SEPTEMBER 12, 2007




     The following is a non-verbatim transcript of the BOARD OF COUNTY COMMISSIONERS MEETING OF SEMINOLE COUNTY, FLORIDA, held at 7:03 p.m., on Wednesday, September 12, 2007, in the SEMINOLE COUNTY SERVICES BUILDING at SANFORD, FLORIDA, the usual place of meeting of said Board.


     Chairman Carlton Henley (District 4)

     Vice Chairman Brenda Carey (District 5)

     Commissioner Bob Dallari (District 1)

     Commissioner Mike McLean (District 2)

     Commissioner Dick Van Der Weide (District 3)

     County Manager Cindy Coto

     County Attorney Robert McMillan

     Deputy Clerk Carylon Cohen


     Commissioner Van Der Weide gave the Invocation.

     Commissioner Carey led the Pledge of Allegiance.


     Motion by Commissioner Van Der Weide, seconded by Commissioner Dallari, to authorize filing the proof of publication for this meeting’s scheduled public hearing.

     Districts 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 voted AYE.



     The First Public Hearing booklet for the proposed Budget for Fiscal Years 2007/08 and 2008/09 was received and filed.

     Chairman Henley gave opening remarks, stating the public hearing is to allow the public to express their opinion regarding the millage and the budget.  During the hearing, they

will discuss the proposed operating millage levy and roll-back rate.  The Board will hear comments and attempt to answer questions from the public.  He advised this is the first of two public hearings and the final approval will be at the second public hearing.  He asked the County Manager and staff to discuss the proposed budget for FY 2007/08.

     Cindy Coto, County Manager, addressed the Board to state this has been an unusual process for the budget development this year due to the property tax reform.  The impact of tax reform to the General and Fire Fund and loss of ad valorem revenue is estimated at $74.5 million over the next two fiscal years and $254.7 million over the next five years.  The property tax reform has yielded limited reductions to the residents’ tax bills while forcing the County to reduce or eliminate services, or increase fees because funding is not available.  The challenge in budget development has been to insure that resources are available to meet operational needs, maintain existing assets, and maintain adequate levels of reserves as they continue to seek opportunities to operate more efficiently.  Working with the departments during May this year, approximately $9 million in expenditures was eliminated from the General Fund budget and a total of $11 million across all funds.  During the budget work sessions, $13.5 million was eliminated through operational adjustments, reductions of funding to outside agencies, service level reductions, and elimination of capital projects.  The staff has also capitalized engineering costs for the road building program for an additional $3 million savings to the General Fund.  She said during the balance of this fiscal year, staff will continue to develop concepts for the Board’s consideration to increase the soundness of the fiscal position. 

     Lisa Spriggs, Fiscal Services Director, addressed the Board and introduced Lin Polk, Budget Manager.  Ms. Spriggs advised pages 10 through 12 of the First Public Hearing booklet is a detailed fund summary budget for FY 08 totaling $734,782,361.  This includes the General Fund proposed budget totaling $252,578,692.  She said pages 20 through 21 of the booklet shows the detailed fund summary of the proposed budget plan for FY 2008/09.  Page 7 is the summary table of millage rates, which she reviewed.  She advised that House Bill 1B, placed into law during the 2007 legislative session, statutorily rolls back millage rates levied by local governments.  Effective for FY 2008, counties must roll back property tax revenue to equal what was generated in FY 2007 and then further reduce the tax revenue by a reduction factor ranging from 3% to 9%, which is determined by comparing the County’s growth and per capita property taxes to the State’s average for the period from FY 2002 to FY 2007.  She explained that Seminole County’s per capita growth and property taxes was 1.7% below the State average; however, under the law, this required the County to reduce the ad valorem revenue and the millage rate by an additional 5% below the current levy for FY 2007 for Countywide and the Unincorporated Road MSTU.  The Fire/Rescue MSTU is treated under the law as a special district with a stated additional reduction of 3%.  She said the reduction of the statutory maximum millage rate from the current levy is 13% for the Countywide and Road MSTU and 12% for the Fire MSTU.  She advised the Board established the proposed millage at the rolled-back rates, which reflect no tax increase under State law.  Under the new law, final adoption of the millage rate at the roll-back rate or any rate over the statutory maximum millage rate without penalty requires a two-thirds (or four out of five) vote of the BCC.  If passed by only three votes, the County would be subject to the penalty provision and would lose its State-shared half-cent sales tax allocation which totals approximately $27 million for FY 2008.  The proposed budget is based on the statutory maximum millage rate (shown in Column 3 on page 7).  She explained the voted debt service millage levied for the Natural Lands/Trails Program is consistent with previous years and is not subject to the statutory provisions, but is determined based on the annual debt service requirements under the program with a maturity of 2013.

