The Lake County Board of County Commissioners met in special session on Monday, July 8, 2002, at 9:00 a.m., in the Board of County Commissioner's Meeting Room, Lake County Administration Building, Tavares, Florida. Commissioners present at the meeting were: Robert A. Pool, Chairman; Welton G. Cadwell, Vice Chairman; Catherine C. Hanson (arriving at 9:05 a.m.); Jennifer Hill; and Debbie Stivender. Others present were: William A. Neron, County Manager; Sanford A. Minkoff, County Attorney; Wendy Taylor, Executive Office Manager, Board of County Commissioner's Office; Barbara Lehman, Chief Deputy Clerk, County Finance; and Toni M. Riggs, Deputy Clerk.
Commr. Cadwell stated that he would like to add to the agenda the appointment of the hospital representative to the Lake Sumter EMS Board of Directors.
On a motion by Commr. Cadwell, seconded by Commr. Stivender and carried by a 4-0 vote, the Board approved to add the item, as noted, to the agenda.
Commr. Hanson was not present for the discussion or vote.
At 9:05, it was noted that Commr. Hanson had arrived for the meeting.
APPOINTMENTS - LAKE SUMTER EMS BOARD OF DIRECTORS
On a motion by Commr. Cadwell, seconded by Commr. Stivender and carried unanimously by a 5-0 vote, the Board approved the reappointment of Mr. Shannon Elswick as the hospital representative to the Lake Sumter EMS Board of Directors.
PROPOSED BUDGET - FISCAL YEAR 2002-2003
Commr. Cadwell stated that the schedule today was somewhat flexible, with the Sheriff being scheduled for a time certain, but Ms. Leila Gustafson, from Astor, who was a community activist and a friend of a lot of folks, passed away and her service is today at 11 a.m. He was hoping that their schedule would allow for them to take their lunch break early.
Mr. Bill Neron, County Manager, stated that representatives from the Circuit Judges are scheduled for 11 a.m, but staff can reschedule their appearance, if that is the Board's desire.
After further discussion, it was noted that the Board would recess at 10:15 a.m. and reconvene at 1:30 p.m., with the Circuit Judges being scheduled for 1:30 p.m.
Mr. Bill Neron, County Manager, stated that he distributed to the Board on Friday the Proposed Budget for Fiscal Year 2002-2003. Mr. Neron stated that the countywide budget is balanced, and staff had to go into reserves to get the General Fund balanced at this time. He stated that, as the County's economy transformed from an agricultural to a more traditional development pattern in the late 1980s after the freezes, the growth in the County's General Fund budget paralleled the increase in population. The County went from a population in the mid-80s of about 125,000 to over 225,000 today. Mr. Neron pointed out that there were some graphs in the proposed budget book that show the population trend and increase in the General Fund budget. He stated that, since 1985, the State and other County revenues have decreased resulting in an increase in the proportionate share of the ad valorem taxes to fund General Fund expenditures. Since 1997, there has been an increase in the gross taxable value that has been largely due to new construction rather than the revaluation of existing property. He explained that most of the growth in the County has been residential growth, and there has not been the same growth balance in other non-residential property, such as commercial, manufacturing and light industry, which helps the tax base. Mr. Neron stated that this shows that they need to continue their emphasis for economic development to bring in those types of jobs and industry that help diversify the tax base.
Mr. Neron addressed the issue of millage and stated that, in the 1996-1998 Fiscal Years, the Board adopted the rollback millage rate. He stated that this meant that the additional revenue generated each year was limited to only the increased values due to new construction and discounted any increase in property taxes attributable to revaluation of existing property. By going to rollback millage rate and holding it constant, the increase in ad valorem General Fund revenues did not keep pace with the corresponding increases in expenses and expansion of County programs and services. He explained that they have expanded the services offered by County government over the last ten years, with the County now funding libraries in an amount close to $4 million. The County is funding the Transportation Disadvantaged in an amount close to $1.2 million. The local option sales tax has helped to build new parks, community centers, and libraries, but these things have to be maintained, and these expenses have continued to increase as the County has grown.
Mr. Neron stated that General Fund revenues in the proposed budget are estimated to be $81.2 million compared to an estimated General Fund expense of $89.1 million. The revenue shortfall of approximately $7.9 million has been funded by a draw down in the General Fund reserves. He stated that, as a general rule, prudent budgeting provides for an unrestricted General Fund reserve of 10% to 12%. During the last several fiscal years, the County's General Fund reserves have ranged from 11.1% to 15.4%. The proposed unrestricted General Fund reserves for FY 2003 are currently funded at a level of 8.6%.
Mr. Neron stated that, in the proposed FY 2003 budget, the programs and departments under the supervision of the County Commission are being funded at a level of $19.9 million; a reduction of $1.3 million, or 6% below the current budget. He stated that this was accomplished by several drastic actions and, as previously communicated to the Board, staff has suspended for one year the County's merit increase program and are giving an across the Board increase of $1,000 per employee on their anniversary date. In regards to the earlier proposal to get all employees on a 40 hour work week, Mr. Neron stated that he has abandoned this program, because the County cannot afford the cost to implement such a plan.
