March 29, 2018

The Lake County Board of County Commissioners met in a special strategies workshop session on Thursday, March 29, 2018 at 8:30 a.m., in Training Rooms A and B, Emergency Communications & Operations Center, Tavares, Florida.  Commissioners present at the meeting were:  Timothy I. Sullivan, Chairman; Leslie Campione, Vice Chairman; Sean Parks; Wendy Breeden; and Josh Blake. Others present were:  Jeff Cole, County Manager; Melanie Marsh, County Attorney; Jennifer Barker, Director of the Office of Management and Budget; Bill Veach, Deputy County Manager; John Molenda, Assistant County Manager; Kristian Swenson, Assistant County Manager; Niki Booth, Executive Office Manager, County Manager’s Office; Kristy Mullane, Chief Deputy Clerk, County Finance; Kathleen Bregel, Deputy Clerk, Board Support; and Josh Pearson, Administrative Specialist, Board Support.

welcome and workshop overview

Commr. Sullivan welcomed everyone and said these Board workshops had been done for many years, with the goal to set priorities and give staff direction for the year.  He added that it was an open forum meeting for questions or comments from Commissioners and staff.

Mr. Cole stated he would be presenting, along with Ms. Jennifer Barker, and that the purpose of the meeting was to workshop operational funding strategies required to achieve the County’s long-term goals.  He mentioned they would be covering organizational goals, budget history and overview, immediate focus areas, and Board discussion.

organizational goals

Mr. Cole stated the following goals were used to guide the budget development and strategic planning process: avoid increasing tax rates; prepare for natural disasters; enhance core function service delivery; enhance customer service; address the impacts of the potential Super Homestead Exemption, which will be on the voter ballot in November 2018; enhance quality of life services; balance departmental budgets, which are under the Board and County Manager’s control; foster economic development and tourism through Lake County’s Agency for Economic Prosperity; and continue to implement efficiencies. 

budget history and overview

Mr. Cole reported that after June 2017, the following items were achieved going into the Fiscal Year (FY) 2018 budget: a five percent reduction from the County Departments over FY 2017 and going into FY 2018, which helped fund some of the hurricane recovery needs; a reorganization at the end of FY 2017 and going into FY 2018 with a net decrease of six full time positions; and a budget surplus of $1.6 million, which allowed the reserves to be increased in the General Fund and helped to pay for the hurricane expenses.  He shared that staff’s process for fiscal planning included a multi-year approach, identifying desired service levels for Board programs, evaluating the future financial requirements to maintain those service levels, and identifying core functions and quality of life services. 

Ms. Barker displayed a graph of the General Fund history from 2008 to 2018, which compared the expenditures for County Departments and Constitutional Offices/Judicial Support and showed the fund balance trend.  She noted that the County Departments had a slight increase in 2018 related to the debt service for the downtown government complex, which the General Fund had to fund in the 2018 budget.  She explained that in previous years, the sales tax helped to offset some of those costs; however, she noted that the new sales tax authorization cannot be used to pay for prior debt service.    

Commr. Breeden asked if the County Departments included other funds like Parks and Trails or Library Services.

Ms. Barker responded that some of those funds receive a transfer from the General Fund; however, this was primarily items funded by the General Fund and was not the Municipal Service Taxing Unit (MSTU) funds.  She continued with her presentation noting that the fund balance trend on the graph showed a decline starting in 2008, due to the recession and property values declining, which caused the County budgets to be decreased.  She added that as the property values declined, the ad valorem revenues also decreased. 

immediate focus areas

Ms. Barker mentioned that the immediate focus areas of roads, sales tax, public safety radios, Lake County Animal Shelter and South Lake Regional Park would be discussed at future meetings and that the topics for discussion in this meeting would be the General, Solid Waste and Fire Rescue Funds.  She remarked that the General Fund funds these areas: general governmental services of the Board of County Commissioners (BCC), which includes animal services, code enforcement, community services, economic development, emergency services, legal, mosquito control, planning and zoning, veterans’ services, and other support services; constitutional offices; judicial support; medical examiner; and debt service.  She noted that in addition, the General Fund also provides support through transfers to Parks and Trails at $1.4 million, Library Services at $3.7 million, Solid Waste at $3 million, Transit at $1.2 million, and Fire Rescue at $900,000 in order to cover the institutional waivers. 

