A REGULAR MEETING OF THE BOARD OF COUNTY COMMISSIONERS
september 9, 2014
The Lake County Board of County Commissioners met in regular session on Tuesday, September 9, 2014 at 9:00 a.m., in the Board of County Commissioners’ Meeting Room, Lake County Administration Building, Tavares, Florida. Commissioners present at the meeting were: Jimmy Conner, Chairman; Sean Parks, Vice Chairman; Timothy I. Sullivan; Leslie Campione; and Welton G. Cadwell. Others present were: David Heath, County Manager; Sanford A. “Sandy” Minkoff, County Attorney; Wendy Taylor, Executive Office Manager; Neil Kelly, Clerk of Court; Barbara F. Lehman, Chief Deputy Clerk, County Finance; and Susan Boyajan, Deputy Clerk.
INVOCATION and pledge
Pastor Brooks Braswell from the First Baptist Church of Umatilla gave the Invocation and led the Pledge of Allegiance.
Mr. David Heath, County Manager, related that the Sheriff asked to pull the agenda item dealing with the lease at the Lake Square Mall, which was Tab 8, and noted that they would bring that back at a later time.
On a motion by Commr. Campione, seconded by Commr. Cadwell, and carried unanimously by a 5-0 vote, the Board approved the Minutes of August 12, 2014 (Regular Meeting) and August 20, 2014 (Special Meeting) as presented.
citizen question and comment period
There was no one present who wished to address the Board at that time.
Ms. Christina Brandolini, Human Resource Manager, presented the awards to recognize the following employees’ years of service:
Tyrone Baquie, Network Administrator
Information Technology/Information Systems Division
Barry Fitzgerald, Fire Lieutenant/Paramedic (not present)
Public Safety/Fire Rescue Division
Elizabeth Heine, Internet Applications Developer (not present)
William Jenkins, Fire Lieutenant/Paramedic
Public Safety/Fire Rescue Division
Pamela Goodson, Branch Supervisor
Public Resources/Library Services Division/Marion Baysinger Memorial
Lisa Grider, Code Enforcement Officer (not present)
Community Safety & Compliance/Code Enforcement Division
Randy Beadle, Maintenance Technician I
Facilities & Fleet Management/Facilities Management Division
Mary Ellen Roberts, Office Associate IV (14 years) (not present)
Public Works/Solid Waste Division
board and committee certificates
Arts and Cultural Alliance
Richard Hoon, for service from 2011-2014 (not present)
Ms. Kelly Price, for service from 2011-2014 (not present)
Joe Wynkoop, for service from 2013-2014
Capital Facilities Advisory Committee
Dr. Tod Howard, for service from 2012-2014
Nancy Hurlbert, for service from 2005-2014 (not present)
Thomas Davis Talmage, III, for service from 2010-2014 (not present)
CLERK OF COURTS’ CONSENT AGENDA
On a motion by Commr. Sullivan, seconded by Commr. Parks and carried unanimously by a 5-0 vote, the Board approved the Clerk of Courts’ Consent Agenda, Items 1 through 5, as follows:
List of Warrants
Request to acknowledge receipt of list of warrants paid prior to this meeting, pursuant to Chapter 136.06 (1) of the Florida Statutes, which shall be incorporated into the Minutes as attached Exhibit A and filed in the Board Support Division of the Clerk’s Office.
Resolution from Greater Lakes/Sawgrass Bay CDD Identifying Meeting Schedule
Request to acknowledge receipt of Resolution 2014-04 identifying the Fiscal Year 2014/2015 meeting schedule for the Greater Lakes/Sawgrass Bay Community Development District.
Resolution from Estates at Cherry Lake CDD Identifying Meeting Schedule
Request to acknowledge receipt of Resolution 2014-7 identifying the Fiscal Year 2014/2015 meeting schedule for Estates at Cherry Lake Community Development District.
Fiscal Year 2014-15 Budget from Cherry Lake CDD
Request to acknowledge receipt of Fiscal Year 2014/2015 Budget (the “Final Adopted Budget”) approved by the Board of Supervisors of the Estates at Cherry Lake Community Development District (the “Board”).
Lake County Water Authority’s Annual Report and Five Year Plan
Request to acknowledge receipt of Lake County Water Authority’s Annual Report and Five Year Plan, prepared in accordance with Chapter 2005-314, Laws of Florida, along with a transmittal letter of same dated August 4, 2014.
COUNTY MANAGER’S CONSENT AGENDA
On a motion by Commr. Cadwell, seconded by Commr. Parks and carried unanimously by a vote of 5-0, the Board approved the County Manager’s Consent Agenda, Tabs 3 through 18, excluding Tab 8, as follows:
Request for approval and signature of the quote from HRH/Hunt Insurance Group, Inc. to renew the catastrophic/hospital inmate medical insurance policy effective October 1, 2014 through September 30, 2015, and authorize the County Manager to sign all related implementation documentation. The fiscal impact is $47,746.00 (Expense).
Request for approval of the 2013-2014 Annual State Housing Initiatives Partnership (SHIP) Report. There is no fiscal impact.
Community Safety and Compliance
Request for approval of the Satisfaction & Release of the Code Enforcement Lien on property owned by Malford and Willa Jean Adkinson, located in Astatula, District 3. The fiscal impact is $5,000 (Revenue).
Request for approval of the Satisfaction and Release of the Code Enforcement Lien on property owned by Leonard & Dorothy Desmond in Leesburg, in District 3. The fiscal impact is $100 (Revenue).
Request for approval of Resolution No.’s 2014-103 through 106 instituting Eminent Domain proceedings for acquisition of property for the CR 466A Road Project and approval to proceed with pre-suit negotiations offers. The fiscal impact is not determinable at this time.
Fiscal and Administrative Services
Request for approval of Resolution No. 2014-107 for unanticipated revenue from County license tag sales, from the County's vendor PetData and will be used to off-set PetData expenses and shelter operations. The fiscal impact is $54,000 (Revenue), $54,000 (Expense).
Request for approval of the 2015 Comprehensive Plan Amendment Schedule. There is no fiscal impact.
Request for approval and signature of Proclamation No. 2014-108 in observance of 4-H week in Lake County, October 5 - 11, 2014.
Request for approval of and authorization for the Chairman to sign Resolution No. 2014-109 providing for certification of the assessment roll for the Special Assessment for the paving, grading, curbing, and drainage of Diane Drive and Lisa Drive in Lake County. There is no fiscal impact. Commission District 3.
Request for approval of the Arthropod Control FY2015 Certified Budget. The fiscal impact is $31,540 (Grant Funded - Revenue/Expenditure).
Request for approval to award contract 14-0218 for collection and disposal of waste at County facilities to WCA of Florida, LLC (Tavares, FL), and authorize the procurement office to execute all related contractual documentation. The fiscal impact is $28,831.92 - Estimated Annual (Expenditure).
Request for authorization to award Sidewalk Retrofit Project for #4466 Southland Road and #4465 Palmetto Road, Project No. 2014-12, Bid No. 14-0031, to Estep Construction, Inc., in the amount of $132,791.00, and to encumber and expend funds in the amount of $132,791.00 from the Renewal Sales Tax Capital Projects-Sidewalks fund. Commission District 4; The fiscal impact is $132,791.00 (Expenditure).
Request for approval of contract award to Trademark Metals Recycling (Ocala, FL) for the purchase and removal of Lake County’s scrap metal and white goods, and authorize the Procurement Office to execute all supporting documentation. This is a revenue contract with an estimated fiscal impact of $115,845 per year (Revenue).
Request for approval and execution of a Release of Drainage and Grading Easement with The Villages of Lake and Sumter, Inc., in exchange for a Grant of Easement for replacement WRA Ponds for the C466A Roadway Project in Fruitland Park. There is no fiscal impact. Commission District 5.
Request approval and execution of a Revocable Non-Exclusive License Agreement between Cattle Groves & Hay, LLC and Lake County, to allow County to utilize an area of Cattle Grove, LLC property as a Temporary Right of Way, to make Britt Road a safer travel way, for a lump sum fee of $600.00. The fiscal impact is $600 (Expenditure).
resolution to impose fire assessments
Mr. Steve Koontz, Director of Fiscal and Administrative Services, stated that this presentation was regarding the fire assessment which is used to fund fire protection services with the funding limited to use for fire services and basic life support. He recapped that the study from Tindale-Oliver which was presented to the Board on June 10 recommended that the County maintain the current assessment schedule with a residential rate of $181, which is expected to generate estimated revenues of about $16.5 million, and the initial rate resolution was approved by the Board on July 22, 2014, which contained the rate that was included on the TRIM notices. He requested that the Board authorize and execute the resolution to impose fire assessments against assessed property located in the County for the Fiscal Year beginning October 1 and to approve the rate assessment and assessment roll.
The Chairman opened the public hearing.
There being no one who wished to address the Board regarding this issue, the Chairman closed the public hearing.
Commr. Campione asked about the commercial rates.
Mr. Koontz answered that there was also a schedule for industrial, commercial, and governmental institutional rates included in the resolution.
Commr. Campione asked whether the governmental institution rate would determine the amount that is subsidized from the general for government buildings that do not pay that rate.
Mr. Koontz responded that the institutional rate schedule would determine that.