Mr. Neron stated that there were over $8.3 million of requested enhancements and about 42 requested new employees, that were other than the ones in fire. Mr. Neron stated that none of these enhancements are being recommended for Board approval in the proposed budget. He noted that a list of those are included in the budget message. Mr. Neron stated that, over time, this is going to cause problems, because a lot of the County programs are population driven, such as animal control and code enforcement and, since they are not adding new employees, it will affect service levels over time, and there will be a need to find some better funding sources.
Mr. Neron stated that the Solid Waste budget of about $20.5 million for FY 2003 anticipates implementation of universal collection. He stated that the non-ad valorem assessment in the unincorporated area will be $173.50. A county-wide millage levy of up to 1.091 mills will be used to fund the Solid Waste budget resulting in tipping fees being reduced from $95 to $45 per ton. He noted that several weeks ago, the Board adopted Option 4 of the Solid Waste proposals that included a combination of an increase in the assessment fee, as well as the county-wide millage levy. At that time, the recommendation was a millage levy of 1.2551 mills. Staff has been able to reduce that to 1.09 and, hopefully, by the final budget hearing, they may have some further reductions in that fund and can get it to about 1.0 mills. Mr. Neron stated that this is not a guarantee, and he will be requesting that 1.09 mills be the advertised rate.
Mr. Neron stated that the Fire Rescue Assessment fee is proposed to increase from $94.50 to $118.13 per residential unit, with proportional increases in other assessment rate categories. The revenue generated will provide a continual funding source for the increased level of services previously funded from reserves and allow for reserve accounts to be replenished and provide for an additional 12 firefight/EMT's next fiscal year. Mr. Neron stated that five years ago the Board adopted a five year plan with a five dollar a year increase in the proposed fire assessment fee each year. By previous Board actions, the County has added more firefighters and two additional stations and have another station or two planned for next fiscal year, but the Board did not raise the assessment rates to reflect a higher level of service. They have been living off reserves in that account, and the reserves are no longer there. If they do not approve the increase in the assessment fee, they will have to not hire any new firefighters next year, and it will affect the level of service currently being provided.
Mr. Neron stated that, while certain millage and assessment increases are recommended in the proposed budget, these actions, when approved, should restore the Solid Waste and Fire Assessment Funds to a sound financial position. The County's General Fund will still be in less than stable condition. As state and other fees have demolished, there has been greater reliance on ad valorem revenues to finance General Fund services. Additionally, as the County has built and staffed new libraries, increased indigent transportation services, and enhanced law enforcement and corrections services, there has never been sufficient increases in the current revenues, nor the development and implementation of new revenue sources.
Mr. Neron stated that, in summary, it is recommended that immediately after the proposed FY 2003 budget is approved in September, 2002, the Board appoint a "Blue Ribbon" Committee of five to seven members with experience in financial matters, to work with the County Manager to prepare a Five-Year Financial Plan for the County that will balance proposed expenditures and revenues. This group would be charged with bringing back their report for consideration by the Board no later than April, 2003.
Mr. Neron stated that, over the next few days, staff will be available to answer questions of the Board. He wanted to publicly thank Ms. Sarah LaMarche, C.P.A., Director of Budget and Administrative Services, and her staff, as well as all of the department directors and Constitutional Officers, who have been most supportive and cooperative in getting this proposed budget to the Board for their consideration.
BUDGET - SHERIFF'S OFFICE
Sheriff George E. Knupp, Jr. addressed the Board and stated that he and his staff were here today to present the Lake County Sheriff's Office Budget for Fiscal Year 2002/2003. At this time, Sheriff Knupp asked Lt. John Burrow to come forward and present statistical information from their reports.
Lieutenant John Burrow presented the Board with a booklet containing the 2002 Manpower Projection for the Sheriff's Office. Lt. Burrows stated that the Sheriff's Office has completed an in-depth study to project law enforcement manpower needs through a ten year period. Each year, the Sheriff's Office has updated the original study to reflect the changes in the budgeted manpower and this current update extends the projection through the year 2011. He reviewed the resources used for the study, as noted in the booklet, and stated that a comparison was made of eight surrounding counties, which are considered to be Lake County's competition for manpower. Lt. Burrows stated that Lake County is home to 14 cities, with 12 having their own police departments. At this time, Lt. Burrows reviewed the information, as outlined in the booklet, and noted that the cost per resident per year for law enforcement in Lake County is $84.86, which is the lowest figure, when comparing Lake County with the noted eight surrounding counties.
Sheriff Knupp stated that several months ago he presented to the Board a study that they conducted authorizing additional Sheriff's deputies on the road, and they did not have the opportunity to talk to them about that information. He asked Captain Cecil Garrett to discuss this information with the Board at this time.
Capt. Cecil Garrett presented the Board with a booklet containing Manpower Allotment information and reviewed the following:
Capt. Garrett explained the projected calls per service by zone, as shown in Attachment 2-A, noting that Zone 7 (the mall area) has the highest numbers and is the busiest corridor of the County. Capt. Garrett stated that eight deputies were approved for Budget Year 2001/2002. These positions will be applied to Zones 6, 7, 8 and 13 for part time coverage during peak call times. In Budget Year 2002/2003, an additional eight deputies will be added to Zones 6, 7, 8 and 13 giving these zones full time coverage. Each year thereafter, four more zones will gain double coverage until their goal is achieved (64 deputies).
