Budget Analysis of Brevard County, Florida

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08/02/20 Finance Reference this

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Brevard County is the 10th most populated County in Florida with the population at 589,162 (2017) with a growth rate of 5.08%. Brevard County stretches 72 miles and represents many cities: Barefoot Bay, Cape Canaveral (Port Canaveral), Cocoa, Cocoa Beach, Grant, Indialantic, Indian Harbor Beach, Malabar, Melbourne, Melbourne Beach, Melbourne Village, Merritt Island, Micco, Mims, Palm Bay, Palm Shores, Port St. John, Rockledge, Satellite Beach, Sharpes, South Patrick Shores, Suntree; Titusville (County Seat), Valkaria, Viera, West Melbourne. There are five Commissioners that represent these cities: District I – Rita Pritchett (Chair), District II – Jim Barfield, District III – John Tobia, District IV and District V – Kristine Isnardi (Vice-Chair).

Brevard County’s proposed 2018-2019 fiscal year (FY) budget at $1,290,711,825. When compared to the FY 2017-2018 current amended budget of $1,279,794,163, with an increase of 0.85% or $10,917,662 (Abbate, 2018, pg. 5). As the County’s budget reflects goals and priorities for the community and organizations appointed by the Board of County Commissioners (BOCC). Berman, 2018 of the Florida Today states, the proposed budget sets a priority for road, drainage, sewage and other infrastructure improvements; maintains existing program and services; and gives county employees cost-of-living pay raises of 1.5 percent. 

Nearing the middle of each fiscal year in Brevard County, the Clerk of the Circuit Court and the Supervisor of Elections prepare and submit their budgets to the BOCC by May 1st of each year. The Property Appraiser and the Sheriff submit their funding portions by June 1st, and the Tax Collector submits their budget by August 1st. After the work is done on the proposed fiscal year budget, a constitutional officers’ requests are conducted, a tentative budget is submitted to the public by the BOCC resolution, and public hearings are held to obtain taxpayer comments. A final public hearing is then held, and the final budget is adopted and put into motion, October 1st of each year (Clerk of the Circuit Court, 2017, pg. V).

Brevard County’s Annual Budget is essentially a year-round process that involves understanding of the financial forecasts and legislative impacts; reviewing the impacts of property valuations; aligning the BOCCs’ priorities and direction from workshops and discussions; and understanding the service needs and requests from the County’s stakeholders and Charter Officers. Guidelines are found online at Brevard County’s Website.

Budget to actual financial comparisons are presented in this report for each governmental fund. For the general fund and the major special revenue funds, these comparisons are included in the basic financial statements section. The nonmajor special revenue, debt service, and capital project funds’ budget to actual comparisons are included in the combining and individual statements and schedules section of this report. Brevard County follows the laws of Florida regarding the control, adoption and amendment of the budget during each fiscal year (Clerk of the Circuit Court, 2017, pg. VI).

Brevard County follows principles generally accepted in the United States of America (U.S. GAAP). Components represent entities in Brevard County financial accounting. Blended component units are separate entities, being part of the governments operations and therefore data from those units are combined with data of the primary government. The BOCC serves the governing body components: the Brevard County Free Public Library District (created by Chapter 72-480, Laws of Florida), the Brevard County Mosquito Control District (created by Chapter 18437, Laws of Florida), the County Special Recreation District IV (created by Chapters 61-1909 and 71-544, Laws of Florida), the North Brevard Recreation Special District (created by County Ordinance 2000-53), and the South Brevard Recreation Special District (created by County Ordinance 2000-53). These component units are reported as governmental funds (Clerk of the Circuit Court, 2017, pg. 41). The governing body helps serve and undertake the decisions that address the community’s needs.

Brevard County reviews there policies annually and the budget office is located right in Viera off Judge Fran Jamieson Way. The official county seat has been in Titusville, since 1894. While working in the budget office you need to have a bachelor’s degree in Accounting, Finance, Business Administration or related fields; Master’s degree in Finance, Business Administration or related field. Minimum of three years’ experience in budgetary, accounting, and analytical experience. Experience in personal computer applications to include spreadsheets and word processing programs. Supervisory/management position preferred and a valid Florida Driver License.

Brevard County follows a philosophy of developing a user-friendly budget and five-year Capital Improvement, while maximizing limited resources. They provide easy access for stakeholders; residents, visitors, staff and County Management. The only budget process permeate conflict that appears is that donations of the capital assets increase net position in the Statement of Activities, but do not appear in the governmental funds because they are not financial resources. With limited conflicts within the County’s budget, departments might demand more and don’t get their request unlike others who receive more than the desirable amount. This may only happen if departments fail to provide full subsidy benefits to all participants, those benefits may be reduced or cancelled.

