meetings with the Budget Department and other departments to look organizationally and functionally at staffing, and they currently have frozen 46 positions and were looking at probably eliminating 39 positions.
RECESS AND REASSEMBLY
The Chairman announced that there would be a fifteen-minute recess at 10:00.
FIRE RESCUE BUDGET (CON’D)
Mr. Sandy Minkoff, County Attorney, stated that he researched the case from North Lauderdale, which struck down part of the assessment for EMS services and ordered a refund ultimately, and he noted that the Supreme Court upheld that. He explained that the problem with these cases was that some lawyers realized that there was a huge payday if they became class-action cases, because the lawyer that brought the case was entitled to one-third of the fee, which could be as much as three years later, prompting lawyers to actually go looking for clients. He emphasized that the court case was very clear that these were not assessable fees and commented that even though they had done the best they could to identify only those costs that were EMS costs, it still would be hard to defend this case.
Commr. Cadwell pointed out that if they added that MSTU and kept the millage where they wanted it, the general fund would have to take about a $3 million hit.
Commr. Renick commented that she wanted more time to think about this issue and do some research before making a decision.
Commr. Cadwell mentioned that the Property Appraiser’s Office needed to know how they wanted to proceed at least by the end of the month.
Commr. Renick opined that it made common sense to pair Fire Rescue and EMS, but she was cautious about the legal ramifications and wanted to know how much of the assessment could be at risk.
Commr. Cadwell was concerned that they could be forced to go back and refund the EMS assessment from several previous years. However, he stated that he would only be in favor of Option 2 if it did not change the bottom line. He suggested scheduling this decision for one of the next regular Tuesday meetings.
Ms. Hall did not think that the Property Appraiser would need to know the actual millage, and they could just let him know that they were willing to use the MSTU without deciding on a millage at this point so that he could get the appropriate program ready. She added that if they decided not to use it, they could put a zero for the amount. She noted that this would give them some time to work through the process before making a final decision, and she pointed out that the Property Appraiser was not given the other millages until the end of July.
Commr. Stivender opined that because of the legal issues, she thought they should go with Option 2.
Commr. Stewart felt the same way and did not think they had a choice.
On a motion by Commr. Stivender, seconded by Commr. Hill and carried by a vote of 4-1, the Board moved to proceed with the budget, considering the Option 2 concept and that there might be offsetting millages to the general fund and the MSTU if the Board decided to go that route.
Commr. Cadwell voted “no.”
Mr. Barnett Schwartzman, Procurement Services Director, stated that this presentation would deal primarily with fleet budget issues, including the status of the FY 2008 Fleet Budget, planning and consideration for the 2009 fleet, and a chart that showed how they have been aggressive in some areas.
Mr. Dave Vasquez, Fleet Management Director, Procurement Services, stated that over the last few years, they had made a lot of progress with fleet arrangement in the County. He specified that they were synergizing their efforts around cohesive fleet operations while trying to centralize repairs and cost issues. He reported that the budget this year was comprised of a total of about $3 million, and their budget was set up as an enterprise fund, with everything they did being billed back to the customer. He mentioned that they were able to mitigate some of the increase in costs of fuel with reduced vehicle usage, eliminating some of the vehicles that were assigned essentially to one person and having more staff members using a single vehicle. He noted that the budget was currently running about ten percent under projected amounts of revenue and expenses. He related that for the budget going forward, they were asking for a slight increase in the revenue expense stream of up to $3.3 million, most of that for fuel expenses. They were adjusting the fleet bill-back rate from $59 to $65 to help recover some of the increases in costs, but that cost was still much cheaper than private sector charges for similar services. He pointed out that one of the things they improved when they took over the centralized fleet was improving some of the policy applications and rewriting the vehicle use and assignment policy, requiring justification of the need for a vehicle on a dollar basis. They have also standardized on a single-line product this past year with Ford, which reduced the overhead for inventory and training of technicians, gave better support from the manufacturer, and resulted in better deals on warranty issues.