Capt. Garrett referred to Attachment 5-A in the booklet and noted that the salary costs, as reflected, are based on current salary figures plus .05% added to reflect cost of living increases. He noted that salary projections for 2002/2003 per deputy would be $49,159.95; in 2005/2006, the salary projection would be $56,908.79 per deputy.
Sheriff Knupp clarified that he budgets 5% total personnel, but he actually gives 4.5%, and he adjusts salaries throughout the year with the balance of the 5%.
Capt. Garrett referred to Attachment 5-B in the booklet and noted that the related costs for one deputy (projected vehicle, equipment, and operating costs) are based on current figures plus .03% added to reflect future cost increases. He noted that the related cost projections are budgeted from the infrastructure tax. Attachment 6 provided the Board with the following information:
Costs for One Deputy Sheriff (2001/2002)
TOTAL COSTS FOR ONE DEPUTY $90,330
Major Mark Palmer addressed the Board to answer questions regarding the need for two deputies per zone, in terms of geographic square miles, and noted that the response time countywide per call is 12 to 14 minutes. It was noted that figures from surrounding counties can be supplied to the Board for review, if needed.
Captain Tom Mysinger presented the Board with a booklet showing the 2001-2002 Salary Comparison for the Lake County Sheriff's Office. Capt. Mysinger explained that the information provided included a salary comparison of law enforcement agencies in and around Lake County, as well as a Lake County Government and Lake County Sheriff's Office salary comparison, which included job classifications and salary ranges. He stated that a Lake County Deputy ranks number four in the overall evaluation of other deputies in surrounding counties, with a Lake County Deputy making $29,400 regardless of experience level. He continued to review other graphs contained in the booklet pointing out where law enforcement positions in Lake County ranked in comparison to the surrounding counties.
Capt. Mysinger stated that, in the 1995/96 budget year, the percent increase was 7.0%. In 1996/97, the percent increase was 8.3%; in 1997/98, the percent increase was 8.3%; 1998/99, the percent increase was 8.0%; 1999/2000, the percent increase was 5.3%; 2000/01, the percent increase was 8.5%; 2001/02, the percent increase was 6.6%. He stated that the Sheriff is requesting a 4.9% percent increase for 2002/03. He stated that, in the comparisons, it shows that all employees received merit increases from October 1 through June 1 with the average increase being a 7.36% merit increase. Capt. Mysinger stated that, in summary, the population of Lake County, from April 1, 2000 to July 21, 2001, increased by 17,070 new residents, and this was the third fastest growing rate in Florida, and 19th in the nation. He reiterated that the cost per resident for law enforcement in Lake County is $84.86 and is the lowest rate of all counties in Central Florida. He stated that this confirms that the Sheriff properly manages the tax dollars provided by the citizens, and the request for a budget increase has been thoroughly reviewed and is appropriate. He stated that the employees of the Sheriff's Office receive their cost of living salary increases at the beginning of the budget year. They do not receive merit increases for mid-year salary adjustments. As noted, in this current budget year, the Sheriff is requesting a 4.5% salary increase for his employees and, as noted, in this current budget year, employees received only 5%.
RECESS & REASSEMBLY
At 10:10 a.m., Commr. Pool announced that the Board would recess until 1:30 p.m.
BUDGET - SHERIFF'S OFFICE - (CONTINUED)
Sheriff Knupp stated that he had indicated that he and his staff would demonstrate to the Board the drastic separation between salaries in the Sheriff's Office and County offices.
Major Chris Daniels addressed the Board and explained that the comparison of salaries has previously been discussed with the individual Board members. He explained that, if the Board approved a 4.5% pay raise this year, to be given on October 1, but did not approve another pay increase for the following year, the Sheriff would still be able to fund that salary year after year, with a zero percent budget increase. Major Daniels stated that the Board awards a pay raise from zero to nine percent, with the average being 7.36% on the anniversary date.
Mr. Neron explained that the 7.3% figure is an incorrect figure. He explained that a couple of weeks ago staff provided to the Sheriff the actual average last year and, to date this year, it is about 6.5% and included in that figure were some promotions and reclassifications.
Sheriff Knupp and staff clarified that they took the promotions and other items such as reclassifications out of their salary comparison, but that the concept would be the same no matter what percentage figure is used.
Major Daniels explained that the point being made by the Sheriff's Office today is that the Sheriff's Office gets behind every year in salaries. He stated that, without an increase October 1, the Board cannot fund the raises that they approved the year before because, if the average raise is anything more than the budgeted amount, there is not enough money in the second year, so the average raise has to be at least what is budgeted.