The lnformation Technology Department supports the information and communication needs of the County. The Department’s FY 2018-2019 Proposed Budget is $6,252,841, a 11.93% decrease, or ($847,303), primarily due to a change in the methodology related to the accounting of dedicated technicians which is offset by an increase in the General Fund of $422,759 or 19.80% to upgrade the Microsoft Enterprise and SharePoint agreements, and address ADA document compatibility on the County website (Clerk of the Circuit Court, 2017, pg. 15).

The budget is prepared in accordance with Florida Statutes and the Brevard County Charter. The function as Brevard County’s primary financial plan, the annual operating and capital budget also serves as a policy document, an operational guide, and a communication tool, making it one of the most important documents for all organizations (Abbate, 2018, pg. 1).

The evidence existing from an innovated idea has been determined that they increased the awareness of the drainage maintenance from Hurricanes Matthew and Irma. The FY 2018-2019 budget indicated an increase to be able to handle the heavy rainfall and help reduce flooding. With the amount of $867,118 added they’ll be able to improve and increase the number of ditches and swales being maintained, reducing the backlog of ditches and roadside swales.

Also with the backlog of roads and classified as at-risk or failing, they have allocated funds to achieve 60 miles of road resurfacing and making 72% of them more useable, despite the cost of asphalt. There’s approximately 49 million in Grant funding to support the construction projects.

All the information that is prepared in the Brevard County budget is being used in the right departments. With the increase in the County budget, it all gets divided to the five Districts, some equally, some not because not all Districts are the same size and they all use their budgets effectively to help improve their communities. The Districts have to work with what the budget gives them, even if they don’t think it is fair but essentially they all work together to make sure they can accomplish the same thing for the County as they were appointed to do.

 The performance measures for Brevard County are pretty simple as they define the goals and objectives they intent to achieve. The BOCC is able to make better decisions, monitor performance and effectiveness of stated goals, communicate the results that allows the government to be transparent, and collect data when necessary to make informed decisions. Northern Brevard County has implemented these performance measures into the community by increasing the overall employment in the northern part and reaching an economic incentive. Brevard County utilizes a Balanced Scorecard Management System to communicate performance measures throughout the organization. Brevard County has a good grasp on what the community wants, because the taxed items go towards improving day to day things around the County.

While going through the budget proposal for FY 2018-2019, I feel as if the BOCC for Brevard County has chosen to increase demands where they don’t need to go, and decrease demands where we need it the most. Berman, 2018 of the Florida Today states, separate from the general fund, tax rates would decline in 18 taxing districts and would rise in the other four. These taxing districts cover such areas as law enforcement, fire control, recreation, roads, libraries, mosquito control and environmentally endangered lands.

Focusing on a few departments within Brevard County, I’ve found that the Indian River Lagoon restoration project has taken a sizable chunk of funds, instead of going to other places that may need desired. Understanding what the project is being used for, shoreline restoration, water quality testing, sustainable technology, and litter control but the amount it is taking that could be used in other departments would be more suitable. The BOCC has collected more than 13.6 million from the Tourist Development Tax, although the Lagoon is not the only thing it goes towards. Improving the beaches, government facilities, the Brevard zoo, Stadium improvements, utilities services and road. Can the 31.8 million be used properly to restore these areas and we can see the improvements being made rather than take years to complete?

As we grow, our morals are no longer there. Poverty is just another thing we see each day, not people. We used to build wonderful things and be the leading country in the world, but we no longer are. We never discriminated one another, and it never made us feel inferior. We never identified ourselves by who we voted for in the last election. We stood up for what was right, respected our men and women who served the great nation and would strive for adventure and excellence.

We see that the cost of living is on the rise and that homelessness is right there with it. While Florida’s Minimum Wage is set at $8.25 an hour, a full-time work week is typically defined at 40 hours a week before being paid any overtime. If a worker earned 40 hours of Minimum Wage every week, for all 52 weeks of the year, with no vacation, that worker would have earned a total of $17,160 by the end of the year before taxes.

In Brevard County, the cost of living for a one-bedroom apartment is roughly $908 a month, not to include animals or utilities such as water/sewer and electric and or cable. Homeowners have been taking advantage of this and requesting more than the required amount to live in a home that’s not up to standards or in a neighborhood with crime.