Commr. Campione stated that she wanted to find out more about the fact that they have in the budget proposal $600,000, which was $300,000 for last year and $300,000 for this year. She asked whether the general fund transfer would be even more if the assessment rate went up in that category.
Mr. Minkoff explained that it would be less if the rates were up, since they only assess them 50 percent.
Mr. Koontz elaborated that the institutions were assessed at 50 percent and the government buildings at 100 percent.
Commr. Campione stated that if the entire rate went up, then their subsidy compared to this year would then go up. She asked how they determine which buildings get that exemption.
Mr. Koontz responded that they go through the study and a list of those buildings with Tindale-Oliver when they do the estimated revenues, and it is all for unincorporated area properties based on where the fire assessment is assessed.
Commr. Campione clarified that any type of government building owned by the County, another agency, or a municipality would get the exemption.
On a motion by Commr. Cadwell, seconded by Commr. Sullivan and carried unanimously by a vote of 5-0, the Board approved Resolution 2014-110 to impose Fire Assessments against assessed property located in Lake County, Florida for the Fiscal Year beginning October 1, 2014; approve the rate of assessment; approve the assessment roll; and provide an effective date. Please see pages 5 and 6 of the Resolution for rates. The fiscal impact is $16,480,118.00 (Revenue).
solid waste assessment
Mr. Koontz explained that the solid waste assessment was used to fund the collection, management, and disposal of the solid waste and recovered materials, which is the curbside service for the residents of Lake County, noting that vacant lots are not assessed. He related that the new rates are based on area and service level, and the estimated revenue based on their rates will be a little over $12.2 million. He mentioned that the new residential curbside collection will begin on October 6, and that the initial rate resolution was approved on July 22 which contained the rates which were included on the TRIM notices. He displayed a chart illustrating the rates for the northern, central, and southern areas of $176, $168, and $189 respectively for once per week solid waste collection service, with twice per week solid collection rates at $222, $207, and $231 respectively for the previously-mentioned areas. He stated that the recommended action is to authorize and execute the resolution to impose solid waste assessments against assessed property located in Lake County for the fiscal year beginning October 1 and to approve the rate of the assessment and the assessment role.
The Chairman opened the public hearing.
There being no one who wished to address the Board regarding this issue, the Chairman closed the public hearing.
Commr. Campione asked why the discussion of the landfill operations will be after this public hearing as opposed to before taking action on this because of the relationship between the two items, since she understood that they would be having that discussion in the context of what extent changes to the landfill operation, drop-off and pick-up areas, convenience centers, and hazardous waste disposal would tie into the assessment, and she believed that would affect making a determination on the solid waste assessment.
Commr. Sullivan recommended that they look at solid waste management as a whole rather than piecemeal in the future as they move forward with an integrated plan.
Mr. Heath responded that they have subsequent discussions of solid waste issues scheduled for November.
On a motion by Commr. Cadwell, seconded by Commr. Sullivan and carried by a vote of 4-1, the Board approved Resolution No. 2014-111 to impose Solid Waste Assessments against assessed property located in Lake County, Florida for the Fiscal Year beginning October 1, 2014; approve the rate of assessment; approve the assessment roll; and provide an effective date. Please see page 8 of the Resolution for rates. The fiscal impact is $12,216,750.00 (Revenue).
Commr. Campione voted “no.”
state road 50 truck route realignment design for groveland
Mr. Gene Quinn with Volkert, a consultant working for FDOT on the realignment of SR 50, stated that he would brief the Board on the progress of the realignment which will be west of Groveland at SR 565 to Brown Street. He related that they would be looking very closely at the intersection where the new alignment departs from existing SR 50 at the west end of the one-way pairs, the critical crossing at the intersection with SR 19, and the critical crossing at SR 33. He commented that this will be a community revitalization project, since the realignment is expected to improve safety and mobility in downtown Groveland. He explained that the purpose and need of the project was to alleviate some very serious truck traffic from entering the one-way pairs in downtown Groveland which caused difficulty for those trucks to maneuver and make turns onto SR 19 heading north, as well as to improve livability, walkability, and traffic congestion in the downtown area. He reported that the design of the project is about 55 percent complete, with the environmental and survey work done, the right-of-way mapping in progress, and roadway design about 55 percent complete; and all geotechnical supporting information and contamination issues have been addressed. He related that they will be turning their 60 percent plans into the DOT for their review at the end of this month, at which time DOT will make any minor suggestions for changes to the project. He displayed an aerial showing the areas of the realignment, the trail, and the primary intersection areas he had previously mentioned. He specified that the typical section will consist of a four-lane highway with a grass median, sidewalks, and bike lanes adjacent to the travel lane, noting that there are occasions on the alignment that a trail will be substituted for one of the sidewalks.
Mr. Quinn specified that the intersection of Orange Street and Broad Street has been refigured and signalized to allow bicycle and pedestrian crossing and organized traffic flow in that area. He related that the intersection for SR 19 is a bit of a difficult intersection, since it comes in at a fair skew that is not 90 degrees, and there is an expansive pavement with the turning movements on the new intersection that necessitate refuge islands for those crossing at this intersection. He added that there were two left-turn lanes on SR 19 southbound to eastbound, and there will be provision for two left-turn lanes on SR 19 eastbound to northbound. He commented that the intersection at SR 33 was the most challenging in some respects, with the one-way pairs of Broad and Orange Streets coming out of Groveland and SR 50 continuing to the east. He explained that the new alignment will route all through-traffic on SR 50 with two east-westbound to northbound right turn lanes as well as a refuge island for pedestrians and bides at that location, and he noted that the trail is on the west side of the new alignment and crosses to the refuge island and back to the north side of SR 50. He pointed out that the trail which was added to the SR 50 realignment is a key part of the Coast to Coast Connector, since it will fill in one of the existing gaps of the 250 miles of trail from St. Petersburg to Titusville. He specified that the trail is 14 feet in width, crosses through two signalized intersections on this project, and connects to the Park and Ride parking lot, and he displayed an aerial which illustrated the location of the trail. He pointed out that the Park and Ride Lot, which will be located close to the SR 50 and SR 33 intersection, is a provision that was included in the original PD&E Study for SR 50 and was an element that was to be addressed during design. He specified that it would include 66 parking spaces with bus bay provisions on Rice Court, and planned bus service could be provided by Lake County as early as 2016. He also indicated that Crittenden Street will be changed to a cul-de-sac, which will prevent trucks from using that road to circumvent SR 50 downtown as they currently are doing. He reported that the first public hearing is scheduled for September 30 at the Puryear building in Groveland from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m., and they will continue with the planned production after that point before having another public meeting in late spring. He related that the plans will be completed by late 2015, although he noted that right of way acquisition and construction are currently not funded, but those issues are currently being addressed in Tallahassee.
COUNTY MANAGER’S DEPARTMENTAL BUSINESS
analysis of remaining capacity of phase iii landfill cell
Mr. Jim Stivender, Public Works Director, related that the purpose of this presentation was to give the Board an analysis of the capacity of landfill cell III (a). He recapped that the County had active landfills before Covanta existed, including an 80-acre site, but as part of the Covanta agreement in the late 1990’s, the County was responsible for handling and managing the diversion waste and the ash. He explained that a 16-acre series of cells was built, which has since closed, and two other cells were opened to fulfill that contract. He related that the Heart of Florida will be their principal solid waste disposal site as of October as part of the contract they have awarded this year, but they wanted to determine what the situation is with the Phase III cell and how they want to move forward with it. He displayed the Phase III (a) ash cell on the monitor, noting that it was a smaller cell on the site and pointing out the ash cell to the east of that cell which was closed a couple of years ago and the eight-acre old Astatula Landfill to the south of it. He mentioned that Phase III (b) is the 20-acre cell to the west, which is permitted but not being currently used. He reported that the existing III (a) cell has about 30 percent remaining capacity, which equates to about 88,000 tons of material, 1.3 years’ worth of the County’s own waste, or 2 years of ash. He explained that they needed at least 33,000 tons a year coming to that site in order for it to be able to operate efficiently, because there is a cost associated with keeping the site open due to leachate disposal and principal cost; however, one of their challenges is that they have been getting in only about 10,000 tons a year without the waste from Covanta.
Mr. Stivender explained that the first of three options is to close the cell immediately without putting in any more garbage or ash into that site, noting that the closure cost is $1.3 million; however, they would still be responsible for the 30-year long-term care of the cell. He commented that they would be able to eliminate the leachate costs by capping it, since the rainfall would not create the leachate, although the leachate currently is only coming out slightly. He related that the second option would be to prepare an RFP for prospective bidders to sell or contract out remaining capacity, including operation, leachate disposal, and closure. However, he pointed out that the County would still be responsible for long-term care, and finding a vendor may be challenging since there is only about two to three years’ worth of capacity in this cell. He stated that Option 3 is to continue operations at this cell, although it would be a challenge to bring in 30,000 tons annually, and he recommended changing the tipping fee process to be able to bring in more garbage if this option was chosen in order to be competitive with the private sector. He mentioned that the County would still be responsible for the closure costs, as it would for any of the three options. He reported that the current tipping fee at the central facility is $40 per ton, and their break-even point is $18.75 per ton for operating but not closure costs and $33.50 per ton to include the closure costs. He noted that the tipping fees for facilities in the area range from $19.50 to $48 per ton, and he opined that the County would probably not recoup all of their closure costs if they were competitive, because of the short-term turnaround of the operation. He recommended that they move forward with Option 3 with a tipping fee of $27.50, which will hopefully bring in enough tonnage to utilize the existing capacity and recoup their operational costs, and they could continue to lower their price if necessary to bring in the required amount of solid waste. He related that the next step would be to set the fee schedule on September 23; and the long-range plan which would include operations of their existing site, the hazardous waste service, and the convenience centers would be discussed in more detail in November, including how they would integrate that with the collection services that have already been approved this year. He requested that the Board approve moving forward with the Phase III (a) operation and reduce the tipping fee from $40 to $27.50 per ton.