Mr. Vasquez pointed out on the final page the chart which showed the volume numbers for the amount of gallons of fuel consumed at the County facilities, which showed that they reduced that from $265,997 in FY 2007 to $253,211 in FY 2008. He presented a chart that showed that take home assignments were greatly reduced, from 69 in FY 2007 to 16 in FY 2008, and this was due to changing operating procedures within the Building Department and/or rotating on-call assignments in other departments. He mentioned that they hoped to be in an improved facility in the future, but currently they were on the west side of Lake County in Leesburg in a fairly antiquated facility, and they were looking to see if there were other facilities that would help them better centralize and service the County and putting off repairs of the current one.
JOBS GROWTH INCENTIVE FUNDING
Ms. Dottie Keedy, Economic Growth and Redevelopment Director, stated that she had two items for the Board’s consideration. The first was the Metro Orlando Economic Development Commission (EDC) contract for FY 2008/09, recommending that they basically stay with the same contract, although they would require quarterly reports outlining what services they provided to the County tied to quarterly payments of their fee. She also added that the payment would be calculated on the latest BEBR (Bureau of Economic and Business Research) estimates for 2007.
Commr. Renick pointed out that since Orange County was paying 82 cents per capita, she did not want it to be on a dollar per capita.
Ms. Keedy commented that she believed Orange County just reduced their fee to that amount this year after making budget cuts.
Commr. Hill agreed that she did not like doing it per capita, and she did not see the correlation. She thought it should be tied to what the County would be losing from their tax revenue.
Commr. Cadwell stated that he believed by the time the next contract came around, they may have a different relationship altogether, including the EDC being in charge of the new committee. He pointed out that he thought that for now they were just making sure the money was available for budget purposes.
Ms. Keedy told the Board that the EDC was a little reluctant to move forward with creating a staff position solely for Lake County until they had an idea that they would have a similar contract next year.
Commr. Cadwell commented that he thought the EDC was safe in assuming that the County would continue to want them to perform those services for the County.
Commr. Hill suggested that they could budget it at that amount, and then take into consideration performance and other factors in deciding the final amount. She went on to comment on the next issue, which was the freezing of the JGI (Jobs Growth Investment) Trust Fund and setting aside two percent of the ten percent economic stability fund to use as job incentives, stating that she was not sure that she liked using the economic stability fund for those incentives.
Ms. Hall explained that Board policy was that there was ten percent set aside in the economic stability fund as their primary reserve, and in the event that a company came forward and required incentives that were substantial, they thought they could identify a couple of percentage points of that reserve to be used for that. She specified that if the general fund ended up being about $160 million, the economic stabilization reserve would be about $16 million, and a couple of percentage points of that would be a little over $3 million.
Commr. Cadwell commented that it made sense math-wise, because taking money out of that fund would be creating more of the good tax base that would draw it right back up.
Commr. Hill suggested that they take whatever income they would receive from properties in the Ford Commerce Park which still had yet to be sold, and leave it in a trust fund for this purpose.
Ms. Hall stated that they could look at that and mentioned that they still had a concrete plant that was up for sale. She stated that when they did make some sales, they could replenish that fund to offset it, but at the current time, there was not any money set aside for incentives.
On a motion by Commr. Stewart, seconded by Commr Cadwell and carried by a vote of 3-2, the Board approved the staff recommendation of continuing the suspension of the JGI funds and restructuring the JGI program by setting aside two percent of the ten percent economic stability fund to offer as incentives on a negotiated basis to qualified industries identified in the Economic Development Strategic Plan, but to also look at ways to reimburse that fund.
Commr. Hill and Commr. Stivender voted “no.”
MOBILE IRRIGATION LAB
Mr. Gregg Welstead, Conservation and Compliance Director, talked about an issue related to the Mobile Irrigation Laboratory, which he explained was a grant funded program that dealt strictly with agricultural concerns at this time. He reported that the grant funding would end at the end of June, but there was some potential for grant funds that they had coming in. He related that they currently had two employees, who did a lot of initial purchasing of equipment and operations in the field. He stated that they went to the field, groves, or nurseries and had to count the plants to do the calculations, because they did not do the entire field, but took samples. They also took measurements, looked at the irrigation systems that were in place in every row, evaluated the pressure on all the various pumps, went through an audit, evaluated the system in place, and made realistic recommendations to the growers on how they could improve their irrigation system to provide the best irrigation at the best time, saving a lot of water and money. He commented that they have had a huge impact in the County so far, saving an estimated 198 million gallons of water. He reported that the funding for the initial year of 2006/07 had been $150,000, which paid for a lot of equipment as well as salaries, and the partners who split that funding were the National Resources Conservation Service, Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, and the St. Johns River Water Management District for the last three years. He stated that this coming year, it was apparent that due to budget restraints, there were going to be reductions in those funding levels. He wanted to ensure that they would have funding through the end of this fiscal year, and he stated that he might have to come to the Board for additional funding to make up for any shortfalls, which should not be more than $30,000. He also talked about expanding the program for residential properties.