Sheriff Knupp reviewed Pages 4 and 5 of the booklet he presented regarding the Lake County Sheriff's Office Budget Fiscal Year 2002/2003 and explained that his salary is based on population of the County, and the figure shown for regular salaries includes a 4.5% increase for all employees, as well as 13 new positions including eight new deputies. In regards to the information provided on Pages 11 and 12, School Crossing Guards/DUI Fund, Sheriff Knupp stated that it was his understanding that the Lake County School Board is not going to fund five positions.
Major Daniels stated that the School Board has recently indicated to the Sheriff's Department that they plan to cut five positions from the School Resource Officer (SRO) budget. He stated that they were wanting to move some grant positions, as he explained, but the grants will not allow them to do that, so they are considering cutting those positions. He discussed the funding of the SROs noting that, after further review by their staff, it was determined that the County was funding much more than 50% of the budget for the SROs and school programs. Major Daniels stated that the Sheriff's Office is asking for the funding, for the entire project, and letting the Board know that the School Board is considering not funding it to the same level that they have in the past.
Mr. Neron stated that, if the School Board does not reimburse the Board at the same level, it is his understanding that the Board, through the Sheriff's budget, will be picking up the costs of those five positions.
Sheriff Knupp explained that, if the County elects not to pick up those five SRO positions, then there will be five officers that will not be at schools this year. He stated that the grant funding ends on April 3, 2003, so there will not be any funding from April through May, but he has included dollars in the budget to cover those grant positions.
After further discussion of the budget being presented by the Sheriff's Office for the SRO positions, the Sheriff's staff indicated that they are hoping that, even though they are asking for the entire budget, perhaps some agreement can be made between the Board and the Lake County School Board.
Mr. Neron stated that his position, in terms of the School Board, as he has communicated to the Board in previous memos in the last four or five weeks, is that the Board is not in the position to pick up any additional funding for SROs and, if the School Board wants these additional positions, they would have to be responsible for the funding. He stated that he will meet with staff and get back with the Board with the numbers and work through the Sheriff's Office to see if the Board wants to remain revenue neutral, as to where they are today, and there will have to be a reduction in the number of SROs either through the Sheriff's budget, or otherwise, the County is going to end up picking up those costs for the five additional positions.
Commr. Cadwell explained that, in terms of schools opening in the fall without SROs, neither the Board, or the School Board, or the Sheriff's Office is going to allow that to happen, so they are going to have to determine who will be paying for those positions.
Sheriff Knupp recapped the presentation by explaining the revenue generated by the Sheriff's Office through May, 2002, as follows: $476,138 - Federal inmates; $914,980 from Orange County inmates (those inmates have been moved out and they will no longer be receiving this funding from Orange County). Sheriff Knupp explained that they are going to try and rent the available space but, as Orange County provided the manpower to run the facility, other interested parties will want the Sheriff's Office to furnish the manpower, which is very costly. He continued to explain the revenues, as follows: Bureau of Prisons - $3,280; Phone Commission - $139,937; Inmate Medical - $55,466; Miscellaneous Revenue -$19,700; Interest on Investments - $21,487. The Total Revenue is $1,647,055; Estimated Excess Fees - $683,380; for a Total of $2,330,435. The current budget this year for 2002/2003 ( jail and law) is going to be $33,353,037 or an increase of $1,548,211 or 4.9%.
Commr. Cadwell reminded the Board that this is a tight budget year for the Board, and their budget is actually decreasing this year, and they are going to have to try and find other cuts to refurbish the monies they are taking out of contingency. He stated that, between now and the next couple of weeks, he would like to meet with Sheriff Knupp and talk about some individual ideas. Commr. Cadwell noted that there will be further budget meetings over the next few weeks.
Sheriff Knupp stated that he and his staff met with the County Manager and cut their budget about $600,000 and they have earned a lot of money in the jail, and he feels they have done their fair share, but he will be happy to discuss his budget again with County staff.
BUDGET - CIRCUIT JUDGES
Mr. Fred Hooten, Court Administrator for the Fifth Judicial Circuit, addressed the Board and stated that he works for the Chief Judge of the Circuit, Victor Musleh, and Judge Don Briggs, Administrative Judge for Lake County. Mr. Hooten stated that he has with him today Mr. David Trammell, Senior Deputy Court Administrator, and Mr. John Lin, Trial Court Technology Officer for the Circuit. Mr. Hooten stated that they met with Mr. Bill Neron, County Manager, about a requested enhancement in the budget this year.
Mr. Bill Neron, County Manager, explained that, when he met with the Court Administrator, and the Chief Judge for the Circuit, several weeks ago prior to getting into the proposed budget. They discussed about $40,000 of enhancements relating to the County's share of some computer upgrades for the Circuit. Mr. Neron stated that, at that time, he indicated to them that he thought staff would be able to recommend the enhancements for funding, but the $40,000, along with another $8.3 million worth of enhancements, are not currently being recommended for funding at this time. He stated that, in fairness to them, he wanted them to at least have the opportunity to present their request to the Board.
