The Lake County Board of County Commissioners met in special session on Wednesday, September 6, 1995, at 6:00 p.m., in the Board Meeting Room, Administration Building, Tavares, Florida. Commissioners present at the meeting were: Rhonda H. Gerber, Chairman; William "Bill" H. Good, Vice Chairman; Welton G. Cadwell; Catherine C. Hanson; and G. Richard Swartz, Jr. Staff members present were: Sanford A. Minkoff, County Attorney; Sue Whittle, County Manager; Barbara Lehman, Chief Deputy Clerk, Finance, Audit & Budget Department; Sarah LaMarche, Director of Budget; Tracy Zeller, Senior Budget Analyst; Kevin McDonald, Senior Budget Analyst; Julia Wilson, Budget Assistant; Mary Shell, Executive Assistant to the BCC Office Manager; and Toni M. Riggs, Deputy Clerk.
Commr. Gerber opened the first public hearing on the Tentative Budget for Fiscal Year October 1, 1995 to September 30, 1996. She introduced Ms. Sarah LaMarche, Director of Budget, and stated that she would be presenting detailed information about the budget figures.
Ms. Sue Whittle, County Manager, explained that the purpose of the meeting was to adopt the tentative budget, to recompute the proposed millage rate, if necessary, and to publicly announce the percent by which the recomputed proposed millage rate exceeded the rolled-back rate. She stated that these were the statutory requirements, which included hearing public comment regarding the proposed budget and the taxes. Ms. Whittle reviewed the process that the Board and staff went through to develop the budget this year. She stated that the Board had spent three days of retreat, first with all departments of the County, and then with the Budget and Finance staff and the County Manager. At that time, the Board developed the policy guidelines for preparation of the 1995-96 budget. The guidelines required that the operations were to be funded through current revenues; that adequate reserves would be maintained, or established where necessary; the sufficient replacement in maintenance funds would be allocated to safeguard capital investments; competitive compensation and benefit plans for the County's work force would be sustained; and the goal of the budget would be to require no increase in property taxes for the Fiscal Year 1995-96. Ms. Whittle stated that, between March and July, 1995, the County Manager, all of the department directors, the Constitutional Officers, and the Budget staff developed the budget to be within those guidelines. After the Board was presented with the proposed budget in July, the Board scheduled budget workshops with all departments and agencies involved. The Board sat in almost 50 hours of budget workshops between July 10, 1995 and August 3, 1995, when the Board set the tentative millage rate. Ms. Whittle stated that the tentative annual budget being presented tonight at a public hearing provided for continuation of existing programs at the current service levels; it provided for selected enhancements; and it provided no increases in taxes for the citizens of Lake County. She stated that the General Fund being proposed was 4.927 mills. The roll-back millage for the General Fund was 4.927 mills. In the Lake County Ambulance District, the millage was .222 mills, with the roll-back millage being .214 mills. The millage rate was eliminated for the Greater Hills Municipal Services Taxing Unit (MSTU), which resulted in an aggregate tentative rate of 5.101 mills, and was a decrease over the aggregate roll-back rate of .254%. The budget for 1995-96 totaled $139,496,109, which was a 9.9% decrease from last year's budget, which amounted to $15,284,554. Ms. Whittle reviewed, in detail, Pages 1-8 of the Tentative Budget Fiscal Year 1995/96 book supplied to the Board, and the Vision and Mission Statement established by the Board.
Commr. Gerber extended, as a Board, gratification to Ms. Whittle and staff for all of the work that they had done to prepare such a precise budget for the Board and public.
Ms. Sarah LaMarche addressed the Board and presented a detailed explanation of Pages 14-17, which were graphs depicting the following information: Total Revenue by Source; Total Expenditures by Department; General Fund Revenue by Source; and General Fund Expenditures by Department.
At 6:30 p.m., Commr. Gerber opened the public hearing portion of the meeting.
