LWV County Commission Budget Session Notes: 06/13/2022

League of Women Voters Manatee County
The League of Women Voters of Manatee County Government Committee observes Manatee County Commission meetings for items of interest to the League and notes adherence, or lack of adherence, to good governance procedures and the Sunshine Law. The following are the major points from the boars' Budget Work Session on 06/13/2022, observed by Mary Foreman, Maureen Dardinski, and Jennifer Hamey.

ITEMS OF INTEREST

Complete Budget Information  (On MyManatee.org website)
Sheila McLean has accepted the assignment of Interim Chief Financial Officer for Manatee County
 
Budget Overview
  • All Judicial Programs & Constitutional Officers’ budgets total $200,876,056 of which the Sheriff’s Office is 82.8% of the total.
  • The total increase in funding requested is $5.7 million.
  • Commissioners can "pull” an item for further review but at least one other commissioner must agree.
  • The recommended budget is by County Administration.  Commission does ultimate approval.
Sheriff’s Office (SO) (Sheriff Wells) - Requested $171.7 million Recommended $166.3 Prior Year Budget $147.9 million. 
Twenty net additional positions, with a decrease of 2 School Resource Officers. The School District has asked to replace the 2 School Resource Officers (which are managed and paid by the Sheriff’s Office) with School Guardians (who are managed and paid by the School District).
  • There was a long discussion about the contract for jail medical with a new vendor. The contract exceeded the recommended amount by $3.1 million but included many services not covered before. There will be a budget amendment at a later date.
  • The SO is taking steps to try to keep the fuel costs as low as possible without compromising public safety.
  • SO anticipates an 8% increase in salaries.
Commissioner Kruse commented that the county’s budget Increased 11%.  The county need to look at needs vs wants.

Clerk of the Court (Colonneso) -  Requested $8.8 million Recommended $8.6 million Prior Year Budget $8.2 million

Requested 5 new positions (2 Inspector General positions, 1 Accountant, 1 Fiscal Compliance, and 1 Onbase Coordinator). The County recommends not funding the 2 Inspector General positions. 
  • Commissioner VanOstenbridge requested that this budget be red flagged for further discussion with County Administrator Hopes and County Attorney Clague. Commissioner Whitmore stated she has never seen a constitutional budget be "red-flagged.”  
Supervisor of Elections (SOE) (Bennett) -  Requested and Recommended $6.7 million Prior Year Budget  $6.2 million
SOE will have to hire more poll workers to physically observe ballot drop-off locations (due to SB90).
  • Commissioners VanOstenbridge and Satcher voiced concern regarding the risk of mail-in ballots. Bennett reviewed the pros and cons, including enabling voting by individuals who have difficulty getting to the polls such as the disabled, elderly or individuals with family or work obligations that interfere with voting.
  • Bellamy stated that serving on the Canvassing Board gives a better understanding of security measures.
Court Administration (Miller and Chief Justice Roberts) - Requested $1.4 million (includes upgrading technology in 2 courtrooms) Recommended $1.3 million and not funding the courtrooms.  Prior Year Budget  $1.3 million
  • The court suggested funding technology improvements by "put it in the reserves.”
  • Hopes said it is long overdue and needs to be accelerated and funded every year.
State Attorney – (McLean) -   Requested and Recommended  $769,000 Prior Year Budget $707,000

Public Defender (Egert) – Requested $587,000. Recommended  $553,000 Prior Year Budget $532 thousand.

Guardian Ad Litem – Requested and recommended $232, 501. Prior Year Budget $133,746.  4 new positions, Child Advocate Managers and Best Interest Attorneys.
  • A lengthy discussion followed about whether the budget should provide better starting salaries for attorneys. Servia and Kruse stated their role is to fund what was requested. Hopes said that he will follow up with them to make sure that they feel empowered to ask for what they need, not what they asked for.
Property Appraiser and the Tax Collector (no presentation). 
  • Property Appraiser – Requested and Recommended  $6.7 million Prior Year Budget $6.2 million
  • Manatee County Tax Collector – Requested $13.4 million  Prior Year Budget $12.1 million
Sheila McLean, Interim Chief Financial Officer reviewed the Fund Summary
  • Tier 1- Funds over $40 Million
  • Tier 2- Funds from $10M- $40 million
  • Tier 3- Funds under $10 Million
The vast majority of the budget is in Tier 1 funds.

GOVERNANCE/SUNSHINE

  • The posted Agenda materials did not include those used in the presentations so the public and other interested parties did not have time to view them in advance.
     
  • VanOstenbridge decided to do Citizen Comments before adjourning the morning meeting (which was not on the posted agenda).  There should have been public comments allowed in the afternoon session as it was the last item on the agenda.  If a member of the public anticipated commenting, he/she would have expected to do so at the conclusion of the afternoon session.   
     
  • Commissioner VanOstenbridge requested that the Clerk of the Court's  budget be "red flagged" for further discussion with County Administrator Hopes and County Attorney Clague. "Red-flagging" is not part of the process. If he meant for the Clerk's budget to be pulled, the procedure is for it a commissioner to request it be pulled, with one more commissioner agreeing. This did not occur. 
     
  • Commissioners Satcher and Baugh expressed disapproval of the School Board’s decision on Guardian’s SRO’s, "since they have a massive budget and should fund safety first.” Whether or not the Commissioners are aware of the reasons for the School District’s decision, criticism of another entity’s actions is inappropriate. Our governing bodies need to foster better understanding and civil discussions.
     
  • Electioneering in the performance of the duties of commissioner is illegal by Florida statute 104.31.  In every meeting, there is ongoing and frequent praising of Republican officeholders up for election and bashing of Democrats from the dais, which is inappropriate and edges on illegal, if not already there.
104.31 (http://www.leg.state.fl.us/ statutes/index.cfm?App_mode= Display_Statute&URL=0100-0199/ 0104/Sections/0104.31.html)
104.31 Political activities of state, county, and municipal officers and employees.
(1) No officer or employee of the state, or of any county or municipality thereof, except as hereinafter exempted from provisions hereof, shall:
(a) Use his or her official authority or influence for the purpose of interfering with an election or a nomination of office or coercing or influencing another person’s vote or affecting the result thereof....
 
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Reader Comments
Diana
JUN 19, 2022  •  LWV- thank you for your continued service. We appreciate your efforts to keep us informed when we can’t watch the meetings. Your notes allow citizens to pinpoint and view the parts of the meeting that are most important to them while still having information on other items without viewing. Your notes reflect the tone of the meeting as well and are the most accurate source available to the public. Awesome job!
Paul Finer
JUN 19, 2022  •  BOCC doesn't want to approve 2 new positions for the local IG? Then the local IG should request help from state and federal Inspectors General on all state and federally funded projects. Help from the feds is very needed in Manatee County.
Paul Finer
JUN 19, 2022  •  Clerk Comptroller Inspector General asked for 2 new IG positions. This BOCC doesn't want any oversight from an Inspector General so they are hassling the Clerk at budget time. This is a giant red flag about the BOCC.


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