Mr. Cole commented there were a few General Fund considerations to be discussed as follows: hurricane recovery had significantly reduced reserves, starting in FY 2017 and continuing into FY 2018, with overall spending at approximately $9 to $10 million, noting that some of that amount would eventually be reimbursed by the federal government; depleted fund balance which had declined through the years; the financial impact of legislative implications, which relate to the school resource officers as discussed in the current Florida Legislative Session; and the Super Homestead Exemption, which if it passes, would impact the General Fund by approximately $6 million.  He then displayed a spreadsheet with a simplified look at the County’s budget.  He noted that it represented the General Fund budget and that revenue was all compressed into ad valorem and other revenue sources, which included fund balance.  He mentioned this was a snapshot of where the County was now and then going into planning for the FY 2019 budget.  He said that in building this proposed budget there were the following assumptions: leave the status quo millage; factor in a five percent increase in property valuation and new construction, which would result in additional revenue coming into ad valorem; replenish $5 million to reserves, which would bring reserves back to $10.2 million; target a five percent reduction in operational expenses within County departments; and that all Constitutional Officers’ budgets remain status quo.  He noted that one significant impact to the budget was the debt service for the downtown government complex, as mentioned by Ms. Barker, which increased from $3.1 million in the FY 2017 budget to $5.4 million in FY 2018.  He stated that all the debt service incurred before the current sales tax authorization has to now come from the General Fund.  He elaborated that even though it had been paid in the past from a combination of General Fund and sales tax, now by law, the new sales tax cannot be used for that; therefore, approximately $5.4 million will show up each year going forward.  He clarified that if the Board should decide to leave the millage at status quo and if property valuation and new construction come higher than five percent, then staff identified these priorities for that additional revenue: the Sheriff’s Office in order to help with school resource officers and security; employee raises for both the County and Constitutional Offices; and rebuilding reserves.  He reiterated the short-term General Fund strategies were to reduce County departments/offices budgets by five percent, keep status quo budgets for the Constitutional Offices, rebuild and increase General Fund reserves and maintain the status quo millage rate.  He then noted these long-term strategies: rebuild and increase General Fund reserves over a long-term basis; maintain the status quo millage rate until reserves are stabilized at 10 percent of the operating budget, which currently is approximately $12.5 million, and would allow the County to be better prepared for natural disasters such as hurricanes; and continue to identify and implement efficiencies.

Ms. Barker explained that Solid Waste is a core function of County Government and includes services provided to residents.  She stated their activities include the Solid Waste Assessment Program, Landfill Operations and the Convenience Centers.  She reported that the General Fund is the major funding source for the Landfill Operations and Convenience Centers and that the Solid Waste Assessment is charged to unincorporated property owners for their solid waste removal and disposal.  She mentioned that in regards to the Solid Waste Fund, the current assessment rate would not cover the FY 2019 projected collection and disposal costs, and that additional funding would be needed for capital equipment replacement that had been postponed for several years and will be addressed at the Infrastructure Sales Tax hearing in August 2018.  She then showed a graph of the solid waste assessment since 2012, noting that the revenues had been stable through the years, with the exception of the last couple of years which showed an increase due to new construction and items being added to the assessment program.  She said the fund balance had slowly declined leading into 2019, and that according to projections, expenditures would exceed revenues in 2019 due to contracts with haulers, disposal costs, and Consumer Price Index (CPI) increases. 

Mr. Cole added that the bulk of the expenditures relate to the hauler contracts with a very small portion being County expenses.  He commented that the short-term solid waste strategy was to adjust the assessment rates to cover actual service costs, which will be brought back before the Board during the budget process.  He explained that the long-term strategies included: restoring the existing unused landfill cell, which would cost $700,000 to $800,000 in order to get it in line with permitting and ensure it is prepared to receive trash; evaluating other landfill expansion opportunities; and exploring other disposal options.  He shared that staff had a number of ideas for potential diversification in the way hauling is currently being done and stated they would evaluate those ideas and bring back recommendations to the Board. 