Commr. Cadwell asked if there was anything in the grants that would prohibit them from charging a modest fee that could help them recoup some of that money.
Mr. Welstead responded that they could apply a fee to their portion of it.
Commr. Renick suggested that a fining matrix attached to the enforcement of the water restrictions would get people’s attention and help with some of the funding.
Mr. Welstead added that if someone was issued a violation, they could be given the option of paying a fee such as $25 for one of those evaluations, which would solve the water problem and generate some source of revenue.
The Board gave consensus that they were still committed to the Mobile Irrigation Laboratory program for this fiscal year and into the next fiscal year.
COOPERATIVE AGREEMENTS WITH CITIES AS TO RECREATION PROGRAMS
Mr. Jim Stivender, Public Works Director, stated that the discussion of Tab 8 was regarding the Recreation Program, the first part being the $250,000 that was allocated at previous meetings for the South Lake area. He informed the Board that they were working with Clermont regarding the $150,000 that was set aside for expansion of West Park, but they had not started that yet; and he mentioned that the County had not yet been approached on moving forward with the $40,000 for soccer field lighting for the National Training Center project. He also related that they were paying for the differential fee between county and city residents with some of the other $60,000 portion set aside for South Lake projects in general. He proposed that they put the total of all the grants from previous years that were not being utilized and were tabled for one reason or another, which totaled $221,000, towards their parks immediately. He explained that the biggest challenge regarding PEAR Park was driving to the facilities near the dog park on the long, winding road, and they wanted to move forward with designing and permitting to get access directly off of Highway 27. He also stated that they were moving right along with North Lake Park, and there were a couple of things that were in the concept plan that were not in their original plan for the overall site. He related that money would be set aside for the next phase, which was to build basketball courts and tennis courts in the north central part between the ball fields.
Commr. Stivender and Commr. Hill wanted to know if the $20,000 for the soccer fields at Hickory Point Park they approved last week could come out of what was still available from the $60,000 that was set aside for South Lake projects.
Ms. Hall stated that she did not think they used up all of that $60,000, and she thought that the County had only used about $30,000 of that to offset the cost of the differential fees.
On a motion by Commr. Stivender, seconded by Commr. Hill and carried unanimously by a vote of 5-0, the Board approved the request from Public Works for $100,000 for PEAR Park for their entrance off of Highway 27 and $121,755.53 for basketball and tennis courts for North Lake Park; and designated $20,000 for soccer fields at Hickory Point Park out of the $60,000 fund set aside for South Lake future projects.
Ms. Hall asked the Board if they wanted her to include a program in next year’s budget to supplement any city that came forward and requested the differential fees similar to what they did this year.
Commr. Cadwell stated that they may have to do that for a little while until all the fields that were planned were completed.
