Leon County Tackles $8.78M Shortfall, No Budget Increase

By: Leon County Board of Commissioners Email
By: Leon County Board of Commissioners Email

Press Release: Leon County Board of Commissioners

In its continued effort to provide a deliberate, necessary and reasoned
focus on the most fiscally responsible budget possible, the Leon County
Board of County Commissioners, in a 6-1 vote Monday, moved to fill an
$8.78 million budget shortfall without raising the millage rate. The
proposed Fiscal Year 2014 budget of $223 million is equal to the
previous year’s budget. For the sixth year in a row, the County has
not increased the budget, resulting in a cumulative savings of $61.6
million or roughly 22 percent since 2008.

The Board accomplished this year’s balanced budget while leaving the
millage rate at the current 8.3144 mills. The County utilized more than
$5 million in reserves, made approximately $3.7 million in reductions
and eliminated a net additional 9.2 positions with no anticipated
layoffs in an effort to balance reductions while maintaining quality

During Monday’s workshop, the Board faced a difficult task of
considering a number of budget reductions as well as the appropriate
continued use of reserves to address the projected shortfall. After
seven and a half hours of very productive discussion and debate that
began Monday morning, the Board approved a proposed budget for the
2013/2014 fiscal year.

“I continue to be impressed with the Commission’s collegial,
community-focused and detailed approach to the budget process,” said
Leon County Commission Chairman Nick Maddox. “I could not be more
proud of the hard work of the Board and our continued efforts and
informed decision making over a very difficult number of years recently.
My colleagues and I are doing our part to continue building a solid
foundation for the future of Leon County. I am confident that the Board
has a responsible budget plan in place for the upcoming year.”

While continuing to maintain core services and the community’s
infrastructure, a series of budget balancing strategies were
implemented, including:

● Utilization of reserves;
● Deferring $1.5 million of capital improvements;
● Implementing a healthcare plan that brings Leon County more in line with market and national norms by shifting a greater share of the value-based benefit design (VBD) cost to the employee;
● Implementing a phased cost-of-living adjustment (COLA); 1.5 percent in October 2013 and 1.5 percent in April 2014. This COLA is for all Board and Constitutional employees;
● Reorganizing Facilities Management operations and maintenance program, allowing for the elimination of two positions; and
● Reorganizing Public Works operations road and right-of-way maintenance crews to address additional roadside landscape maintenance requirements, avoiding $290,000 in additional costs to maintain roadside landscaping.

When unemployment rose dramatically and construction workers in the community were desperate for work, the County utilized cash reserves and invested tens of millions of dollars in the community, created 800 construction-related jobs and advanced essential infrastructure projects when the costs were most affordable to the taxpayer. During this same time, the County reduced its workforce by 75 positions through attrition and retirement – not through layoffs that would have added to the local employment problem.

Monday’s budget workshop served to reduce or eliminate general revenue subsidies to Leon County’s enterprise operations, specifically the solid waste and stormwater programs.

Recognizing the current unsustainable fiscal model of funding the County’s rural waste service centers and in response to citizen input based on three community meetings, the Board elected to leave the “roll-off” sites open and implement a modest fee structure to cover the cost of operating this service. In doing so, the Board eliminates the rural waste service centers subsidy and ensures that citizens only pay for the services they use. This action, coupled with addressing the stormwater assessment earlier in the budget process, provides the County greater financial stability moving forward. Additionally, in future years, these actions will also assist the County in its ability to reduce its reliance on the use of reserves to balance the budget.

Through a structure called Leon LEADs, the organizational culture of Leon County Government focuses on those things the County can control to demonstrate results during tough times in a continuous effort to become the highest performing organization that it can be. Leon County’s LEADs Cross Departmental Action Teams performed an internal review to find efficiencies and the teams’ recommendations saved over $718,000 by finding new efficiencies throughout many work areas. Leon County Government has embraced technology to reduce costs, advanced innovations, leveraged community partnerships and privatized when appropriate. Also, no small cost saving has been overlooked – such as eliminating a contract to tend greenery throughout the County Courthouse.

“Over the past several years, faced with an economic decline, the
Board placed a deliberate, necessary and reasoned focus on providing tax relief to our citizens, while maintaining a high quality level of
service. The County Commission continues to exercise responsible fiscal stewardship during the slow economic recovery and is poised to apply that same deliberate, necessary and reasoned focus on ensuring the long-term fiscal viability of Leon County," said Leon County Administrator Vincent S. Long. “The Board approved a preliminary budget that properly balances the use of reserves, additional budget reductions and a consistent level of property tax collection. I am extremely proud that Leon County is continuing to stay fiscally sound while providing exemplary services to this community.”

Also approved on Monday, the Board gave the County Administrator
direction to effectuate a long-term agreement for the provision of fire
services in the unincorporated area that would provide cost containment
and rate stabilization for Leon County and budget certainty for the City
of Tallahassee over the next 10 years.

As part of recent discussions and negotiations regarding the current
fire services agreement, the County Administrator and City Manager
developed a series of recommendations for their respective Commissions to finalize an extension of the existing six-cent gas tax and the imposition of the additional five-cent gas tax under a 50/50 split that would generate approximately $2 million in revenue to the County.

This proposed additional gas tax revenue would support the County’s highest transportation priorities and/or address the on-going general revenue subsidy to the transportation fund. Additionally, the proposed agreement includes $150,000 in County funding for the Palmer Munroe Teen Center for an additional three-year term. To confirm this agreement, the City of Tallahassee is expected to take these items up at a future City Commission meeting.

The Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Municipal Services Taxing Unit
(MSTU) was reestablished at 0.5 mills.

In spite of increased costs, unfunded mandates from the State,
financial constraints born out of tax-reform legislation, and the
continual decline in taxable value, the Board of County Commissioners
has made a concerted effort over the past six years to minimize the
impact on service delivery to the citizens of Leon County, implementing
expenditure reductions and reducing and restructuring services.

The development of the current year budget is not an action that is
isolated from previous Board budgets, but a continuation of an ongoing
effort to address declining property values while maintaining quality
services. The proposed budget is essentially a maintenance budget. The
highest priorities are placed on continuing a quality level of service
of current County programs. The majority of the funds are allocated
toward the maintenance of the County’s infrastructure, such as roads,
facilities, stormwater improvements and parks.

Leon County continues to maintain the lowest net budget, the lowest net budget per resident, the lowest number of employees and the lowest
number of employees per capita than any other like-sized counties in

And when compared to Florida’s other 66 counties:

● Leon County has the fifth lowest net budget per capita; and
● Leon County has the third lowest number of employees per capita.

Citizens will have the opportunity to provide input on the budget
before it is finalized in September. The first public hearing will be on
Tuesday, Sept. 17, at 6 p.m. in the Commission Chambers on the fifth
floor of the Leon County Courthouse, located at 301 S. Monroe St.

The second public hearing will be at the same location on Tuesday,
Sept. 24, at 6 p.m., at which time the Board is scheduled to adopt the
final budget and millage rates.

To inform the community of the upcoming budget hearings, Leon County
will continue to implement public information and community outreach via media partner interaction, utilization of the County’s website,
government access television channel (Comcast Channel 16) and social
media outlets.

For detailed information on Monday’s budget workshop, please visit
the Leon County website at www.LeonCountyFL.gov/OMB/, call the Leon County Office of Financial Stewardship / Office of Management & Budget at (850) 606-5100 or contact Leon County Community and Media Relations at (850) 606-5300 / cmr@LeonCountyFL.gov .


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To view photos from County events, head to www.LeonPhotos.org .

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