Ms. Barker transitioned into Fire Rescue, which is another core function of government services.  She said their activities included the four areas of structural and wildland firefighting, emergency medical basic life support (BLS) and advanced life support (ALS) first response, fire prevention and investigation, and public education.  She reported that the majority of the funding for the Fire Rescue comes from the MSTU, which is charged to unincorporated property owners, and from a fire assessment, which pays for fire protection and basic life support services.  She mentioned that considerations for the Fire Rescue fund included: Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) grant funding for 15 firefighter positions had ended; depleted fund balance; current assessment and millage rates will not cover FY 2019 fire protection services; deficiencies in supervision and staffing levels with increases being necessary for minimum standards, which primarily relates to having lieutenants on every fire truck; budget increases for outstanding capital equipment purchases, such as hoses and life packs, with the goal to save funding each year to smooth out the purchase process; and funding for Insurance Service Organization (ISO) requirements to improve the ratings, which in turn reduce the residents’ insurance rates.  She then displayed a graphical representation of the Fire Rescue Fund for the last 10 years and noted that in 2009 to 2012, it was doing well and building up fund balance; however, since 2013, expenses have exceeded revenue and their fund balance has declined. 

Mr. Cole remarked that the short-term and long-term strategies for Fire Rescue were to adjust the assessment and/or MSTU rates to cover costs, reduce costs through operational efficiencies, and enhance services.  He summarized by displaying a snapshot of these immediate focus areas and commented that these were not intended to be a presentation on accomplishments nor all the areas currently being worked on, but rather just the focus areas which staff felt were the most important to evaluate and discuss. 

board discussion

Commr. Sullivan then opened the floor for Board discussion and questions.

Commr. Breeden asked how many years were left on the debt service and what year the change in service for Solid Waste was implemented.

Ms. Barker replied that the debt service would continue until 2037 and that the service for solid waste changed in FY 2015.

Mr. Cole added that between 2015 to present, the solid waste assessments had not changed.

Commr. Breeden clarified that prior to 2015, the revenue was consistently higher than expenditures, which Ms. Barker confirmed was correct.

Commr. Campione explained that was because there was a revenue stream associated with the landfill due to disposal fees.  She added that when it changed, that process and fees were eliminated.

Commr. Parks added that it was not just the additional revenue but also that the County was supplementing from the General Fund.

Ms. Barker confirmed that the General Fund did provide some support at different levels depending on the services.

Commr. Campione commented that the County was currently helping with the Convenience Centers and that some money went into the long-term maintenance of landfills, which have to be maintained even though they are closed; however, the significant change was that while the General Fund was contributing, there was also money going back into the solid waste fund associated with the revenue stream.

Commr. Breeden remarked that a five percent reduction in the County Departments would be difficult to reach without service reductions and suggested to lower that percentage.

Mr. Cole agreed that it would be hard to reach, and he noted that all offices had been asked to do the same thing over FY 2017 and FY 2018 and it was achieved then, which makes it more difficult to accomplish now.  He said that number was identified in order to balance this budget.

Commr. Campione asked if the Chairman knew if the Constitutional Officers were on target to do reductions.

Commr. Sullivan replied that across the board, everyone agreed they could probably do a status quo.  He commented that one challenge was with the Sheriff’s Department because if they are required by law to put a resource officer into every school, it would be 22 new officers and would cost $4 million to the bottom line, with only about $1 million in funding coming from the state.  He added that he had not yet read the new bill regarding school resource officers and was unsure how it would be administered.

Ms. Marsh said the only information she currently had was that the bill does not have any penalty or timeframe in regards to putting those resource officers in place.  She noted that the bill had been signed by Governor Scott; however, they were still discussing funding and a request from the School Board to switch some of the funding out of other programs.