     Chief Judge Clayton Simmons, 18th Judicial Circuit Court, addressed the Board to state he is speaking as a resident and as Chief Judge.  He introduced others present:  Judge Galluzo, Judge McIntosh, Judge Eaton, Judge Nelson, Judge Heard, Judge Perry and Judge Dickey.  He had staff persons in attendance to stand who were present in support of his comments and which included some affected employees.  Judge Simmons stated the proposed budget cuts eight, County-funded staff positions.  Those positions represent eight unique functions or services that the County has provided over the years to the citizens of Seminole County.  He briefly reviewed the positions of Dependency Magistrate and Administration function of the Dependency Magistrate; Foreclosure Case Manager; Main Contact Person in Juvenile Justice Building; Main Contact Person in the Criminal Justice Center; Assistant to the County Civil Judge; and Drug Court Coordinator.  He said when they look at the outside cuts made by the Board, 30% of those are the cuts to the Courts.  He asked the Board to reconsider the services the Courts provide.  He said they are also experiencing some State cuts in judicial services and the delivery of judicial services in Seminole County are going to be profoundly impacted and that’s going to affect the citizens.  He thanked the Board for the support they have given them over the years.

     Commissioner McLean asked where the County would fit compared to other peer counties without the Foreclosure Case Manager.  Judge Simmons said if these cases go back into the regular stream of Circuit Court cases, these are handled as they come up among four judges and it typically takes about six months for a case to go through the system.  He said several large foreclosure attorneys around the State have said it’s a pleasure to do business in Seminole County because of the expedited process, indicating it’s much more efficient. 

     Commissioner Carey stated if the financial institutions can’t turn around the foreclosures, that affects a lot of things including the bank ratings.  She said foreclosures are obviously going to go up and the faster they can process them, the better.  She said her main concern is children’s services.  She thinks it is really important to have special people keep track of the foster children.  She thinks the direction yesterday was for Ms. Coto to continue to work through the Judges to talk about some of those positions and what the critical path of those are, unless the County Manger wants the Board to make the decision.

     Ms. Coto said members of the Commission did express their concern over children’s services.  What she has done is provide the Board with information that the Judiciary has provided to her and indicated she will need a decision no later than the September 25 public hearing for the final budget.

     Commissioner Dallari said the Board wanted to be sure how the Guardian Ad Litem program was going to still be functioning and working. 

     Commissioner Carey said she was expecting staff to come back about the $2 technology charge and how that is assigned and implemented.

     Nadine Miller, Executive Director of Guardian Ad Litem, speaking on behalf of the 700 abused, neglected and abandoned children in Seminole County, addressed the Board to state they need the services of the General Magistrate.  She believes it was in 2003 or 2004 that the General Magistrate position was created and she thinks the Commission saw the need for it and that need has not decreased, but has increased.  She said there is no question of the advantages the abused children have by having a General Magistrate.  She said not having children in Seminole County missing or found dead is not luck, but is the result of the hard work done by all the people in the dependency system, including the General Magistrate and those who work with him.  She stated they need the opportunity to be able to bring forward the children’s issues on a very timely basis and they are able to do that now.  If they don’t have this position and support of the General Magistrate, they will be stepping backwards.  She asked the Board to give strong consideration to keeping the General Magistrate position.