CLERMONT PARK PURCHASE
Mr. Stivender pointed out the maps in the Commissioners’ folders as well as the larger version of the maps that were displayed in the room which showed the South Lake Regional Park area. He displayed the map that clearly identified the centralized location along the State Road 50 corridor and commented that they believed that this was a very good and centralized location. He stated that the next map reflected the South Lake site, and commented that this property had a vertical rise to it of about 60 feet. He also mentioned that it had been a spray field since the early 1980’s and that they had been told it was in excellent shape environmentally. He reflected that this map showed that the property was surrounded by Groveland, and noted that although they might be working with Clermont on the property acquisition, they would be working with Groveland on the utility access to services associated with the site. He also related that the property consisted of 112 acres, about 80 of which were uplands. The next map that was presented showed the road alignment in the City of Groveland that would be done by a subdivision that had all their approvals and that he believed was owned by Banyan Homes, since they were required to build the road out to State Road 50. He noted that there were some giant oak trees on the site along the edge of the existing county road, most of which would be saved as part of the requirements of the City, and they basically had a boulevard laid out that would access this site as well as the subdivision. He stated that the existing road would be a start-up road and that it could handle the traffic for a couple of years during the first phase, but it would have to be improved by the subdivision before it could be accessed. He stated that the last map reflected the layout of the site itself, and the estimated cost to develop the site was $12 to $15 million. He reported that they had $2.75 million right now for park purchase down in this area, which they wanted to put into park improvements to build two or three ball fields in one of the areas, as well as to start rough grading and master planning on the site, with some funding coming from other sources along the way. He stated that they could defer payment for the land and work some arrangement out with Clermont.
Ms. Hall clarified that they had $2.7 million to initially get a few fields down there, instead of applying that towards the purchase. She noted that there would be about $10 million more of development that would need to take place to have the entire site the way that it was on the map and that the City of Clermont had given them a purchase price of a little over $5 million, so they were looking at a little over $15 million over and above what they currently had. She explained that they would like to work with all of the cities to help with some of the development of it. She suggested that the Board give them direction to work with all of the cities to come up with a development and payment schedule that would not detract from the actual development of the fields on the park
On a motion by Commr. Stivender, seconded by Commr. Renick and carried unanimously by a vote of 5-0, the Board approved the recommendation of Ms. Hall and Mr. Stivender in regard to moving forward with the property on Max Hooks Road for the location of the park for South Lake County, with the caveat that they would obtain appraisals on the property.
Mr. Fletcher Smith, Community Services Director, commented that the cuts at the State level affected the general fund dollars that they had to use for their programs. He stated that he had outlined some of the grants for some of the non-mandatory discretionary programs which totaled $616,500, including Human Service Grants, which were about $100,000 a year; Children’s Services Grants, which were about $217,500; the WeCare program, which leveraged a lot of donations from physicians in the community and hospitals to provide health care services and cost $75,000; Solid Waste and Fire Assessment Program, which was a program that served about 300 people this past year and cost about $119,000; the Veteran Combat Duty Program, which they had just implemented and was budgeted for about $45,000 for this year; and the Mental Health Court Planning Grant match, which was $60,000 this year. He stated that they have also allocated for this upcoming year a local match of $300,000 to draw a like amount of dollars from the State to implement mental health court. He related that they contracted with UCF to work with them and the other service providers in the County to look at the social service needs, and they came up with some recommendations, including making public transportation (Transportation Disadvantaged) the number one priority and providing health care services to those in the community that needed it as the second priority. He was concerned that because of the cuts at the State level, a lot of people would be left in the lurch without any resources or ability to help themselves. He requested that the Board consider the programs that they were funding, and if they were looking at cutting back the amount of dollars they had to spend on these discretionary programs, he thought they might become more focused on what they were trying to fund, which would be transportation, and those that provided some type of resource for health care, which was the WeCare Program and the Lake County Health Department’s prescription medication program. He added that they received the Community Development Block Grant Program (CDBG) in 1999-2000, and he was able to use the prescription medication money and leverage some money from the CDBG to increase that funding to over $100,000. He commented that if they could increase the funding available for that program, they could reach many more people. He asked for direction from the Board to know which way they should be going and if they should be looking at trying to establish a focus in the funding that they might receive.
Commr. Stivender requested that Mr. Smith make a list of all the grants and who or what type of facility they went to.
Mr. Smith replied that Ms. Rebecca Foley-Kearney, Children’s Services Manager, and Ms. Brenda Quattlebaum, Elder Affairs Manager, had that information.
Commr. Renick wanted to clarify that the UCF study was talking about the Transportation Disadvantaged program when it referred to public transportation.
Commr. Stewart commented that she believed that these were areas that they needed to give a lot of support to, since the people it helped were hurting more than they had ever been.
Commr. Cadwell asked Mr. Fletcher if the grants that were listed in the backup and mentioned in the presentation were the focus of what the GAP assessment showed they needed to be focusing on.