Commr. Campione asked whether the recommended tipping fee would be for both ash and residential.
Mr. Stivender responded that it would be the same tipping fee per ton. He elaborated that the challenge would be to get 88,000 tons of just municipal solid waste because of compaction, and they would be able to get more ash in the landfill than a combination of both kinds of waste. He added that the ash works as an excellent cover when mixed with other kinds of solid waste.
Commr. Campione expressed concern about the proximity of the landfill location to all of the residential development near that property, including Hickory Point Park, because of the smell and aesthetics.
Mr. Stivender replied that it is true that there may be a smell issue when they use diversion rather than when they just put ash in there.
Commr. Campione asked whether he has negotiated with Covanta regarding the rate they are willing to pay and what Covanta is currently doing and paying in those other locations.
Mr. Stivender pointed out that he did not want to move forward with anything before discussing it with the Board, and the Board’s direction will give them the ability to move forward with negotiating contracts with any private-sector vendors.
Commr. Campione opined that they should set a policy specifying what they wanted to use the landfill for before making a decision on the requested actions, and she wondered how many users would be interested in bringing ash to the County’s landfill.
Mr. Stivender responded that the landfill was designed and permitted for Class I waste and ash, and the historic trend over the years has been to use it for 70 percent ash and 30 percent other waste. He added that after getting approval from the Board, they will look into possible agreements with municipalities and may even be able to bring in waste from other areas.
Commr. Campione commented that she was not in favor of that and asked if the tipping fee of $27.50 would cover the costs for closure as well.
Mr. Stivender answered that $27.50 would cover about half of the cost of closure.
Commr. Campione commented that keeping that cell is part of their solid waste program, part of the price that staff was able to negotiate with Heart of Florida, and part of the County’s backup plan should Heart of Florida not be able to deliver or start raising their rates until they get something else in place. She commented that they should be rolling the cost of maintaining that cell into their overall assessment.
Commr. Parks asked how many complaints about odors or violations they have gotten about the 70-30 mix of waste at their landfill.
Mr. Skip McCall from the Solid Waste Division responded that they have not received any complaints about that and assured him that they have a process of daily cover when they take diversion that they have to use per a regulatory requirement from DEP (Department of Environmental Protection) which requires that every day that material has to be covered.
Commr. Cadwell commented that this issue is brought forward now to find financial viability to the enterprise fund, pointing out that there is an ongoing cost to keep the landfill as an asset, and he noted that they have directed staff to find ways to increase the revenues.
Commr. Sullivan expressed concern about the long-term, since this seems like a short-term solution to him, and he opined that option 1 would not be feasible because they were using some of those dollars for the Astatula Remediation. He commented that option 3 seems to make common sense, but he believed there still is work to be done and decisions to be made.
Commr. Conner asked what caused the leachate problem.
Mr. Stivender responded that the leachate was tied to the ash, which has a high sodium level and was corrosive, and part of the leachate gets sent to Jacksonville in big tanker trucks. He also noted that rainfall is a significant factor in the amount of leachate which accumulates, and he indicated that there is a 20-acre site that could be a garbage-only cell rather than for ash, which greatly decreases the leachate cost. He added that the disposal cost of leachate is higher than other garbage, so they could change the disposal cost for leachate based on that higher cost. He related that they could bring that back as part of their discussion in November.
Commr. Campione clarified that the County has a better way to handle the leachate than it did in 1993, when they first started handling the ash.
Commr. Cadwell added that the Board at that time took on the responsibility of the ash without knowing the consequences of the leachate. He commented that he did not think any action they take that day would preclude the Board from changing what staff was doing to try to generate operational revenue.
Commr. Campione commented that she did not think residents wanted a Class 1 operation in that area, and this was an opportunity to generate revenue and get to the point of closure, which would be good from a business standpoint. She recommended that they first look into using it primarily for ash, if it was possible to negotiate a good rate, and then look at the viability of using it for something other than ash if an agreement could not be negotiated for ash.
Mr. McCall added that the faster they fill that landfill, the more operational savings they will realize, and he noted there were good operators at the landfill who were able to get a three-to-one slope on point, which mitigates some of the operational costs for the construction phase.
On a motion by Commr. Sullivan, seconded by Commr. Cadwell and carried unanimously by a vote of 5-0, the Board approved Option 3, which was to continue operating the landfill cell and to reduce the tipping fee of $40 per ton to $27.50 per ton in order to be competitive to attract users, with the understanding that they would make further decisions regarding this issue in November.
REPORTS – COMMISsIONER campione – DISTRICT 4
town hall meeting
Commr. Campione reported that the town hall meeting on Monday night, September 8, at the Mission Inn with the South Lake Chamber Alliance was a good one and received a good turnout. She added that there was a good discussion and that it was a good opportunity to examine some of the issues that have come up. She expressed appreciation to the Chamber Alliance for putting that program together and opined that tax rates impact businesses and all of their Chamber members.
reports – commissioner cadwell – district 5
appointments to central florida expressway committees
Commr. Cadwell explained that in changing the way the Expressway Authority operates, they will change the way the committees are chartered at their meeting on Thursday, September 11, removing board members from those committees because of one of the problems that was identified through the State Attorney to ensure that each county has representation on the committees, adding that the Chairs of those committees will be rotated among staff to give everyone equal opportunity.
On a motion by Commr. Cadwell, seconded by Commr. Parks and carried unanimously by a vote of 5-0, the Board approved the appointment of staff to the Central Florida Expressway Committees as follows: Ms. Barbara Lehman to the Audit Committee, Mr. Steve Koontz to the Finance Committee, Mr. Fred Schneider to the Operations Committee, and Mr. Sandy Minkoff to the Right-of-Way Committee.
condolences to the family of john brandeburg
Commr. Cadwell stated that he wanted to send their thoughts and prayers to Ms. Rosanne Brandeburg, a School Board member, and the rest of the family of Mr. John Brandeburg, who passed away that Sunday and was a member of their TDC (Tourist Development Council) and a good advocate for Lake County.
recess and reassembly
The Chairman announced that the meeting would be recessed until 5:05 p.m.
adoption of tentative millage rates
Reverend Isaac Dees from Cornerstone Hospice gave the Invocation and led the Pledge of Allegiance.
Mr. David Heath, County Manager, explained that this was the first of two public hearings on the Fiscal Year 2015 budget as required by State Statutes, noting that this was for the millages and the budgets overseen by the Lake County Board of County Commissioners, but information regarding public hearings for other taxing authorities such as the School Board could be found on the TRIM notices. He further explained that the purpose of this meeting was to present to the public the tentative budget for FY 2015 including proposed millage rates and their change from the rollback millage rates, which was a rate when applied to next year’s tax base that will generate the same revenue raised in the previous year. He mentioned that the Board may direct him to bring back further adjustments at the second public hearing on September 23. He commented that the recommended budget for the General Fund addresses the requests from the Constitutional Officers, maintains the current levels of service, addresses employee compensation, is more structurally balanced than it had been for some time, and provides funding stability for the long term. He explained that the Parks and Stormwater MSTU addresses the countywide funding of parks, maintains the current level of service in the park system, includes funding to address growth in the parks system, and provides funding stability for the parks; however, it does not address long-term capital maintenance. He elaborated that this MSTU also maintains the current level of service for the stormwater division but does not address future stormwater needs or projects. He related that the Fire Rescue MSTU budget maintains the current level of service, addresses employee compensation, provides for long-term funding stability, and is more structurally balanced, although it does not address the salary compression. He noted that since the property values have risen slightly above expectations, they are recommending a slight millage reduction in the Public Lands Voted Debt millage, which will leave enough funding to meet the obligations with a reasonable reserve to mitigate any fluctuation in revenue; also, the Lake County Ambulance MSTU addresses Lake County EMS funding requests including capital, maintains the current levels of service for EMS, provides long-term funding stability, and is more structurally balanced. He related that the Infrastructure Sales Tax funding has been allocated to various projects and equipment with an estimated reserve of $320,000, but he pointed out that no funding has been allocated for the debt service of the downtown projects. He thanked the Constitutional Officers and senior staff for their cooperation throughout the budget process, as well as County staff for their assistance in attempting to balance the budget.
