A SPECIAL MEETING OF THE BOARD OF COUNTY COMMISSIONERS
december 8, 2009
The Lake County Board of County Commissioners met in special session on Tuesday, December 8, 2009 at 9:00 a.m., at Cooper Memorial Library, Clermont, Florida. Commissioners present at the meeting were: Welton G. Cadwell, Chairman; Elaine Renick, Vice Chairman; Jennifer Hill; Jimmy Conner; and Linda Stewart. Others present were: Sanford A. “Sandy” Minkoff, Interim County Manager; Melanie Marsh, Acting County Attorney; Wendy Taylor, Executive Office Manager, County Manager’s Office and Brenda Law, Deputy Clerk.
Commr. Cadwell welcomed all present to the workshop at Cooper Memorial Library.
Mr. Sandy Minkoff, Interim County Manager, apologized that the material was not provided to the Board prior to the meeting and explained that for their convenience, his written comments on the material are available upon request. He thanked Doug Krueger and his staff in the Budget Department, Barbara Lehman and her staff in the Finance Department, and all others that assisted with the preparation of the materials. He noted that the numbers in the material being presented are not audited numbers; however he felt that they were an accurate representation of the 2009-2010 Budgets for today’s discussion. He stated that it is important to remember that if there is a discrepancy on any of the numbers that the discussion today is about concepts and not specific amounts. He asked that the Board refrain from discussing the specifics of an individual project as the presentation is based on items that are currently included in the budget. He explained that the Board can discuss the merits of individual projects and make changes at a later date.
Mr. Sandy Minkoff reported that Page 1 of the handout is the most up-to-date version of the General Fund for Fiscal Year 2009-2010 and explained that the revised budget column includes all of the amendments made in October and November. He stated that the fund balances are projected and that staff has confidence in the accuracy of those projections. He noted that the fund balance was $3.3 million more than expected which resulted from higher excess fees from the constitutional officers, lower Board expenditures, and savings in some of the reserve funds. He commented that it is common for the Budget Director to be conservative in estimating the revenues and expenditures. He reported that staff is confident that all revenues listed on the sheet will be received this year, noting that the State revenues have stabilized. He explained that the ad valorem taxes will be collected, although it may be collected in delinquent taxes through the certificate sale.
Mr. Minkoff stated that Page 2 represents the expenditures of the General Fund with two different scenarios. He explained that scenario one is the way the budget was actually written with the reserve amount being the main difference. He reported that the Departmental Expenditures total $143 million, and the reserves total $19.4 million for a percentage of 13.6 percent. He stated that the only expected change would be to the Reserves for Operations which totals $65,000 and opined that those reserves are not sufficient for a $143 million fund. He explained that scenario two is based on his interpretation of what the Board wanted regarding the judicial center expansion. He stated that the General Fund originally had $11 million budgeted toward the General Fund Construction, and the Board agreed to move $5 million of those funds into a reserve for other types of projects. He noted that in scenario one the $5 million was allocated to the stabilization reserve as part of the 13.6 percent reserves. He explained that scenario two depicts the $5 million as a special project reserve with the assumption that it will be spent this year.
Commr. Cadwell stated that scenario two was the intent of the Board.
Commr. Hill stated that it was her recollection that the Board made a motion and voted to have the $5 million put into the stabilization reserve.
Mr. Minkoff noted that he did not review the minutes of the meeting, however that was not his recollection. He stated that his recollection was that it was specifically mentioned for projects.
Commr. Renick stated that she made the suggestion for scenario two.
Mr. Minkoff stated that the Board can revisit that decision at any time but it is not relevant for today’s discussion as the information provided contains both scenarios.
Commr. Conner noted that he had reservations about spending that money right now.
Commr. Cadwell explained that the Board will discuss the spending of the reserves as the issues come up throughout the year.
Commr. Conner commented that it was his understanding that the purpose of taking the $11 million out of the reserve was for the purpose of bolstering the reserve and not spending it on another project.
Commr. Renick stated that it was her intention to keep the money in reserves in case it was needed later in the year and that it would not be spent on the judicial center.
Mr. Minkoff commented that his vision of the reserves is that the Economic Stabilization Reserves are not used as that is the money the Board needs to operate. He stated that it was his impression that the $5 million was there in case projects arose like Hooks Street and noted that the Economic Stabilization Reserve was reduced from 13.6 percent to ten percent.
Commr. Renick stated that the Florida Department of Transportation (DOT) is being cooperative on the Hooks Street project, and it appears that the County will not need any of those funds for that project.
Mr. Minkoff commented that Page 3 is a recap of both the revenue and expenditures for both scenarios with the difference of the additional fund balance which increases the reserve percentages for both scenarios. He stated that scenario one increased from 13.6 percent to 15.9 percent, and scenario two increased from 10.1 percent to 12.4 percent. He noted that during his analysis with Doug Krueger and the Clerk’s office, he identified some potential changes that the Board might like to make at mid-year which are outlined on Page 4.
Commr. Hill stated that she would like it to go on the record that she prefers scenario one, because it looks better for the County during the audit and provides for a higher bond rating.
