BOARD OF COUNTY COMMISSIONERS
SEMINOLE COUNTY, FLORIDA
SEPTEMBER 14, 2016
The following is a non-verbatim transcript of the BOARD OF COUNTY COMMISSIONERS MEETING OF SEMINOLE COUNTY, FLORIDA, held at 7:00 p.m., on Wednesday, September 14, 2016, in Room 1028 of the SEMINOLE COUNTY SERVICES BUILDING at SANFORD, FLORIDA, the usual place of meeting of said Board.
Chairman John Horan (District 2)
Vice Chairman Brenda Carey (District 5)
Commissioner Robert Dallari (District 1)
Commissioner Lee Constantine (District 3)
Commissioner Carlton Henley (District 4)
County Manager Nicole Guillet
County Attorney Bryant Applegate
Deputy Clerk Kyla Spencer
TENTATIVE FY 2016/2017 BUDGET
Chairman Horan advised that the Board of County Commissioners does not have any control over the tax levies or budgets of the School Board, the Water Management District, or any of the seven cities in Seminole County. Questions regarding property assessed valuations should be addressed to the Property Appraiser, David Johnson. The Board of County Commissioners has limited authority over the budgets of the Constitutional Officers of the County which include the Clerk of the Circuit Court, the Property Appraiser, the Sheriff, the Supervisor of Elections and the Tax Collector. Chairman Horan described how the budgets for the Constitutional Officers are reviewed and approved. He pointed out that by Florida law, two public hearings must be held before adopting the final millage rates and annual budget for Seminole County. The purpose of this first public hearing is to hear public comments regarding the proposed millage rates and budget, amend the budget as desired by the Board, and to tentatively adopt the millage rates and budget of the County for FY 2016/17.
Chairman Horan stated the first public hearing has been advertised through the Notice of Proposed Property Taxes which was previously mailed by the Property Appraiser's office in August to all ad valorem taxpayers of the County.
Edward Bass, Resource Management Director, addressed the Board to display a PowerPoint presentation (received and filed) for the FY 2016/17 Tentative Budget. He displayed the first slide and reviewed Budget Development for the upcoming fiscal year. He explained that the County Manager submitted her proposed budget to the Board in July and two budget work sessions were held with the Board in August. Mr. Bass stated tonight is the first public hearing, and the second public hearing is scheduled for September 27.
Mr. Bass displayed the Millage Rate Summary and advised the proposed FY 2016/17 Budget presented for tentative adoption is based on the millage rates shown on the slide. He reviewed millage rates for the Adopted 2015/16 Budget; Proposed 2016/17 Budget; Rolled-Back Property Tax Rates; and the Percentage Change in the Proposed Millage Rates over the Rolled-Back Millage Rates for Countywide, the Roads District, and the Fire Services District. Mr. Bass stated the Proposed Aggregate Millage Rate for all BCC taxing districts is 6.6176 mills, which represents a 5.47% increase over the current Aggregate Rolled-Back Millage Rate of 6.2742. He continued by reviewing slides relating to the 2016 Change in Taxable Property Values; Property Tax Revenue; and the Proposed Budget Summary (totaling $747,947,285). Mr. Bass stated the Proposed Budget includes adjustments of about $6.2 million that are being made to the County Manager’s original Proposed Budget that the Board saw at the work sessions. Those adjustments are summarized on page 31 through 33 in the First Public Hearing book (copy received and filed).
Mr. Bass reviewed a pie chart depicting the total proposed Expenditures Budget of $487.6 million by Service Area. Mr. Bass concluded his presentation by displaying and reviewing the 2014 Sales Tax Exhibit C Project Revision slide.
Maryanne Morse, Clerk of the Circuit Court and Comptroller, 349 Sparrow Wood Court, addressed the Board to state she is here to address the reduction in her budget and to try to clarify a few issues. Ms. Morse explained the $320,000, which she is contesting her budget should not be reduced by, are the funds that must be paid for by the County as the result of Revision 7 of Article 5 of the State Constitution commonly referred to as Full State Court Funding, passed in 1998 by the voters and enacted in 2004 by the legislators. Ms. Morse stated that Chapter 28 of the Florida Statute really governs the Clerk of the Court; what they can charge, where they can charge it, and what they can pay for. In Chapter 28, it isolates out those things that are going to be charged by the Clerk to the State of Florida for court-related activities. Ms. Morse explained that Chapter 29 does the same thing as it relates to those items that must be paid for by the County even though the work is being produced, or done by, the Clerk or their staff.
Ms. Morse gave an example of how the Legislature passed a couple of bills called Specialty Courts. They indicated in those Specialty Courts that as long as the County passed an Ordinance approving those Specialty Courts, the expenses of those Courts were to be paid by the County. She added that that would include the Adult Mental Health Court, Adult Drug Court, Adult Veterans Court. Ms. Morse explained it goes on to further indicate that the cost that the Clerk incurs for staff to either prep the files to go to court or to attend court (those costs for their salary and benefits) must be, by law, paid for by the County.