Ms. Joan Brown, Leesburg, Chairman of the Citizens Commission for Children, addressed the Board and explained that the Citizens Commission for Children had worked toward its goals and made progress by developing a needs assessment, and by establishing a strategic plan for children and families of Lake County. Ms. Brown stated that the first budget request made in 1993 was turned down, with the reasons being that the Citizens Commission for Children needed to establish credibility. She stated that it had since established credibility, and processes that would allow it to be more effective in the future. Ms. Brown addressed the budget proposal made by the Citizens Commission for Children and stated that the cuts made to it would make it very difficult to progress toward achieving its strategic plan. Ms. Brown stated that there had been severe cuts made to the State programs, and the Citizens Commission for Children had been told to expect more severe cuts on the National level. Ms. Brown voiced her concern with Lake County only being able to allocate approximately one percent of the General Fund budget to the Citizens Commission for Children, and stated that, as one taxpayer, she wanted the Board to know that she supported using more of her tax dollars for children and families. She asked that the Board resolve to do what it could to make children a priority, by restoring the proposed funding cuts to the 1995-96 budget for the Citizens Commission for Children.
Dr. Felix Ramirez, member of the Citizens Commission for Children, addressed the Board and stated that he reiterated Ms. Brown's comments and that he totally supported what she had tried to do this evening.
Ms. Joan McCall, member of the Citizens Commission for Children, addressed the Board and stated that she could not think of anything that could fulfill the Board's Mission Statement more than services for children. She suggested that rolling back the millage would not be a totally responsible decision, given the fact that many of the citizens had needs that were not being met. Ms. McCall pointed out that there might be some inequities in the proposed funding for the coming year, when reviewing the amount of funding being allocated to such services as Animal Control, in comparison to what had been allocated to the Citizens Commission for Children. She did not feel the priorities of the Board were very logical and respectfully requested that the Board reconsider the original request for $327,000.
Commr. Hanson clarified that the $155,000 for the Citizens Commission for Children was only the grant portion of funding, and it did not include the administrative costs. The actual figure would be $214,000, with the Board looking at another $6,000 for the Adopting Communities for Excellence (ACE) program. Commr. Hanson noted that the funding for the Citizens Commission for Children last year was $116,000.
Ms. Sandra Green, member of the Citizens Commission for Children, addressed the Board and extended her appreciation to the speakers for their remarks, because she supported their beliefs and philosophy. She stated that she would like to request $367,691 for the Citizens Commission for Children. Ms. Green explained that Baby Dangerfield had requested $48,000, with the recommendation from the Board being $40,000, and then in the proposed budget, it was decreased to $35,000. She read a letter into the record, from the National Association of Counties (NACO), which credited Orange County for its recognition of the Baby Dangerfield program, which promoted responsible, responsive, and effective County government. Ms. Green explained that this was the type of program that Lake County wanted, and it would assist in eliminating the abuse of infants and children. The other program was The Working Poor Challenge for CDS, which had requested $60,000, with the proposed budget amount being $30,000. If they had received $60,000, they would have used those dollars to match and bring into the County $120,000 to be used to pay for child care for the working poor. Ms. Green stated that she appreciated every dollar the Board had given to children's services, but she felt that the Board needed to be more committed to allocating its dollars to this issue.
Ms. Ann Meiring, Director of Social Work and Discharge Planning, Leesburg Regional Medical Center (LRMC), stated that she was not present to ask for an increase in budget, but to request that the Board maintain a very small amount of money, in proportion to what had been discussed. Ms. Meiring discussed the assistance she had gotten from working with the Lake County Human Services Division, with regards to prescription medications. She was thrilled when she was able to establish a contract between the hospital and the County, which enabled easy access for patients to obtain prescriptions for medication, so that the hospital no longer had to refer them to the Human Services Division, for prescription medication assistance. She stated that there was $16,000 in the emergency fund to cover housing, utilities and prescription funds, which she had found out was already gone. She stated that, by looking at $200 for housing and utilities for one family per year, if the proposed budget was reduced to $8,000, 40 families would benefit, and the money would be depleted.
Commr. Hanson stated that Lake County had lost some of its funding from the Federal government, because of the lowered unemployment rate, and with the reduction in dollars that the County was providing, and the fewer dollars coming from the Federal government, it had created a problem. She noted that the guidelines had also been broadened somewhat for a person to be eligible.