Commr. Conner stated that he felt the Board was in agreement that the reserves should not be spent. He opined that he was more comfortable having a larger reserve fund because it is more apt to be spent when it is an individual line item.
Mr. Minkoff reported that the funds are currently in the Economic Stabilization Reserve and would require Board action to change it.
Mr. Minkoff noted that all of the recommended changes have an impact on the General Fund. He stated that the first recommended change is regarding the way capital expenditures are budgeted. He reported that there was approximately $3.3 million budgeted in the General Fund for improvements to South Lake Park and the expansion of the warehouse. He stated that it is usually his recommendation to fund capital projects from one time revenues like the Local Option Sales Tax instead of funding it from the General Fund. He opined that these two projects were not funded by the Local Option Sales Tax because there were not enough funds. He stated that the budget for the facilities portion of the Local Option Sales Tax is on Page 5.
Commr. Conner expressed concern with spending funds from the General Fund on capital projects.
Mr. Minkoff reported that there is $3.1 million budgeted on the Local Option Sales Tax for the judicial center renovation which is anticipated to be spent during the 2009-2010 budget year. He commented that he does not dispute that there will be a need for these funds in the future but the amount budgeted will not be spent in this Fiscal Year. He explained that the plans for the judicial center are not going to be completed until April or May and the bond proceeds will have to be spent first. He stated that the funds from the Local Option Sales Tax will not be needed for the judicial center until Fiscal Years 2011 or 2012. He recommended removing the judicial center renovation from this funding and adding the warehouse expansion and South Lake Park improvement projects. He reported that the sales tax funding of approximately $9.4 million is recurring every year and can be reallocated each year.
Mr. Minkoff reported that currently there is a transfer from the General Fund of $4.5 million to the Solid Waste Fund in an effort to stabilize the rates of the Waste Energy Plant. He stated that there is a line item in the Solid Waste Fund for closure and long term care of old landfills which was overfunded by $2 million. He noted that there is a balance of $365,000 in the Solid Waste Fund for the construction of the recent landfill which has been completed and paid for in full. He recommended taking those funds, reduce the transfer to the Solid Waste Fund and keep the difference in the General Fund Reserves.
Commr. Cadwell confirmed that this change would still allow the County to buy down the tipping fee.
Mr. Minkoff pointed out that this is a one time deal, but there is no reason to have these funds in the Solid Waste Fund or to transfer that much money to the Solid Waste Fund if it is not needed. He clarified that there will still be a balance of $3.2 million in the Solid Waste Fund which is the estimated closure costs and maintenance of the land over time. He stated that the Board is not legally required to have a reserve and that the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) is willing to accept the Board’s signature for long term closure.
Commr. Hill stated that the Board has always had a healthy reserve in that fund because of leachate costs, and reminded the Board of the problem from Jacksonville that required a transfer.
Commr. Cadwell noted that there would still be $3 million in reserves.
Mr. Minkoff clarified that this reserve is strictly for the long term closure of the landfill.
Commr. Conner asked why there is not just one reserve versus many different ones.
Mr. Minkoff stated that this has a separate reserve because it is a separate enterprise fund that has to be balanced.
Commr. Hill asked for the specific line item.
Mr. Krueger responded that he did not know the exact code but that it was in a reserve line under Solid Waste Long Term Care.
Mr. Minkoff reiterated that he is only presenting the information and recommendations, and that no changes were being made today. He stated that there is approximately $1.3 million in the Christopher C. Ford Park Fund. He mentioned that the current Budget takes $500,000 from that fund for the judicial center renovation. He noted that with a $2 million reserve for economic development, he suggested that the balance in the Christopher C. Ford Park Fund be transferred to the General Fund in an effort to increase the reserves. He stated that the gross impact of all of the recommended changes totals $6.3 million which would be added to the General Fund Economic Stabilization Reserve.
Commr. Hill asked if the money that was put in the General Fund for the judicial center came from the Christopher C. Ford Park Fund.
Mr. Minkoff stated that $500,000, did but the $700,000 recommended above is in addition to that $500,000.
Commr. Hill stated that normally the Board reinvests those dollars into economic development.
Mr. Minkoff responded that there is $2 million in the budget for economic development. He reiterated that the reserve accounts in the General Liability and Health Insurance Funds are significantly higher than what the actuary suggests. He commented that he did not attempt to review those funds because of the outstanding Niagara and Fire fee cases. He stated that he would like to continue on the assumption that the $6 million will go into the reserves. He reported that Page 6 demonstrates the current funding of $47.3 million for the judicial center expansion, and that the architect’s fees were included in the encumbrances. He stated that he anticipated providing the Board with a more in-depth analysis within the next two weeks but anticipated an additional one to two million dollars in this fund. He noted that he wanted to provide this information today to assure the Board that this project was not being threatened by the suggested changes.
Commr. Renick asked for clarification of the $47.3 million funding total.