Mr. Sandy Minkoff, County Attorney, reviewed and explained the statutory requirements with the Board, and he displayed an excerpt from Florida Statute Section 200.065 stating that the first substantive issue to be discussed shall be the percentage of increase in millage over the rolled-back rate necessary to fund the budget and the purposes for which the tax revenues are being increased, noting that the public will be allowed to speak and ask question before the Board adopts any measures. He also clarified that they were required to adopt the final millage rate before they adopt the budget, and he explained that the first motion that has to be made after public comment and during Board deliberations will be to adopt the millage, cautioning that the Board will not be allowed to make amendments to the budget or adopt the budget. He pointed out that once the millage rate has been approved, it could not be revisited at this meeting and could only be lowered and not increased at the next public hearing on September 23.
Mr. Steve Koontz, Fiscal and Administrative Services Director, stated that he would give a quick overview of the discussion on August 26, including the Statement of Changes; read the millages as they were advertised on the TRIM notices as well as the ones that were discussed on August 26; and then hear public comment. He displayed a chart showing the FY 2014 millage rates, the rates that went out on the TRIM notice, and the percentage of change, which he specified was just over 18 percent. He explained that once they publish the recommended budget on July 15 and go through a Statement of Change process, they look at the current year’s revenues and projections, review the 2015 revenue projections, and review the purchase order carry-forwards and any other changes including grants. He specified that some of the changes discussed on August 26 and included in the package for this public hearing include the update to the Tax Collector budget that they received on August 1, the update to the Animal Services budget approved on August 26 for a transfer to the Sheriff, and the update of their ending fund balance, including the $125,000 for the FEMA payment that they discussed in July. He related that there was a small adjustment to the Property Appraiser’s budget, and they included the funding for the Public Defender’s Office security through the Sheriff’s contract. He added that the budget also included $25,000 for the management of the South Lake Water Initiative, which was in the Statement of Change package.
Mr. Koontz listed some changes made in other funds, such as an increase in transports which resulted in an increase in revenues in the EMS MSTU fund, and they are recommending reducing the MSTU contribution from $1.24 million to $1.1 million, which is a .0194 reduction in the July 22 advertised millage rates. He related that they had a request from the Health Department to cancel the renovation project for the Umatilla Health Clinic which would have cost $155,000, and there were adjustments to the solid waste fund; also, he noted that he included some additional SHIP funding to the Statement of Changes. He summarized the changes requested at the August 26 workshop, which included phasing the Courthouse project, deferral of the South Lake Park project, deletion of the economic development incentives, transfer of $500,000 from the Solid Waste fund, and deleting the transfer for the Wolfbranch Stormwater project. He specified that those changes bring the General Fund millage down from 5.6124 to 5.2307 and reduce the EMS MSTU from .4823 to .4629, which results in a reduction of the cumulative percentage change over FY 2014 from 17.9 to 11.3 percent. He read the proposed millage rates for the 2015 fiscal year and the rollback rates, in accordance with Chapters 129 and 200 of the Florida Statute which outlines the procedures for the annual adoption of tax rates and budgets, as well as any adjustments the Board will consider.
Mr. Brad King, State Attorney, requested that the Board leave the courthouse budget phasing as is, and he commented that he does not think it would be a problem for them if it was phased in over two years. He reiterated that the purpose of their office is to provide attorneys to represent the State of Florida and in essence the citizens of Lake County in every criminal case that is brought through the court system by every law enforcement agency in Lake County and all of the state law enforcement agencies that operate in Lake County. He pointed out that he has 31 lawyers who handled almost 16,000 criminal complaints that came out of law enforcement into their office to be funneled into the courthouse, and he commented that his office was a vital part of public safety in Lake County by handling and processing the cases and efficiently and effectively representing the people of the State of Florida in the courtrooms in order to punish the criminals, but that could not happen if he does not have the staff to effectively operate. He related that the Board’s small part in that process is simply to provide office space and technology to them in the courthouse building, commenting that the importance of the courthouse space for his office is both in how his employees function and how they view their job in relation to a job in private practice, which affects his ability to effectively represent the people in Lake County. He noted that his agency was the largest law firm in the county, and he has ten employees who operate in an annex building across the street from the courthouse, although they are an integral part of what his office does every day. He pointed out that they have been working on the renovation process at the courthouse for eight years, and they were almost finished; however, cutting the project now would cut them out of the efficiencies and effectiveness that project was designed to encourage.
Mr. Mike Graves, Public Defender, noted that his office is the second largest law firm in the county with 20 lawyers in the Lake County Office, and requested the Board’s continuing support of the phasing in of the courthouse project. He commented that no other Public Defender’s Office enjoys a better relationship and greater support than he gets from the Commission in Lake County, and he understands the difficulty of the Board’s job. He pointed out that they have been in their temporary quarters for seven years, and he has had to close the office for more than half days in the last six months because the air conditioner stopped working, pointing out that the building was not configured for that air conditioner. He related that one reason they want to get into the courthouse is for the efficient use of space, since the square footage will be the same as they currently have, but that space is expected to be satisfactory for the next 12 years. He commented that he is willing to work with the County to phase in the courthouse project in two or slightly more years in the future and make that work with their obligations. He mentioned that he is hesitant to bring additional lawyers into the Lake County office, since he has no place to put them, and he specified that they represent about 65 percent of the people who are charged with crimes. He emphasized that they have an average jail population of about 800 people on any given day, while Marion County with approximately the same demographics has a jail population of about 1500 people, and he pointed out that a great amount of tax dollars are saved by having a lower number of prisoners, noting that is partially because of the efficiency in which they work. He added that the more lawyers he can bring to Lake County, the more efficient they can work, which would save money in the long run. He concluded that his office is part of the third branch of government which is co-equal with the other branches of government, and Chapter 29 recognizes the funding responsibilities of the Commission.
The Chairman opened the public hearing.
Mr. Jack Wallace, representing the Kiwanis Clubs of Lake and Sumter Counties, mentioned that he had come before the Board about six years ago and had watched the Miracle League Fields being built throughout the state and the United States. He stated that he believed that all of the Commissioners were supporters of the Miracle Field, and he opined that although he was a fiscally responsible individual, he believes there comes a time when some things just have to be done. He recapped that the economy was good when the initiative for this project started six years ago, and they believed it would be approved easily; however, it proved to be more difficult than they had believed. He noted that although he does not have a special needs child or a special needs member in his family, he is very sensitive to their needs, and he commented that special needs services are the first thing to be cut whenever money is tight. He commented that the Miracle League Fields are also hugely popular in the general population and used for softball, soccer, and wheelchair basketball. He also explained that they are a barrier-free field which is really needed by those with disabilities, who he opined are very deserving.
Ms. Marilyn Bainter, a resident of Eustis, reminded the Board that Commissioners are elected to represent people countywide rather than just from one district, and she opined that they needed to get their priorities straight. She related that although she heard one Commissioner state that the new millage would be in line with the surrounding counties, their wages are not close to those of the surrounding counties, with Marion County being the most similar. She talked about the loss of stores in the county, resulting in loss of revenue, and she opined that the jail was under-utilized after being initially constructed. She also mentioned that they overbuilt the incinerator after spending $79 million, since they did not have enough garbage to use all of the capacity, and they took money from the general fund for years to pay the bonds on it. She added that the Judicial Center and new radio facilities for their emergency departments were other expenses for the County. She commented that the counties in the state had increased taxes so much that the legislature mandated that they reduce their taxes, with Lake County standing fourth in the state in increases. She concluded that they would have plenty of money left over to make space for their Public Defender and State Attorney’s Offices if they had not built the new Emergency Operations Center.
Ms. Becky Adesso, a resident of Lake Mack in the Paisley area, expressed deep concern about the closing of their library, and she mentioned that this was the third time she has been before the Board to request that the County does not take away the library. She recapped that the County considered cutting the library a year ago but ended up with a six-percent budget reduction, and the library made ends meet with the efforts of the Friends of the Library and fundraisers, so that they would not have to cut their summer, children’s, after-school, and literacy programs. She opined that privatizing the library would result in it becoming a shell of a library without the programs she previously mentioned. She specified that Paisley is home to 818 residents according to the 2013 census, with 189 of those under the age of 18, and there were approximately 920 residents in Lake Katherine with over 229 children under 18; also, Lake Mack is home to 1,010 residents with over 240 of those being minors. She commented that approximately 650 students living in the Paisley area rely on that library, since they do not have any other activity, sports team, community outreach program, or transportation to programs in other areas, and noted that the average medium household income in Paisley is $21,357, which is less than half of the average of the state as a whole. She elaborated that over 21 percent of Paisley lives in poverty, with many students not having access to the internet for schoolwork or after-school care, and added that the library is also a safe haven from sexual predators.
Ms. Evelyn Logas commented that the Commissioners did not campaign to raise taxes, and this would affect the quality of life for all of the retired citizens who live on a limited income. She opined that this tax increase is unprecedented and not needed. She suggested that the County reduce their expenses the way the retired citizens are doing.
Mr. Jules Turscany, Chair of the Advisory Board for the W. T. Bland Library and a member of the Lake County Advisory Board, commented that most families currently require the mother and father to work outside the home, which leaves the children on their own, and libraries provide those children with a variety of learning and recreation venues from preschool-aged kids to adults of all ages, including tax support for the elderly. He added that libraries are an important educational, training, and learning source for the whole family and have become very valuable. He discussed some of the events and programs that the libraries have sponsored. He opined that now is not the time to cut taxes that support these needed programs, although increasing the tax base is never popular, but the community demands and needs those services.
