2023 Budget Message
To manage growth and foster prosperity by prioritizing the protection of environmental assets, the development and maintenance of infrastructure, and the health, safety, and well-being of our citizens.
July 29, 2022
Members of the Board of County Commissioners
Citrus County, Florida
The Honorable Chairman and Commissioners:
We are pleased to present the proposed final budget for fiscal year 2023 to the Board of County Commissioners (Board) and citizens of Citrus County, as unanimously agreed upon by the Board on July 26, 2022. This preliminary budget as presented is based on information currently available; some adjustments are expected during development of the final budget as financial data becomes available, and further Board direction is received.
While managing through the pandemic has challenged resources and staff, the County is well positioned for growth and development. Due to prudent management by the Board, Citrus County has strengthened its finances and infrastructure. With the benefit of Federal funds, the County established an Economic Development Fund with a current balance of $2.9 million and committed over $20 million to legacy projects, such as water and sewer projects to protect our natural resources.
Due to the robust housing and construction market, as well as increased development activity, the County continues to experience positive taxable property values. Taxable values increased 8.38% this year, compared to prior year’s taxable value. It is important to note that while market values continue to increase, the “Save Our Homes” (SOH) cap and “Florida Amendment One” caps will moderate the impact to taxpayers’ assessed values from rising market values. For 2022, assessed values will be capped at 3%. Please note that 67% of properties in the County are homesteaded, limiting the increase to the tax base.
Each year, the County adopts a fiscally sound approach to budgeting, allowing the organization to be responsible financial stewards of our resources. This year has had its own economic challenges, such as ever-increasing oil prices, supply and distribution issues, and the significant inflation of consumer goods and services. These factors have delayed several projects, as vendors have requested contract time extensions and/or modifications. Some capital improvement projects have been postponed due to escalating project costs.
The Board was advised when Emergency Medical Services (EMS) were assumed by Fire Rescue that an increase in millage of between one and two-tenths of a mill would be required. We are recommending an increase of two-tenths because, while expenses are at or below target, a complete revenue picture is not available because of delays in Medicaid, Medicare, and VA payments for services. The Board was also advised because of the State’s increase in mental health payments that the additional County match would require a half of one-tenth of a mill (.1) increase.
At the February 22nd Board Meeting, the Board provided the Draft Budget Guidelines for fiscal year 2022-23, considering the needs in EMS and mental health. The Board also directed at that time that two-tenths of a mill (.2) be added for five years to fully fund Residential Road Resurfacing. This resulted in a .45 mill increase prior to the Sheriff submitting his budget request. The Board did not pursue Commissioner Budget Considerations as resources are constrained this year.
Taking into consideration new growth, portability of the homestead exemption, and the Save Our Homes limitation of 3%, the guidelines provided a total budget increase over prior year to not exceed 6.5%. This increase includes additional services and/or personnel needed to meet the needs of the community based on current levels of service.
The County recognizes the Governor’s “Freedom First Budget” for Fiscal Year 2022-23, which provides substantial pay increases and benefits to law enforcement officers. Currently, there is a competitive market for public safety professionals. The Citrus County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO) Proposed Budget reflected an aggressive compensation plan and an additional 21 sworn officers, seven (7) civilian positions, and four (4) body worn camera positions; for a total of 32 positions.The Board approved the Sheriff’s request for recommended levels of compensation for sworn law enforcement officers and 911 communications staff, bringing these positions in line with salaries of surrounding counties, while providing other employees of the Sheriff’s Office the same increase proposed for County employees. The Board agreed to 13 vacant deputy positions, as these positions were already budgeted. Although the additional 21 sworn officers and civilian positions were not approved, the Board recommended phasing these positions in over time. It is noted that once funding is provided to the Sheriff, State law permits the Sheriff to redistribute funds as he deems appropriate.
The General Fund is primarily supported by property taxes, which are assessed based on the taxable value of property in the County. Each July, the Property Appraiser provides the County with the certified taxable values. The 2022 taxable value (FY23) of $12.1 billion reflects an 8.38% increase over prior year’s gross taxable value, including new construction. Remarkably, even during the pandemic, the County experienced a robust housing market and favorable tourism activity due to the County’s successful marketing campaigns.
Other major sources of revenue in the General Fund are Sales Tax and State Revenue Sharing. It is anticipated that current year collections for Sales Tax will exceed budget. Remember, Florida law provides for revenues to be budgeted at 95% of anticipated levels. Factors that contributed to increased revenues are a robust housing market as Florida’s population continues to grow and an increase in tourism activity. Anticipated State Revenue Sharing and Sales Tax for FY22 reflect estimated collections of $4.5 million and $10.2 million, respectively. We also believe the County needs be prepared for a possible recession. The expected length and magnitude are unknown.