Mr. Minkoff explained that the top half of Page 6 reports all of the revenue and expenditures that have been spent including the bond proceeds, interest, projected interest for this year and $11 million in encumbrances outlined at the bottom of Page 6. He noted that after deducting the total of all encumbrances, the fund has a balance of $36 million, and with the General Fund transfer of $6 million and the recommended changes from the Christopher C. Ford Industrial Park and the Sales Tax revenues the fund total would be $46,206,128. He stated that staff has indicated a savings of $1.2 million as outlined on the bottom of the page, for a grand total of $47.3 million. He opined that there is an additional savings of one to two million dollars under the Downtown Tavares Government Buildings line item. He commented that this was done to show the Board the availability of funds and that he is not suggesting that the Board spend the funds.
Mr. Minkoff stated that Page 7 represents the revenues and expenditures of the General Fund with the assumption that the $6.3 million in recommended changes were approved. He reported that the recommended changes increase the fund balance in scenario one to 21.1 percent and 17.5 percent in scenario two. He opined that this page is the most accurate depiction of the County’s current budget and noted the healthy reserves. He reminded the Board that the recommended changes totaling $6.3 million were one time occurrences and would not reoccur in the following years.
Mr. Minkoff reported that Page 8 forecasts the ten to fifteen percent decreases in property values including new construction, per the information received from Mr. Ed Havill and Mr. Frank Royce with the Property Appraiser’s Office. He stated that these figures were applied to both scenarios and allows the Board to anticipate next year’s budget if the $5 million is spent or not. He noted that the values are as of January 1, 2010 because property taxes are in arrears. He reminded the Board that there are no assurances that the property values are at their lowest and that it will be a slow recovery when it happens. He indicated that a 10 percent reduction in property values equals approximately a $10 million reduction in ad valorem income which comes out of the General Fund. He stated that operating expenses on Page 8 is staff’s best estimate that does not include any one time expenditures such as the $6 million transfer for the judicial center and assuming there are no other changes in spending. He reported that the first column assumes a 10 percent tax revenue reduction, no changes to the remaining revenue sources and a five percent reduction for a grand total revenue of $113 million, and an ending imbalance of $16 million. He noted that $16 million of the fund balance would be spent if the property taxes were reduced by 10 percent, and $20 million would be spent if there was a 15 percent reduction.
Mr. Minkoff stated that staff has prepared three alternatives for the Board’s review. He noted that the first alternative that he just described keeps everything the same and uses the fund balance to resolve the imbalance. He reported that in a worst case scenario there would be a fund balance of three percent if the County spent the $5 million and there was a reduction of property taxes by 15 percent, as opposed to the best case scenario of not spending the $5 million and a property tax reduction of 10 percent, there would be a fund balance of 10 percent.
Mr. Minkoff clarified that none of the alternatives reflect any cuts in spending. He stated that the second alternative keeps the reserves at 10 percent. He indicated that this alternative would work for the first column but would create a deficit of $4 to $9 million in the other columns. He stated that the County would have to cut spending or raise revenues by $4 to $9 million in order to keep the reserves at 10 percent.
Mr. Minkoff explained that the third alternative was based on the assumption that no more than an arbitrary amount of $5 million of the fund balance would be used for operating expenses, which creates a deficit in all columns of $10 to $15 million. He noted that all of the alternatives presented require the spending of a portion of the fund balance. He stated that Page 10 is an appropriation comparison of the General Fund which details that the Board of County Commissioners only represents $37 million of the total General Fund. He noted that the entire $10 million deficit can not be recovered in the $37 million of Board spending. He commented that it is a Board function to resolve this matter with the constitutional officers.
Mr. Minkoff stated that there were a few other funds that he would like to present to the Board. He reported that Page 11 outlines the Ambulance Fund which relies heavily on ad valorem taxes. He noted that Page 12 forecasts that the fund will have a deficit between $450,000 and $860,000 with the ad valorem tax reductions. He stated that the County would have to increase revenue or reduce expenses. He explained that this fund is more complicated because it is based on an agreement with Sumter County.
Mr. Minkoff stated that Page 13 outlines the Library Fund. He indicated that under non-revenues the fund balance of $816,000 is included and the projected carry-over for the Fiscal Year 2010/2011 is only $109,015, which means that the budget will be balanced this year because it used the reserves. He reported that Page 14 forecasts the Ambulance Fund will have a $600,000 deficit in Fiscal Year 2010/2011 assuming there is no change to the transfer amount from the General Fund. He noted that expenses would have to be cut or the Board would have to increase the General Fund transfer in order to maintain current operations.
Mr. Minkoff pointed out that all of the illustrations presented today include the continuation of the furlough days and current staffing levels. He noted that the Transportation Fund is not funded by the General Fund and that it will be balanced by using the fund balance. He stated that Page 15 shows that $2.4 million of the $4.3 million fund balance will be used to balance the budget with a projected carryover of $1.8 million. He commented that there will be a $650,000 deficit in 2011 as indicated on Page 16.
