A SPECIAL MEETING OF THE BOARD OF COUNTY COMMISSIONERS
JULY 29, 2008
The Lake County Board of County Commissioners met in a special Budget Workshop session on Tuesday, July 29, 2008, at 9:00 a.m., in Training Room 233, Lake County Administration Building, Tavares, Florida. Commissioners present at the meeting were: Welton G. Cadwell, Chairman; Jennifer Hill, Vice Chairman; Elaine Renick; and Linda Stewart. Commissioner Debbie Stivender was not present. Others present were Sanford A. “Sandy” Minkoff, County Attorney; Cindy Hall, County Manager; and Susan Boyajan, Deputy Clerk.
Commr. Cadwell stated that there were two items that he wanted to add to the Agenda to be discussed at the end of the workshop, one being a request from Commr. Teresa Jacobs from Orange County for some official acts on the Board’s part asking for their help with a resolution in regard to the St. Johns River Water Management District’s Consumptive Use Permit and for permission to take that resolution to the Congress of Regional Leaders on Friday, August 1 to get their support for it.
On a motion by Commr. Hill, seconded by Commr. Renick and carried unanimously by a vote of 4-0, the Board moved to add that onto the Agenda.
Commr. Cadwell explained that he had been working with Mr. Bernie Yokel from Trout Lake Nature Center, looking at their annual report. He mentioned that Mr. Yokel realized that they were at their limit to the amount of funding they would receive from the Board, appreciated the Board’s assistance, and wanted to send out a fund raising letter to businesses in the region. He requested the Board’s approval to send that letter out on County stationery and draft a letter supporting that.
On a motion by Commr. Hill, seconded by Commr. Stewart and carried unanimously by a vote of 4-0, the Board moved to add that item onto the Agenda.
Mr. Doug Krueger, Budget Director, gave the Board an overview of the budget and noted that his presentation would be similar to what he had given in the past, but he now had concrete numbers to report and had added a line dealing with the maximum millage rates. He reported that they would have $714 million in new construction next fiscal year, which was a factor in determining the tax rates, and their tax base grew 2.6 percent before Amendment 1 was taken into account, but once Amendment 1 with the increased homestead exemption was applied, the tax base went down 5.6 percent. He mentioned that the incremental CRA growth was $627 million and that the impact of Amendment 1 on the tax base was $1.8 billion, and he showed a chart which illustrated the before and after of the tax base and the general fund. The next chart he presented showed that the FY 2007-08 adopted rate for the current year was 4.741, which generated $100.7 million and that the FY 2008-09 rollback rate was 5.2137, which was the rate that would determine whether the County would have to advertise it as a tax increase. He reported that the maximum millage rate for this fiscal year, which was the rate that the Board would be able to adopt with a majority vote, discounted for Amendment 1 and increased by the 4.15 percent growth in per capita personal income, was 4.97, but if they exceeded that rate, it would require a super-majority vote of the Board. The last rate he mentioned from this chart was the recommended rate, which basically was the current rate less half of the impact of the fire millage, resulting in a 4.65 rate, and this would bring in about $93 million dollars, which was $7.7 million less than the current year. He mentioned that the other half of that reduction was made in the Public Lands Debt Service. He then did a comparison of what a homeowner currently paid and would pay next fiscal year under the rollback, maximum millage, and recommended rates, noting that a person with property valued at $200,000 would be paying $132 less this year than last year using the recommended rate. He also related that property owners would also pay less for the ambulance and stormwater, parks and roads MSTU rates. He mentioned that the new tax this year was for the Fire Rescue MSTU, which would pay for the Emergency Medical Services of the fire rescue budget that can no longer be funded through fire assessments, and that it would take a millage rate of .32 to generate about $3.6 million for that, which would cost about $48 for the homeowner that had a $200,000 house. He concluded that the total taxes in the current year were $1404 for the owner of a $200,000 home, but under the proposed rates for 2008-09, that would drop to $1,266 which would be a decrease of $138, which reflected everything he went over as well as a $10 increase in the solid waste assessment.
