Hopes Gives BOCC Budget Presentation

League of Women Voters Manatee County
BRADENTON — This week, Manatee County administrator Scott Hopes and his team presented its annual recommended budget presentation to the Manatee County Commission, kicking off the budget process. The League of Women Voters of Manatee County Government Committee covered the meeting. The following are the major points from the 06/08/2022 budget work session, observed by Tina Shope and Jennifer Hamey.

For meeting agenda click here.

BoCC 2023 Budget Presentation
Budget Info on MyManatee.org website
Budget Overview
  • $1.87 billion total budget
  • Zero-based budget, meaning any additions must be reviewed and approved
  • Commissioners can "pull” an item for further review but needs at least one other commissioner to agree to pull an item. Two items were pulled at this meeting
  1.   One position to staff artificial reef work
  2.   Four 911 operator positions 
Interim Chief Financial Officer Sheila McClain outlined budget challenges:
  • Employee recruiting, retention, and compensation
  • Rising costs in the supply chain
  • Rising interest rates
  • Increasing costs in the affordable housing market
  • Labor shortage which hinders the capacity to complete projects timely
The reserves, currently at 20% of appropriations, has four categories:
  • Contingency
  • Salaries
  • Cash Balance-cash reserve and budget stabilization
  • Capital
County Administrator Hopes presentation included these points:
  • This is the second year of a 2-year budget.
  • The county is still financially strong. The reserves were reduced to the required 20% level and the funding released was used for projects.
  • The collection of Environmental Lands Tax was deferred a year. No projects were identified for 2021/2022. (ELMAC is looking at 12 different properties for 2022/2023.)
  • There are many changes in the County structure due to resignations and reorganizations.
Commissioner Comments included:
Whitmore expressed a desire to build up reserves in order to be prepared for emergencies and continued higher than usual expenses.

Servia Comments:
  • Current reserves are $19.1 million. As our county is prone to disasters, best practices are building reserves above 2 months' expenses. For example, Irma (one storm) cost the county $21 million.
  • Lower taxes because citizen expenses are higher than usual – all commissioners agreed with this statement
  • Live within our means
VanOstenbridge said he felt no need to build up reserves over the 20%; better to spend on "forever projects” that the county needs. Baugh agreed.
Twelve of thirteen departments reviewed their desired budget changes:
  1. Community Services (Lee Washington) Seven divisions
    Changes in budget requested:  One additional probation officer.
    Of Note:
    The East County library has yet to determine the staffing level for its opening.  The $400,000 funding is for 25,000 to 28,000 items for the opening day of East County Library.  Standardized hours for libraries are returning.
  1. Convention & Visitors Bureau (Elliott):
    Changes in budget requested:  No additional requests.
    Of Note:

    Implementation of a water taxi to ferry people to the island is proceeding; Three water taxi operators are being considered.
    Attorney Clague noted that the tourist tax dollars could be used for other purposes than advertising, such as funding at the connection between the water taxi and the island trolley. 
  1. County Administration (McLain/Hopes): four divisions
    Changes in budget requested: No additional requests.
    Of Note:
    Commissioners Kruse and Whitmore questioned why records management is under the Administration Department. Hopes commented that controls have been implemented that conform with Florida state protocols.
  1. County Attorney: (Clague)
    Changes in budget requested: No additional requests.
    Of Note:
    Clague warned that legal costs have exploded and the attorney's office may need to increase the budget later.
  1. Development Services:  (De Pol)
    Changes in budget requested:
    Building:  Demand has doubled over past two years.  Two plan examiners/inspectors and three permitting tech and plan examiners are requested as well as $70,000 due to increase in operational costs for vendor and credit card. 
    Planning & Zoning:  $20,000 is requested for record services, as they are getting significant public record requests.
    Comprehensive planning:  An additional zoning tech for research is requested. 
  1. Financial Management: (McLain)
    Changes in budget requested: No additional requests.
  1. Human Resources: (Bassett)  
    Changes in budget requested: No additional requests.
    Of Note:
    A talent acquisition specialist and employee relations specialist are funded.   working on filling two open, funded positions.  Having a lot of employee relations issues in the county.
  1. Information Technology (Richardson) Six divisions
    Changes in budget requested: No additional requests.
    Of Note:
    The department's focus is cyber security for all programs.
    All programs need soft-and hardware updates and replacement of out-of-date electronic equipment.
  1. Parks and Natural Resources: (McLain for Hunsicker) Seven divisions
    Changes in budget requested: Some additional employees, a bush hog and tractor, finds for Fit Fest Event,  a truck, artificial turf, and mangrove restoration.
    Of Note:
    The request for an artificial reef staff specialist was pulled by VanOstenbridge
  1. Property Management (Bishop):  Eight divisions
    Changes in budget requested: $200,000 to help to keep ball fields in good condition, Copy Center (records management) needs new equipment.
    Of Note:
    Commercial-grade drones will be obsolete in Jan 2023 and will need to be replaced.
  1. Public Safety (Saur)  Six divisions
    Changes in budget requested: Four  911 telecommunicators for increased needs for dispatch.
    Of Note:
    Servia pulled four 911 requests for further discussion
    Hopes explained that the plan is to finish out Bishop for animal services and repurpose the previous animal shelter in Palmetto this fiscal year.  When Bellamy questioned the definition of repurpose, Hopes replied it might be a bird sanctuary, sale of the property, or some other plan.  
  1. Public Works (Chad Butzow)
    Changes in budget requested:  Equipment and 2 new positions for 3 departments.
  1. Utilities:  Will be presented on 6/13 in the afternoon.

The budget was unavailable in advance.  Commissioners and the public were not given the ability to review and research items for consideration in advance.
Commissioners should be able to ask questions and pose possible solutions without shaming, being cut off, bullying, or name calling. This violates good governance and the civility guidelines of the commission.
  • The subject of the custodian of the county records was raised during the meeting. This has been a concern and a lawsuit was won over the county not responding timely to records requests. VanOstenbridge resorted to being dismissive, bullying, and name calling.
  • Whitmore inquired if a staffing rumor she heard was true. Baugh then called it an accusation and Satcher suggested that all questions should be put in writing.
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