Mr. Minkoff stated that the Parks Service Municipal Services Taxation Unit (MSTU) will be balanced by using the $300,000 fund balance as outlined on Page 17. He reported that Page 18 forecasts deficits of $500,000 to $600,000 due to the ad valorem tax reductions. He noted that the assumption was made that the MSTU money is only split between Stormwater and Parks. He explained that in the past the MSTU money was divided amongst Stormwater, Parks and Roads. He stated that the million dollars that was budgeted for Roads is being reallocated to Stormwater.
Commr. Cadwell asked if there was any discussion about splitting the money that was allocated to Roads between both Stormwater and Parks. He opined that the Board should create a policy to outline how much is allocated to each fund.
Mr. Minkoff stated that the allocation of the funds would need to be determined by the Board. He noted that currently 58 percent was allocated to Parks and the remaining 42 percent to Stormwater.
Commr. Renick commented that she does not have a problem with dividing the funds, but opined that Stormwater should receive the majority because that was the original intention of the Board.
Commr. Cadwell opined that if Stormwater did not have the projects to support the funding, then it should be allocated to another fund.
Commr. Hill recalled that the millage was increased when the Board added Parks to the MSTU funding. She commented that she thought the millage was automatically increased every year or every five years.
Mr. Jim Stivender, Director of Public Works, stated that the millage was 0.1 of a mil up to 0.5, and it remained at 0.5 of a mil for a few years, and then increased to 0.6 of a mil. He explained that it was capped at .494 after the situation in Tallahassee.
Mr. Minkoff informed the Board that legally the money in the MSTU can be spent by Board direction for anything that is unincorporated based.
Commr. Renick clarified that Mr. Minkoff is suggesting that only Stormwater and Parks be funded by the MSTU.
Mr. Minkoff mentioned that he had intended to review the Fire Rescue Fund but decided not to discuss it due to the scheduled impasse hearing this afternoon. He commented that it is not realistic to assume the current operations are going to continue next year. He noted that there will be some increased expenditures associated with the new facilities. He explained that the opening of a new park includes increased utility, maintenance and park rangers’ personnel costs. He stated that capital projects are going to generate operational costs for the County. He noted that he made the assumption that the millage rate will stay the same because the rollback rate would automatically increase equal to $10 to $15 million if the property values decreased.
There was a consensus of the Board that Mr. Minkoff made a correct assumption that the millage rate would remain the same.
Mr. Minkoff assumed that the Solid Waste fees and Fire fees would not be increased unless there was an absolute emergency.
Commr. Cadwell opined that Mr. Minkoff made the correct assumption regarding the Solid Waste and Fire fees.
Mr. Minkoff asked the Board for direction on the use of the reserves. He reported that if the Board decides not to use the reserves, there will be a $15 to $20 million deficit as outlined on Page 9. He opined that the Board should use some of the reserves because they are too high at 21.1 percent. He stated that he understood that using the reserves only postpones the problem for future years if the economy does not recover.
Commr. Cadwell opined that with the current budget restraints, it does not make sense to have so much in the reserves.
Commr. Conner opined that deficit spending is not a good business practice and that with continued spending the reserves will be depleted. He stated that he is very reluctant to use reserves to balance the budget.
Commr. Cadwell stated that he agrees with Commr. Conner about deficit spending. He directed staff to prepare a list of all functions that are required by law and anything that in their opinion should be continued for the citizens.
Commr. Conner stated that he respectfully disagreed with the Chairman because he felt that there is a litany of other options to cut expenses. He stated that the Board cut $12 million this fiscal year and opined that more cuts could be made if the Board was provided with the details as the Chairman mentioned.
Commr. Cadwell agreed, stating that the Board now needs to review cutting programs.
Commr. Renick stated that the Board needs the list of state mandated functions in order to proceed.
Mr. Minkoff informed the Board that he has already requested that the department directors prepare a list outlining the functions which are required by law and any others that they felt should be continued. He opined that the Board could cut more expenditures without significantly affecting operations. He noted that a dollar saved in this year’s budget is also a dollar saved in next year’s budget. He commented that there have already been significant reductions and opined that the budget could not be balanced on the backs of the current employees. He reported that the median salary for the entire county is $39,600 without benefits. He stated that the median drops to $37,980 if the firefighters are excluded and is further reduced to $36,311 when the furlough day is included. He noted that half of the employees are making less than the median per year. He commented that some of the employees are paying for a part of their insurance and noted that family coverage costs the employee between $2,700 and $3,300. He stated that many of the blue collar type jobs are being paid less than $30,000 a year. He reported that 475 employees make $50,000 or less, 512 make $60,000 or less, 545 make $70,000 or less and only 17 employees make over $90,000. He commented that this year around Christmas, employees will have two furlough days in the same pay period, which is a significant pay reduction for the blue collar workers that make $500 to $600 a week. He explained that there are several repercussions of more salary and benefit reductions, including the loss of good employees to other entities, poor morale which would affect productivity and unionization of all the employees. He mentioned that he is not suggesting that there should not be any more cuts or changes, but changes in salary and benefits is not going to solve a financial problem of this magnitude.