Mr. Hooten stated that Mr.Neron did share this information with him prior to the meeting, and he understands his position. He explained that traditionally they have relied on the Clerks of Court in their Circuit to provide technology support to the courts. He stated that a couple of years ago the State funded their trial court technology officer to develop the networking for the circuit and provide the technology support to the Judges and Judicial Assistants. He explained that one man is working five counties, with an estimate of 85 workstations not including the mainframes. Mr. Hooten stated that the Clerks have always been very good to the courts in providing technology support, and Mr. James C. Watkins, Clerk of the Circuit Court, has always been more than gracious over the years, but they are becoming overburdened. He stated that Mr. Lin has prepared a circuit wide plan to hire technology support positions, with each county contributing to this plan, based on the case load in each county. He noted that this presentation is being made to all five County Commissions, with Lake County being the first one. They are asking all five to buy into this plan where they would hire positions to provide the support to all of the courts throughout the circuit. Mr. Hooten stated that Lake County's portion would be about eight or nine tenths of one position.
Commr. Cadwell questioned whether this would be a cost that, if the legislature ever does fund Article V, the State would be responsible for paying.
Mr. Hooten explained that, as Article V is written right now, communication and technology remains a county responsibility.
Mr. John Lin, Trial Court Technology Officer for the Circuit, stated that his job is to handle all the computer needs of all of the judges in the five counties, and he is having difficulty meeting those needs. In preparation of this request, he spoke to one of the Clerks of the Court in Marion County who has agreed to be the fiscal agent, if this can be organized, rather than each individual county employing personnel. The fiscal agent would be the employer and would handle all items of a financial nature. He noted that the allocation was based a percentage of the case filings for the entire circuit, in order to be fair. Mr. Lin stated that it works out to be a similar percentage, based on the number of judges there are throughout the circuit.
Commr. Cadwell stated that the Board certainly understands there is a need there and, as the Board and staff work through this process over the next several months, they are going to have to weigh those needs against some of the other enhancements that are not on the list now.
Mr. Hooten stated that he and the others will make themselves available to answer any questions of staff and the Board and provide any information needed in making that decision.
SENATOR ANNA COWIN - FLORIDA GOVERNMENT UTILITIES ASSOCIATION
Commr. Pool informed the Board that Senator Anna Cowin had contacted him during their break and asked that she be given an opportunity to talk about an issue involving water, and the issue with the Florida Government Utilities Authority (FGUA). She would like to address the Board at 2:30 p.m. for about ten minutes, to bring this to the Board's attention.
BUDGET - LIBRARIES
Mr. Bill Neron, County Manager, stated that he has all staff members present at the Board's pleasure. They had a calendar prepared for today, and staff stands ready to answer questions. They did not plan to make a formal department by department presentation.
Commr. Pool stated that Mr. Wayne Saunders had come to the meeting this morning on behalf of the City of Clermont on a library issue, and he was hoping to convey his concerns about the County's inability to take over that library system. He stated that Mr. Saunders indicated to him that the City would be willing to contribute some dollars, as they go forward, and he asked him to at least convey that to the Board today. It was noted that Mr. Saunders was not present at this time.
Mr. Fletcher Smith, Director of Community Services, addressed the Board and stated that Mr. Saunders did meet with him, and Ms. Wendy Breeden, Library Services Director, last week about this issue. Mr. Smith explained that the City of Clermont is looking at contributing the same amount towards the support of the Cooper Memorial Library as they have in past years, and they are hoping that the County can go forward and bring the library in as a branch library.
Mr. Neron stated that he recollects that the net additional cost over what they are currently funding was about $250,000 for the Clermont library, which is an enhancement that is not being recommended in the proposed budget. It was noted that the City of Clermont would be paying $200,000 which would not affect the County's contribution. ($450,000 total)
Commr. Pool stated that the City of Clermont has indicated that they would continue one more year of the City's participation ($200,000), in lieu of the County taking the entire project over at one time. He explained that, over the years, the Library Board members have never been supportive of this concept and always wanted to maintain the autonomy and be a part of the system, but to never let the County take it over. At this point, they have agreed that it may be in the best interest of the City, the County, and the patrons who are there to utilize this opportunity.
Ms. Wendy Breeden, Library Services Director, addressed the Board and explained that, if the County did not take the over the City library, the County would be giving them $208,000.
Mr. Neron stated that the County is currently funding the library at a $200,000 level and, for the County to take the library over completely next fiscal year, it would cost them a net $250,000 for a total budget of about $450,000. He stated that Mr. Jim Stivender, Director of Public Works, did a review of the building that they would be proposing to take over and found about $80,000 worth of repairs that would need to be made to the building at some point in time.
Commr. Cadwell stated that, for the first year, if the City would continue to contribute to the library, the County would only have to come up with $50,000 this year and commit to take over the library and pay $80,000 for repairs. He is concerned that, if they let this opportunity pass and, for some reason the City of Clermont closes that library or does not fund it anymore, and it is goes away, the pressure is going to be on the County to build a brand new library and start all over again. He stated that, even though it is a long term commitment that the Board would be making and not knowing what the funding is going to be for the next few years, he did not want to see this opportunity pass, if the difference this year is going to be $50,000.
Mr. Neron stated that, as the County Manager, he is going to be preaching this throughout the rest of the summer that, for every dollar they add back in the budget, they either have to find an additional reduction, or raise additional dollars, or go further into reserve for contingencies, and they are making a commitment, not only for this fiscal year, but for every fiscal year in the future, as long as that library system is open.