Ms. Morse stated when they look at the rest of Chapter 29, it isolates the things that the County has to pay for. The Clerk's Office was absorbing some of that; and starting in 2010, they said they could not do that anymore. That money was coming out of non-court activities, such as the Recording Department, but they were journalizing it out every month. Ms. Morse explained this year when she started working on the budget, she identified the fact that, with her not being in office any longer and not actually having someone trained to go into her office and understand everything, it was to the benefit of not only the taxpayers but to the County to identify those costs that are identified by law that the County has to pay for and to put them up front. She stated that most of those costs ($320,000) are personnel-related costs; whether they are salaries or time that Clerk staff has to spend in the courtroom.
Mr. Morse stated October 1st of every year she starts out as two new businesses; one on the recording side and one on the court side. Recording is considered to be non-court money and everything else that she does is considered to be court-related money as far as what the courts handle. She explained that two years ago the Legislature realized that the Clerk could not survive if on October 1st they had to turn whatever monies they had left over to the State of Florida. So they said whatever revenue the Clerk receives in the month of September, the Clerks can keep to run their expenses for the month of October. Ms. Morse noted that is not to say that she doesn't have to pay the State in a true up at the end of the year because she does. She stated that the same thing does not happen on the County side. Ms. Morse explained on the County side or on the recording side, she doesn't have any money in the bank to pay any of her non-court-related expenses.
Ms. Morse explained that in 2010, they shifted and started getting their full transfer on October 1st, and that was the only way that they could attempt to cover and journalize out those expenses that the County was responsible for. Ms. Morse stated that there have been comments made that the Clerk's Office has a lot of money, and they do because she is “tight” in regard to spending money. She explained that the first trust fund that they are allowed to keep is the Modernization Trust Fund. The problem with that is the money that they can take out of there or put into there is very restricted. It is all coming out of non-court activities. Ms. Morse explained that they can't use it for payroll, personnel, or benefits; but they can use it for items that deal with public information and public records. She stated that when the Clerk's Office started imaging their public records online in 2002, the Modernization Trust Fund is where they got their money because all of a sudden they digitized all of their records back to 1984.
Ms. Morse explained that the other trust fund they have is the Court Technology Trust Fund, and those funds come from a little bit of revenue that the Clerk's Office receives off the Recording Department. Again, the dollars that they spend there are restricted; they can only spend that on court technology, they cannot spend it for salaries or other things. Ms. Morse stated that when the Legislature said the Clerk's Office must digitize their court records and it was going to cost Seminole County $1.3 million, that is where the Clerk's Office got the money, the Technology Trust Fund.
Ms. Morse stated the final trust fund they have is what she calls the 10% Money. There are a couple of caveats with the 10% dollars. As one goes through the court system on the criminal side, if there is a fine assessed (and a lot of times there is), it is up to the Clerk to collect the money. Ten percent of whatever the Clerk's Office collects on that fine dollar stays with the Clerk. Ms. Morse noted it sounds like a great deal, but the problem is that the Legislature assesses the fine amount and they are either mandatory or discretionary. She explained that if someone is arrested for trafficking cocaine, the fine amount is $50,000 per count. So if there are three counts, it is an automatic $150,000. Then they are sent to the Department of Corrections for 3, 5, 15 years and there is no way to collect the money. Ms. Morse noted she has a case on the books for $1.1 million, which means $100,000 in the bank; but the odds on the Clerk's Office collecting that money are slim to none.
Ms. Morse stated she has been fortunate with her staff to collect a great deal of money on the 10% money. She can spend it however she chooses as long as she spends it for court activities. She added that she cannot co-mingle funds. She cannot take court money and spend it for non-court activities, and she cannot take non-court money and spend it for court activities. It is two businesses running separately under the same header.
Ms. Morse stated when she developed the budget in May of this year, recognizing that she was not going to be in office next year, she brought that dollar amount forward so everybody would be aware of it; that way she could make everybody knowledgeable and cognizant and be as transparent as she could. Ms. Morse added that is the purpose of the $320,000 that the Board is considering cutting from the Clerk's budget. She explained the Board has been paying it all along; she is just bringing it forward to make sure everybody is aware of what Full State Court Funding is actually costing.
Commissioner Carey stated she hears Ms. Morse's explanation on how she has been doing it a certain way and how she is now trying to true it all up. Without having a full accounting, she wonders where the money is coming from. She noted she knows the Clerk has given some large salary benefits and has some vacancies that will probably never be filled, so she would like to have a full explanation from County staff as to what the details of that really are. Commissioner Carey added, if Ms. Morse has 10% money on her books, at some point she has to decide if she is going to leave it on the books or write it off. Ms. Morse replied that she cannot write it off. Commissioner Carey stated at some point Ms. Morse has to recognize it is not collectable. Ms. Morse explained that by law she does not have a provision for bad debts. It is a legislative ruling that the Clerk cannot write off a bad debt. Discussion ensued with regard to a judgment against a person who owes a fine and an automatic $65 lien.