Commr. Conner stated that he did not agree with the comments by Mr. Minkoff. He opined that the Board can not start to bridge the gap if it does not consider its biggest expenditure, salaries and benefits. He noted that Commr. Renick has discovered how to scrutinize the spending of one department and opined that it should be done for every department.
Commr. Stewart agreed with Mr. Minkoff, stating that the County is only as good as its employees. She noted that the majority of the employees are below a teacher’s salary and a family can not survive on it. She opined that the Board should protect their employees as much as possible. She stated that it is a joint venture between the Board and the staff to solve this problem.
Commr. Renick commented that the Board needs the list of mandated responsibilities before there can be any valid discussion.
Commr. Stewart agreed that any discussion today would be meaningless with out the information from staff.
Commr. Renick stated that the Board wants to review all avenues before making any decisions.
Commr. Conner agreed and stated that he interpreted Mr. Minkoff’s remarks to mean that the Board is not going to review salaries and benefits at all.
Commr. Cadwell commented that Mr. Minkoff meant that salaries and benefits are not the answer to this size of a deficit.
Mr. Minkoff noted that the cost of health insurance to the General Fund is only $1.3 million, which if completely eliminated would not solve the $15 to $20 million deficit.
Commr. Conner stated that he does not suggest eliminating the health insurance subsidy but noted that a reduction of that amount would be five percent and a significant step towards the total.
Mr. Minkoff suggested that the employees need some reassurance that the Board is not looking at salaries and benefits to solve the deficit. He commented that he intended to thoroughly analyze spending. He stated that it will cost more in the end if the County has to train new employees because it lost some of its best employees. He apologized if he gave the wrong impression but stated that he wants to look at every avenue of spending.
Commr. Cadwell commented that it is good that the Board is having this discussion now as this is regarding next year, and noted that it may be helpful to the employees to know the future plans of the County. He stated that the Board is going to continue to have workshops to plan for the future.
Commr. Conner reported that private business has cut three to five times more than government in an effort to keep their doors open. He suggested that the Board should be asking what the County can afford instead of what it needs. He opined that the businesses that are still open during the recession are the ones that have significantly and drastically cut their expenses.
Commr. Cadwell stated that the one and very important difference between the County and private business is that the County is required by law to operate. He remarked that the County provides services that are mandated, and provided the example that the County cannot refuse to respond to a house fire.
Commr. Conner commented that he agreed that the Board needs to review the programs and not just personnel. He stated that he does not know how to address these issues with the constitutional officers like Mr. McKee and Mr. Havill that already have lean and highly efficient operations.
Commr. Cadwell noted that the Board is going to require the cooperation of the Sheriff and the courts system in order to resolve the budget deficits. He stated that he understood the importance of law enforcement and the courts; however, it is going to require everyone to work together to address this problem.
Commr. Conner commented that Page 10 outlines the amount of cuts that are disproportionate to the other aspects of county government.
Commr. Renick opined that the lion’s share of the budget is always going to be the sheriff because public safety is important to everyone and expected from county government. She noted that she is not suggesting that the sheriff or the other constitutional officers do not have programs that could be cut.
Mr. Minkoff stated that it is his understanding that staff will prepare a list of mandated and suggested duties and present it to the Board in January during another workshop. He commented that there should be a better understanding of the revenues in January.
There was a consensus of the Board that they would like the worst case scenario presented to them.
Commr. Conner commented that he was glad that Mr. Minkoff engaged the Board with these issues in ten months in advance. He opined that this is how he likes to see county government operate.
recess and reassembly
The Chairman announced that there would be a ten minute recess at 10:20 a.m.
Mr. Minkoff stated that the next item is a request from the County Manager to repeal the hiring freeze and provide authority to him with regard to filling vacancies. He explained that the Board previously imposed a freeze on filling vacant positions for everything other than public safety. He commented that the freeze has unintended consequences such as some departments are fully staffed or possibly overstaffed while others are under staffed. He provided an example that one of the members of the survey crew terminated employment causing the County to reduce from two three men crews to one five man crew because a survey crew cannot operate with only two members. He noted that he has approved some reclassifications, but those individuals were aware that they were taking on more responsibility and would not receive a salary increase. He stated that this creates the danger that the individual that has been promoted will get burned out or feel as though they have been treated unfairly. He mentioned that there is reluctance by management to present these requests to the Board. He stated that the Board ruling on raises and promotions destroys the authority of the manager, and he foresees that it will cause the employees to directly deal with the Board. He acknowledged that he is very cognizant of the budget issues and the Board’s position, but asked that the Board repeal the prohibition on filling vacant positions and reclassifications with the stipulation that he will notify the Board of all actions. He suggested that if the Board disapproves of any of his decisions, the freeze could be re-enacted. He stated that he would like to reallocate some of the staff into the departments that have a need for staff due to recent vacancies. He mentioned that filling vacancies from outside the County would be a last resort, but noted that there may be occasions where it would be necessary. He commented that this would create an opportunity to recast the entire organization, reducing departments, eliminating positions and adequately staffing each department. He opined that it is the responsibility of the manager to determine which positions should be filled and which employees should be promoted.