Commr. Pool interjected that, while the whole Board is supportive and embraces the idea of enhancements to the library system, the time has come for them to ask the citizens of Lake County if they will embrace this very same concept and are willing to fund the system through some other method other than the ad valorem taxes He stated that this is an opportunity, and 80% of the patrons there are County residents. He would encourage the Board, at least this one time, to ask the citizens, because this gives them an opportunity to have a very nice library in a growing area that needs it.
Ms. Breeden stated that she has found out that the Cooper Association has about $30,000 in restricted grants next year for library materials, and they could possibly go back and review this part of the budget and make up a good part of the shortfall.
Mr. Neron explained that the County does not own the library building, and the City of Clermont would continue to own the building, so staff needs to negotiate with the City to determine whether the County wants to spend $80,000 on repairs on a building that they do not own, or may outgrow, two years from now. He stated that, if the Board would like staff to pursue this, he would suggest that the Board allow him , and Ms. Breeden and Mr. Smith, to meet with Mr. Saunders and bring back to the Board, in the next week or so, the exact number they would be talking about for not only this year, but for future fiscal years.
Commr. Hanson stated that it seems that there is not a great deal of consistency among the County libraries now, as far as capital facilities. She stated that Mount Dora owns their building, but they are in partnership with the County, so perhaps there are some other ways to look at it as they move forward because maintenance is also a big item.
In response to Mr. Neron's question as to whether any of those repairs would be absolutely necessary this next fiscal year, Mr. Stivender stated that one of the questions was the quality and the condition of the air conditioning system and the roof.
Commr. Pool stated that he would like to allow the County Manager an opportunity to give the Board those figures, as they go forward, and to find out what are in those funds collectively, and what the City would be willing to do, as far as participation next year and maintenance.
Commr. Stivender asked that, when staff provides those figures, they also show that the other cities do maintenance on their own buildings and that the County does not take that on as a responsibility.
Mr. Neron informed the Board that some of the repairs would be sales tax eligible, and then it is the question of whether the County has a sufficient sales tax available. In regards to the request made from the City of Leesburg, to come into the County system, Mr. Neron stated that they have agreed to forgo any additional County contribution this next fiscal year, and that agreement is coming to the Board in the next two or three weeks. He noted that, if the County would have taken the two libraries in this year, they were looking at almost $500,000 in net new dollars.
Commr. Pool stated that he would strongly urge that the Board try to find a dedicated funding source that citizens could embrace and support because, if they want enhancements and improvements, they need to find a way to fund those libraries.
Commr. Hanson referred to the enhanced services for the Elder Affairs Coordinating Council, to develop a strategic plan, and she questioned whether this was being funded.
Mr. Neron explained that it would continue to be funded at the current level, and staff would have to look at it in the current budget.
Mr. Smith stated that there is about $42,000 in the baseline budget for this coming year, and they are looking at doing some type of strategic planning sessions with the community and the Council about their focus as a group and bring that back to the Board.
Commr. Hanson stated that the $40,000 was only for half of a year, with the idea that it would be at about $75,000 to $80,000 for the full year.
Mr. Neron stated that, after discussing a new position for the Elder Affairs Coordinating Council with the Board, they made the decision not to add a new position this current fiscal year, and to staff the Council with existing staff.
Commr. Hanson stated that the money that has not been spent this year could be carried over to next year and, without a strategic plan, it will be difficult for the Council to get up and running.
Mr. Neron explained that the $40,000 in the baseline budget for next year will be sufficient funds to conduct that strategic plan, so that enhancement will be funded.