Commr. Campione suggested their lobbyists could keep a watch on the outcome as there were probably other counties wanting to know how much funding would come from the state and how much their county would have to absorb.

Commr. Breeden asked if any of the costs for the resource officers could come out of the School Board’s budget instead of directly from the Sheriff’s budget.

Ms. Marsh responded that is was unclear at this point if the state allocation was going to the School Board or Sheriff’s Office.

Ms. Barker clarified that the cost for current school resource officers was approximately $2.3 million of which the School Board contributes a little over $800,000 and the County Commission supplies the difference.

commissioner projects and priorities

Commr. Sullivan opened the floor for the Commissioners to share their priorities.  He also commented that one reason for the new gas tax was to relieve pressure on the General Fund since the maintenance and costs of 1,389 miles of road structure was a County function and costs have not gone down, with the building of more roads adding more need.  He said that he had received emails from residents from the Four Corners area regarding the expansion of the second floor of the Cagans Crossing Community Library, which he thought could maybe be done through impact fees or the library fund.

Commr. Campione asked if residents were looking to expand for library purposes or as a multi-use facility as discussed in previous years.

Mr. Cole provided an update that the second floor space was in design and that the intent was for a community service type area.  He added that the architectural design was being done in this current year and then staff would evaluate potentially seeking state grant funding to assist, with possible impact fee funding as well.

Commr. Breeden noted there would be some additional operational costs due to adding a second floor but not to the expense of the first floor.

commissioner blake’s priorities

Commr. Blake shared his concerns that if the Super Homestead Exemption was approved, it would have a great impact with approximately $7 million in revenue going away in 2020, and he felt the Board needed to start preparing for that now.  He shared numbers he received from the County Manager, such as the $2.1 million currently given in social spending to 501(c)(3) organizations for programs, which he felt the County might not be able to afford in the future.  He elaborated that approximately $1.1 million goes to LifeStream Behavior Center.

Commr. Campione remarked that the County statutorily has an obligation to fund these services.

Commr. Blake replied that the County might be obligated to fund less than $1.1 million and noted that number had been adjusted through the years as the economy fluctuated.  He reiterated that there were several 501(c)(3) organizations that the County gives to and encouraged the Board to look at that funding.

Commr. Campione suggested the Board take a closer look at where the money is going as she felt that all of the $2.1 million was not going to 501(c)(3) organizations.  She thought the categories should be separated and funding should not be taken from LifeStream since they are the mental health provider for the county and help with Baker Act situations and the opioid epidemic. 

Commr. Blake agreed but reiterated that his suggestion was for the Board to look at difficult items and consider what programs could not be funded if the Super Homestead Exemption was approved by the voters.  He agreed that the Constitutional Officers have to share in these reductions.  He then asked how many of the schools were within city limits and if the municipalities could contribute to a resource officer to help the Sheriff’s Office.

Commr. Campione stated the Sheriff would have to be included in that discussion as he may want ultimate control for emergency management purposes.

Commr. Blake responded that he did not necessarily mean they would use city police but that cities could contribute to the expense of having resource officers at schools within city limits.

Commr. Campione added that the Sheriff might be able to use city police if they all received the same training and used the same protocol.  She noted a few years ago, the City of Mount Dora went to the Sheriff and asked if they could put a police officer at the high school instead of a deputy because the police officer would have a closer connection to the immediate community and possibly create a more positive experience.  She stated that some cities might want to contribute in that manner.  She added that the municipalities would be dealing with the effects of the Super Homestead Exemption too and would be looking for ways to make reductions.  She said the Board would need to be proactive in getting information out to the public in order to get their opinion on where to adjust funding, as they may prefer to have services cut or may want the millage adjusted.

Commr. Blake thought that a survey to see what residents would want was a good idea.

Commr. Parks added that budget discussions should always start with what level of service the residents want. 

Commr. Breeden remarked that when looking at the budget graph, it showed that the Constitutional Offices’ budget had not increased much between 2008 and 2018; however, the County Departments’ budget had decreased quite significantly during this time and she thought they could not absorb much more of a decrease and still maintain a reasonable level of service.