Commr. Cadwell stated that he had great confidence that Sandy has a clear fiscal understanding of the Board’s philosophy and opined that he would agree to repeal the hiring freeze as long as the Board was notified of all changes.
Commr. Renick opined that she would like each commissioner informed but would also like any changes to be included on the Consent Agenda to keep the public informed of any changes.
Commr. Cadwell stated that the manager can update the Board for informational purposes during the meetings, but if the Board approves the changes, then the Board is taking over as County Manager.
Mr. Minkoff replied that he would include these changes on the weekly reports that he is currently doing and would notify the Board on the Agenda. He opined that the Board should not vote on the Agenda item, but that it should be used only for notification purposes.
Commr. Conner commented that he was not going to support this request, because the freeze is working well and the commission has not denied any requests presented to them by the County Manager. He noted that the Board has great confidence and supports the county manager’s decisions, as evidenced by the Board’s approval of the reorganization at his request. He stated that the commission is more involved and requires the justification of the positions because of the hiring freeze. He opined that this is a budget issue and not a personnel issue and stated that it would not look very well for the Board to relinquish control over budgetary issues to the county manager after listening to this morning’s presentation on the budget. He encouraged the Board to consider this request before approving it.
Commr. Cadwell opined that this is normal manager duties and stated that if the Board is not confident that Sandy understands the Board’s philosophy, then the Board needs to expedite the hiring of the permanent county manager.
Commr. Renick agreed with Commr. Conner, because she thinks the hiring freeze is working. She commented that if there is a reluctance to bring something before the Board, then it means that only necessary positions are going to be presented. She opined that it does not undermine the authority of the county manager and that it is a budget issue instead of a personnel issue.
Commr. Cadwell mentioned that the Board is then hiring and firing staff which is the function of the county manager.
Commr. Stewart commented that the freeze has caused a negative impact on efficiency, because staff is reluctant to present issues to the Board when it would have already been addressed before as with the example presented regarding the survey crews. She stated that the Board has to address the reluctance issue if the Board is going to continue with the freeze.
Commr. Cadwell asked if the Board would like to be in the position of approving raises and promotions for individual employees. He noted that the number rule in county government is that the county manager manages employees and not the Board.
Commr. Conner replied that he was referring to positions not raises.
Commr. Renick commented that there should not be an issue or something that should be on the Agenda when someone is transferred from one department to another with a different salary.
Mr. Minkoff pointed out that he already has the authority to spend $25,000 without Board approval on any budgeted line item. He noted that based on that authority, he could hire a consultant instead of an employee. He stated that another concern is the effects of the Board singling out a particular department as it happened last year during budget workshops, and it was said that the Board would absolutely approve one department and not the other. He commented that he was not going to bring a request to the Board that he was not certain the Board would approve, because the first denial would upset the entire system. He noted that if the Board disapproved of any of his decisions then the Board could reinstate the freeze.
Commr. Stewart agreed that the Board has the option to reinstate the freeze at any time.
Commr. Conner stated that he did not anticipate turning the system upside down because the Board has approved the county manager’s requests in the past. He opined that the only problem with the current system is the reluctance of management to bring issues to the Board. He commented that the commission has improved 100 percent on the involvement on issues, and that Mr. Minkoff has done a magnificent job of engaging the Board.
Commr. Hill stated that her first inclination was that this is a management function. She feared that the repealing of the hiring freeze might look bad for the Board and that now is not the appropriate time to be making personnel changes or reorganization under an interim county manager.
Commr. Cadwell commented that the Board asked Mr. Minkoff to manage the County, not to be a gatekeeper.
Commr. Renick stated that she did not want Mr. Minkoff to feel like he is treading water waiting for the new manager to be hired. She opined that she thinks the interim county manager should be as forceful as a regular county manager. She asked for clarification that the request is to allow the hiring of someone from outside the organization for a specialized position like a surveyor.
Mr. Minkoff replied that the surveyor position would most likely need to be filled from outside. He stated that he currently has requests for animal control officers, park rangers, and librarians. He reported that there has been a lot of turnover at Cagan’s Crossings, a park ranger ended employment, and there have been two employees that left for other governments.
Commr. Hill stated that this request is for vacancies and not new hires.
Commr. Stewart commented that she did not consider it ending the hiring freeze, instead it was allowing Sandy to do his job. She pointed out that having a five man survey crew is a waste of tax dollars.
Commr. Conner stated that some of the vacancies did not need to be filled if they have been vacant and there are no complaints. He mentioned that Mr. Minkoff should bring any positions that need to be filled to the Board’s attention.
Commr. Stewart asked how the Board can address the reluctance of staff to bring these matters to them.
Mr. Minkoff commented that he did not want an indecisive Board, withdrew his request and stated that he would present specific requests to the Board as needed.
Commr. Conner noted that the hiring freeze was initiated while there was a permanent county manager and has nothing to do with Mr. Minkoff being the interim county manager. He agreed with Commr. Renick, stating that he wanted Mr. Minkoff to be the county manager. He commented that he has great confidence in him and that he doesn’t mind the disagreements because he feels that intellectual debate is a part of good government.