Mr. Krueger went through some of the main points regarding the Recommended Budget that was presented to the Board on July 15 and commented that the departmental directors would get into more depth as they presented their individual areas. He reported that the total operating budget for next year is $355.3 million, which was a $39 million decrease from the current year, and the total fund budget was $439 million, which was a reduction of $124 million. He noted that included in the budget was a reduction of 42 full-time positions and five part-time positions and that pages C-18 through 21 gave a detailed breakdown of that. He mentioned that the budget also reflected the addition of seven new positions, which were a Business Development Coordinator in Economic Growth and Redevelopment and six fire fighter positions to staff the Harbor Hills Fire Station. He explained that the general fund subsidy for next year was $481,878 less for Library Services than in the current year, which included the assumed responsibility for the Law Library, and the general fund subsidy for the bus transit system was $1.7 million, which was almost $700,000 less than in the adopted current year budget and included new fixed-route service from Mt. Dora, the reduction of commuter routes from Clermont to Orlando, shift of paratransit patrons to fixed-route service, and the renegotiation of the MV contract. He reported that the recommended budget reflected a transfer of $1 million from the general fund to the Parks MSTU and noted there was still $643,000 of funding left over for parks from the current year. He stated that the grants to municipalities were reduced by about $390,000, which was mainly related to funding of recreation assistance and after-school programs. He related there was a 50 percent reduction in Children’s Services funding of $108,000 and a 50 percent reduction in Human Services funding in the amount of $44,000, but that the budget included a local match for the $6.5 million in State alcohol, drug and mental health funding; $400,000 for the Lake County Health Department; and a $50,000 increase in the Prescription Medication Program to expand that to South Lake County. He also commented that the total cost for the FY 2008-09 School Resource Officer Program was about $2.1 million, which included an increase in requested School Board funding of $25,000 over the current year or a total of $850,862.
Commr. Cadwell explained that the School Board had agreed to pay 50 percent of the costs.
Mr. Krueger continued to explain that some key line item changes were a decrease in the County’s Group Insurance contribution for employees of $2.6 million for all funds due to decreased claims; reduction of inmate medical care funding from $3.3 million to $1.8 million; reduction of the Combat Duty Hardship property tax program; increased costs in relation to utilities and fuel; elimination of general fund allocation for Sheriff vehicles; and elimination of $1.1 million in miscellaneous reserves that were not needed in the current year. He reported that Phase II of the Downtown Tavares capital project was currently in the recommended budget at $11 million, which would drop to $9 million unless they came up with enough funding to make up for the $2 million used to fund the purchase of the Dodge Dealership. He also noted that the 2008-09 budget did not include the South Lake Regional Park funding per se, but that would show up on a re-budget amendment in October, and $2 million was still set aside in the current budget that would be re-budgeted in 2008-09.
Ms. Amye King, Growth Management Director, noted that a couple of divisions were moved out of the Growth Management Department, which were GIS (Geographical Information Systems), Public Lands, and Code Enforcement and that this was one reason for a striking difference between the 2007-08 and 2008-09 budgets. She pointed out, however, that the divisions that remained had a 25.4 percent cut in the proposed budget, including the cutting of 19 positions, reduction of travel conferences, limited subscriptions and professional memberships, scanning of documents and production of paperless zoning clearances to reduce copying and paper costs, and reduction in office supplies. They also put on hold a couple of programs they had been planning, which were the Agricultural Lands Retention Study and the Land Market Strategy Application.
Ms. King noted that despite budget cuts, they have had an exponential improvement in customer service over the last few months. They have allowed applicants to come straight to the counter rather than having to go to a development review meeting, with all pre-submittal meetings at the counter, allowing them to weed out minor applications from the major applications. This enabled them to process many of the minor applications immediately or within ten days and the major ones within 30 days. She emphasized that these improvements have resulted in a huge reduction in the amount of time to process an application. She also mentioned that they reduced the processing time for the public hearings for rezonings and conditional uses, and they were also pre-issuing zoning permits for single-family dwelling units, which allowed people to go straight to the Building Division without having to come through Zoning. She noted that a lot of things were being done online, such as online credit card payments and approval of applications online, which was especially convenient for out-of-state applicants. She commented that they have refined their intake area on the fifth floor to be more responsive to the customers they were serving, giving them a choice of signing themselves in or talking to an employee. She related that there was an open area for people to print out their property record card themselves. They also had an ongoing partnership with Information Technology (IT) to develop a completely paperless work system that would allow review to be completed and signed off electronically, allowing their customers to submit their projects and receive their final approval in an electronic format. She mentioned that they were offering their building services to municipalities, with Eustis already signed on for those services. She described new programs such as ZapMap, allowing them to pull up all records of any parcel of land in the County electronically through GIS, and a development tracker, which would allow in the future anyone to find any project and all the information regarding that such as the hearing date, what was being proposed, and who was proposing it.
