County Adminstrator Cancels Budget Workshop

July 22, 2010

During the BCC meeting on 7/20, Commissioners Vana and Aaronson requested a budget workshop to be held on 8/31, to include the constitutional officers (such as the Sheriff) in a discussion of cross-organization efficiency. The public was to be invited, specifically TAB.

Today, after a good-faith effort on the part of Administrator Wiseman to set up the meeting, it was announced that the workshop has been canceled. For various reasons, the constitutionals could not (or declined to) participate. Each had a different reason and/or comment:

  • Sheriff Bradshaw.. cannot attend and he indicated that he did not think it was appropriate to send a substitute“.
  • Supervisor of Elections Bucher was willing to attend but because of the proximity to the primary election, may be busy if there are recounts.
  • Tax Collector Gannon, while willing to participate, suggested that the Commissioners visit her facility first and discuss if she could not assume some of the county’s programs and do them more efficiently. She also noted: “I do not want to meet in the Chambers. If we are to look at this from a team or partnership approach frankly I don’t think the Chambers is conducive to creating that atmosphere“.
  • Clerk and Comptroller Bock said that her office is already very efficient and thought the Commissioners should visit her facility before “before setting a date to discuss “potential organizational efficiencies”“.
  • Property Appraiser Nikolits, whose budget is less than 5% of PBSO, thought there was no point to the meeting unless the Sheriff agreed to participate. He went on to say: “Aside from the Sheriff, I have not heard any complaints about the budgets of the Constitutional Offices. If his budget is the issue, perhaps the BCC should deal with the problem.

We at TAB see this reluctance to cooperate as a drawback to the current structure of county government. Regardless of whether this meeting is rescheduled, TAB is considering plans to hold its own workshop with members of the public and any county officers or staff that would like to participate in a citizen’s forum.

The text of the Administrators memo is below:

Administrator Wiseman

From: Robert Weisman
Sent: Thursday, July 22, 2010 8:55 AM
Subject: Proposed Workshop with Constitutional Officers

We have now received responses from all of the Constitutional Officers that we invited to the proposed workshop on August 31. The responses ranged from timing conflicts that would prevent attendance to suggestions that the format/location be changed to requests that the Commissioners visit offices to view operations, etc.

In light of the preceding, and after discussion with Chairman Aaronson, I am canceling the workshop. We will re-consider timing and format for a future date. Commissioners may wish to individually take up the offers that have been made for visits.


5 Responses to “County Adminstrator Cancels Budget Workshop”
  1. Anne Gannon says:

    I believe you have misinterpreted the response I sent to the request from the Commision to meet with Constitutional Officers. My request for them to visit our office was so they could familiarize themselves with what we do and how we do it. Even some Commissioners are not aware of who we actually collect taxes and fees on behalf and what services we offer. I find it difficult to have a discussion when there is a lack of basic knowledge.

    I was in no way suggesting to the Commission that I or any other Constitutional Officer could take over county tasks but challenging them to come to a meeting with an open mind and put all ideas on the table.

    I would request that perhaps you might want to chat with me prior to publishing on the internet a misinterpretation of my request and comments.

  2. PBCTAB says:

    We thank the Tax Collector for her comments and for speaking to me this morning about these issues. She has graciously invited TAB to visit her facility and meet with her about ways of improving county operations and saving money for the taxpayers.

    One example is in the area of health insurance for the employees of the Tax Collector operation – they have negotiated their own plan which delivers the services at a lower cost than the county as a whole, and have proposed extending this approach to the other areas of county operations.

    There is progress in a lot of areas of county government, and we at TAB want to highlight success where we find it, even as we go about the work of pointing out areas where improvement is needed. We look forward to meeting with Ms. Gannon as well as the other Constitutional Officers.

  3. SherryLee says:

    This process is highlighting how badly we need structural reforms in our local government, not just reductions in the budgets themselves.

  4. Your attention is directed to the closing paragraph of my July 21 e-mail to Bob Weisman in which I stated, “Unless the Sheriff and all the other Constitutional Officers can meet together, I don’t see any benefit to attending the August 31 workshop. I think Commissioner Vana’s idea to meet has merit and I hope you will consider rescheduling it to a time and place suitable to all participants.” My response came after both the Sheriff and the Clerk indicated they had scheduling conflicts and could not attend.

    I know that many TAB members have seen the powerpoint chart I prepared that compares the changes in the ad valorem budgets of the County, Sheriff, Fire-Rescue and Property Appraiser over the past several years. The chart illustrates the dramatic growth in the County, Sheriff’s and Fire-Rescue’s budgets as compared to the budget of my office which follows the sum of the percentage changes in the County population and CPI. To the County’s credit they have reduced their portion of the ad valorem budget in recent years. One year it was due to the legislature mandating they adopt a millage rate 8% below their roll-back rate and one year was because of the doubling of the homestead exemption. The other years were on their own volition.

    Members of TAB are sophisticated enough to know a “red herring” when they see it. The last minute call by Commissioners for a meeting with the Constitutional officers is nothing more than a red herring, an attempt to deflect criticism away from themselves. The fact that the Commission is unhappy with the Sheriff’s budget is their problem, and as I said in my e-mail to Mr. Weisman, they should deal with it.

    Members of TAB are more than welcome to meet with me to discuss my budget and any other issues
    of interest. Please feel free to call my office to schedule a date and time.

  5. PBCTAB says:

    We thank the Property Appraiser for his comments. We have indeed seen the chart comparing the budgets since 2003 against a population & CPI measurement and it clearly lays out the problem for all to see. Any discussion of rollback rates, %millage increases and changes from the last budget year are misleading without an accurate picture of from where we have come. This data would seem to suggest that keeping the millage constant (about a 10% reduction in ad-valorem tax receipts) is justified from an “affordabilty” perspective and that is one of the key facts driving the objectives of TAB. We are also of the belief that needed budget reductions are not possible without more cooperation from PBSO.

    As to “red herrings”, I prefer to give the Commissioners and the Administrator the benefit of the doubt. On the other hand, now that we have begun a dialog with both the Tax Collector and the Clerk & Comptroller, it is clear there are strongly held opinions on the issue. We look forward to discussing this with you as well and will be calling your office to arrange a meeting shortly.

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