Commr. Sullivan commented that the County provides a lot of services to the Constitutional Officers that many Constitutional Officers in other counties do on their own.  He shared, for example, that Lake County provides legal services, while in other counties, they hire their own which raises their costs.  He added that the Lake County Property Appraiser’s Office is efficient compared to the other 67 Florida counties, as they provide county services for $9 per person while the state average is $16 per person.  He said this helps to hold the Constitutional Officers’ budgets down because of what is provided internally.

Ms. Marsh clarified that the Sheriff’s Office does have its own legal counsel as well as the Tax Collector’s Office, although the County Attorney does sometimes provide services for them.

Commr. Campione wondered if the way the County does their internal auditing with the Clerk of the Court’s Office would be something the Constitutional Officers might be willing to accept as a way to take a closer look at their operation and look for savings.  She suggested possibly having an outside party perform an operational audit to find savings.  She explained that because they are separate, the County does not have control; however, it seems that would be a great starting point to finding efficiencies.

Commr. Parks remarked that Columbia County has a set percentage from the budget that they give to their Constitutional Officers.

Commr. Campione asked how big Columbia County was and if that was the only county doing it that way.

Commr. Parks replied they were the only county doing that a year ago but was uncertain which counties might have done it last year.

Commr. Campione stated another factor is population changes.

Ms. Barker responded that in 2008, the Lake County population was approximately 292,000 and the estimated population in 2017 was approximately 331,000.

The Commissioners asked if it was possible to determine the per capita cost based on population and Ms. Barker responded she could put that information together for the Board.

Commr. Parks asked if research could be done to determine statutorily what is in the budget.

Ms. Marsh responded that had been done before and she would update it and bring it back to the Board.

commissioner breeden’s priorities

Commr. Breeden mentioned she had some minor priorities and asked if it was possible to add an additional code enforcement officer starting mid-year since they have been so busy and their work is very time consuming.  She inquired how many code enforcement officers there were currently for the county and noted that she often gets code concerns addressed to her that she forwards to the Office of Code Enforcement.   

Mr. John Molenda, Assistant County Manager, answered that he believed there were four officers, including the Director of Code Enforcement who also works in the field.

Mr. Cole said he noted the request for an additional officer and added that currently the Office of Code Enforcement collects fines for some activities which have not typically gone back into the program.  He stated he has asked staff to identify the fines that come in and proposed putting them back into the program as funding for processes such as removing homes.  He summarized this would create funding within that department based on the revenue coming in instead of using those fines to fund the General Fund.

Commr. Breeden mentioned the number of emails she receives from the Sheriff’s Office and shared that the number of Baker Acts they handle is concerning.  She suggested that the Board attempt to give them $100,000, or at least a portion of it.  She stated her other two items were for Library Services and Public Lands.  She noted that the library book budget, which includes e-books, periodicals and databases, has gone down since 2000 while material prices have gone up and she would like to give Library Services $25,000 for this.  She also mentioned that Public Lands’ budget was reduced in the recession and she would like for $25,000 to go to them for restoration efforts.  She realized this may not be possible based on the current scenario but she wanted to mention them.