Mr. Edmund Meyer commented that everyone is hurting, but he believed the primary focus they needed to discuss that night was their home, which is the only thing they have in their life that protects them besides law enforcement and public safety. He stated that he firmly believes that taxing their homes is the biggest detriment to the human element, since they are just coming out of a recession which affected home ownership, and he opined that this kind of tax increase across the board will result in more foreclosures and failures in real estate and industry. He asked for the Board to consider the best and the lowest tax ratio they could come up with.
Ms. Patricia Levine, a resident of Mount Dora, mentioned that she has been involved with the Miracle League for about 7 or 8 years and was part of the group of people who wanted to start the field in Tavares. She pointed out that many people have been touched by a special needs child and that there was a very large population of children in this county who have no benefits or ability to participate in outdoor sports or the opportunity to have a summer camp. She requested that the Board consider the Miracle League Field as a benefit to Lake County and a message to the State of Florida to show how much they encompass everyone. She commented that it is hard for the children playing in their wheelchairs or on crutches to run on a regular dirt field, but they still love being on those fields, and it was a great opportunity for them to grow, was a benefit to their health, and was helping them emotionally. She opined that this facility was something that could not wait and would offer quality of life for families as they grow as a community.
Mr. Mark Fisher, a resident of Mount Dora, related that they should use this as an opportunity for introspection about how they conduct their budgetary process, and he mentioned that he handed out a letter that he had sent to the Commissioners in which he outlined six different points and areas for improvement regarding this budgetary process. He mentioned that a lot of acrimony has been shown as this process has gotten more and more heated over the last few months, which he believed was counterproductive, and he suggested that they need to look at the comments as constructive criticism by the public of the process rather than a personal attack and to re-examine the facts before them and change their mind if the facts are not as they initially thought them to be. He opined that this process was grossly flawed, because anyone who has made an effort to look into how the money has been spent in the past in order to assess whether allowing that to continue into the future and be the baseline for the purposes of a proposed tax increase cannot get that information, and although the County departments have done a fairly good job of being transparent, that does not hold true for the constitutional office that consumes a large portion of their budget. He commented that the process has to become more transparent and has to account for the fact that the public is the stakeholder and has a right to engage in the process, which he feels they do not have right now. He suggested that the Board take his recommendations as a starting point and make the process more transparent.
Mr. Anthony Adesso, a student at Spring Creek Charter School and resident of the Paisley area, talked about the importance of the library in his life and the library programs in which he participated. He commented that although he is lucky enough to have other options for books, entertainment, and after-school activities, a lot of the students at his school are not as lucky, and the library is a safe, comfortable place for them to learn, play, and grow, as well as to discover the world outside of Paisley and to gain the confidence to achieve anything.
Mr. Ed Thomas, a representative of small business and an owner of a real estate investment business, stated that they create a lot of jobs in Lake County and other counties throughout the state, and he related that his small company pays $164,000 a year in property taxes. He commented that he feels that the Board is taxing the job creators and the working people trying to live the American dream of home ownership to the point where there is no longer any incentive to own property, which will impact the County negatively. He opined that the answer to these financial problems is simple, and their responsibility is to their constituents and not to grow the size of government. He commented that the County cannot be all things to all people and provide everyone with the creature comforts that they desire. He noted that the definition of a budget is “a plan of adjusting expenses to equal one’s income,” and he suggested that the County stop spending more money than it is taking in the way its citizens have to do.
Mr. Milt Fox opined that politics have made the population of this country complacent, which he believed was very sad. He commented that the Board is proposing to raise the millage rate, even though the values have gone up this year as well, which he considered “double dipping.” He mentioned that he and many people he knows have not had a raise in several years, and he stated that he does not have the money to pay increased taxes, which he estimated would cost him about $400 a year more. He recapped that people voted to lower their taxes several years ago and opined that the people can do that again, leaving the County again in a financial hole.
Commr. Conner pointed out that the Board cut over $5 million out of their budget at their meeting on August 26.
Mr. John Brautcheck, a Lake County native, opined that Lake County has a spending problem and not a revenue problem and has received $2 million in additional revenue per year or $20 million in ten years. He also opined that each Commissioner is responsible for approving too much spending, and he urged them to delay capital expenditures until they have the money in hand or to cut them altogether. He commented that the Board has the authority and the responsibility to say “no” to constitutional officers by not approving submitted budgets or sending back reduced budget amounts aligned with the income. He also asked the Board to differentiate between necessities and frivolities, say “no” to increased taxation, and scale back the millage rate from 2013 as well.
Mr. David Teske, Parks and Recreation Director for the City of Clermont, related that the City of Clermont is disappointed in the County’s decision to cut or defer funding for the South Lake Regional Park. He recapped that the County has been talking about creating a park in South Lake for more than a decade, and the County made a commitment two years ago to fulfill this need for the residents. He elaborated that the five communities of Clermont, Groveland, Mascotte, Minneola, and Montverde have been absorbing the cost of providing recreation to County residents living in the unincorporated areas of South Lake County for many years. He commented that about 64 percent of all the youth, or about 1,500 residents, who use their ball fields for participation in soccer, baseball, softball, and other sports live outside the Clermont city limits, with the City absorbing those costs. He pointed out that these athletic fields would not only provide wholesome recreation for youth and adults, but also will help fuel economic development due to the sports tourism opportunities in South Lake. He commented that they enjoy a great partnership with the County and respectfully request that the Board reconsider to move forward to build the South Lake Regional Park or at least continue in the efforts of building the park.
Ms. Ronni Caggiano, a real estate broker, commented that her job has been very frustrating during the last few years as a result of dealing with people who were losing their homes, a lot of them senior citizens who have put everything they can into their homes. She added that this tax increase would be a tragedy for the people who still have homes and pointed out that there were still 300 bank-owned properties and 200 short sales in MLS (Multiple Listing Service) as well as foreclosure notices in all of the County’s communities. She opined that they could not afford another tax increase, and it would hurt the senior citizens who could not work the most. She added that part of the quality of life is low taxes, and she asked the Board to start living on a budget the way that the residents do without asking for more money and to use common sense when thinking about the people of this county who will suffer from the decisions they are making.
Mr. Rodney Diehl, a resident of Tavares, pointed out that residents pay water and sewer rates that are excessive in addition to the property taxes, and he opined that it was unconscionable that the Board believes that the residents should be glad to pay 11 percent as opposed to 18 percent. He suggested that the Board raise the tax rate 6 percent this year and come back with an increase in 2016 that truly meets the real needs of the County. He also suggested that the Board repurpose the old courthouse and to sell the pavilion.
Mr. William Wilburth, President of the Home Builders Association of Lake and Sumter Counties, stated that he was concerned about a large tax increase and believed it was a decision without much discussion, since there was only one workshop held regarding the budget this year. He opined that the tax increase was for new spending projects and ideas. He pointed out that they were in the beginning of a recovery in the building industry, and he hoped that this recovery continues no matter what decision the Board makes. He expressed concern about the direction the County is heading, noting that land acquisition seems to be excessive statewide and countywide, which results in the loss of some of their tax base and more money needed by the governmental entities to maintain those properties. He related that he believes they should live within their means, and he suggested that they focus on building their reserves before spending it. He commented that he believes they should keep the builders building in their county, and there are some great companies willing and able to produce what the county needs. He asked the Board to reconsider the tax increase and find a way to make the dollars pay for what they need, although he thinks the raises for the Sheriff’s Office are way overdue and should be granted. He also requested that the Board conduct more workshops to find a way to make their dollars go further.
Ms. Wendy Terry, a representative of the South Lake Chamber of Commerce and a resident of Montverde, read a letter into the record stating that the South Lake Chamber of Commerce requests that the Board continue to maintain the full $1.8 million in sales tax funds reserved for the regional park of South Lake. The letter also noted that amenities such as good police, fire protection, and modern park systems are very important long-term assets that add depth to their county’s economic development efforts. She added that the park will provide the families and children recreational opportunities; showcase a healthy, vibrant, and productive community; support the South Lake region; and help entice additional economic development dollars to the area. She commented that the Cities of Mascotte and Groveland are especially lacking in parks to address organized sports activities, while Clermont has accommodated families throughout the county and have absorbed the costs of those facilities. She noted that the County previously committed funds as part of its Parks Master Plan, and the recession is not a good justification to defer any additional funding or commitment from the County for a regional park. She emphasized that they have been promised this for over ten years, and Clermont has continued to serve the County families at no charge during much of this time period. She relayed a request from the Chamber that the Board continue their commitment by maintaining the funds in the budget until such time as the County can once again commit funds to the construction and operation of the park. She mentioned that they also appreciate the County’s commitment to provide assistance to the City of Minneola with the Minneola Athletic Complex during the recession, which took some pressure off of the demand for fields and facilities in South Lake. She commented that as the area has begun to grow again, the long-term need for a regional park has presented itself once again.