SENATOR ANNA COWIN - FLORIDA GOVERNMENT UTILITIES AUTHORITY
Senator Anna Cowin addressed the Board and stated that Florida Water Services (FWS) is in the process of selling its utilities, and all of its customers and services, to a government agency that was formed by the legislature, Florida Government Utilities Authority (FGUA). There are 260,000 utility customers in the State of Florida and close to 5,000 in Lake County, with the Board of County Commissioner being one of its customers, as well as some of the cities including the City of Leesburg. There are currently only four counties with representation on this board, Citrus, Sarasota, Nassau, and Polk counties. Senator Cowin explained that the same group that is doing the bonding issue for the new consolidated utilities authority to purchase these utilities from FWS is the same council that is advising this board, and members of FWS are also on this board. Senator Cowin explained that she had a meeting, which included the Attorney General's Office, the Auditor General, the Public Service Commission, and others, as well as representatives from other counties and, in reviewing this further, she felt that it was unfair to say that, for those counties who opt to do nothing, it may, in effect, penalize the consumers and the rate payers by their inactivity and, in fact, by not going ahead and saying that they will purchase these utilities from FGUA after the sale has taken place, they will lose a seat on the board, and there will be no representation for the constituents in the County of Lake. She stated that it may or may not be constitutional, and it is certainly not fair when four counties control the destiny of 27 counties. Senator Cowin explained that it would behoove the County to do two actions, one would be to seek a place on that board without any strings attached just like the other four counties, so that they can protect the people under their jurisdiction, and/or take action to opt out of this so that their constituents, including the Board of County Commissioners, will not be saddled with a potentially very high bond issue to repay over the next many years, based on the sale that is determined by the four members. She was not sure that the Board has the authority to opt out and, in order to stop this problem, while they research this issue, they can say that they do not want to be a part of the sale, so that they might protect your constituents. The second discussion would be to have a membership on that board, so that, if anything happens, they would at least be knowledgeable of what happens to their constituents, and to the Board of County Commissioners, as a consumer. Senator Cowin stated that these were the two things that she discussed this morning in a conference call, and she did relay this information to Commr. Pool who suggested that she bring this to the Board for either discussion now or later. She stated that, when the Attorney General's Office gets in touch with Mr. Sandy Minkoff, County Attorney, more of the legalese can be determined. Senator Cowin stated that, as a result of their meeting and, because of other questions from other agencies, the latest date for the sale is July 18, 2002. The problem she sees right now is that, once the sale takes place, what they have done is taken out all of the customers of FWS, that will now be under the FGUA, from under the jurisdiction of the Public Services Commission, and those customers will have assumed the debt without any representation. In addition, once that deal is closed, they will not have any recourse. Senator Cowin stated that she feels that the County and the cities can combine under its own interlocal agreement and work out a deal to purchase FWS. She stated that they do not need to be under FGUA, but it does protect those customers that do not have any protection now from being forced to go through with the sale and take on this debt.
Commr. Pool stated that he appreciated Senator Cowin's concerns and attempts to try and work out some solution that would benefit the citizens of Lake County. He stated that her suggestions are to either ask for a board appointment, so they can participate on a level playing field, or opt out altogether.
Mr. Minkoff stated that he did speak with the Attorney's General's Office and, in regards to the opt out language, apparently the agreement that the FGUA has with FWS would let them not purchase systems in a county where the county has said they do not want them to purchase the systems. So it is really not a right for them to opt out, but it is the interlocal agency who has negotiated with FWS the ability to not purchase those. In regards to the board memberships, the county could elect to join FGUA without obligating itself to purchase any agencies. There is no dollar, but it is true that, once FGUA purchases these utilities, the bonds to pay for the $520 million would have to be paid back by the rate payers. Mr. Minkoff explained that, if the Board did elect to opt out and, if FGUA honored it, they might purchase all of the rest of FWS except those in Lake County, so they would stay a part of FWS, but it would only be Lake County where they have probably the smallest and, in most cases, the least profitable systems, so those customers would have some risks in that scenario, or FWS could sell the Lake County companies to some other for-profit company, so something else might happen if they did opt out.
Mr. Neron stated that, based on information that he has researched and has gotten from FGUA, which he has shared with all of the city managers by letter, there are 19 systems that would be part of the proposed purchase in Lake County involving about 4,500 water customers and about 850 sewer customers, so they are all very small systems. The information was shared because several of the cities are joining some of these systems and have expressed interest in purchasing them when they become available, if purchased by FWS.
Senator Cowin stated that, if the systems stay under FWS, at least the County would be under the Public Service Commission, and at least the County would have some regulation and representation under the Public Council's Office, so it would be FWS's problem to maintain the service and still go in for rate increases, and the Public Service Commission would be responsible for regulating those rates. Senator Cowin stated that she did not want Lake County not to do anything because, by doing nothing makes those people under the County's jurisdiction incur the debt and be under the FGUA without any regulation.
Commr. Pool stated that he appreciated the update on the issue presented by Senator Cowin and perhaps Mr. Minkoff can determine what the best decision would be for the Board at this time.
It was noted that the County Attorney's Office will attempt to have information on the issue for the Board meeting tomorrow.
BUDGET - GROWTH MANAGEMENT
Mr. Gregg Welstead, Deputy County Manager, was present to address the budget information for the Growth Management Department.
Mr. Bill Neron, County Manager, referred to Page 28 of the booklet dated July 2, 2002, which had a list of requested enhancements, and stated that, at this time, none of those are being recommended.
Commr. Cadwell stated that, because Mr. Neron has already cut the proposed budget before he brought it to the Board, unless someone wants to lobby for something to be put back in it, and a way to fund it, he did not know if there was really a reason to go through each department, except for Solid Waste to make sure everybody has a clear understanding of what they are doing there.
Mr. Neron stated that, in Growth Management, there were some new positions that were requested that are not being recommended for funding (General Fund). He explained that, other than the firefighters that are a part of the fire assessment fee, there are no new positions being recommended for funding.
Discussion occurred regarding the need to replenish the reserve, with it being noted that Commr. Cadwell will be meeting with the Clerk and the Sheriff again.
Mr. Neron stated that the proposed budget is balanced and he did not propose any reductions to any of the budgets of the Constitutional Officers, so the dollars in the budget right now are funding the Constitutional Officers budgets, as requested.
Discussion continued regarding the County's reserve fund, with it being noted that staff tries to keep 10% to 12% in this fund, and it would be difficult to compare the percentage with other counties statewide, because some counties categorize their reserves differently.
