A discussion with the Board of County Commissioners on July 24, 2018, gave Interim Budget Director George Zoettlein direction to transmit the proposed millage rates in the chart to the right to the property appraiser. The property appraiser places these rates on the TRIM notices which are mailed out to each taxpayer prior to the first public budget hearing in September. Mr. Zottlein was required to relay the proposed millage rates to the Property Appraiser by Aug. 3, 2018.
The proposed millage rate remains at 6.8912- no change from FY 2018. However, because there has been an increase in property values again, 6.8912 will bring in more revenue than it did last year.
Discussions with the school district and Sheriff’s Office prior to the Regular BOCC meeting on July 24, resulted in some additional funding responsibilities for the county. The county will need to fund two months of School Resource Officers ($409,372 not including reserves allocation) and is responsible for 100% of the expense for school crossing guards ($268,618 not including reserves). In the past, the school district has maintained a contract with the Sheriff’s Office for school crossing guards. In FY 2017, the Sheriff’s Office returned $163,160 to the county in contracted revenue with the School District for School Crossing Guards.
The 1985 Legal Opinion of Florida Attorney General Jim Smith places the funding responsibility with the county or municipality who has jurisdiction over the school.
“In light of the above and in conclusion, it is therefore my opinion, until and unless judicially or legislatively determined otherwise, that where hazardous walking conditions exist for school children, the district school board and the local governmental entity having jurisdiction over the crossing have a responsibility to work cooperatively to eliminate the hazardous condition and the provision of school crossing guards is one means by which such hazardous conditions can be eliminated. Where the crossing is located within the city boundaries, as in the instant inquiry, I am of the opinion that the municipality is responsible for furnishing such school crossing guards, while the county has such responsibility where the crossing is located in the unincorporated areas of the county.”
While it might not be a very popular option, according to Florida Statute a school crossing guard program can be funded by the county through a school crossing guard trust fund that is supported by civil traffic fines:
“If a county government is operating a school crossing guard program in the exercise of its municipal responsibilities, the county may, by majority vote of its governing board, impose a countywide surcharge on parking fines for the sole purpose of funding school crossing guard programs throughout the county; however, the governing body may set aside funds from this surcharge to pay for startup costs and recurring administrative costs related to printing new tickets or other means of implementing the program. The surcharge must be authorized by an ordinance requiring public hearings. This surcharge, established by the governing body of the county, must be placed in a trust fund called the School Crossing Guard Trust Fund. Funds collected from this surcharge must be distributed quarterly to jurisdictions to fund school crossing guard programs based on each jurisdiction’s percentage of the school crossing guards in the county school district.”
In searching Hernando County’s Code of Ordinances there oes not appear to be an ordinance establishing a School Crossing Guard Trust Fund. A search of Brevard County ordinances reveals Ch. 38 Article II, entitled “School Crossing Guard Trust Fund” which establishes the fund and its purpose. Brevard assesses a $10 surcharge on all parking fines imposed “as result of tickets issued for violations occurring in the County for the sole purpose of funding a school crossing guard program.”
Some counties assess a surcharge on each civil traffic penalty.
In Charlotte County:
“The clerk of the court of the Twentieth Judicial Circuit in and for Charlotte County is hereby authorized and directed to allocate four dollars ($4.00) of each civil traffic penalty for the funding of the school crossing guard program.”
In St. Lucie County:
“The amount of any civil penalty specified in this section [46-41] shall be increased by $5.00 for the purpose of funding school crossing guard programs. Such money shall be deposited in a newly created School Crossing Guard Trust Fund. Such fund shall also be used to fund start-up costs and recurring administrative costs related to printing new tickets or other means of implementing the school crossing guard programs. Funds collected from the surcharge shall be distributed quarterly to fund the school crossing guard training programs.”
The point is that the state has designated a funding mechanism for the crossing guards.
There is also movement toward giving back $1.5 million into the Sheriff’s Office budget that had been cut out of it. This expenditure along with crossing guards and SROs throw complications at fully funding the budget with the 6.8912 millage rate.
While the trim notices that come to your door will show the 6.8912 millage rate, budget staff and county commissioners will need to work out exactly how that will happen. County attorneys advise that the cleanest way to fully fund the budget with the 6.8912 millage rate is to allow a one year only reduction of the mandated by county ordinance 18% reserves level. Budget staff indicates that lowering the reserve requirement to 15.47% or to $13,206,413 would allow the 6.8912 millage rate to fully fund the budget.
First Public Budget hearing will be held at 5:01 PM Sept. 4, 2018.