Ms. Irene O’Malley, Executive Director of Lake Cares Food Pantry, addressed the Board regarding the grants that are under consideration of being removed from the County budget, which were the Human Services Grant in the amount of $47,500 and the Children’s Services Grants in the amount of approximately $150,000. She commented that this money is doing so much for the people in their community, specifying that last year her food pantry fed over 19,205 people and gave out over 300,000 pounds of food; however, their organization is only five years old and could not do it all by themselves. She pointed out that over 65 percent of the people they serve are seniors and disabled, and most live in apartments rather than owning their own homes and struggle to make ends meet. She commented that the individuals they serve come to know that they will be able to give them the food that they need, especially the fresh produce, and they strive to give those in need good nutritional food. She requested that the Board keep the Children’s Services and Human Services Grants in the budget.
Ms. Christine Magnifico, a lifelong resident of Lake County and a business owner in the area, related that she serves the senior population through a medical business, and she has had to cut her employees’ wages and benefits for the past four years, because her revenue has been cut by 25 percent. She reiterated that she has a certain amount of income available to her as a private-sector employer and has to pay the employees, health care costs, and bills with the money she has available, and she does not get to ask for more money from her neighbors or friends in order to spend above her means. She stated that although she supports the request from the Sheriff’s Office for raises, she wondered what has been done by the Sheriff’s Department to find that money other than asking for more tax revenue. She specified that she gave her employees raises last year by cutting costs and changing her suppliers so that she would not lose half her work force, and she felt that the Board should do the same. She opined that most residents cannot afford the proposed increase, and she pointed out that her city taxes are proposed to go up as well, which will mean a 25 percent total tax increase to her personally.
Ms. Christine Boress stated that she is against any tax increase and believed there were other ways to meet their current important needs. She commented that Commr. Campione had recommendations to balance the budget without a tax increase, and the proposed increase is based on new spending. She opined that it does not take a double-digit tax increase to provide raises for their public safety and County employees, and Lake County can buy new ambulances without a tax increase, because they are funded from the penny sales tax and not property tax revenues. She stated that fiscal conservatism and good governance are important, and there will not be a shortfall in the budget if a portion of infrastructure sales tax revenue was used to pay debt service on the new judicial complex and 2014 levels of spending were adopted. She further related that she believed that new spending requests and an unwillingness to delay capital projects has been used to create the appearance of a crisis; however, there were ways to honor many of the spending requests and balance the budget without a tax increase. She related that Commr. Campione’s suggestions incorporate the Sheriff’s request for deputy salaries and many of the other new spending requests while maintaining the current millage rate. She added that the Affordable Care Act has meant higher medical costs for residents to deal with, and she did not know where the money will come from. She suggested that the charitable organizations do fund raisers to help with their needs, and she commented that she believed that the libraries and activities provided there were very important.
Mr. Scott Ales mentioned that he agreed with Commr. Campione’s point of view on this issue. He related that he and his wife have been working for themselves for 38 years, but they have lost half of their net worth in the last five years, have not taken vacations in that time, and have launched a new business to try to make up the shortfalls that they would see in their retirement. He commented that it is challenging for him to have a Board consider increasing taxes to get what they need, and although he appreciates the services the County provides, the property owners and the businesses pay for almost all of it. He stated that the Board’s effort needs to be focused on creating the type of place where small businesses want to be and people want to live, which would result in an increase in their tax base. He requested that the Board ask their staff to make it work like the local businesses do.
Ms. Tammie Hilliker, a resident of Tavares, related that she had a special needs child who spent the first 3 ½ months of her life in the hospital, since she was premature and weighed just a little over two pounds when she was born. She described her efforts to get medical care for her child from doctors and specialists throughout and outside the state, including cardiologists, endocrinologists, immunologists, geneticists, occupational and speech therapists, and ophthalmic specialists. She mentioned that she realized when her daughter was two years old that she had never taken her to a park and set out to find things for her to do. She noted that when she took her daughter to Lake Jem Park, the wheelchair would not move and there was not a swing for her to swing on, but she has since found Lake Idamere, which was an amazing facility which was wheelchair and handicap accessible. She commented that the relationships she had formed while playing sports have lasted throughout her life, and she wanted to give her daughter the best life possible and every experience she had when she was growing up. She requested that the Board pass the funding for the construction of the Miracle League field.
Mr. Michael Reischmann, a resident of Eustis, related that he was an entrepreneur who specialized in making successes out of start-up businesses that were not initially successful, and he commented that he has never made a business successful by raising the price. He specified that he looks for efficiencies in those companies and for ways to produce a product better for less money and to do whatever they need to do to compete on a worldwide market. He mentioned that he has not increased his prices for one of his companies in six years, even though raw materials, insurance, rent, and taxes have gone up. He indicated that he stays in business by analyzing to the penny their budgets and expenditures, which he suggested that the Board do with their budget, making sure that every dime is spent in a way that will benefit the county.
Mr. Edd Holder commented that the tax increase will hurt many residents, including the 35,000 veterans living in the county, and he expressed concern regarding senior citizens, since 80 percent of people in Lake County do not have retirement plans. He mentioned that historically one of the county’s core principles has been not to spend more than they earn, and he asked the Board to do the same thing.
Ms. Melissa Walker, the guidance counselor at Lake Hills School, the local school for children with disabilities, related that she was there to advocate for the Miracle League field to be built in Tavares, and she commented that this park will have a wonderful impact on their students and their community and bring disability awareness to their community as well as build a community of opportunity for networking and support for the parents of children with disabilities. She stated that she was speaking on behalf of the 200 children who were unable to be present that evening, who have been fighting since birth just to stay alive and beat the odds, and some families have been fighting for a long time for their children’s health and for healthcare coverage. She elaborated that other children have watched their parents fight for funding of programs that add quality to their children’s lives just to see that the funding was still cut, and some children fight every day for their individual rights and are often overlooked due to their disabilities. She commented that the children should not have to fight to be able to have fun, and they need and deserve this park.
Mr. Michael Levine, a resident of Clermont, mentioned that he has been outspoken about budget issues over the last few weeks and expressed disappointment that he had to demand transparency from the Sheriff and to stand up for what he believes is right. He opined that the process was wrong, the Board has not done its homework on its budgets, and the Board has no transparency about some of the budgets they are passing. He commented that it was the Board’s responsibility to vote “no” on the budget until they get the transparency they needed to make a good decision, and raising taxes would result in a significant negative impact on the economy and long-term growth of the economy of this county. He noted that the private sector is more economically challenged today than the public sector is, but the County was asking private sector individuals and businesses to contribute to public sector operations that he believes do not need the money, since they could do everything they want to do with the money they have. He opined that they would be hurting their constituents if the Board passed a budget increase on them, and there was a disconnect between elected officials and the people they serve. He urged the Board to hold the line on taxes and make ends meet.
recess and reassembly
The Chairman announced at 6:55 p.m. that there would be a ten-minute recess.
budget hearing (cont’d)
Mayor Tim Loucks of the City of Groveland stated that he was there to speak on behalf of the South Lake Regional Park, noting that South Lake County is currently one of the fastest growing areas in Lake County, with Groveland growing at a rate of 176 percent last year. He commented that as the population increases, the need for these parks is incredible, and Clermont has been bearing most of the burden of that. He noted that the park will not only generate additional enhancements, but will also boost the entire economy throughout the entire South Lake region tremendously. He opined that the small amount of expenditure that will go into this park will probably be increased over the years ten to fifteen fold, and he encouraged the Board to include the $1.8 million into this year’s budget and to complete this park when possible.
Mr. Jim Budzynski, a long-time resident of Lake County, commented that he agrees with most of what has been said at this meeting, including the desire for lower taxes, police protection, libraries, and parks. He related that he has a 21-year old special needs son, and he knows that the parents who previously spoke about their disabled children are looking for an outlet for those young children, even though his son will not benefit from the Miracle League Field. He stated that the County’s efforts such as the Miracle Field are ways to give those children and parents a little bit better quality of life, noting that the parents need a break, are working extremely hard to care for their children, and have a lot of stressful situations to deal with. He pointed out that Lake County has stepped forward before with projects such as the Lake Hills School, which is a model for other counties, demonstrating that the County does care about special needs children, and he requested that the Board step up and do the right thing.
Mr. Mark Taylor, a resident of Eustis, related that he would discuss the funding for the Miracle League Field at Lake Idamere, and he commented that he wanted his son with Down Syndrome to have the experience that most other children had to play baseball, since his disabilities prevented him from playing baseball with kids his own age. He stated that his son started playing with Miracle League, although the terrain at the location that was being used was not easily accessible by many of the children, especially those in wheelchairs, which limited the number of children who could play there; however, they started playing their games at the Lake Sumter State College softball field, which had better accessible, resulting in double the amount of participation, although there are still some challenges and concerns with that location, including limitations on scheduling and effects of weather on the field conditions. He explained that the infield of the Miracle League Field will be made of a synthetic material that is specifically designed to be used on those fields which provides smooth and seamless surfaces for all of the players and mobility equipment to maneuver. He commented that parents of special needs children want them to have every possible opportunity to experience the same life adventures that normal children have, and he asked the Board to build them a field.