     Frank Aquilon, 2620 Osceola Bluff Lane, addressed the Board to state from everything he has read, and in speaking with the Property Appraiser and his District Commissioner’s office, it appears the Board decided to make a very small roll-back and not the roll-back prescribed by the Legislature.  If that is the case, this is very disappointing and he urged the Board to reconsider this issue.  He said maybe the Board lowers the millage, but they don’t lower the taxes.  He explained his tax burden goes up every year.  In 2005, his taxes increased from $1,200 to $2,300 a year, 110% increase.  He said he is being priced out of the market.  In three years he is going to retire and will be forced to leave Florida because of skyrocketing property taxes and homeowners insurance.  He said State and local governments were given an “out” by the Legislature on the latest tax cuts, and apparently the Commission has chosen to take that “out”.  It appears they are going to do the supervote in order to not lower the taxes by the prescribed amount.  He said he has lived in Geneva since 1990 and has not seen any service increase in his area at all.  They still have no water for fire protection.  Their roads have not improved and the County right-of-ways are not mowed properly, but his taxes went up 110%.  He thinks it’s time for the County to cut back like the citizens have had to cut back.  He urged the Board to do the right thing and make the tax cut as prescribed by the Legislature, and maybe the voters will vote down the Amendment in January.

     Chairman Henley advised Mr. Aquilon that the millage levied by the County Commissioners is 4.9989, and the roll-back millage advertised in the TRIM notices is 4.5872.  What the Board will vote on is the roll-back rate plus the maximum rate, which brings it down to 4.3578.  He stated the Commission has the authority to levy up to 10 mills. 

     Commissioner Carey further explained that the TRIM notice was based on the 4.5872, but the budget the Board is looking at to approve has the 5% roll-back in it.  She said her office has referred most calls about the property taxes to the Property Appraiser, and she referred to Chief Raw regarding Mr. Aquilon’s ISO rating and the fire issue.

     Chairman Henley explained to the public, concerning the positions Chief Judge Simmons discussed, that the County Commission did fund the eight positions before because they had the money, but those positions are not a responsibility of the County Commission.  The Board had accepted that responsibility to help the Judiciary, because the State would not fund the positions, but the Board no longer has the money and has had to cut agencies they have been trying to help in the past.  He said if the positions are funded, they will have to cut somewhere else to do that.

     Commissioner Dallari explained, for clarification, that the budget they are looking at is exactly what the State statutes required the Board to do.

     Linda Nash, 2136 Linden Road, addressed the Board to state the assessed market value of homes is her problem.  Whereupon, Chairman Henley advised she needed to speak with the Property Appraiser’s representative because the Commission has nothing to do with that.

     Ms. Nash said that if each department doesn’t act responsibly, they will have an overwhelming budget.  It seems to her that the Board needs to be more responsive to the residents without cutting vital programs like the foster care program.  She suggested the Board go back and look at some of the other departments and see if there are some things they might be able to cut.  She said the people need some relief and the Board needs to understand that they do.

     Chairman Henley said the public needs to understand the Board and staff agonized for months over the budget.  He said the Board deals only with the ad valorem portion of the budget because the rest of the budget cannot be spent for these types of things being talked about tonight, as they are in the enterprise fund.  He explained the ad valorem portion of the budget is not the largest portion.  The Board does not have the latitude to take money out of one account (Enterprise Fund) and put it elsewhere.

     Commissioner Carey explained how “Save Our Homes” works for the taxable value of homes to only increase 3%.  She said if this structure is lost in the referendum, the people may lose all control.  She said the “Save Our Homes” cap has helped the citizens. 

     Chairman Henley further said the homestead exemption has done exactly what it was designed to do--to protect homestead property from huge increases.  The biggest opponents of “Save Our Homes” are commercial people.  He reiterated that the Board has cut $27.5 million out of the budget.  He said the Board is required by law to balance the budget and that’s what they have done.

     Chairman Henley called for Arthur Jackson and Dorthie and Robert Roges to speak, but they had left the meeting room to speak with the Property Appraiser’s representative in the lobby.