The Governor’s Tax Relief Policy (House Bill 7071) includes a one-month Fuel Tax Holiday from October 1 through October 31, 2022, by lowering the price of gas by 25.3 cents per gallon. The State will absorb the loss of revenue during the gas tax holiday. However, we are unable to determine whether the State will pass the gas tax reduction revenue on to Counties and municipalities. Consequently, we have budgeted accordingly.
We believe the Board should consider the creation of a Road Patrol MSTU for law enforcement. This would permit greater accountability for the law enforcement efforts on Road Patrol and provide an equitable funding formula to identify law enforcement costs based upon the primary benefits provided. A Road Patrol MSTU would include patrol and traffic enforcement for the unincorporated areas of the County. The cities would continue to contract for services with the Sheriff’s Office or provide them in another manner through a contract for the level of service they desire. If the Board wishes to create such an MSTU, it will need to be accomplished by Spring 2023 to be considered as part of the FY23-24 Budget.
The local option sales tax provides an equitable revenue source allowing visitors, seasonal residents, business patrons, property owners, and other users to participate in the enhancement of Citrus County’s infrastructure. Rather than placing the entire burden on the Citrus property owner, everyone (including tourists) pays a share of preserving, protecting, and improving the community by keeping our roads in good condition. Consequently, the Board may wish to place a Local Option Sales Tax initiative of the ballot in 2024. Naturally, implementation would require voter approval.
The proposed budget looks to enhance infrastructure, public safety services, and capability with a millage rate of 8.2458 in the recommended budget. This represents an increase from the current millage of 7.7623. Please note that in Fiscal Year 2021, the Board approved the Stormwater MSBU, reducing the millage rate by approximately one-tenth of a mill. The Stormwater MSBU provides a more equitable method for charging the costs of stormwater to meet the requirements of our National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit.
The County will continue to address water and sewer projects in FY23, with the benefit of Federal funds. The American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) is a $1.9 trillion economic stimulus package which was approved by Congress on March 11, 2021. Citrus County received $29 million in ARPA funds. The funds may only be used for costs incurred under the covered period, beginning March 3, 2021. The period of performance will run until December 31, 2026.
Major projects include the Brentwood Wastewater Treatment Plant, the Meadowcrest Wastewater Treatment Facility, the NW Watermain Extension, and Homosassa Phase V. These legacy projects serve residents and businesses and assist the County in meeting water quality standards while protecting the County’s natural resources.
Our Fiscal Year 2022-23 budget discussion revolves around the delicate and difficult balance of providing adequate funding for sufficient levels of services to sustain a quality community. Compiling the budget for Citrus County, as always, has been challenging. We have worked aggressively to take prudent steps to meet our fiscal hurdles. Administration has been proactive: cutting spending, maximizing revenues, and realigning and reallocating resources to needed areas. In past budget messages, we have illustrated this in detail, and we will continue to make the effort to highlight these strategies.
This year, the budget process was enhanced with the addition of a Budget Guidelines discussion presented at the Board meeting in February 2022 and a detailed overview of the Constitutional Officers’ budgets presented in June 2022. We would like to thank the Board of County Commissioners for the input and support provided in formulating and developing Budget Policy during this process.
Based on prior Board direction, additional administrative support for the Commission and the services of an outside marketing firm are not included in the Budget. If the Board so wishes, these items can be added back.
Preliminary Budget, Taxable Values, and Millage Rates
The total budget for FY23 is $390,911,484; a 1.90% decrease from the adopted budget of $398,490,010 for FY22. Keep in mind, the prior budget reflects ARPA and CARES Act funds of $34.3 million.
The 2022 gross tax roll reflects a total Taxable Value of $12.1 billion. Of that total value, $230 million was the result of new construction, compared to last year’s $165.3 million. As stated earlier, the SOH cap protects owners of homesteaded properties from higher assessed values. The 3% rate for this year determines the maximum increase in assessed value that a homeowner would experience when a property is capped under SOH and where the just/market value is still higher than the assessed value. New construction and additions are not capped. Changes in ownership remove this cap for the current homeowner.
The “rolled-back rate” is a term that applies to the property tax rate as it changes year over year, in relation to property values. The term rolled-back rate applies when the tax rate generates the same total revenue in the current year as it did in the previous year. It is often heard at budget time and in what is called the “Truth in Millage” process, or TRIM. A tax rate higher than the rolled-back rate must be advertised with a “Notice of Tax Increase” for the Final Budget Public Hearing. Please note, this rolled-back rate does not consider the increased costs of goods or services (inflation).