Commr. Renick commented that she was getting positive feedback about the department, and she thought their procedures were working well.
Mr. Gary Kaiser, Public Safety Director, stated that each of the division heads would make a brief presentation, and he commented that this year was a lean year.
Mr. James Dickerson, Assistant Fire Chief, made a clarification to page E-135 of the Recommended Budget, stating that the $126,000 for the estimated grants in the 2007-08 year included all the cities and rollover, and they actually would receive about $30,000. He reported that Fire Rescue would be functioning on an operating budget only, and they would be able to support their existing fleet and personal services cost. The growth plan they had been following for the last four years would be suspended for the time being, and they have all but eliminated their level-loaded apparatus replacement program, since the budget allowed for the purchase of one replacement fire engine only. He related, however, that on a positive note, they would be able to add an additional staff station in the Harbor Hills area, which would significantly improve their response times in the north Leesburg area and provide dependable backup coverage for the Lady Lake fire station. Also, they also plan to purchase one new fire engine for the Lakeshore Fire Station in South Clermont, which does not include any new equipment for that unit. He reported that their capital was reduced from $1.16 million to $389,200, and that fuel costs have doubled from last budget year. He mentioned that no improvements were budgeted for their existing facilities, even though most were over 20 years old and in need of major renovations.
Mr. Kaiser noted that one positive thing that was happening was a first response agreement that would be coming to the Board for the Four-Corners area with all four counties, which was unprecedented and required no exchange of monies. He also mentioned that in an effort to improve efficiency and reduce costs, they have equipped every staff vehicle as an emergency response vehicle, and they have eliminated many area surveys, trips, and idling in order to conserve fuel.
Ms. Marjorie Boyd, Animal Services Director, stated that their shelter operations has proposed to eliminate all of their educational programs due to the budget reductions and to reduce the hours of operation by eight hour per week by closing on Saturdays.
Commr. Cadwell inquired whether there was any discussion of closing any other day instead.
Ms. Boyd responded that they were open six days a week, but they had to be there to feed the animals even when they were closed to the public.
Commr. Cadwell asked if Saturday was a busier day than other days.
Ms. Boyd stated that since they were now open until 6:00 p.m., people were able to come after work, and she did not think Saturday was busier than the other days. She continued to report that outside adoption events, lost and found programs, and all educational tours would be discontinued. She also reported that Field Operations has proposed a detailed list of services to be eliminated based on the lowest priority due to the addition of the City of Clermont with no extra funding, including barking and noise complaints and sick and injured wildlife assistance. However, Field Operations would continue to provide emergency services after hours and the Shelter Operations would continue to provide the rabies program, the in-house spay/neuter clinic, and the care of all incoming animals. She related that Animal Services would soon be providing for all unincorporated areas and 11 municipalities with the addition of Clermont.
Commr. Stewart inquired whether the cities helped at all with funding.
Mr. Kaiser commented that there has not been an increase in funding for the addition of Clermont.
Commr. Cadwell added that the cities were not required to provide that service.
Ms. Cindy Hall, County Manager, explained that the services were provided from the general fund, which was through a county-wide tax.
Commr. Renick asked how successful the outside adoption events were and how expensive the program was to maintain.
Ms. Boyd answered that they were very successful, and about 500 animals were adopted on an average yearly basis. She related that they had to pay people to take the animals to an outside place, such as Tractor Supply, and run those programs.
Commr. Cadwell asked for them to get back to the Board with a bottom-line cost for those events.
Mr. Kaiser commented that this year was the first time that there had been significant reductions in their services.
Mr. Jerry Smith, Emergency Management Director, mentioned that 44 percent of their division’s budget was comprised of grants, and they were looking to strictly maintain their program and not to expand any services. He stated that one of the issues that they have dealt with for the last four years was to try to find the funding to provide generator connections at Spring Creek and Seminole Springs Elementary Schools. He related that once all the budget processes were complete at the county and municipal levels, they would go back and evaluate what their real capabilities were within the county. In light of the Groundhog Day Tornadoes, they received some federal funding to purchase an emergency alert system, and they received funding for their NOAA Weather Radio program to purchase about 500 radios for citizens. He noted that they were aggressively pursuing funding for the Emergency Operations Center (EOC) and that the current contracts for the funding that they have secured would expire next June. He stated that they were exploring telecommunications and electronic options to meet with community and regional partners. They also may need to reduce the public disaster preparedness materials they provide and to prepare for the impact of a possible $46,000 reduction of grant funding in their budget.
