A special MEETING OF THE BOARD OF COUNTY COMMISSIONERS
April 19, 2017
The Lake County Board of County Commissioners met in special session on Wednesday, April 19, 2017 at 11:30 a.m., for a Lake 100 meeting at the Mission Inn Resort, Howey in the Hills, Florida. Commissioners present at the meeting were: Timothy I. Sullivan, Chairman; Leslie Campione, Vice Chairman; Sean Parks; Wendy Breeden; and Josh Blake. Others present were Jeff Cole, who was recently chosen as the next County Manager and Angela Harrold, Deputy Clerk.
welcome and commissioner introduction
Mr. Kasey Kesselring, Headmaster of Montverde Academy, welcomed everyone to the Lake 100 meeting and introduced the Lake County Board of County Commissioners (BCC) as guest speakers. He asked Mr. Jeff Cole to introduce himself.
Mr. Cole introduced himself and noted that he had been the Chief of Staff for the St. John’s Water Management District and was involved with legislative issues and working with local government. He stated that he was looking forward to the opportunity the new position would bring.
Mr. Kesselring explained that the meeting would be an open format to discuss economic and business related items happening around the County. He suggested that the Commissioners speak first and then a question and answer session be held.
Commr. Breeden stated that she had enjoyed her first months as a Commissioner and she felt there was a good working relationship on the Board. She noted that there had been a lot accomplished to date and there were other exciting projects that would be happening in the future, such as the proposed school impact fee waiver program and taking a more detailed look at the LDRS (Land Development Regulations.)
Commr. Parks thanked the group for having the Commissioners there to speak and noted that the Commission had a lot of positive projects taking place and he liked having the opportunity to share and exchange ideas with the business community. He commented that during the Board Retreat that took place on January 17, 2017, there were many candid ideas and conversations had and he felt that was a good sign for the Board and what it hoped to accomplish. He added that because of this the Board would provide better service to its constituents, specifically the business community.
Commr. Blake introduced himself noting he was a newly elected Commissioner. He stated that the hiring of the new County Manager, looking in detail at the LDRs and streamlining the permitting procedures were some of the larger decisions that had to be made for the year. He explained that compared to the surrounding counties it could be difficult to get a development completed in Lake County, and he understood that meant that the business community had options, which was important to remember. He felt that updating those regulations and processes would play a large role in helping economic development in the County. He noted that he would like to see a reduction in taxes as well. He stated that he felt the Commission worked well together and it was refreshing to have that positive interaction.
Commr. Sullivan commented that the Board had detailed discussions concerning economic development and the best way to reach goals using government funds. He reiterated that the LDRS and Comprehensive Plan would be reviewed in detail to amend some of the items holding processes up and to eliminate some of the more confusing areas. He reported that a tax abatement program had just been approved for ad valorem taxes and the program was set up based on criteria and would encourage businesses to come to Lake County. He felt that one of the reasons that Mr. Cole was hired was because he was an outside of the box thinker and he had experience in the water district, which was important for the County. He commented that there had been open conversation to ensure tax dollars were watched and going to the right places so they would be best utilized. He opined that where the tax dollars were originating from in the County was the large item to be addressed. He reported that seventy percent of the tax revenue came from home owners and seventy-eight percent of those home owners were in the Save Our Homes Program and that dynamic needed to be changed. He felt that bringing in jobs would help increase those household incomes. He stated that the Board had the right focus as things have moved forward.
Commr. Campione stated that the shared vision of the Board was to have a diversified and thriving Lake County economy and a service culture in the local government. She explained that meant that they were there to serve the constituents and not create problems for them. She commented that she noticed this attribute in Mr. Cole when interviewing him as well as while working with him on several projects when he was Public Resources Director. She thanked the group of business owners in attendance for their work over the years and she appreciated all of the input given by them. She stated that when the economy starts to pick up, residents start to worry about how it will affect the quality of life and unique character of the County. She opined that fear was one of the largest challenges for the future because in the past there had been a quick reaction to elect people that would slow down the growth. She stated there needed to be the right balance to keep that from happening so that new jobs and growth could come to the County while also protecting the quality of life here. She felt that the Board was on the right track with that. She reported that a good example of that balance was the school impact fee pilot program that had just been agreed upon between the Board and the Lake County School Board District. She explained that the program would allow for school impact fees to be waived for 28 single family home building permits if the construction of the homes took place on infill lots that were older, within two miles walking distance of a school, within 3 miles walking distance from a city hall and the property needed to have been platted prior to 1994. She added that the design criteria would be used to help revitalize the areas through the construction of these homes. She stated that the largest challenges moving into budget season were that even though the tax roll values had increased, there were new elected Constitutional Officers with all indications being that there would be an increase in their funding requests, which could affect the Board’s ability to roll back the millages.
question and answer session
Mr. Kesselring asked if the Board could give an update on proposed legislation regarding an increase in the homestead tax exemption amount and wondered if there was anything the group in attendance could do to participate in the outcome of the decision.
Commr. Breeden responded that it had passed the Florida House of Representatives and was moving through the Florida Senate so she suggested that the group contact their Senators to voice their opinions on the matter.
Commr. Parks noted that there had been some focus from the legislature on local government. So the issue of the homestead exemption as well as House Bill 17, which would take away business regulatory powers from the local government, was something that the group should be aware of and how it affected the local government’s ability to regulate businesses.