If we are not required to pay taxes and receive free utilities, healthcare, food, transportation, clothing and anything else we may need, we’d be paying $10,896 a year in rent which leaves us with $6,264 (roughly). To receive government assistance in Brevard County, as of 2017, a household of two cannot make over $24,360 a year. So, if both individuals work a full time Minimum Wage job with no overtime, they would not be approved for government assistance. That makes having to pay taxes, utilities, healthcare, food, transportation and clothing, along with other expenses which makes life seemingly impossible; often resulting in homelessness. Brevard County plans to end homelessness by the year 2020, but with the decrease in funding for nonprofits and others, some have no choice.

Statics show Brevard County and Florida Continuum of Care (CoC) for Homelessness

FL-513

2014

2015

2016

2017

2018

Total Homelessness – Brevard

1,477

1,072

1,064

845

734

Total in Florida

41,542

35,900

33,502

32,109

29,717

Chronic Homelessness – Brevard

120

159

193

153

116

Total in Florida

7,989

6,540

6,079

5,120

5,230

Homelessness Among Veterans – Brevard

333

193

160

187

169

Total in Florida

4,552

3,926

2,902

2,789

2,515

Family/Children Homelessness – Brevard

434

456

322

262

213

Total in Florida

12,812

9,575

9,358

9,363

8,300

Point in Time Counts by County

1,567

1,178

827

845

734

Sheltered and Unsheltered 2018 – Brevard

Sheltered

Unsheltered

% Unsheltered

Total

481

253

34%

734

Total in Florida

17,594

12,123

41%

29,717

(Annual Report, 2018, pg. 46-53).

Florida has reported a steady decline in homelessness among veterans and others. Indeed, homelessness among veterans is dropping more rapidly than homelessness in other subpopulations. From 2014 to 2018, overall homelessness declined by about 28 percent, while veteran homelessness dropped 45 percent. Effectively ending homelessness among veterans has been a high priority for the nation and Florida. While Florida has not yet ended homelessness, the progress has been significant and rapid. (Annual Report, 2018, pg. 26-27).

From funding of Federal and State sources, Brevard County CoC was awarded $1,150,159.85 in total funding. HUD CoC represents funding granted to local homelessness on a competitive basis to coordinate programs and provides housing. Brevard HUD CoC $689,071. State Totals Brevard CoC $461,142.85. State Challenge is funding appropriated by the State of Florida legislature, and allocated from the Local and State Governments Housing Trust Fund to provide a variety of homelessness related services. Brevard CoC $118,000. State HUD-ESG Federal Emergency Solutions Grant funding allotted to help homeless related to housing interventions, outreach, shelters, and more. Brevard CoC $200,000. State Staffing is funding by the State of Florida to build local homeless CoC. Brevard CoC $107,142.85. State TANF-HP is Temporary Assistance for Needy Families-Homeless Prevention funding allocated by the State of Florida to be utilized for homelessness prevention services. Brevard CoC $36,000. State Funding reflects FY 2017-2018 levels. HUD-CoC funding reflects HUD-CoC awards for the 2017 competition, some of which may not be contracted until 2018-2019 (Annual Report, 2018, pg. 59). No one should be without a place to call home.

There are outstanding agencies (public, private, nonprofit) that offer valuable services that could be beneficial to homeless individuals and their families. There are dozens of volunteers that provide constant, consistent, and trustworthy street level outreach so that individuals are located and assisted by knowledgeable and compassionate people (Anonymous).

There is no doubt that effective private and public collaboration at the state and local levels, combined with strong community participation, are key to solving homelessness.

Forecasting—that is, estimating future revenues, spending, surpluses, and deficits (shortfalls)—is basic to budgeting. Governments produce different types of forecasts. Current services forecasts, also referred to as current services estimates, baseline projections, and baseline budgets forecasts, assume that programs and policies remain unchanged. In effect, they show budget activity as if government were put on automatic pilot to continue as is into the future. Increasingly, budgets include information on the performance of government, with the hope of directing resources to the programs that produce results. Most often, such information appears in budgets as simple measures of the amount of work produced by each program. Some use goals and performance measures to form the basic structure of budgets, with spending information tied to specific goals, strategies, and measures of performance (Musell, 2009, Ch. 1).

Brevard County utilizes the Lean Six Sigma, a business methodology that incorporates collaborative team efforts to improve performance and reduce inefficiencies. Currently, there are 22 Lean Six Sigma initiative projects that have been defined and being worked on (Clerk of the Circuit Court, 2017, pg. VI). Below, I have identified ten things the Brevard Budget could consider changing or improve in their budget process. The ideas behind them solely rely on how the money is being dispersed between programs and or departments.