Ms. Lee Owen commented that the economy is slowly picking up, and they all want to see a strong local economy and their businesses doing well, which would include a mix of locally-owned businesses and national franchises. She noted that there have been several studies that have looked at the impact of spending in a local economy and the amount of money that gets recirculated as a result of the residents who spend money at those businesses. She stated that they want to see strong monetary circulation in their county, but she asked what happens to the economy if increased taxes result in residents having less money to spend at local businesses. She pointed out that it would be an unhealthy mix for businesses to end up with fewer customers at the same time that they were getting hit with higher commercial real estate taxes as well as higher personal residential property taxes, which will affect the future growth of Lake County. She added that there will possibly be a 50 percent increase in the growth rate in the area of the Wekiva Parkway in the next 20 years, and she opined that the signals they send now with the tax policies they put in place tell local, state, and national businesses where they should invest. She urged the Board to listen to their constituents, including the residents, retired people, and business owners.
Mr. Redmond Jones, City Manager for the City of Groveland, spoke about the South Lake Regional Park, noting that this was the time that they look at smart growth, and he commented that this park has enormous economic opportunities. He referenced the unprecedented partnerships with the cities coming together, efficient use of tax dollars, using land smartly, and economic impact. He added that he talked at a meeting with County leaders recently about the various opportunities that a mixed use park will bring, with economic and local recreation needs coming together, and he requested that they keep the planning process moving forward at the very least, stating that Groveland is very interested in sharing in that process.
Mr. Vance Jochim, a writer of a blog about local fiscal and governmental issues, opined that the Board should admit that the budget process is botched this year, since the meeting the Board had last week should have been held before the figures were put on the TRIM notice, while seven budget workshops were held last year where all of the budget details were worked out before deciding on a millage rate. He related that the constitutional officers represent over $60 million in spending, and he opined that the process regarding their budgets which has no transparency of that spending needs to stop. He opined that the Board has not done their due diligence and should not approve $60 million going to the constitutional officers without having any public hearings, noting that those constitutional officers do not have any detailed budgets posted on their websites, known performance audits, or peer cost ratio studies comparing them to other counties in this area. He commented that the above-mentioned practices could show $3 million in the existing budgets that could be used to offset the budget requests, and he remarked that the County departments have been the one to make all of the sacrifices. He concluded that he did not think there should be any tax increases until the County gets those issues resolved.
Ms. Jennifer Dempsey, a resident of Mount Dora and a small business owner, related that she was the mother to a special needs child and was in support of the Miracle League field. She commented that although she understands the need for budget cuts, her child does not have other recreational options or avenues to learn organized sports and to have the experience of being confident and proud of herself and her achievements other than the Miracle League. She requested on her child’s behalf that the sacrifices are not made by those who are already so disadvantaged in the community.
Ms. Patricia Sullivan, a resident of Mount Dora, thanked Commr. Campione for putting forth a plan that would enable them to keep the current services, work within their means, and be able to balance the budget. She expressed her extreme disappointment to those who were voting to increase their taxes in an effort to balance the budget, especially those she campaigned for believing that they were fiscally conservative and that they believed government should live within its means. She opined that there will be a lot of people who will be offering an alternative to the present Commissioners if they choose to pass this increase when they have an option of balancing the budget and keeping their services.
Ms. Candi Giddens, who was the mother of a 12-year old special needs child, related that she was there to speak on behalf of the Miracle League Field. She commented that although there were those that believed they have enough parks and ball fields in Lake County, there were none that her daughter could play on or access in her wheelchair to be able to participate, and she was a great ball player. She related that she was fully aware that anything having to do with a disability or special need costs more money, since she deals with that every day; however, her daughter wants and deserves a place where she can play ball. She pointed out that she currently drives two hours two times a week to Tampa in order for her daughter to participate in para-Olympic sports through the Parks and Recreation program there, including wheelchair basketball, track and field, tennis, and swimming, and the closest Miracle League field is currently in Orlando. However, she believes that her daughter deserves a place to play locally just like all of her friends do, and it was disheartening to wait and be told that there was no money, since many in the special needs community does not have the luxury of time. She noted that this program could generate some income and economic opportunities, such as using the field for men’s national wheelchair softball teams that play all over the United States. She commented that special needs parents have to budget every day of their lives, and she stated that she would greatly appreciate the Board’s support of this project in order to give the children in wheelchairs and the special needs community a place to play.
Mr. Ed Rowlett, a Mount Dora City Councilman and liaison for the Library Advisory Board, commented that libraries were more than a brick-and-mortar building housing some books, and their community libraries were one of the few government buildings that citizens actually want to go to. He elaborated that all of their libraries offer educational programs, technology classes, reading programs, social events, nature programs, and craft events, all of which are put on by the library staff and many volunteers. He opined that every library is important to its community and requested that the Board preserve what their citizens want.
Mr. Richard Skyzinski related that his health care costs available through his job were increasing significantly, his city taxes were going up, the County wants to increase taxes, and his pay was going down; and those things were not a good combination. He emphasized that he would make ends meet despite those circumstances, and he urged the Board to do the same.
Mr. Rick Roberts commented that the Board has previously made commitments to the South Lake Community Park, and he recapped that it was done at a time when South Lake Park was overcrowded and could not accomodate any more people. He elaborated that the City of Clermont at that time decided to greatly increase the user fees, since it was not their responsibility to take care of the County residents, and the media reported on the upset parents who could not pay those fees for their children to play on the fields. He related that the City and the Board met shortly after that news coverage to discuss their parks needs and committed a certain amount of money to start the park project, with a timeline of three to four years, although it has been ten years now. He commented that although he understood that the economy necessitated delaying that project, he does not understand the project being totally dropped. He related that he recently found the original petition that was signed at that time by 400 children requesting consideration for allocation of some funds to build a park for them to play in. He asked that the Board treat this decision as if it would affect their own families, adding that it was their responsibility to take care of the children.
Mr. Mike Stone commented that unfortunately there were a lot of people who did not have the luxury of standing or the capability of moving around without restrictions that others sometimes take for granted, and the idea that their children, regardless of their restrictions, do not have equal opportunities in this county is sad. He remarked that those children and their families were all looking forward to a place for their kids to play.
Dr. Kasey Kesselring from Montverde commented that every issue that has come up has been a worthy one, including libraries, police departments, parks, or the Miracle Field, and it was as much a sociological issue as a financial issue. He noted that the Board has some difficult decisions to make and mentioned that he supported the South Lake Regional Park. He opined that the Board has done the right thing in prior years by using the reserves to balance the budget.
Sheriff Gary Borders recapped that they started this process in January with a meeting with the County Manager and the Chairman to discuss the budget needs, salaries, and things they were faced with this year, and he has met with the County Manager every month since the start of this budget process to work through the numbers together. He noted that their deputy pay was the fifth lowest in the county, and they wanted to make sure they were retaining quality deputy sheriffs in this county. He pointed out that people who are looking to relocate look at the public safety and schools in the area, and he pointed out that they have seen low crime rates for the past four years. He commented that they have eliminated or frozen over 100 positions at the Sheriff’s Office since 2009 to meet the budget cuts that the Board has requested over the last three years of about $8 million, and today they have 266 sworn law enforcement officers, which includes the courthouse and the eleven positions which are contracted by the City of Minneola. He added that they currently have a total of 644 positions at the Sheriff’s Office, although they used to have about 750 employees years ago, including 165 dedicated certified corrections officers who work in the jail and 213 civilians, some of whom were for dispatch, although 22 of the dispatch positons were contracted.
Sheriff Borders assured the Board that they have worked hard for the last few years to consolidate everything they could, such as dispatching for eight cities at the Emergency Operations Center, and they bought a computer system years ago which is compatible with many of the municipal systems. He pointed out that they have created an online reporting system for their citizens to report a crime, and they have worked with the city police departments throughout this county and pulled together their resources, which has resulted in success in their drug unit. He mentioned that they have also eliminated some programs, including the DARE unit, although it was a great program. He noted that he has contacted three other sheriffs from surrounding counties with similar demographics who indicated that their budgets were substantially higher than what he was asking, and the Florida Association of Counties ranked Lake County as 42nd in the state in per capita spending for law enforcement and corrections. He related that their goal is to pay a decent salary to the men and women who put their lives on the line every day and to make sure that they could retain them after hiring and training, since they spend a lot of money on that training and on custom-fitted bullet proof vests. He emphasized that the Sheriff’s Office is open 24 hours a day, unlike other governmental offices, and he commented that they have tried to streamline as much as they could and cut a lot of positions, noting that the deputies are doing more with less and covering more areas. He pointed out that his office is thoroughly audited by an independent auditing firm every year for about three to four months, and the results of that audit is reported to the County. He thanked the Board for their support and consideration.
The Chairman closed the public hearing.
Commr. Parks stated that he would support a millage that would help support the South Lake Park, and he pointed out that the park was not just a park for residents and children, but was also just as much an economic development opportunity for them. He added that the County was also having ongoing discussions with the cities and private businesses to pool aggregate potential funding sources in the future for funding that park, and he assured everyone that they do not intend to build that park immediately and realize that it will take some time. He related that he does not support taking that park off of the list for funding, and they need to be able to explore using Tourist Development Tax dollars in combination with the allocation of penny sales tax rather than the general fund as well as a contribution from the Cities of Groveland and Clermont and private partnerships.
Commr. Conner indicated that he supported that.