Mr. Smith stated that some were and some were not. He also added that they were currently in the planning process for next year with Children’s Services and Human Services grants and were deciding what they were going to recommend to the Board.
Commr. Stewart pointed out that just because the results of this study did not focus on the needs covered by some of the grants, did not mean they were not important; and if they did not have those grants, they might have seen a larger need in those areas.
Mr. Smith added that some other recommendations included a system such as a 211-type system which would coordinate comprehensive, centralized information and an organization to oversee case management components County-wide.
Ms. Hall clarified that the recommendations that came out were to focus on the two areas of health care and transportation, so the question was whether they should do that, in which case they might reallocate some of the money listed on the backup, or whether they should continue to fund a number of things, in which case it was likely that the funding would be reduced to any of them.
Commr. Renick commented that she thought that they had been targeting the areas mentioned in the study.
Mr. Smith pointed out that they were all interconnected to some degree. He offered the suggestion to focus on two programs, WeCare and the Lake County Health Department program, and that if they did not fund the Solid Waste/Fire Assessment or the mental health planning grant, they could potentially save $200,000.
Ms. Hall stated that they would put something together for the proposed budget, and the Board could change it when it came forward to them if they liked.
Mr. Smith added that they would write the applications and grant requests and let the Board see the type of activities that would be funded.
PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION PROGRAMS
Mr. Ken Harley, Public Transportation Division Director, mentioned that they were transitioning their fixed route transportation system by moving riders from paratransit to the fixed route system, which would save a substantial amount of money. He reported that currently the ridership of the fixed route was 14.3 percent over projections, averaging about 400 people per day, and they had ridership of about 759 people per day on the paratransit program. He commented that they wanted to start a service in the Altoona-Umatilla area to connect to Mount Dora and on to the Orlando route with LYNX, utilizing a service development grant with the Florida Department of Transportation, which would cover half of the costs, and funds that already existed. He emphasized that they were not asking for any additional funds this year and were actually requesting $100,000 less than what they received out of the general fund during this current year.
Mr. Harley reported that they were starting Mount Dora’s route on July 1 of this year and the new service out of Umatilla starting July of 2009, as well as continuing Routes 55 in the Four Corners area, which currently provided about 4700 trips per month. He specified that the highest ridership for Route 204, which was the express service from Clermont to downtown Orlando, has been about 1881 trips per month, and they were projecting that number to go up to 2100 trips. They proposed in the new fiscal year that rather than running five routes each way on that express service, that they cut it down to two routes in the morning and two in the afternoon at a cost of $125,000 per year. He predicted that as gas prices continued to go up, they would be seeing more and more people utilizing that. He added that they were working with Procurement and Fleet Management on some fleet options that they could work together on, which would result in some other potential cost savings to the general fund.
Commr. Stivender stated that at the last Transportation Disadvantaged board meeting, there was a suggestion to have County employees voluntarily utilize the fixed route system to ride into work from accessible points in their community, if it was possible for them to do so.
Ms. Hall commented that it would be a difficult year to put the budget together, and their goal would be to provide to the Board in July, as they were required by Statutes, a balanced budget that reflected the Board’s priorities, understanding that they would have to make some decisions in doing that as it came to them. She believed that the departments would be coming in at reduced costs and that the departments would all be looking at ways that they could economize. She reported that the Constitutional Officers’ budgets were not yet in but were expected in by June 1, and at that time they would look at those very closely and have a better idea of where they stood at that point.
Commr. Stivender pointed out an article in the newspaper which reported that they have been meeting with the Miracle League from Orlando and Kiwanis Club members from South Lake and the Tavares area about building the Miracle League baseball field for handicapped children. She related that they had a designated area on the master plan at Lake Idamere Park for ball fields, so this fit right into that. She also reported that the County would be providing the land; the groups involved in it would be doing fundraising; and the County had the funds to help match that from grant money that they had received. She mentioned that this would also provide an additional softball field on that site, which was needed in the central part of the county.
There being no further business to be brought to the attention of the Board, the meeting was adjourned at 12:00 p.m.
WELTON CADWELL, CHAIRMAN
NEIL KELLY, CLERK