Saturday, July 27, 2013

Glades Cutting Costs And Raising More Taxes And Fees?

MOORE HAVEN, FL. -- On the agenda for the Glades County Commission meeting this week were lots of items, including ways to cut expenses due to a $1.5 million deficit from over spending in previous budget areas and ways to bring in more taxes and fees.

Commissioner Donna Storter Long said, "We’ve already begun making changes thru more personnel attrition, including a new policy that a position vacant for six months or more cannot be filled without direct Board approval. At this point, it is very likely that services funded by General Fund will be reduced."

The Commissioners adopted a proposed millage rate of 9.1367 along with a proposed millage rate for the Law Enforcement Municipal Services Taxing Unit at 2 mills. The total tax bill to property owners if approved would be about 1.114 percent of taxable property value.

Tentative budget hearings will be held in September and TRIM notices will be mailed prior to the hearings and an official notice will be published. 

A Tax Abatement Ordinance was added by agenda amendment by County Attorney Pringle and the Board adopted the advertised Tax Abatement Ordinance to establish Chapter 46 of Article IV of the Glades County Code that will allow granting property tax assessments to not be paid by new and/or expanding businesses that create jobs in Glades County.

The Port LaBelle Utility System requested an increase in "line maintenance fees." Hendry County’s Engineer Shane Parker requested the Board to approve PLUS’s request to increase potable water distribution line maintenance fee for vacant lots from $24 per year to $36 per year, a 50% increase so that lot owners would be paying a substantial percentage of the utility company's budget.  There are 1,386 vacant lots served by PLUS in Glades County, and 11,500 in Hendry County.  The Board took no action.

The Board eliminated the Community Services Director position which had been vacant for more than six months. Annual cost savings will be approximately $45,000 including benefits; duties will be shared by assignment to HR Director Mary Ann Whitney and Administrative Support staff.

The American Legion Veterans’ Office was voted to relocate their office to the Community
Development Building and to notify the American Legion that their building will no longer be utilized by the county after August 31, 2013. This will save the county $3600 per year; the office is only used eight hours or less weekly.

The Board accepted interim county manager Bob Jones recommendation and offer to
allow him to serve as Veterans’ Service Officer and to pay for his required training. Board instructed Attorney Pringle to notify former Veteran's officer that his contracted parttime services will no longer be needed after September 30, 2013.  $22,838 will be the savings to the county for this action.

The Board moved to cancel the contract with Ben Few for risk management consultant services with official notice to be sent by Attorney Pringle; in accordance with Few’s contract, he will be paid four months termination fee and serve until November 22, 2013.  This action will save the county $30,000 per year. HR Director Mary Ann Whitney will continue completing Risk Management Training and will continue to handle insurance coverage changes and claim matters.

The Board approved purchase of John Deere CX-15 batwing mower off government contract from Everglades Farm Equipment for $16,638.93.

Commissioner Griffin stated he had hoped to be able to provide raises for the employees when working on the budget as employees have not had raises since 2009. But, Commissioner Beck advised the Board to “be ready” when the Board meets for it's next budget workshop August 23, as he expects drastic cuts.

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