  1. Mosquito Control Department the proposed budget is $9,547,751, a 4.07% decrease, or ($405,225), which protects our public health. To say that the decease is to primarily go to sustain hurricane damage (Abbate, 2018, pg. 15).
  2. Housing and Human Services Department proposed budget is $14,411,041, a 7.02% decrease, or ($1,087,859), which contributes to Brevard County’s quality of life by assisting citizens in health, social and housing needs. Due to the decrease in housing and human services, the money went to the medical examiner’s office, school crossing guards, community correction programs, and public safety. Agreeing with a few of these services getting more money, I do think it is important to get those off the streets and especially children (Abbate, 2018, pg. 14).
  3. Job placement is improving but a lot of job placements are Minimum Wage or you need a specific degree or certification to be considered. With it at a 1.5% increase, many are still fighting for interviews or don’t qualify because of their past record.
  4. Funds are continued to be addressed by the County to improve roads and drainage systems. This is important as our roads and drainage does not sustain the amount of water fall per year we receive. 
  5. The Emergency Management Office educates, prepares and organizes the countywide response to natural and manmade disasters. The FY 2018-2019 Proposed Budget is $9,662,241, a 41.16% decrease, or ($6,760,338), which is primarily due to the completion of design and engineering.
  6. Parks and Recreations Department decreased by 4.92%, or ($4,099,799) with the FY 2018-2019 Proposed Budget is $79,203,845 and it removes golf operations as a Parks and Recreation program. The budget primarily goes to the quality of life in Brevard County by providing leisure activities for citizens and visitors (Abbate, 2018, pg. 15).
  7. Solid Waste Management Department is experiencing a decrease in budget primarily due to the hurricane debris cleanup. By 7.5 million of a decrease and a proposed budget of 105,983,178 (Abbate, 2018, pg. 16). This I disagree with. There are many other factors that hurricane debris can be picked up after hurricanes by contractors from FEMA or other agencies.
  8. Transportation Improvement Plan allocates state and federal funds for capital projects to sidewalks, safety projects, ports, transit, and airport projects, etc. The FY 2018-2019 Proposed Budget is $21,064,622, a 16.52% decrease, or ($4,168,343) due to a reduction in capital projects (Abbate, 2018, pg. 16).
  9. Environmentally Endangered Land Purchases to account for the acquisition of and improvement to environmentally endangered lands in Brevard County (Clerk of the Circuit Court, 2017, pg. 80).
  10. Enhance our schools and put in activities that children and teens will like, instead of taking away programs, in which they can’t be funded.

As we begin the new fiscal year for Brevard County, there are many things improving and maybe a few things the BOCC should pay more attention to in next year’s budget. The BOCC is always doing what’s best for the citizens of Brevard County and take everything into consideration when completing the annual budget. Therefore, once developed, the budgeting system provides management with a means of controlling its activities and of monitoring actual performance and comparing it to budget goals.

References:

  • Abbate, Frank. County Manager. July 13, 2018. Brevard County; Fiscal Year 2018-2019 Proposed Budget. Retrieved from: https://www.brevardfl.gov/docs/default-source/budget-documents/budget-message-recommended-fy-18-19a14198f0e17a6fe79a60ff01009b44fb.pdf?sfvrsn=2
  • Berman, Dave. July 13, 2018. Brevard County’s Proposed $1.29 Billion Budget Includes Decrease in Tax Rates. Florida Today. Retrieved from: https://www.floridatoday.com/story/news/local/2018/07/13/brevard-county-budget-proposal-includes-decrease-tax-rate/784081002/
  • Clerk of the Circuit Court and County Finance Department. September 30, 2017. Comprehensive Annual Financial Report for the Year Ended September 30, 2017. Retrieved from: http://www.brevardclerk.us/_cache/files/1/a/1a13d650-14c5-4c07-a6ff-9dafbc8f7f39/106F38895700F491BF9698D4078789D0.brevard-county-cafr-2017.pdf
  • Brevard County Budget Guideline. Retrieved from: https://staging.brevardfl.gov/Budget/CitizenBudgetGuide
  • Annual Report: Council on Homelessness. 2018. Retrieved from: http://www.dcf.state.fl.us/programs/homelessness/docs/Council%20on%20Homelessness%20Annual%20Report%202018.pdf
  • Anonymous. National Veterans Homeless Support Inc. GuideStar. Retrieved from: https://www.guidestar.org/profile/35-2330290
  • Musell R. Mark (2009). Understand Government Budgeting: A Practical Guide. New York, NY: Routledge.
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