Mr. Greg Holcomb, Public Safety Communications Technologies Manager, explained that his division actually had three sections, which were the county-wide radio, the emergency 911 system, and the cable franchising. He stated that the Communications budget was dealing strictly with planned projects and recurring costs such as power, generator fuel, and site maintenance. He reported that 911 had two programs to replace obsolescence in the system that had been put off for some time, and they were using some reserve to accomplish those. He also pointed out that there would be an increase in funding for cable franchising associated with the conclusion of the three-year agreement that the Board approved that required Leesburg to cover the network cost for the first three years. To continue the service going forward, the County would begin to pay those network costs. He noted that there were no requests for additional staff. On a positive note, he informed the Board that the Countywide Radio program would go on line in FY 2008-09, which would bring all Public Safety users in Lake County onto one system with the necessary coverage to fully support Public Safety services. He also noted that the radio system would be under warranty during the 2008-09 fiscal year, resulting in no increase in costs for infrastructure maintenance.
Commr. Renick asked about the change in the three-year cable franchising agreement.
Ms. Hall explained that this agreement was originated three years ago with Leesburg picking up that cost, which designated that after April of 2009, the County would begin supplementing that service. She further explained that the channel they used was authorized by the Board for them to have that educational governmental channel.
Mr. Kaiser explained that it would give connectivity back to the EOC for broadcasting during emergency events.
Mr. Holcomb added that through Emergency Management, they still had the option of broadcasting on Channel 13 during events as an alternative. He stated that the value that was determined in the agreement was the capability for strict governmental control over broadcasts if they went into an emergency event from the EOC.
Commr. Cadwell related that Leesburg had the infrastructure at that time and was willing to do it, and the Board wanted to secure that station so they would have it. He noted that besides the emergency value, the station also had some community value.
Mr. Holcomb specified that the April to September cost for next fiscal year would be an increase of about $20,000 over the current cost.
Commr. Cadwell directed Public Safety staff to get the Board more background, and commented that they should have talks with Leesburg regarding this.
RECESS AND REASSEMBLY
The Chairman announced that there would be a fifteen-minute recess at 10:10 a.m.
TOURISM AND BUSINESS RELATIONS
Mr. Greg Mihalic, Tourism and Business Relations Director, handed out two charts, one which showed normal revenue figures that came out every month and the other which tracked collections from the worst to the best month, which he opined reinforced the cyclical variation in the tourism dollars. He pointed out the positive news that they were up 8.8 percent this month over a year ago, which put the County a little bit above even for the year. He commented that the County was doing better than a lot of areas in the State of Florida, and specified that the Collier County Board of County Commissioners declared an economic emergency last week in their tourism programs so they could dip into about $1.25 million of their hurricane recovery money to spend this year and next year for additional tourism advertising. He warned, however, that he thought that next year would continue to be challenging.
Commr. Stewart asked Mr. Mihalic what accounted for Lake County’s relatively positive revenue figures.
Mr. Mihalic answered that Lake County was a value-oriented location with inexpensive activities and was a drive rather than fly market. He also added that the sporting events brought people out on a regular basis and was a strong aspect of the market, and the County was bringing in about a dozen and a half sporting events a year to their facilities.
Commr. Cadwell commented that they should not overlook the economic benefit of growing their Parks Department.
Mr. Mihalic informed the Board that they were absorbing the historical museum within their revenues, which would take it off the general fund. He also mentioned that they were going to be doing more electronic media and podcasting next year to allow people to experience their events and activities through podcasts, which were a series of digital media files which were distributed over the internet for playback on portable media players and computers. They also will be increasing both their video productions and photographs and do more thematic advertising in mediums such as sporting magazines rather than general branding advertising. He reported that they were deferring the payment to the Business Resource Center at Lake-Sumter Community College, which was normally about $105,000, because they had enough resources to last for several years from the money that the County had contributed over the last few years but that the County would still remain a partner in that. He mentioned that they assisted Trout Lake Nature Center last year, but since Trout Lake dealt more with community residents than with tourists, he thought it would be better for that to be funded from the general fund. He commented that he expected next year’s numbers to be flat, and they did not have the double digit increases they have seen in previous years and did not expect that to continue. He stated that their partners were the business community and the municipalities, which would be cutting back on events and activities within their communities. He opined that they had to doubly promote what was still going on and continue to outreach for other events, especially sporting events.