Mr. Fletcher Smith, Director of Community Services, addressed the Board and stated that, in the past three years, the County had been able to receive Federal Emergency Management Act (FEMA) funds for emergency assistance for rent and utilities. Last year, due to the low unemployment rate, the County was not qualified to receive the funds. He stated that the County did receive $29,000 from the State Set Aside Fund, and the County was anticipating getting additional funds this year. Mr. Smith stated that he had made a recommendation to the County Manager, which was going to be considered by the Board on September 19, 1995, on how to better utilize the funds that had been set aside in the budget for this year, in regards to prescriptions. He anticipated getting less and less each year from the State and Federal governments, with more of the burden being placed on the County. Mr. Fletcher noted that, for the past three years, there had been $16,000 in the fund, and the County only had to spend County funds the last two or three months of each budget year.
Ms. Whittle stated that Mr. Fletcher's recommendations were being reviewed, and the issue would be brought to the Board at the September 19, 1995 meeting. She stated that there were no additional funds, but she was reviewing the entire spectrum of the assistance program, and what the County could realistically do, but recognizing that the County would never be able to replace all of the Federal and State dollars that it would be losing. She noted that, for the last several years, more than $8,000 had not been spent from this fund.
Ms. Karen Turner, Christian Social Services of Lake and Sumter Counties, addressed the Board and stated that this particular service worked strictly from contributions. Ms. Turner explained how this particular service worked hand in hand with other services in the County and requested that the Board try and allocate a little more to the fund that had been reduced by $8,000, to help the County as a whole.
Mr. William Deckman addressed the Board to discuss his trim notice he had received in the mail from the Property Appraiser's Office. He questioned the increases in his property taxes.
Commr. Swartz explained the different taxes shown on the trim notice and suggested that Mr. Deckman discuss the increase in his appraisal with Mr. Ed Havill, Property Appraiser, or someone from his office. If he was not satisfied with the explanation, he could file a petition with the Value Adjustment Board (VAB) to contest the appraisal, and if he was still not satisfied, he could appeal the decision of the VAB to the courts.
Mr. Deckman explained that he had requested information, on several occasions, regarding the solid waste assessment, and stated that he had not been assisted properly by staff.
Commr. Hanson stated that Mr. Deckman had received a letter from Mr. David Crowe, Interim Solid Waste Director, and he had contacted her about the issue, because he was not satisfied with the information that he had received. She had suggested he contact Mr. Crowe and meet with him. Once again, she suggested that he meet with Mr. Crowe, in order to get the exact information that he needed.
Commr. Gerber called for further public comment. There being none, the public hearing portion of the meeting was closed at 7:10 p.m.
Discussion and Board Action
Commr. Cadwell stated that, after hearing some of the comments tonight, he was convinced that the Board had the right people serving on the Citizens Commission for Children. He stated that $367,000 had been requested this year for the Citizens Commission for Children, and the proposed budget before the Board had a $100,000 dollar increase over last year. He explained that other budgeted amounts, such as those for the cities' recreation, the Job Incentive Fund, and other similar programs, addressed many of the issues presented by the members of the Citizens Commission for Children. He further explained that the money that had been taken from the Baby Dangerfield program had been kept in the Community Services budget and distributed to other family aid type programs. Commr. Cadwell stated that the County had a fair budget, the Board had balanced the needs with the service levels, and it still tried to be fiscally conservative. He appreciated the comments that were made tonight, but he felt that the budget before the Board was the budget that the Board should adopt.
Commr. Hanson stated that the D.A.R.E program was going to continue with a budgeted amount of $88,000, which would have a direct impact on the children of Lake County, as well as the We Care program, in the amount of $50,000. She stated that the Board was very sensitive to the children and families of Lake County, and a lot of commitment had been made by the Board. She further stated that the requests were going to increase next year and choices would have to be made again. Commr. Hanson stated that the Citizens Commission for Children screened the program very well, based on the criteria that was given by the Board, and the programs that were funded were going to leverage funds three fold by the commitment from the community. She stated that she had been opposed to the roll-back, because of this particular issue. She stated that monies were taken from other programs that were also very needed in the County, so that it could have extra dollars to fund some of these programs.