The budget reflects a .4835 mills increase in the total millage rate, reflecting the rolled back rate plus a 5% inflationary factor, along with six-tenths of a mill for the expansion of public safety services and road resurfacing, and half a tenth of a mill for the mental health subsidy required by the State. Maintaining the current millage is only achievable by holding the Constitutional Officers to the recommended rate or using reserves, which is not recommended. The General Fund millage recommendation is an increase from 6.1937 to 6.5057, providing $9.63 million in additional ad valorem revenue.
(1) Budget 2022/2023 includes 5% inflationary factor, EMS .2 mills, Road Resurfacing .2 mills, mental health .05 mills, and raises for the Sheriff’s Office sworn law enforcement and 911 communications staff .1786 mills.
The impact fee consultant has provided an opinion that impact fees can be used for cars for additional deputies, water patrol, and body cameras. Consequently, we would propose these funds be used for increased services and the Board pay the expenditures directly based on the Sheriff’s certification. Law Enforcement impact fees has a balance of $1.5 million as of June 30, 2022.
A simplified example of how the rolled-back millage rate is provided to better understand the property tax calculation. In FY22, the County has a home with a taxable value of $100,000, exclusive of exemptions, and a millage rate of 7.7623; the taxes for this home would be $776.23. In FY23, the home’s taxable value increased to $102,000; the millage rate would be reduced to 7.6071 (7.7623 x 98%) to generate the same taxes of $776.23. The continued practice of adopting the rolled-back millage rate does not take into consideration inflation from increased labor and operating costs, and therefore is not sustainable. If a new home were constructed, the County would benefit from the new growth; however, there would be increased costs of service to support the new construction.
Proposed Millage Increase
Various scenarios of property taxes are provided based on the millage and taxable value of homesteaded homes in Citrus County and commercial properties.
Duke Energy and Special Capital Projects Funds
We continue to set aside each fiscal year the $2.185 million ($2.3 million less 5% statutory reserve) in funds from the Duke Energy combined-cycle natural gas plant to be used for capital projects as the Board deems appropriate.
Funding Additional Costs from Non-Recurring Funds
While the Board could sweep the funds in the Economic Development Fund ($2,936,314) and/or use the $3 million from the Duke Energy Special Capital Projects Fund, this would not be financially prudent as it would use one time money for recurring expenses and would simply make the financial situation worse in FY 23-24. Another option would be to reprogram the Duke Funds that historically used from the Capital Fund to the Operating Fund. While this may seem attractive, it will lessen Capital projects that are currently underfunded. Additionally, it will create a significant financial shortfall in the subsequent fiscal year. We do not recommend either of these options.
Citrus County is home to a wide range of natural habitats defining the coastal zone, from its sensitive estuaries fed by three first magnitude springs, to miles of salt marsh, to the fresh-water northern and eastern borders fed by the Withlacoochee River. These pristine waterways can easily be degraded by pollutants in stormwater runoff.
Under the Federal Clean Water Act, Citrus County is subject to the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit program. The NPDES permit program seeks to protect and restore the quality of our rivers, lakes, and coastal waters. To meet this need, the Board replaced the MSTU with a Stormwater Municipal Service Benefit Unit (MSBU).
The Stormwater MSBU provides a more equitable method for charging the costs of stormwater to meet the requirements of our NPDES permit. Stormwater revenue will be used for constructing stormwater runoff controls, NPDES permitting, maintaining drainage areas and swales, reducing pollutants from municipal operations, stormwater mapping, erosion control, and other watershed management activities.
CRAs and Other Contributions to Cities
The FY 22-23 budget includes $414,060 for the Crystal River CRA and $668,775 for the Inverness CRA for a total of $1,082,835. We have included the continuing contribution to the City of Inverness for the operation of Whispering Pines Park in the amount of $310,745.
State mandated programs have contributed to an increased financial burden within our budget, consuming 31.96% of Citrus County’s General Fund budget (50.22% of the General Fund property tax levy). Increases in retirement rates, set by the State legislature, are increasing the County’s retirement contributions. The contribution rate for Elected Officials increased 5.58%, Senior Management and Special Risk increased 2.56% and 1.94%, respectively, while Regular Employees increased 1.09%.
