The League of Women Voters of Manatee County Government Committee observes the Board of County Commissioners’ 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 Workshop on 06/09/2021, observed by Alice Newlon and Mary Foreman.
ITEMS OF INTEREST
Budget overview discussion and points made during the day:
- This is the first budget workshop. There will be more meetings, review and discussion about the items and the funding. An overview video on 2022 county programs, and the proposed funding for them, is at 17 minutes into this video of the budget workshop meeting.
- Hopes and administration personnel and the various departments funded have put in many hours to develop a required balanced budget. By law receipts must match expenditures in the budget.
- General fund money may be used by any department or for any project but funds collected for a specific department or allocation must be spent in that area.
- In the past, unspent funds have been accumulated in a “stabilization fund” in each department. The proposed budget will reduce the size of the accumulated stabilization funds by 84% in FY 22. However, the County continue to maintain a reserve of 20%.
- Hopes is moving the budget review from annual to quarterly. This will provide quicker reaction to changing conditions.
- The increases tended to be technology, wage increases, health insurance increased costs (8% employer, 8% employee) and additions to staff. Covid ramped up technology needs. Departments are also in need of support for the technology. Some highlights:
* Sherriff’s department will add 19 positions and have a $12.5 million budget increase, there are numerous capital improvement projects both in support of the Sherrif’s office, 911 and 311
* Transportation infrastructure (roads & sidewalks) of $338 million are suggested to be spent on over the next 5 years. There are 25 projects and 18 will begin next year.
- Commissioners were pleased with the emphasis on safety, transportation and parks and felt Hopes heard the direction they wanted to take the county.
- Commissioners asked each presenter if their budget was adequate, what more could they use. They were particularly helpful to Manatee County Guardian Ad Litem, which represented neglected or abused children and needed more case workers.
- Sherriff Rick Wells – Body Cameras have been very helpful. Citizen complaints are quickly resolved with video evidence showing a problem or the lack of one. In the past it took a great deal of time to investigate these complaints.
- Supervisor of Elections (SOE) – Budget request does not reflect any additional expenses for the new voting law. Since all drop boxes must now be manned, the slot at the SOE office, which had 24 hour drop off, will be moved next door to an early voting site. In future elections you must either mail your ballot or drop off during the limited days and times of early voting.
- Due to the pay scale being low in for Manatee County, previously the county would reclassify positions to get pay increase. Hopes states pay scale needs to be increased.
- A number of departments have their own information officer. Hopes stated he working on centralizing information support as well as Human Resources.
- Jan Brewer presented a clear and thorough program and explanations.
- Not all commissioners were present at the beginning or ending. Servia commented that full board should be present and the meeting was ended shortly thereafter.
- Prior year actual was not compared in the presentation and staff count. This would be helpful for the public and the commissioners. Per Hopes it is in the Commissioners packet.
- Pages being discussed were not projected on the monitors.
- There were frequent comments among commissioners about dollars spent in their respective Districts; good governance would have commissioners making decisions consistently for all Manatee residents, regardless of their district.
- Van Ostenbridge joked that they could use trash cans for Democratic vote-by-mail ballots during the Supervisor of Elections presentation. Per good governance requires “commissioners act in a non-partisan manner”. Fifty seven percent of the Manatee County is Democratic or no party affiliation and our commissioners represent their interests and their voting rights.