FACILITIES DEVELOPMENT AND MANAGEMENT
Mr. Jim Bannon, Facilities Development and Management Director, explained that his department covered maintenance, facilities management, architectural and engineering consultant contractor services, construction project management, and financial management of capital construction projects. He reported that during the next fiscal year, they were looking at more projects using their in-house personnel rather than outside contractors, and his staff was looking at the greater definition of needs rather than wants regarding facilities throughout the year. They were also looking at greater planning of everything they did, and they were continuing to operate a preventative maintenance program to make sure they dealt with any problem well in advance of occurring. He stated that the staff’s work hours were much more flexible and that they were working in a more flexible manner, including having staff that were cross-trained to deal with different maintenance issues. He noted that they had the same number of staff working on an increased number of County buildings, including the Umatilla Health Center and Cagan Crossings Library. He related that their goal was to continue to bring in projects on time and on budget. Also, he has made sure that their maintenance and energy management staff was fully integrated into the development, design, and construction of their new buildings, which was critical. He introduced a capital improvement program process to identify future space needs and land acquisition annually. He pointed out that his department’s operational budget this year is six percent lower than last year. He mentioned that they continued to move forward with the downtown project, and he was hoping to invite the Board for a brief walkthrough of the Tax Collector/Property Appraiser building sometime in August.
CABLE FRANCHISING ISSUE (REVISITED)
Regarding the previous discussion about the increase in funding for cable franchising associated with the conclusion of the three-year agreement with Leesburg, Commr. Cadwell commented that they needed a contract and to find out what the City of Leesburg’s plans were regarding that. He noted that they still had Channel 13 to telecast the Board meetings.
Ms. Cindy Hall, County Manager, assured the Board that she would get them all of the information about television issues and how things got produced.
TROUT LAKE NATURE CENTER LETTER
Commr. Cadwell stated that he would like to write a letter on behalf of the Board to the business community asking for support of Trout Lake.
On a motion by Commr. Stewart, seconded by Commr. Hill and carried unanimously by a vote of 4-0, the Board moved to write a letter on County stationery asking for support of Trout Lake Nature Center.
Commr. Cadwell directed Ms. Cindy Hall, County Manager, to have Ms. Dottie Keedy, Director of Economic Growth and Redevelopment, put together a list of business contacts for that.
LETTER IN SUPPORT OF ORANGE COUNTY RESOLUTION
Commr. Cadwell related that Commr. Teresa Jacobs from Orange County had requested a letter from the Board in support of her resolution regarding the St. Johns River Water Management District (St. Johns), and he wanted to do that. He added that Ms. Hall had mentioned sending Mr. Gregg Welstead, Conservation and Compliance Director, to the Orange County Board of County Commissioners meeting. He also thought they should draft a resolution to take to the Congress of Regional Leaders on Friday, August 1, to ask for their support.
Commr. Renick asked if they could send a letter to their legislative delegation as well.
On a motion by Commr. Renick, seconded by Commr. Stewart and carried unanimously by a vote of 4-0, the Board moved to send a letter in support of Commr. Jacobs resolution; draft a resolution asking for support to take to the Congress of Regional Leaders on August 1; and send a letter to their legislative delegation as well as one to Governor Charlie Crist in regard to the issuance of Niagra’s Consumptive Use Permit by St. Johns.
Mr. Sandy Minkoff, County Attorney, informed the Board that they would be bringing back a report on Tuesday, August 5, based upon communication they have had with the cities in regard to the St. Johns decision regarding Niagra.
Commr. Cadwell added that they should make it clear to the regional leaders in Orange County that they were not asking them for money, only for support.
Commr. Renick agreed with that and added that even if the cities or any other entity could not contribute financially, the County would still be glad to get their support on this issue.
Commr. Cadwell directed Ms. Hall to have it done by Thursday, July 31, if possible.
There being no further business to be brought to the attention of the Board, the meeting was adjourned at 10:50 a.m.
WELTON CADWELL, CHAIRMAN
NEIL KELLY, CLERK