Thursday, July 11, 2013

Brevard County Manager "Bare Bones Budget" Cuts Fire Rescue, Parks & Recreation


Tipton
BREVARD COUNTY, Fla. – Brevard County Manager Howard Tipton submitted a $943 million recommended “bare bones” budget proposal to Commissioners for the 2014 fiscal year which can be found at the bottom of this article.


The proposed budget cuts 35 positions, leaves county employees without a pay raise for the third straight year, and leaves another $4.6 million in potential cuts on the table contingent upon adjustments to the county millage rate.


“A key disappointment is that there are no raises for employees in this budget proposal, which means that for the sixth year in a row employee take-home pay will go down,” Tipton said. “During this time, employees have endured furloughs and benefit cost shifts. The ability to attract and retain a talented workforce is critical at current staffing levels and with the Central Florida economy heating up the need to offer competitive wages and benefits is central to employee retention.”


But despite Tipton's announced disappointment regarding frozen salaries and reduced staff hours, he calls for a 19.22% increase to his own office's budget which has been criticized by Commissioner Trudie Infantini as top-heavy with high paying positions.  


Tipton also leaves untouched the $1.4 million in funding for the Economic Development Commission of Florida's Space Coast who's CEO, Lynda Weatherman, makes more than the Brevard County Sheriff, School Superintendent, Property Appraiser, or Clerk of Court, according to 2010 tax documents.


Managing an organization of just around 20 employees, Weatherman's base salary was $158,000, plus a $25,000 bonus, plus other compensation and benefits for a total of $245,817 in compensation for 2010, the most recent tax year publicly available.  Weatherman came under fire by conservative talk radio host Bill Mick for her recent trip to Paris on the taxpayers' dime.


Relying on projected, not actual, economic performance measures in his Executive Summary presented to the County Commission, Tipton credited funding of the EDC and other County initiatives for the slight decrease in Brevard County's unemployment rate over the last year.  


As previously reported by Brevard Times, the EDC has demonstrated a tendency to inflate its economic performance and jobs numbers while the actual number of existing Brevard County residents who are hired by the companies that receive tax breaks and incentives brokered by the EDC still remains inconclusive.


At $943,184,284, the proposed budget reflects a slight increase – 0.4132 percent – over the previous year’s adopted budget, yet is 4.27 percent less than the current 2012-13 amended budget. The aggregate tax rate of 7.0537 – or roughly $7.10 for every $1,000 of taxable property value – is a 1.03 percent decrease over the FY2012-13 operating millage tax rate. The fiscal year runs Oct. 1 through Sept. 30.


Brevard County Departments that would see budget cuts under Tipton's proposal are:


Brevard County Fire Rescue, which includes ambulances and beach lifeguards: -3.3%.
Emergency Management Office: -5.9%
Budget Office: -4.4%
Central Services (Fleet Management, Purchasing, Asset & Facilities Management): -8.35%
General Government Operations: -18.6%
Housing & Human Services (Health, Social Services, Housing): -47.22%
Human Resources: -0.94%
I.T. Department: -17.85%
Natural Resources Management: -32.19%
Parks & Recreation: -16.39%
Public Works: -11.33%
Tourism Development: -5.4%
UF Extension Office: -0.4%
Utility Services (water supply, distribution, collection): -2.51%
Valkaria Airport: - 28.59%


Departments that would see budget increases are:

County Manager's Office: +19.22%
County Attorney: +5.87%
County Commissioners: +1.82%
Animal Services: +3.34%
Library Services: +1.42%
Planning & Development: +36.55%
Solid Waste: +10.54%
SCGTV: +0.72%
Transist Services (includes SCAT bus): +8.04%



Commissioners will discuss the budget during a July 18 workshop and at its regular meeting on July 23, which is also when the Commission will set a tentative millage rate for the coming fiscal year. There are two public hearings on the proposed budget scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Sept. 10 and Sept. 26 at the Brevard County Government Center, 2725 Judge Fran Jamieson Way, Viera.


“The proposed budget should be viewed as a bare bones budget for the 10th largest county in Florida, yet one that continues to provide great value for the quality of services provided,” Tipton said.


If adopted, the budget as proposed will address nearly $3 million in increased expenses, most of which are mandated by the state or designed to offset a mandatory increase in Florida Retirement System rates.  The budget will continue work on the $16 million 800 MHz public safety radio system upgrade; it will begin a 10-year, $130 million capital improvement program for the upgrade and repair of water and wastewater plants, pipes and related equipment; it will support the Solid Waste Department’s need to issue approximately $20 million in bonds to fund needed expansion of the Central County landfill, which is projected to reach capacity in 2015; it will fund four replacement ambulances for Fire Rescue that have more than 200,000 miles each; it will cover the mandated Florida Retirement System employer increases ($460,218); and it will cover mandated costs like that of the Medicaid system ($406,685) and court technology ($412,230.)


The proposed budget reduces the number of county government employees to 2,285, which reflects a staffing reduction of 35 positions – although 14 are currently vacant. Overall staffing stands at the same level as 2001 even though the county’s population has grown by 65,000 residents in the past 12 years.


In presenting the budget to Commissioners on Tuesday, Tipton proposed a series of monthly budget workshops to consider a wide-range of county needs. Tipton requested the first budget workshop for Aug. 15.


“With known immediate capital and personnel needs as well as near and long term capital and personnel needs, County leadership must consider a variety of options that will correct the structural imbalance that currently exists between revenues and expenditures,” Tipton said.

Brevard County Manager's Proposed Budget: Full Documents