Commissioner Carey inquired how much money is in the 10% court funds, and Ms. Morse replied they don’t track receivables that way. With regard to the Modernization Trust Fund, Ms. Morse explained that is separate money and she has $5 million in there. She emphasized that it can only be spent on land records areas, the Recording Department. She explained that under the law, she can't take that money and spend it for salaries or benefits. When the Clerk's Office digitized their records and they had to buy new equipment, new servers, and redaction software, that is where the money came from; that was allowable. Commissioner Carey questioned if the people who work in that department are paid under that fund, and Ms. Morse replied no and reiterated that she cannot pay salaries out of the Modernization Trust Fund.
Commissioner Carey stated the Clerk has a lot of statutes that are different than the County's, so she wants to understand completely what the impact is before the Board takes $520,000 out of the budget. Ms. Morse explained she is not objecting to the $180,000 and she is not objecting to the $75,000 because the County picks that up. She stated her objection is strictly to the $320,000 that they wanted to reduce. She added that is the money that the County has to pay for court activities out of non-court money. Commissioner Carey confirmed that Ms. Morse is objecting to $320,000 not $200,000. Ms. Morse stated the $180,000 and $75,000 she accepts. Commissioner Carey reiterated she would like to see a full accounting of it before the Board gets to the second public hearing.
Ms. Morse stated she would be happy to provide the Board with financial statements from last year. She noted that auditors will be in her office starting on the 24th of October, and the Clerk's Office has already started the prep work for the auditors on what they request for the pre-auditors to start their paperwork. Commissioner Carey commented that she saw Ms. Morse's memo regarding auditing that she sent on September 13th. Chairman Horan stated full communication between the County and Clerk's Office will be facilitated in the next two weeks.
With regard to public participation, no one else in the audience spoke in support or in opposition and public input was closed.
Public Speaker Form was received and filed.
Commissioner Carey stated she didn't see the funds for the Bookertown park restrooms. Ms. Guillet, County Manager, advised that $90,000 is included for that project, but it didn't make it into the publication because staff added it after it was printed.
Commissioner Constantine inquired about the “under $40,000 salary” employees and a 4% or 3% increase breakdown. Ms. Guillet stated it is included in the budget booklet and discussed the reasons she is recommending a 3.5% increase across the board for all employees.
Motion by Commissioner Henley, seconded by Commissioner Constantine, to adopt the FY 2016/17 countywide tentative millage rate of 4.8751 mills.
Districts 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 voted AYE.
Motion by Commissioner Dallari, seconded by Commissioner Henley, to adopt the FY 2016/17 Fire MSTU tentative millage rate of 2.3299 mills.
Districts 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 voted AYE.
Motion by Commissioner Henley, seconded by Commissioner Carey, to adopt the FY 2016/17 Unincorporated Road District MSTU tentative millage rate of 0.1107 mills.
District 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 voted AYE.
At the request of Chairman Horan, Mr. Bass read the established millage rates into the public record as follows: The tentative countywide General Fund property tax rate of 4.8751 mills represents a 6.20% increase over the rolled-back millage rate of 4.5905 mills. The tentative County Municipal Fire Services District property tax of 2.3299 mills represents a 4.35% increase over the rolled-back millage rate of 2.2328 mills. The tentative Unincorporated Road District ad valorem tax rate of 0.1107 mills represents an increase of 4.24% increase over the rolled-back rate of 0.1062 mills. The proposed “aggregate” millage rate for all BCC taxing districts is 6.6176 mills, which represents a 5.47% increase over the current year “aggregate” rolled-back millage rate of 6.2742 mills.
Motion by Commissioner Carey, seconded by Commissioner Dallari, to approve and authorize revisions to Exhibit C, Project List of the 2015 Interlocal Agreement among Seminole County, the School Board of Seminole County, and the Signatory Municipalities Pertaining to the Shared Distribution and Use of the One-Cent Local Government Infrastructure Sales Tax.
Districts 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 voted AYE.
Motion by Commissioner Henley, seconded by Commissioner Constantine, to adopt the proposed budget for all funds for FY 2016/17 as presented to the Board of County Commissioners by the County Manager in official capacity as Budget Officer and subsequently adjusted as the tentative budget of the Board of County Commissioners.
Districts 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 voted AYE.
Chairman Horan announced that the final public hearing to adopt the FY 2016/17 millage rates and budget is scheduled for September 27, 2016, at 7:00 p.m.
Motion by Commissioner Carey, seconded by Commissioner Dallari, to approve the second public hearing to take final action on the millage rates and budget for FY 2016/17 to be advertised for September 27, 2016, at 7:00 p.m. in the Board of County Commissioners’ Chambers, and authorize staff to advertise the tentative budget and public hearing pursuant to Florida Statutes, Chapter 129 and 200.
Districts 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 voted AYE.
Chairman Horan thanked Ms. Guillet and her staff for the thousands of hours that have been spent in getting here tonight. He stated the County has a balanced budget this year for the first time in several years not using Reserves. He expressed his appreciation to everyone for a job well done.
There being no further business to come before the Board, the Chairman declared the meeting adjourned at 7:36 p.m., this same date.