Recruitment options for the County Manager position
Mr. Minkoff stated that he put together the packet with the options for the recruitment for the county manager position. He reported that he queried some private companies as well as the County’s audit partner and a managing partner of a Big 4 accounting firm. He noted that the private companies stated that they use outside firms to perform the solicitation for the top level positions that are not filled from within the organization. He mentioned that one responder commented that if a firm is used, it is important to have a clear discussion with the firm regarding the organization’s personality so they would return applications for candidates that were a good fit. He stated that the specific example mentioned was not recruiting a big city person for a small southern town. He asked for direction from the Board to use an outside firm or to begin advertisement internally.
Commr. Cadwell suggested that the Board advertise with the National Association of Counties (NACO), Florida Association of Counties (FAC), and local press.
Commr. Conner asked if the Board was being asked to make a decision on timing or to move forward and opined that he would like to keep things the way they are with Mr. Minkoff in the county manager position.
Commr. Cadwell responded that the process needs to be started now in order to fill the position by next October or November. He stated that there were two approaches, neither being ideal, where one approach brings someone in during the middle of the budget process and the other has someone start after the budget has been set for the next year. He noted that at least the second approach allows the person to know what to expect for the upcoming year. He commented that his thought was to make the selection in October or November and then have the new manager start the first of the following year.
Mr. Minkoff opined that the Board needs to go through the solicitation process because there may be some exciting candidates.
Commr. Renick stated that she had a positive experience using an outside firm when she was with the City of Clermont. She noted that the information provided indicated that other counties hired an outside firm to perform a wide search for applicants and all but one county ended up hiring someone local.
Commr. Cadwell suggested that if a local person is going to be hired, then the Board should use the Florida City and County Managers Associations, which are mainly people that have managed in Florida. He commented that the best person for this county may be a person with a sense of Florida’s uniqueness.
Commr. Renick stated that she did not like that option either and expressed concern over selecting someone that served as county manager for another county.
Commr. Cadwell noted that there may be some dynamic deputy county managers. He opined that he wanted someone that is energetic and has new ideas for the county.
Commr. Cadwell clarified that when he suggested using FAC, that he was referring to using them to advertise the position and proposed that the Board would establish a process internally to evaluate the candidates.
Commr. Conner explained that the Lake County School Board paid the executive director of the Florida School Board Association to go through the process to make recommendations. He stated that was a service the Florida School Board Association routinely did to assist School Boards with selecting superintendents.
Commr. Cadwell noted that he had not previously talked to Mr. Chris Holley, Executive Director, FAC but anticipates that he would be willing to provide that same kind of service. He stated that Mr. Holley would probably suggest using the Rangers.
Commr. Conner commented he did not know how to conduct the search in compliance with the Sunshine Law without jeopardizing the candidate’s position with their current employer.
Commr. Renick explained that the outside firm conducting the search for the City of Clermont was not expected to comply with the Sunshine Law. She stated that they conducted the search and then submitted the top three or four candidates.
Commr. Conner asked how much the outside firm cost for Clermont.
Mr. Minkoff reported that all of the firms were between $20,000 and $30,000.
Commr. Conner opined that it costs a lot of money for an outside firm.
Commr. Stewart commented that she liked Commr. Cadwell’s idea because of the low cost.
Commr. Renick agreed that now that she likes Commr. Cadwell’s idea too.
Commr. Cadwell stated that if the Board does not get a good set of candidates then they can start the application process again, because the Board is not in a hurry to lose Mr. Minkoff as the county manager.
Mr. Minkoff clarified that staff is going to submit the advertisement and criteria to the Board in January and if approved, it will be widely distributed and provided to the Florida City and County Managers Association for their distribution. He stated that staff would later present the applications that were received and met the minimum criteria.
Commr. Cadwell commented that the advertisement should include the anticipated time frames for the process.
Commr. Renick asked if the Board preferred a Florida person.
Commr. Cadwell opined that a Florida person would be a good fit because of the uniqueness of the Florida tax system.
Commr. Conner asked if the Board was still going to perform a national search.
Commr. Cadwell reminded the Board that they will receive national applications from NACO.
Commr. Renick asked why the Board would do the national search if there is preference for someone with Florida knowledge.
Commr. Cadwell stated that he would like the Board to keep their options open because there may be a candidate that is so dynamic that it does not matter that they do not have knowledge of Florida.
Commr. Hill asked if staff needed a salary range to include in the advertisement.
Mr. Minkoff stated that the proposed advertisement would be presented in January for the Board’s review and comment.
Commr. Conner asked for details on the process and if a timeline would be presented to the Board in January.
Mr. Minkoff stated that all information would be provided in January along with a timetable for the process.
Commr. Cadwell cautioned that if too much of a time frame is given, applicants might not apply for fear that they might jeopardize their current employment.