Commr. Gerber stated that she agreed with Commr. Cadwell and Commr. Hanson that the County was contributing to programs that were benefiting the children. She stated that the proposed budget was reflecting a 184% increase over last year for the Citizens Commission for Children, which included administrative. Commr. Gerber stated that the Board made children one of its top priorities. She had not supported roll-back in the beginning, but after going through the budget process, she felt the Board would be able to do it.
Commr. Swartz requested that, before the next budget hearing, there be some review made of the prescription fund, as well as possible alternatives, because he did not think that the Board had been made aware of the entire issue, in terms of the funds not being available, particularly after there had been discussion about an interlocal agreement with the County. He echoed what Commr. Cadwell had said, in terms of the County having a good Citizens Commission for Children that was trying to do everything it could to help aid children in Lake County. He explained that it was not budget cutting time for the Citizens Commission for Children, because most of the revenue that was provided for some of the programs came from cutting other areas of the budget. Commr. Swartz discussed some of the other funding that would be used to help provide for children, and stated that, in three years, the budget for the Citizens Commission for Children went from zero to $214,000.
Commr. Gerber noted that the original amount presented during the budget process started at $12,000 for the Citizens Commission for Children, and after some very creative shifting in funds, the budget became $155,000.
Commr. Good stated that he was very pleased with the product that had been formulated, because it addressed social needs and economic needs. He hoped that the County could move forward to doing more for the children in the future, and that the increases that the Board had seen in this budgeting process recognized the majority of what had been requested.
Commr. Hanson addressed the ACE program and stated that it had not met the deadline on getting its application and concept papers to the County, but Mr. Smith had been able to find $6,000, through other funds, that had not been used, in order to fund the ACE program.
Commr. Gerber stated that the Board would continue the public hearing for final adoption until September 20, 1995, 6 p.m., or as soon thereafter as possible.
Commr. Cadwell made a motion, which was seconded by Commr. Good, to approve the tentative millage rate of 4.927.
Under discussion, Commr. Hanson stated that she had not voted for the roll-back earlier this year; however, because of some changes that had come about from other Constitutional Officers, and possible funds coming from the Federal inmates, she was going to vote for the roll-back. She stated that the roll-back would help the schools in Lake County, because the schools were raising their millage rate, and the roll-back would help offset some of those increases to make the school millage increase more palatable to the people of Lake County.
The Chairman called for a vote on the motion, which was carried unanimously by a 5-0 vote.
Ms. Whittle stated that the proposed millage rate for the Lake County Ambulance District was .2222; the roll-back millage rate was .214, which was a 3.47% increase over the roll-back rate.
On a motion by Commr. Swartz, seconded by Commr. Hanson and carried unanimously by a 5-0 vote, the Board approved to adopt the tentative millage rate of .2222 for the Lake County Ambulance District.
Commr. Cadwell made a motion, which was seconded by Commr. Hanson, to approve to adopt the tentative budget in the amount of $139,496,109.
Under discussion, staff noted that a motion needed to be made to adopt the zero millage rate for Greater Hills MSTU.
Commr. Hanson withdrew her second to the motion, and Commr. Cadwell withdrew his motion.
On a motion by Commr. Cadwell, seconded by Commr. Good and carried unanimously by a 5-0 vote, the Board approved to adopt the tentative millage rate of 0.00 for Greater Hills Municipal Services Taxing Unit (MSTU).
On a motion by Commr. Cadwell, seconded by Commr. Hanson and carried unanimously by a 5-0 vote, the Board approved to adopt the tentative budget in the amount of $139,496,109.
Commr. Hanson extended her appreciation to Ms. Whittle and Ms. LaMarche for the elaboration of the budget, which was very helpful to the Board and the audience.
There being no further business to be brought to the attention of the Board, the public hearing was continued to September 20, 1995, 6 p.m., or as soon thereafter as possible.
RHONDA H. GERBER, CHAIRMAN
JAMES C. WATKINS, CLERK