Ms. Sarah LaMarche, C.P.A., Director of Budget and Administrative Services, addressed the Board and stated that staff did do a phone survey of several counties and, as stated by Mr. Neron, the ranges are anywhere from 6% to about 30%, so every county looks at their reserves in a different way. Also some counties put reserves in other funds, so that they can draw from them, but Lake County does not do this. Ms. LaMarche explained that the other real issue is that the County is continuing to fund ongoing expenses year after year and, in this current year, they are taking about $6 million out of reserves. She noted that the County started the year with about $23 million in the reserve funds.
Mr. Neron stated that, if the County does not have a major increase in new revenues, or additional resources next year, then two to three years from now, there is not going to be any reserves. He noted that this was seen in the actions that the Board has proposed to take this year to get those funds back on a healthy basis. He clarified that the County has a balanced budget by taking the $7.9 million out of reserves. It does give the Constitutional Officers their requested new positions, because Mr. Neron did not feel it would be appropriate for him to cut their budgets without any direction from the Board. In regards to whether the County can operate on a $7,697,000 reserve account, he explained that financial planners will tell them that, as individuals, they ought to keep in liquid cash three months of the normal operating expenses. He felt that the County could operate about a month and a half on what is currently available in reserve.
Ms. LaMarche referred to Page 3 in the budget book and noted that the figures reflect the budgeted amount left over at the end of the year, which is the balanced budget. She explained that, because the Sheriff or Clerk may turn back in some excess fees, the County may have more than the $8.6 million at the end of the year. Staff is concerned about the shape of the revenue account, if the revenues and expenses continue to use another $7 million next year.
Mr. Neron stated that staff has reviewed the Tax Collector's financial report and made the appropriate adjustment in the numbers (approximately $40,000 to $50,000), which are reflected in the proposed budget before the Board.
Commr. Cadwell stated that he thought that the Board had a clear understanding that, if the Board was going to fund part of the solid waste problem out of General Revenue, the ad valorem tax could not take another hit, and the only way to do that, even with what the Constitutional Officers have done, was to dip into those reserves, but they have dipped further than they wanted to. He stated that they are going to try and get some help from the Sheriff and the Clerk to try and ease that a little bit, but there was no way not to dip into those funds this year with the economic things that have been going on and with them putting additional revenue dollars into solid waste. He stated that the Board cannot look at increasing the ad valorem anymore than what they are doing for solid waste. The only other option is to dip into those reserves, with an understanding that they need to look at the long range way that they are financing government in Lake County.
Mr. Neron stated that, with the proposed actions that the Board has tentatively approved at this point, they have two of the three major funds of the Board, solid waste and fire, back on sound financial footing. He stated that the employees are not getting the raises that they are accustomed to and there are no new employees basically on the Board side other than the firefighter/EMTs, which are an extreme public safety necessity.
Commr. Stivender asked for an explanation of Page 7 of the booklet dated July 2, 2002, the bullet showing the Solid Waste Budget and a countywide millage levy of up to 1.091 mills.
Mr. Neron explained that basically the millage is in the general fund budget, and the Board said to earmark that for transfer to the Solid Waste fund, so it will be in the General Fund millage rate. He further explained that those monies will be collected in the General Fund and earmarked for transfer to the Solid Waste fund, with those monies going to fund the $20.5 million solid waste budget. Mr. Neron explained that the County pays Covanta and Covanta pays the bond debt.
In answer to Commr. Hanson's question about whether a utilities tax can be used in counties that are not charter counties, Mr. Minkoff explained that, in the unincorporated area, the County would have the authority to impose it, and it would become a general fund revenue.
Mr. Neron stated that the information that he has gathered from meetings held on the issue of Article V of the Florida Constitution indicates that there will not be big dollars coming down from the State, because the approach being taken is that there will need to be more technology and innovative programs to be able to fund Article V.
Commr. Stivender requested that Mr. Neron check on some of the funds where the County has special transportation, or trust funds, and determine whether they have adequate funding sources within their funds, because it is not the general budget, and whether they have positions that are needed because of programs implemented by the Board.
Mr. Neron explained that some of these departments are funded by gas taxes and those types of things where the revenues have remained relatively flat and starting this year the County is going to be getting less local option sales tax than they have in the past. He stated that, within the next two to three weeks, they will be ready to do a workshop session with the Board on the proposed capital improvement program in a revised layout that is going to show the Board five years completely funded with all available revenue sources, and it will be a new format that he feels will be more useful to the Board.
In regards to the issue of tax assessments increasing some of the revenues, Mr. Neron stated that staff is using the latest information from Mr. Ed Havill, Property Appraiser, which helped to get the 1.25 mills for the solid waste down to 1.09, and they are still working on getting this figure lower. He stated that Mr. Havill has requested two new positions in the proposed budget, and he will recommend approval of those positions.
At this time, it was noted that the Board will not be addressing the budget tomorrow or Wednesday, as previously scheduled.
There being no further business to be brought to the attention of the Board, the meeting adjourned at 3:08 p.m.
ROBERT A. POOL, CHAIRMAN
JAMES C. WATKINS, CLERK