commissioner parks’ priorities

Commr. Parks said he appreciated Commissioner Blake’s comments about looking at things even if it was uncomfortable.  He stated that transit is an area that he was a supporter of but felt it was time to look at what the County does with transit, and he thought there was the opportunity to reduce costs and provide better service.  He thought people still wanted it but was not sure to what degree.  He noted that Lake County had been providing transit for 10 years and there were both fixed routes provided through LakeXpress and transportation for the disadvantaged through Lake County Connection.  He said that based on the data he had been collecting, ridership on the busiest fixed routes was only 23 riders per hour.  He commented that fixed route transit works in places where there is density, grid street patterns, and limited parking; however, he opined that there is very little of that in Lake County, except for in some areas of South Lake County.  He said he had asked a few months ago how much density there was along the major bus routes, noting that he was not supporting a higher density but just asking if Lake County has in place the density that would support a transit system.  He thought the Board should rethink transit, which might mean reducing routes, going to smaller vehicles, or providing ride sharing.  He thought they should focus on providing transportation specifically for employment, education and medical reasons.  He said the perception was that transit was used by low income people and that possibly ride sharing in a new system would change that and might then have more people using the transit system.  He stated vanpools had been looked at and that car sharing could be big in the next five to ten years, especially with smaller cars and the reduced cost for local trips.  He explained that car sharing was very different than ride sharing.  He also suggested they look at partnerships with the University of Central Florida to connect Clermont, Leesburg and Mount Dora to the Wolf Branch Campus and the Main Campus in Orlando.  He said that with Wellness Way and the Orange-Lake Parkway Expressway, hopefully rapid transit could be a part of that if it could support it.  He said that the Board should rethink and explore a partnership with Lynx, especially keeping the partnership in Four Corners.  He felt that cities should play a bigger role in transit since urbanization is there, maybe even supporting them with a trolley system or limo service to drive residents around in the dense parts of town.  He concluded that he thought the Board needed to take a fresh, out-of-the-box look at transit and to look nationally at how to handle it in a suburb, which is what Lake County is, and to rethink transit service to provide better, more meaningful service at reduced costs.

Commr. Sullivan commented it was a good idea and mentioned that at one time 65 percent of ridership was people getting to employment, at least on route one.  He said the transit system works closely with the disadvantaged transit for funding.  He thought it was a good time to look at how business is done and to see if there is a more efficient or effective way to do it.  He noted it was complicated due to the various federal and state funds but that the people who use it appreciate it and it receives few complaints.

Commr. Campione stated that since she sat on the Transportation for Disadvantaged Committee with the Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO), she had knowledge of the funding and how the system works.  She stated that she was in favor of looking at privatization for better and more efficient service and thought the Board should see how other areas or counties similar to Lake County are providing transit.  She mentioned that approval had been given to seek a grant for a ride share provider.  She said that the money received for paratransit had always been used to leverage and to pay for the fixed route and in regards to ridership, people were encouraged to move from the paratransit to the fixed route.  She stated that if that is taken away, then there needs to be another system they can use to get to work and medical appointments.  She summarized it was a great discussion and opportunity to look for savings but encouraged the Board to remember they are linked financially.

Commr. Breeden asked if a ride sharing program would be eligible for paratransit funding.

Commr. Campione implied it would not, which was why they applied for the grant, and she said it was a pilot program.  She said it seemed like it would be better for the customer because of the wait times and coordination needed to schedule trips since that was the biggest complaint.  She suggested that before the Board does a workshop, each Commissioner should utilize the bus system.  She noted they could also participate in doing the paratransit evaluation.  She said it is a chance to ride the buses, talk to people, see how the service works and determine what the riders would want improved.  She summarized that if the Board was going to evaluate the system and make tough decisions, then they needed to know how it works.

Commr. Parks agreed and said he had ridden the bus before.

Commr. Campione added the need to get actual numbers and shared that she had heard there were 400,000 trips per year.

Commr. Parks responded that in some cities, they do that many trips in a month.  He reiterated his desire to focus on what was important for a suburban area and that providing transportation for everyone may not be possible but reiterated that they should focus on providing trips for employment, education and medical reasons.

Commr. Campione suggested talking to the new MPO Director to see if he had any experiences with this in his former location.  She recalled recently being in Pennsylvania in a small town, not a metropolitan area, and saw they had smaller buses, similar to the Lake Connection size, and there was not a government name on the buses indicating there might be some models out there that would work for Lake County. 

Mr. Cole stated staff would look at that and reminded the Board that another consideration was the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).  He also mentioned that Mr. David Hope, Transit Division Manager, has good ideas that could be instrumental in these discussions.

Commr. Blake added one item that he wanted to be considered which was getting rid of the 32 pages of landscape regulations as he did not think that government should be in the business of landscape architecture.  He opined it was over prescriptive and he wanted to stop making businesses navigate this in order to build a commercial building.  He also suggested removing the local business tax.  He realized it was complicated since the municipalities receive some of that money, along with the County, but wanted to have one less item for businesses to have to address.