Commr. Cadwell commented that he believed that their approach to balancing the budget over the last three years has been flawed and culminated in this large percentage increase that they are considering that day, since they could not continue borrowing off of their savings, in order to continue providing not only the mandated services that are required but also what they feel is important enough for the citizens to want to be taxed in order to retain. He commented that he believed there were several areas that the Board needs to fund and would offer a millage rate that would do that at some point. He also noted that he was one of the Commissioners who committed to the South Lake Park, since it was a crisis situation at that point resulting from an extreme shortage of sports facilities, and he strongly believed that their commitment to those types of activities and facilities contributes to lowering the crime rate. He expressed a strong belief in continuing the funding for the Miracle League Field as well. He added that the Wolfbranch stormwater project, which they are doing in coordination with other agencies, is important in order to protect a hole that runs directly into the aquifer, and he would not want to see the County abandon that project. He specified that putting those projects back into the millage rate projections would mean a 13 to 14 percent increase. He pointed out that the Board has been discussing the budget process since last December at board retreats and several other meetings and that he had a clear understanding of what the state mandates them to do and the responsibilities of the constitutional officers, emphasizing that there was nowhere else they could cut. He also mentioned that they wanted to provide quality public safety and that the County employees have been committed to do two and three jobs, and they needed to take care of all of those employees. Also, he commented that they needed to help the portion of the population who depends on them.
Commr. Sullivan commented that this was a difficult process and was a matter of setting priorities that are important to them. He stated that since they were in tough budget times, he supports the millage rates of the MSTU’s, since there was a clear delineation of those dollars, but does not agree with the countywide millage rate and believes the increase should be about four percent or a rate of 4.92013, which he believes would cover what they need. He specified that the constitutional officers have a request of a $3.9 million increase, but a four percent increase to their budgets would be $2.75 million, which would save $1.1 million. He suggested that they reduce their reserve policy from 7 to 5 percent, which would free up $2.4 million in the budget, which he believes would be met by their collection rate. He indicated that he was open to working on the capital budgets to continue South Lake Park, which is one reason he proposes to phase in the courthouse changes. He assured everyone that he is trying to do the best with the resources that they have, and stated that he is open to any suggestions as they move forward.
Commr. Campione pointed out that she does not believe there was ever any discussion at any time during this budget process about cutting the Miracle League Field, and she does not know why some people came to this meeting with the impression that they were going to cut that out of the budget. She added that although some people have expressed concerns about cutting their libraries, the Board realizes the importance of the libraries to their community and has never talked about cutting or closing the libraries, except for one slide presentation early in the process which listed that option on an expansive list of things that they could cut if they did not have a millage increase; however, she assured everyone that those things were never seriously considered, and they also never discussed cutting other social programs such as the food pantry, LifeStream, or Children’s Services. She noted that their taxable value this year increased considerably by 4.22 percent which generated about $3 million more in their general fund, and she believed that they ought to work with what was generated as a result of the economy starting to recover. She expressed concern that raising the millage rate would stop the recovery process, and she suggested that they try to promote business-friendly attitudes and policies in the county, noting that raising taxes was not business-friendly. She opined that although they have used their reserves over the last several years, they were compiled as a result of the “boom” years, and they will not have to rely on reserves if they keep spending at the same levels and if their taxable value is growing. She related that she put together a plan or projection that would help them work themselves through this without raising taxes. She commented that 110 of the 159 employees that were cut were in Growth Management, which was essentially an enterprise fund that was paying for itself through application fees. She commented that one aspect of quality of life is affordability, being able to support their families, and living within their means, which was a Lake County value. She noted that they have money budgeted to continue their park system, and she suggested that they use some of the Public Lands millage rather than reducing it to fund the maintenance of the parks. She asked the Board to consider not raising the millage rate and riding out the economic situation in order create positive economic activity in Lake County and to show businesses that they were serious about fiscal restraint.
Commr. Parks commented that he shared some common ground with Commr. Campione on the penny sales tax, and he does not want to impose a tax increase at all and never imagined he would even have to consider it. However, he related that he has done a lot of research which indicated that moving money around and being creative will not work to resolve this situation. He pointed out that there is a $12.9 million deficit that is not due to new spending, even after consideration of the increase in values, including the Motorola contract that they need to abide by and the Astatula fuel remediation, which will not get cheaper by putting it off. He commented that the Sheriff has made some cuts, and the other constitutional officers have always been very frugal. He explained that there is a transfer to Parks and Trails, because they have been operating in a deficit over the last couple of years in that department, and last year they put some money that was refunded back to the County from Juvenile Services into maintenance of the parks, but that was not the case this year. He added that they also have to pay about $600,000 in fire assessments for all of the County buildings. He remarked that he does think there are some ways of reducing the proposed millage increase, and he has put forward some proposals to lower it down as much as they can. He emphasized that they have been as frugal as possible and have looked at every expenditure, but he does recognize the call for more transparency, workshops, and communication. He suggested that they have workshops about four times a year to hear legitimate proposals on what might make the County more efficient. He assured everyone that he does a lot of serious “homework” in trying to make the best decisions he could and uses the Economic Development Action Plan as his guide, which was unanimously supported by the Board. He pointed out that having no tax increase would necessitate very serious cuts, and there is value in some of the quality of life issues. He assured everyone that he is trying to get the best value for their citizens, and he is trying to balance the quality of life issues with understanding what raising the millage rate will do to everyone within the county. He reiterated his support for keeping the allocation for the South Lake Park.
Commr. Conner emphasized that no one hates taxes more than he does, but they are faced with this decision because they have not balanced the budget without using their reserves and have not raised the millage rates since he has been on the Board in 2008. He commented that they might not have done a good job communicating how they have drastically downsized government, including cutting 43 percent of the General Fund workforce, and he pointed out that there has not been another Sheriff in the state that has cut his budget three years in a row. He related that they have continually been looking at and studying their budget since 2008, noting that they save between $800,000 and $1 million in the way they deploy their EMS employees. He pointed out that he does not want to be in this position, but continuing to spend more than they take in will result in their being in the same position next year. He commented that Lake County would still be the second lowest millage rate in the region even if they approved the full proposed millage rates, and he miscalculated in his thought that if they went as long as they possibly could without raising taxes and when people saw how much they cut, there would be a wide-spread acknowledgement of just how fiscally conservative they have been. He added that he would support putting the stormwater project and South Lake Park back into the budget, since he believes those things need to be done.
Commr. Campione commented that her proposal suggested ways to keep spending level without any tax increase, but it will take some compromise and negotiation, and she related that she would continue to support the position that stays the status quo, which she believes is the fiscally conservative thing to do.
Commr. Cadwell commented that although the infrastructure sales tax could certainly be used for the debt service, doing that would result in them abandoning their infrastructure, and they would not be able to keep their basic government infrastructure in place. He suggested that they include the parks projects back into the budget, which would include the Miracle League Field and the South Lake Regional Park, as well as the Wolfbranch Stormwater project, and he proposed a millage increase in the General Fund millage of 5.3856, which would result in a 13.8 percent increase.
Mr. Heath clarified that the Miracle League field is still in the budget, since the motion to delete that from the budget failed during the last BCC meeting.
Commr. Parks clarified for the record that his preference would be for this proposal to affect the 3rd and 4th floor renovation project at the courthouse, although he lost on that vote.
Commr. Sullivan requested that they approve the millages individually, because although he believes that the MSTU’s are right where they need to be, he could not support an increase in the General Fund millage.
On a motion by Commr. Cadwell, seconded by Commr. Parks and carried by a vote of 3-2, the Board approved the tentative Lake County General Fund Countywide Millage of 5.3856 mills.
Commr. Sullivan and Commr. Campione voted “no.”
On a motion by Commr. Sullivan, seconded by Commr. Parks and carried by a vote of 4-1, the Board approved the tentative Lake County Ambulance MSTU millage of .4629 mills.
Commr. Campione voted “no.”
On a motion by Commr. Cadwell, seconded by Commr. Sullivan and carried by a vote of 4-1, the Board approved the tentative Lake County Stormwater, Roads, and Parks MSTU millage of .4957 mills.
Commr. Campione voted “no.”
On a motion by Commr. Cadwell, seconded by Commr. Parks and carried by a vote of 4-1, the Board approved the tentative Lake County Fire MSTU millage of .4704 mills.
Commr. Campione voted “no.”
On a motion by Commr. Campione, seconded by Commr. Sullivan and carried unanimously by a vote of 5-0, the Board approved the tentative Lake County Public Lands Voted Debt millage of .1600 mills.
On a motion by Commr. Parks, seconded by Commr. Cadwell and carried by a vote of 3-2, the Board approved the Statement of Change to the Proposed Millages, which included the funding of the Wolfbranch Stormwater project and the South Lake Park, totaling $4,847,357.
Commr. Campione and Commr. Sullivan voted “no.”
On a motion by Commr. Cadwell, seconded by Commr. Parks and carried by a vote of 3-2, the Board approved the tentative budget for FY 2015 totaling $350,159,521.
Commr. Campione and Commr. Sullivan voted “no.”
On a motion by Commr. Sullivan, seconded by Commr. Parks and carried unanimously by a vote of 5-0, the Board approved the public hearing for the final adoption of the FY 2015 millage rates and budget on September 23, 2014 at 5:05 in BCC Chambers.
There being no further business to be brought to the attention of the Board, the meeting was adjourned at 9:00 p.m.
jimmy conner, chairman
NEIL KELLY, CLERK