Commr. Conner reported that the School Board did a national search with ads in the Wall Street Journal National Publications and received approximately 60 applications. He stated that they had a 15 member committee made of a cross section of the county that narrowed it down to five or six candidates. He mentioned that there were only two candidates that he would have voted for and would have started the entire process over again if needed.
Commr. Renick noted that the School Board is another example of an organization selecting a local person.
Commr. Cadwell confirmed that staff is going to submit the advertisement and timetable to the Board in January.
acting county attorney
Commr. Cadwell stated that Melanie has taken over the county attorney duties and suggested that the Board compensate her due to the length of time expected in that capacity. He commented that the county attorney is an important job and recommended that the Board increase her salary by $15,000.
Commr. Conner stated that he thought an adjustment should have been made at the time that the positions changed because of the importance of the job and the added responsibilities.
On a motion by Commr. Conner, seconded by Commr. Stewart and carried unanimously by a vote of 5-0, the Board approved a $15,000 salary increase for the acting County Attorney to be effective as of the date of the appointment.
Commr. Cadwell stated that it was originally his idea to establish the goals but asked what the Board planned to do with them now.
Commr. Hill mentioned that they were originally scheduled to be discussed at the workshop at the fire station. She asked if any one had anything to add.
Commr. Stewart stated that she had something to add regarding urban development. She suggested that one of the goals should be that urban development is planned close to services and the transportation corridors.
Commr. Hill asked if that was covered in Senate Bill 360.
Commr. Renick stated that she received this information this morning and is not prepared to discuss it.
Commr. Cadwell stated that the Board needs some time to review the goals and will have discussions at a later date.
Lifestream behavioral Center
Commr. Stewart reported that LifeStream Behavioral Center has asked for a letter of support from the Board of County Commissioners to be named the lead agency for community based care in the Department of Children and Families District 5.
On a motion by Commr. Stewart, seconded by Commr. Renick and carried unanimously by a vote of 5-0, the Board approved adding this matter to the Agenda.
On a motion by Commr. Stewart, seconded by Commr. Renick and carried unanimously by a vote of 5-0, the Board approved the submittal of a letter supporting LifeStream Behavioral Center as the lead agency for community based care in the Department of Children and Families District 5.
Local planning agency
Mr. Minkoff reported that the Local Planning Agency (LPA) Chairman has contacted staff to schedule an LPA meeting and has requested a meeting with the Board. He opined that there was nothing on the agenda for the LPA to discuss and asked for direction from the Board.
Commr. Cadwell stated that he had considered having a meeting between the Board and LPA at their request, but determined that it was not beneficial to do so. He commented that the LPA had fulfilled their duties and now it is time for the Board to finish their portion.
Commr. Conner agreed that there was not a need for the meeting.
Mr. Minkoff asked if staff resources should be used for the coordination of a LPA meeting.
Commr. Conner stated that staff resources should not be used.
Commr. Renick asked if the request for a meeting was regarding the Comp Plan or the comments about sunsetting the LPA.
Mr. Minkoff stated that the LPA did not specify the reason for the meeting.
Mr. Minkoff reported that one of the County employees had an encounter with Mr. Johnson. He stated that the employee felt that her job had been threatened and that statements were made implying that it was not over yet.
Commr. Cadwell asked if there should be any action taken with law enforcement.
Mr. Minkoff replied that he was going to solicit a formal complaint from the employee regarding the altercation. He stated that he was considering sending Mr. Johnson a letter asking him to refrain from contacting employees in that manner. He opined that the lower level staff should not have to deal with these issues.
Commr. Renick asked when this incident took place.
Mr. Minkoff reported that the comment was made when two employees were walking in the administration building and encountered Mr. Johnson.
Commr. Renick noted that there is a difference between a comment and an actual threat.
Mr. Minkoff stated that it was a threat from Mr. Johnson regarding the employee’s job and not a physical threat.
Commr. Cadwell directed staff to obtain a report of the incident from the employee.
Mr. Minkoff stated that he will get the report from the employee and that he wanted to make sure the Board was aware of the situation.
St. Johns Conservation Workshop
Commr. Renick reported that she attended the St. John’s Conservation workshop yesterday and stated that she felt that the St. John’s Board is headed in the right direction and were recognized for their leadership. She noted that this Board has directed their staff in a new direction, and are currently working on new rules. She mentioned that the next workshop is scheduled on January 11, 2010 for discussions regarding changing the interpretation of public interests.
Commr. Cadwell asked if the Board would adjourn or if they were taking a recess until this afternoon for the Impasse hearing.
Mr. Minkoff stated that the Impasse hearing was advertised for two o’clock this afternoon in Board Chambers. He noted that the County is still working to resolve this matter.
Commr. Stewart stated that she might have a scheduling conflict and asked for the timeline of the hearing.
Ms. Melanie Marsh reported that each party was given notice that they would be allowed one hour. She stated that it would be the Board’s decision if they allowed more time for rebuttal or questions.
There being no further business to be brought to the attention of the Board, the meeting was adjourned at 11:23 a.m.
welton g. cadwell, chairman
NEIL KELLY, CLERK