Commr. Campione asked if Commissioner Blake had complaints regarding the local business tax as it would be approximately a $300,000 reduction to the General Fund.

Commr. Blake said he had received complaints from businesses and that they do not receive any additional services in return for the local business tax.  He said as for the funding, that is why he suggested looking at the social spending.

Commr. Campione suggested surveying the businesses to see if they prefer a reduction in the social spending for programs they often contribute to or prefer removing their tax.

Commr. Parks stated the money from the tax goes towards economic development. 

Commr. Campione clarified that it went into the General Fund and then the General Fund helps pay for economic development.  She added that the Board had previously discussed putting it directly in a fund for economic development so they could show businesses that the money was going towards bringing in more business and jobs, which would have a positive impact on those already doing business.  She remarked that she would support that before she would support removing the tax.

  Commr. Parks mentioned that in some cases the businesses pay both the city and the county and maybe it could be changed so that they only pay one entity. 

Commr. Blake shared that he had spoken to some of the cities who receive it and that they would be willing to remove the tax. 

commissioner campione’s priorities

Commr. Campione urged staff to be proactive with the permitting process concerns within the building department due to insufficient staff.  She remarked that since it is an enterprise fund, the faster permits are processed, the faster the money will come into that fund and the more content customers will be. 

Mr. Cole reported the he and Mr. Molenda had met the previous week with representatives of the Homebuilders Association regarding their concerns with permitting being slower as a direct result of increased permit applications.  He said staff looked into it and that at the April 10, 2018 BCC meeting, they would be recommending adding two permitting technicians to the building office and also adding two additional staff to the FY 2019 proposed budget.

Commr. Campione asked if adding positions had to be brought before the Board which meant the recent issues could not be addressed until the request for additional staff was approved by the Board.

Mr. Cole confirmed that he did not have the authority to add positions but if approved by the Board at the April 10, 2018 meeting, staff could immediately recruit. 

Commr. Campione asked how many permits were waiting to be processed.

Mr. Cole confirmed there was a fairly large backlog.

Mr. Molenda remarked that since the beginning of the year, that department had experienced a new building code, employee turn-over, and initial training.  He said it may not be as smooth when a department first makes changes and improvements but once it is operating, it becomes a better situation for everyone.  He said he felt confident that if these two employees should get approved, it would definitely help and they would be on track for the next fiscal year budget with the other two additional recommended employees. 

Mr. Cole said that department does have a solid fund balance and he was not concerned with adding the additional positions.

Commr. Breeden asked if they had to wait till the next fiscal year for the other two positions.

Mr. Molenda replied that was what the director recommended when looking at their current status; however, they could analyze the numbers and see if it would be better to add the positions on the front end.

The Board shared support of adding these positions and inquired if they could authorize the County Manager to have the authority in this particular instance since it is an enterprise fund.

Ms. Marsh responded that the requirement of adding positions was a Board approved policy; however, that policy could be adjusted if the Board desired to give the County Manager that authority moving forward. 

The Board agreed to vote on this at the next BCC meeting on April 10, 2018.

commissioner sullivan’s priorities

Commr. Sullivan mentioned he had a few items he wanted to discuss, with some of them already being addressed previously in the meeting.  He stated that the enterprise funds like the building department, fire rescue and solid waste needed to be addressed during the budget process in order to get all the issues on the table and finds ways to be efficient and take care of needs.  He said they knew the SAFER grant was running out and they were hopeful that growth would help with that.  He also mentioned that as Lake County is drastically changing, there would be changes to funding, giving the example that radios for fire departments were provided by the County to the cities years ago but that is something the County cannot necessarily do moving forward.  He said it was important to communicate with the cities in those areas like fire rescue, but also with regard to the animal shelter since the cities use that facility.  He remarked that his last issue he wanted to address was homelessness, the County’s role in this, and seeing if there were grants or opportunities to partner with municipalities or not-for-profit groups.  He agreed it was important as they go through the budget to consider all their priorities every year and coordinate with cities to identify needs.  He stated that as the population grows, the segments grow with it and even though he believed in limited government, when it becomes a public issue that affects the quality of life, then government should be aware and consider options.

