A SPECIAL MEETING OF THE BOARD OF COUNTY COMMISSIONERS
LEADERSHIP LAKE COUNTY
APRIL 9, 2003
The Lake County Board of County Commissioners met in a special meeting as part of Leadership Lake County Government/History Day. The meeting was held in Room 233, Training Room, Administration Building, Tavares, Florida. Commissioners present at the meeting were: Welton G. Cadwell, Chairman; Debbie Stivender, Vice Chairman; Catherine C. Hanson; Jennifer Hill; and Robert A. Pool. Others present were: William A. “Bill” Neron, County Manager; Gregg Welstead, Deputy County Manager/Growth Management Director; Ms. Sarah LaMarche, Director of Budget and Administrative Services; and Toni M. Riggs, Deputy Clerk.
At 10:50 a.m., the Commissioners joined the members of Leadership Lake County for a scheduled appearance.
At this time, the Commissioners introduced themselves to those participating in Leadership Lake County Government/History Day.
Commr. Cadwell asked Mr. Bob McKee, Tax Collector, to join the Commissioners at the table for questions and comments.
Commr. Cadwell explained that the Board meets many challenges year to year, and this year they are addressing the important issue of growth in the County. He stated that he developed the Joint Committee for School Impact Solutions (Joint Committee) to help address the problems of the Lake County School Board and, in that process, he asked for everyone including the public to submit ideas and solutions for consideration. After the School Board presented the Joint Committee with issues that they did not want to consider as solutions, it appears that the Joint Committee is basically facing a money solution.
It was explained that the School Board, in the past, has not been vigilant in their pursuit for funding, after making substantial investments in infrastructure, whereas, the Board of County Commissioners have made decisions to increase taxes over the years, and to address the issue of impact fees, when necessary, and it is a process that seems to be more acceptable by the public, when done gradually, particularly when it involves an increase in taxes.
Commr. Hanson explained that other areas of the State has had growth spurts, but some counties have better utilization of facilities. As a member of the Joint Committee, Mr. Carl Lunderstadt brought forth such a suggestion to the Joint Committee, and he presented information that actually showed that Lake County has 14% usage of their school facilities. She stated that it is time to analyze the whole situation including all possible solutions, and they need to realize that throwing money at the problem is not a solution.
Commr. Pool stated that the issue of portables was discussed at the Joint Committee meetings and, when comparing percentages, the information has shown that, in Osceola County, approximately 20% of their facilities are portables; approximately 50% in Orange County; and 16% in Lake County. He stated that, if Lake County needs to fill a void, in the event that they cannot afford to build schools, they need to consider portables as an option to the solution. They also need to remember that the teachers are the ones that make the big difference.
Commr. Cadwell explained that he had asked the Joint Committee for survey information pertaining to portables, in terms of students and their level of education, but he was told that there is no information that they can review. He explained that, about two and a half years ago, the County offered to hire a planner for the School Board, but the offer was never accepted or rejected by the School Board and, in the past the School Board has never offered to raise impact fees yet, whenever the County considers doing this, the Board always approaches the School Board to discuss the issue. He explained that, in the past, the School Board has never presented the Board, at rezoning hearings, any information relating to the impact on schools, for consideration. It has only been recently that the School Board has provided such information, but the Board will continue to base their decisions on competent substantial evidence.
Commr. Stivender explained that the possible year round school recommendation would not be an impossible solution. It would take some adjustments by families, but those problems could be worked out.
The Board discussed the location of schools and explained that some schools have been built in areas of the County where the population is not as great as others, and those facilities may not be at their full capacity, at this point in time, for instance Minneola versus Astatula, but it shows that the facilities are not meeting the population needs in specific areas of the County.
It was explained that the State has determined that Lake County’s schools are not overcrowded at this time.
Commr. Stivender asked that those individuals here today contact the School Board members and let them know their ideas, or solutions, to help solve the existing problem in schools, because there are people out there that want to help but are being turned away for unspecified reasons.
Commr. Hanson stated that the real issue is growth, and you would need to look back at the history of the State, and the devastating freezes that took so much of the citrus property. She stated that this led to a change in the market, particularly with property located in the south end of the County, in the proximity of Orlando and Disney. The County developed a Comprehensive Plan in 1991/1992 and a Land Use Map, which basically established how property could be used. In 1990, there were 16,000 new housing units approved in the County, and some of those are just now being developed. She stated that, because the market controls development and, since the Comprehensive Plan has been implemented, there has been an average of less than 500 housing units approved each year, so there have been improvements. She stated that the Comprehensive Plan is being enforced by the Board, and it can be amended every six months, and she feels that, once the Board started amending the Comprehensive Plan, it opened doors to some of the issues the Board is facing today in relation to growth. At this time, Commr. Hanson addressed the 90 day postponement, which was implemented by the Board, and the noted that it had a definite effect on the entire County.
Commr. Hill stated that another component of growth would be the cities and how they are working with the County, in terms of their future planning.
The Board listened to comments regarding the SR 429 roadway extension, with it being noted that Commr. Hanson has been serving on the Wekiva Basin Area Task Force. Commr. Hanson stated that, even though she fully supports the recommendations made by the Task Force, she has concerns if the legislature approves land acquisition, because she feels the State needs to pay for any land that they take, not the County. She stressed that this was a real problem.
Commr. Hanson stated that there are areas of the State that should be preserved and there are ways to create areas of the State as greenbelt. She also felt they were going in the right direction to prevent urban sprawl.
Commr. Hill, who serves as liaison on the Impact Fee Evaluation and Review Committee, stated that they will be bringing to the Board the final recommendations for impact fees for libraries, fire, and parks and recreation. She noted that the School Board has given them their final numbers, and all of the recommendations will be going to the Planning and Zoning Commission for review, and then to the Board of County Commissioners. It was clarified that the County actually levies impact fees, not the School Board.
Ms. Sarah LaMarche, Director of Budget and Administrative Services, addressed the issue of investment of funds, on the County level, and explained that they are getting a percentage rate of 2% versus what they were getting in past years, from 5% to 6%, and even 4% last year. She noted that this definitely causes a significant impact on revenue.
Commr. Pool explained that interest rates are at a 40 year low, which actually sparks ownership, therefore, it truly affects development.
Commr. Cadwell discussed the probability of the State shifting many programs to the local level, which means less State funding for County programs. He noted that three counties right now are at the full millage rate, and there is no money in this year’s budget for Article V. He stressed that there are a lot of issues being addressed at the State level that will affect property taxes.
Mr. McKee noted that Commr. Cadwell will soon be serving as President of the Florida Association of Counties.
There being no further business to be brought to the attention of the Board, the meeting adjourned at 11:30 a.m.
WELTON G. CADWELL, CHAIRMAN
JAMES C. WATKINS, CLERK