Commr. Breeden noted that some of the proposed legislation could take away the County’s home rule, which is the authority of the local government and prevented the state government from intervening with the local government’s operations.
Commr. Parks stated that in the particular case of House Bill 17 the business regulatory powers would shift to the State so any additional regulations would have to go through the State instead of locally.
An attendee asked if the millage rate would need to be increased if the Constitutional Officer budgets were approved.
Commr. Campione responded that she did not believe so but that it was difficult to say because the budgets had not been officially submitted. She noted that there was a possibility of keeping the millage rate stable and still be able to accommodate the budgets. She stated the difficult thing for the Board would be adjusting the County budget to accommodate the increases instead.
An attendee asked what the County reserve amount was.
Commr. Sullivan explained that by state law the County was required to have five percent reserves based on the total budget but the County works to have seven percent so that contingencies could be accounted for. He gave the example of firefighters working a current wildfire who would need overtime and the reserves would be available to cover those needs because of the increased percentage amount the Board required.
Commr. Parks stated that reserves were currently at $9.9 million and that gave the Board approximately 60 days of operating expenses if necessary. He pointed out that the Board was working to build the reserves back up.
Commr. Breeden commented that another option would be to limit the amount of the Constitutional Officers’ budgets approved by the Board.
Commr. Campione pointed out that it was different in regards to the Lake County Sheriff’s Office because the Sheriff had the right to appeal to the State and the Governor if the Board were to deny his budget.
Commr. Parks opined that the County would have approximately one year of time to make adjustments if the homestead exemption legislation passed.
An attendee asked what caused the proposed legislation and wondered if it would be possible for County staff to send a list of the proposed bills to Mr. Kesselring so he could distribute them amongst the group.
Commr. Campione replied that it was shifting the cost of local government to the individuals with the more expensive properties.
Commr. Breeden pointed out that businesses and individuals who rent a home would also be affected.
Commr. Sullivan commented that staff could provide an update on the bills the Board was working on so the group could be informed, specifically House Bill 17 and the legislation on the homestead exemption.
Mr. Bud Beucher, Vice President & General Manager Mission Inn Resort & Club, stated he was concerned about proposed legislation that would require members of local boards to submit their financial information.
Commr. Blake felt that the business regulatory legislation could have been proposed to keep local government from overregulating local businesses.
An attendee felt that there needed to be more control over local government spending and he suggested that the Board speak with the Constitutional Officers about lowering their budgets.
Commr. Sullivan responded that he would be meeting with the Constitutional Officers to go over the upcoming budget season and the challenges.
Commr. Campione stated that there was not a lot of time to make changes to those budgets because on June 1, 2017, they would be made public, which would make them more difficult to reduce.
Mr. Kesselring clarified that having the Constitutional Officers attend a Lake 100 Meeting would not need to be publicly advertised.
An attendee asked if the Board had separate revenue and expenditure line items for each of the separate Constitutional Officers’ budgets.
Commr. Breeden stated that what was presented to the Board by the Constitutional Officers were typically only the line items of the major categories.
Commr. Campione pointed out that the Lake County Tax Collector was governed by the FDOR (Florida Department of Revenue) and that budget had to meet certain requirements and was submitted to the FDOR, which made that budget report the most specific.
Commr. Parks commented that he had requested a more detailed full budget from the Sheriff’s Office and received it for the previous two years.
Commr. Sullivan explained that the Tax Collector’s budget was slightly different because it acted more like an enterprise fund and a percentage of what the Tax Collector collects is kept by that office. He wanted to note that there had been several County staff members whose salaries were under the County budget but were working for the Property Appraiser’s office; however, since then those salaries had been transferred to the Property Appraiser’s budget so there would be a shift in that budget for the upcoming year.
An attendee asked for an update on the Animal Shelter and the public transportation system.
Commr. Campione replied that the Animal Shelter had hit its no-kill target percentage and was over a ninety percent live release rate. She added that the only animals euthanized were animals that were terminally ill or had bad behavioral problems and could not be rehabilitated. She noted that there were 58 volunteers and there was a lot of outreach taking place. She stated that transportation was being provided for disabled residents, transportation disadvantaged residents and senior residents and it is mandated from the State that these residents be given transportation care. She added that they were working to try and shift residents over to use the mainline bus systems as opposed to the shuttle service.
There was further discussion regarding the transportation system, the possibility of a ride sharing pilot program and a new mobile application launched called RouteShout.
Commr. Campione reported that there was discussion with the City of Minneola to create a CRA (Community Redevelopment Agency) around the newly constructed turnpike interchange, which would fund the local roads and infrastructure in that area with the tax increment financing that would come in as new homes and businesses were built. She explained that for a period of time the County’s General Fund would not gain that tax increment because it would go to Minneola first in order for them to have the infrastructure in place to help with the economic growth in that area.
There was further discussion among other attendees about how the roads in the County would be expanding and how State legislation impacted the funding of the roads and infrastructure throughout the County.
Mr. Kesselring thanked the business owners in attendance and thanked the Board for attending and speaking to the attendees.
There being no further business to be brought to the attention of the Board, the meeting was adjourned at 12:23 p.m.
Timothy I. Sullivan, chairman
NEIL KELLY, CLERK