     James Matthews, 133 Glendale Drive, addressed the Board to state two and a half years ago, he bought a house and his taxes were $1,700.  He was notified this year that his taxes increased and are now $4,100 plus, and his insurance increased about $1,000 a year.  He said he’s in trouble now and could face foreclosure if things don’t get better.  He doesn’t know if the 3% rule is supposed to apply to him. 

     Chairman Henley advised Mr. Matthews to speak with the Property Appraiser’s representative in the lobby and said the millage has not increased, so that has not created his problem.

     Commissioner Carey stated the Property Appraiser’s office can help explain “Save Our Homes” and David Medley, Community Services Office, can help Mr. Matthews with preventative services for the foreclosure issue.

     Chairman Henley called for Alexander Kallimaines and James Bradwell, Jr. to speak, but they had left the meeting room to speak with the Property Appraiser’s representative.  He acknowledged the Written Comment Form from Carl Kravit opposing the action on this item.

     Win Adams, 646 Fellowship Drive, addressed the Board to state in reviewing the information provided to the public, he was looking for a percentage increase from year to year for the budget.  He asked if that information was available.  Chairman Henley said the information does not go back that far, but is for 06/07, 07/08 and the projection for 08/09. 

     Mr. Adams said he was hoping to see the comparison of the percentage increase of the budget to the consumer price index percentage increase.  Commissioner Carey advised that information is available in Ms. Spriggs’ office.

     Mr. Adams said he would also like to see over a five or seven-year period how many voters there are in the County and, based upon the voters, as compared to the budget, to know a cost per voter basis. 

     Commissioner Carey said only about 25% of the citizens are voters, so she thinks they would have to look at that on a population count.  Commissioner Van Der Weide added that many of citizens aren’t old enough to vote.

     Mr. Adams said he thinks this information would be an indicator.  As it is now, the public doesn’t know how well they are doing with the budgets.  Chairman Henley said Ms. Spriggs can provide him with that information.

     Ms. Spriggs stated all the documents and historical budget comparisons are available on the web site and copies can be provided from her office.

     Chairman Henley stated to the public that everything they experience, County government experiences also with the budget.  They have to take all that into consideration in order to try to prioritize where to use the money.  He said when they cut $27.5 million out of the income and then try to maintain the same services, it doesn’t work that way.

     No one else spoke in support or in opposition.

     Speaker Request and Comment Forms were received and filed.

     Chairman Henley announced that the final public hearing for the millage and budget will be held on September 25, 2007, at the same time (7:00 p.m. or as soon thereafter as possible).

     Ms. Spriggs referred again to page 7 of the Public Hearing booklet and said the Board will vote on the millage rates given in the third column, Statutory Maximum, as follows:  General County Millage, 4.3578, a 5% decrease from the rolled-back rate and 13% decrease from FY 06/07; County Debt Service for Natural Lands/Trails, .1451 for a total Countywide millage of 4.5029; Fire/Rescue MSTU, 2.3299, 3% decrease from the rolled-back rate and 12% decrease from FY 06/07 rate; Unincorporated Road MSTU, .1068, 5% decrease from the rolled-back rate and 13% decrease from the current rate, for a total County levied millage of 6.9396.

     Motion by Commissioner Van Der Weide, seconded by Commissioner Dallari, to adopt the tentative millage rates as read for FY 2007/08.

     Districts 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 voted AYE.

     Motion by Commissioner Van Der Weide, seconded by Commissioner Carey, to adopt the tentative budget for all funds for FY 2007/08 as originally presented to the Board of County Commissioners by the County Manager in her official capacity as Budget Officer (per Florida Statute 129.025) and subsequently amended as the proposed budget of the Board of County Commissioners.

     Districts 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 voted AYE.

     Chairman Henley announced again that the second public hearing and final action on the millage rate and the budget will be held on September 25, 2007, 7:00 p.m.


     There being no further business to come before the Board, the Chairman declared the meeting adjourned at 8:14 p.m., this same date.