Thursday, July 20, 2006

Glades County Working Out New Budget

By Donna Storter Long

MOORE HAVEN, FL. (July 20, 2006) -- The Glades County Board of County Commissioners met in workshop session Tuesday July 18 to review the proposed $11,489,208 budget for fiscal 2006-2007 which begins October 1. Representatives of the more than 30 budget line items appeared before the Commission to justify their budget requests and answer questions from the Board.  Most gained consensual approval. 

Opening the session, County Manager Wendell Taylor briefly discussed the annual report he had prepared and the planning goals for the next ten years, including a proposed reorganization chart for county government. Mr. Taylor proposes to create the position of Deputy County Manager with Community Development Director Larry Hilton to fill the slot while also remaining directly over the Building, Planning and Zoning departments. 

Mr. Hilton presented the Board with his Glades County Economic Outlook Study report.  His preparation of this study puts Glades County ahead of the December 2007 requirement that mandates all counties must review and analyze their existing and projected growth, revenues and expenditures and planning of all capital improvements must comply with FS 163.3164(32).  This Financial Feasibility law requires sufficient revenues must be currently available (or will be available from committed funding sources) to fund capital improvements that may be necessary to ensure that adopted level-of-service standards will be met and continued. 

 Emergency Management Director Angela Osceola explained the $20,000 budget request for a portable back-up generator.  The county has one portable but the equipment is very old, being obtained from Buckhead Ridge when BHR had the old courthouse generator installed.  Ms. Osceola stated the generator at Maple Grove Baptist Church in Lakeport (the Red Cross approved shelter in Glades County utilized the most during emergencies) had problems last hurricane season, and the unit was not new when installed 13 years ago.  The Board recognized the need for the second portable generator with 50,000 KW capacity.

 Social Services Director Marcy Woznick explained the increase in her budget for indigent burials was necessitated by the increase of indigent deaths this fiscal year.  Normally budgeted for one, Mrs. Woznick stated there had been 5 already this year.

 The Board discussed enhancing two budgets based on increased need for services.  The current lone code enforcement officer can expect an assistant when the budget is finalized.  Chairman Jones appealed to the Board to consider the excessive load covering a large geographical area (not including City of Moore Haven which has its own code enforcement) and the inability of one person to properly attend to all the reported code violations with the inherent caseload of documentation.  The expected annual cost funding the position with benefits is approximately $34,000. CDD Hilton noted there is a vehicle available for use for this position if filled. 

 Chairman Jones, with corroboration by County Manager Taylor, explained the need for an assistant to the (only) Maintenance employee, noting that the employee must attend to maintenance for the courthouse, and also the community association buildings and other county facilities.  Taylor noted that at times it has been necessary to contract some of the services, but there has been a shortage of licensed qualified contractors interested in performing maintenance work. The projected cost to annually fund the full time position with benefits is approximately $39,511, plus a vehicle will be necessary for this position as well. 

 The condition of county boat ramp facilities was discussed at length, noting the seemingly impossible task of keeping public restroom facilities clean and stocked with supplies.  Discussion included possibly installing cameras at the entrance to bathrooms to document use and or abuse, hoping such will deter the vandalism and destruction.  Road Dept. Sup’t Brown noted at times his crew has even pressure cleaned facilities that were in such deplorable condition from public misuse.  Funding was not mentioned to employee park rangers to monitor and maintain the free public facilities.

 The Emergency Medical Services budget increased by 38% but Director Bob Jones noted that collections of accounts receivable had increased using in-house services of employees, with $136,000 collected in the first eight months of the current fiscal year.  Salary incentives to maintain adequate staff has become a necessity as Mr. Jones stated the State is recruiting paramedics; the state salary ranges are considerably higher than Glades County’s already. 

The $231,096 budgeted for county fire departments increased less than one tenth of one percent.  Funding for training is included and Jones noted that all firefighters, including volunteers, will be required to complete CPR training or will not be allowed to attend fires.

The Animal Control budget was up 15% mostly due to allowance for overtime pay as it was determined that the position is not exempt from overtime pay requirements.  Funding for continuing education requirements is also included.

Of special note was the decrease by 1% of the County Manager’s budget.  Mr. Taylor’s only special request included a conference table with eight chairs for his office, and a new copy machine to replace the existing (antiquated) one currently in use.  It was noted that mileage compensation to Commissioners for travel expenses would be payable at the approved IRS rate, as are county employees as outlined in the new personnel policy.  The proposed County Attorney budget at $125,900 was unchanged from last year. Taylor noted that Attorney Pringle has offered other options; one included changing the monthly retainer to $1500.

The court budget included the $42,349 item Court Technology for expenditures to provide court scheduling programs for judges as well as criminal justice information.  The funding will be from the $4 per case fee, not from general revenue funds.

Tax Collector Gail Jones stated part of her increase was the decision to budget for a website to post County Tax records on the internet after receiving many inquiries for public information.  She stated this had been requested two years ago when budget constraints caused it to be removed.

County Property Appraiser Larry Luckey’s budget includes replacement of office equipment and furnishings that were obtained piecemeal and/or used and are no longer adequate to handle the document capacities of that office.

The Sheriff’s budget, though showing an 18% increase, is a “true cost budget” and as such does not reflect funding from fines, forfeitures and grants.  Sheriff Stuart Whidden stated by law he must not include such revenue sources in his budget.  He noted that capital outlay for the Sheriff’s office had not in the (recent) past been provided by the County.  He also stated he is still working to bring deputy salaries up to the ranges proposed in the Salary Study funded by the Commission last year, but this budget does not completely accomplish that.  Sheriff Whidden’s Financial Clerk, Shelly Ridgdill, formerly with the Clerk’s financial department, prepared detailed information for the sheriffs’ budget requests, which was appreciated by the Commissioners. A large part of the budget is for fuel which the Sheriff purchases through the Road Dept. with considerable savings for volume rates. Whiddon stated that when the GCDC’s ICE facility is in operation, he will place county prisoners at the facility and pay the standard per diem rate.  He suggested working with the court systems and have persons assigned to community service, rather than serve minimal sentences in jail.  He said this may provide a source of labor for maintaining the county’s boat ramp bathroom facilities as well as save the daily per diem rate.

 County Road Superintendent Avant Brown’s $3,684,777 budget, the Transportation Trust Fund, reflects increased fuel costs as well as materials that are petroleum based.  Mr. Brown noted that with the hurricane destruction of gas stations, the county’s gas tax revenue was down.

The county landfill budget was not discussed.  The next budget workshop will be held Tuesday August 1 at 9 a.m.  Public input is welcome.  Final approval and adoption will be August 4.

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