Commr. Breeden asked if there was a time frame for bringing back recommendations for fire and solid waste assessments.

Mr. Cole replied it would be part of the budget process in the spring with the first budget presentations beginning on April 24, 2018 and in subsequent meetings, with the request to adopt a tentative millage and budget in July 2018.  He said they know the direction they want to go in regards to the solid waste assessment; however, the fire assessment was still being evaluated through the consultant.

Commr. Breeden asked when the contracts for the current solid waste services ended.

Mr. Cole responded they have contracts with the haulers and with the Heart of Florida for disposal and that they both end in 2021.  He said they were still evaluating all the options and would present the assessment to the Board in the spring with options coming in the summer or fall.  He reiterated that the assessment was intended to fund the contracts with the haulers and the disposal site.  He said the service centers are funded through the General Fund.   

Commr. Campione reported that in regards to the homelessness issue, a group did go to The Kearney Center in Tallahassee and that Ms. Allison Thall and Ms. Dorothy Keedy, with Lake County’s Department of Community Services, were continuing to work on the concern and a homelessness forum was scheduled for April 26, 2018.  She said this was an opportunity to look at options and put together ideas, and that it would be advertised to the public for people who wanted to participate.  She remarked that she would be in favor of the simplification of the landscape regulations but that she appreciated attractive looking businesses.  She thought it was important to have the right landscaping regulations and noted how sometimes landscaping is being planted per code right under power lines, which then becomes an issue when it grows and has to be cut.  She said that after Hurricane Irma, there was discussion to change some of the tree requirements to types that would not create as much debris.  She stated she was in favor of simplifying and making it easier for the customer but still wanted some guidelines. 

Commr. Parks added that it needs to be the right plan for the right place and that landscaping can have a big impact on property values. 

Commr. Breeden agreed that it needed to be simplified and encouraged bringing in the Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) to evaluate. 

Commr. Campione mentioned in regards to animal control, that several cities have funded Trap, Neuter, Release (TNR) programs which is a great way to interface with the cities and hopefully then reduce problems coming to the Animal Shelter.  She said any type of community outreach helps to keep costs down at the shelter.

Commr. Parks asked if there was a way to put information or videos out to the public to engage residents and see what types of services people want.  He said he was a supporter of starting with determining what type of services the county wants before talking about assessments, numbers and budget. 

Mr. Cole responded that the Office of Communications had been using more videos on the website and in social media.

Commr. Parks shared that the Florida Association of Counties (FAC) had a good video a few years ago that showcased many of the county government functions that people are not often aware of to remind them what their taxes are supporting.

Mr. Cole said that would be helpful during the budget process to have videos that would explain that information.

Commr. Campione mentioned the language for the gas tax which was discussed in the last BCC meeting and suggested eliminating the reference to other uses allowed under the Florida Statutes so that the language would reflect that the money would only be used for resurfacing of existing roads, the paving of graded roads and the construction of new roads.  She stated she wanted the tax money to focus on the resurfacing of existing roads and that she wanted to know how many roads per year could be resurfaced with the approximately $4 million that would be coming to the County.  She said she often receives complaints regarding the road conditions and remarked that a resident recently said to her that if the tax money was going to be used for those purposes, then she would support it.

Ms. Marsh said it could be brought back to the Board at the April 24, 2018 BCC meeting as there was not enough time to advertise for the April 10, 2018 meeting.  She said that would still give enough time to make changes and met the deadline for the ballot.

Commr. Parks remembered a previous conversation around the need for a part-time scheduler or administrative assistant for the Veteran’s Office to help the officers serving county veterans and asked staff to consider that.

Commr. Sullivan reminded the Board that the goals presented by staff were based on the guidance that the Board gave to them and he thanked the staff for their work.


There being no further business to be brought to the attention of the Board, the meeting was adjourned at 10:38 a.m.






timothy i. sullivan, chairman