LWV County Commission Budget Session Notes: 06/14/2022

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 Board of Manatee County Commissioners Budget Work Session on 06/14/2022, observed by Jennifer Hamey.

ITEMS OF INTEREST

Complete Budget Information  (On MyManatee.org website)

Budget Overview  - Capital Improvement Plan (CIP)
  • 1.2 billion dollars for the CIP plan, and $343 million in total projects for FY23.
  • 2.2 billion total for projects between FY23 to FY27, including future and existing projects.
Sources of Funding for CIP
  1. Governmental side: The main funding source is debt proceeds (ie gas, general revenue, infrastructure sales tax, impact fees). Impact fees are a fee paid on new housing to cover costs of new infrastructure such as roads, additional schools, libraries, water and sewerage, safety vehicles, etc.  American Recovery Plan has funded some (new) projects.
  2. Enterprise Side: Funded by utility and facility investment fees.
CIP Uses
  • Transportation:  The spike in growth and as a result, impact fees, is not sustainable so there are not projections for over a 5-year cycle.  As the market changes, the county may need to shift the funding source from impact fees to something else. 
  • Parks & Recreation:  The expenses of new structures and parks rely heavily on impact fees. 
  • Law Enforcement:  Costs will exceed revenue so the county will have to dip into reserves.  Some projects have not been included because funding is not there.
  • Some of the projects on the government side for FY23-27 include a convention center addition, parks, an EMS station, law enforcement buildings, road improvements, and sidewalks.  There are monies in reserve to account for inflation. 
Enterprise Projects:  Funded by utility and facility investment fees. Main projects include water replacement projects, new landfill purchase, reclaiming and filtration, stormwater updates and rehabs.
 
Infrastructure Sales Tax (IST):  There are 207 projects in this list of which 204 are recommended and 90 are active in the CIP plan.  Of 204, 114 are in the CIP.  
 
Debt Structure - The current balance, as of today is $283 million; 70% in public utilities and 29% under the general government.
 
Philosophical differences of the Commissioners - Spend versus Save 
The county is required by law to maintain a 20% (of the budget) reserves.  Additional amounts held in reserve for emergencies are called a stabilization reserve.  The stabilization reserve was holding $500 million which has now been depleted down to the $19.1 million. 
  • Whitmore pointed out a tax reduction was done last year and that the previous larger stabilization fund got us through the recession and this newest stabilization is getting us through where we are today.
  • Satcher questioned what level of reserves were being funded, noting that we need to plan for the future and be wise of reserves, but not hold so much in reserve.
  • McLean responded that they are not building back to previous levels of reserves but maintaining the legally required 20% of current funding, noting that the Board decides if more should be built up.
  • Servia commented, "One good tropical storm and stormwater haul is going to deplete that 19.1 million” and later, that previously growth paid for itself through impact fees which were used to pay for spending on county infrastructure due to growth. It’s a change of philosophy for this board. 
County Parking Garage Replacement: Servia questioned the cost ($33.3 million) and whether there were other options than tear down and replace. Director of Property Management Bishop replied that they looked at safety factors and the time left before an issue occurs.  The garage shows damage from the inside due to water damage.

GOVERNANCE/SUNSHINE

  • Related materials were not posted with the agenda to inform the public and other interested parties. Budget materials are posted on the County website, but the links should be linked with the agenda.
     
  • Satcher complained about the number of projects in D3, saying it was not fair and discussion ensued on capital projects and districts. This is irrelevant to capital planning, which should be based on overall county needs.
     
  • Sunshine Law and Communications - Satcher regularly points out at meetings the difficulties of having to discuss county items publicly as he would prefer to do so behind closed doors, which of course, is a violation of Sunshine Laws.  He again pointed out the difficulty with this public discussion requirement when discussing Servia’s concern that she was not informed of negotiations of purchasing property in Parrish. The fact that the property negotiations were already made public in March by Satcher and Hopes at a Parrish Civic Association meeting clearly indicates that more, not less, openness and communications to all is needed.
     
  • The continued violation of the civility pledge amongst the commissioners and the Chair's unwillingness to effectively manage the divisiveness.A request to the Chair early in the meeting to control the meeting was rebuffed. Later in the meeting VanOstenbridge joins in on the inappropriate commenting. It is the Chair’s responsibility to maintain control. This Chair demonstrated earlier in the year that he can do so effectively, and we call for him to return decorum to the meetings. All commissioners need questions answered or concerns addressed. The current dysfunction creates an ineffective environment for complete information, and productive work and detracts from the needs of the County.

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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!


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