Florida voters approved Amendment 2, in November 2020, which amends Florida’s constitution to gradually increase the State’s minimum wage to $15.00 an hour by the year 2026. On September 30, 2021, the minimum wage became $10.00 per hour. Every September 30 following, the minimum wage will increase $1.00 per hour through 2026, according to the following schedule:
- $11.00 on September 30, 2022
- $12.00 on September 30, 2023
- $13.00 on September 30, 2024
- $14.00 on September 30, 2025
- $15.00 on September 30, 2026
Beginning in 2027, the minimum wage will be adjusted annually for inflation, as it has been since 2004. This budget prepares the county to meet the mandated increase in minimum wage.
A few other unfunded state mandates that significantly impact the County budget include Medicaid cost sharing and Emergency Medical Services.
- Medicaid – Citrus County’s share of the total County contribution for FY23 is $2.44 million. In fiscal year 2019-2020, due to a State deficit, the Medicaid calculation was changed, thus requiring additional funding from the County.
- Detention Services – The County is financially responsible under Florida Statutes 948.06 for detention services and 951.032 for inmate medical expenses. The preliminary budget for detention services and inmate medical services are $16.1 million and $200,000, respectively. Due to escalating medical costs, it is anticipated that additional funding will be required to cover inmate medical services.
- Additionally, the predisposition of juvenile detention is an unfunded mandate of $287,000.
Overview of Budget
Constitutional Officers comprise 40.65% of the County’s total General Fund budget. The Sheriff’s Office certified budget request of $39,949,444 is a $8,482,063 increase over current fiscal year. The request includes 32 additional positions for fiscal year 2022-2023, and adjustments for inflationary costs. The Sheriff proposed additional staffing for fiscal years 2024, 2025, and 2026. The Sheriff’s budget request has been adjusted to fund the additional compensation plan for current sworn officer positions and 911 communications staff. Excluded from the preliminary budget is the body-worn camera program, with the anticipation of the Sheriff’s Office seeking grant opportunities to fund this initiative. Based upon Board direction, the Sheriff’s budget request was revised to $35,081,153.
The Clerk’s Office total budget request of $3,376,339 is a $305,754 increase over current year. A portion of the increase is related to a non-recurring cost of $49,000 to fund a new server.
The Supervisor of Elections’ budget request of $1,988,854 is a $53,753 increase from current year. This increase includes one (1) additional staff position to address mandated law changes and reapportionment/redistricting.
Health and Dental Insurance
The County remains committed to providing employees and their families with comprehensive benefits at reasonable costs. The County’s health insurance program is self-insured, meaning that sufficient premiums must be charged to pay actual claims and costs of the program. Funding is actuarially based on trending of prior year data. To provide comprehensive benefits while containing costs, the insurance program was modified for the upcoming year. Medical insurance will be offered only under the Base Plan, as the Buy-Up Plan will be eliminated. This was done to provide equity (i.e., the Base Plan was subsidizing the Buy-Up Plan). The Base Plan will increase 8.5% for both plan participants and employer. These increases are necessary due to increasing costs of prescription drugs, medical services, and medical claims experience.
The County’s dental insurance program is self-insured, as well. The budget includes no increase to the dental plan. The maximum benefit (coinsurance) the dental plan pays for each covered member is $1,250 per calendar year.
Workforce, Employee Compensation, and Florida Retirement System
Due to budgetary constraints, the County continues to be conservative in expansion of the workforce. The FY23 budget includes a net increase of six (6) Board positions, primarily in the enterprise funds. Positions have been adjusted to accommodate the expansion of projects, promote efficiency, enhance controls and security, and accommodate workflow. The Supervisor of Elections requested one (1) position due to new laws and mandates. The Sheriff’s Office requested 32 positions; the preliminary budget reflects a phase in of staff over multiple years and the expectation of grant funding for certain positions.
The budget includes cost of living adjustments (COLA) for employees in the same manner as addressed in previous years. Our goal is to make our salaries more competitive to attract qualified applicants and meet the increase in the minimum wage approved by the voters of Florida (i.e., minimum wage increases by $1.00 per year, reaching $15.00 per hour by October 1, 2026).
Florida’s counties are statutorily required to participate in the Florida Retirement System (FRS). Benefit levels, contribution rates, retirement age, and vesting periods are all regulated and determined by the Legislature. Counties make contributions based on the number of employees in each retirement class and the accrual rates for those classes based upon actuarial studies.
The budget reflects an increase in the retirement rates in accordance with legislation adopted by the State of Florida. All FRS members (except those in DROP) contribute 3% on a pre-tax basis into the retirement system. The retirement rates in the budget have been established using the State-provided contribution rates:
Fund Balance and Reserves
The unassigned fund balance amount is shown in each fund under the account titled “Reserve Budgeted Fund Balance.”
General Fund Reserves are funded at 15.65%, or $16.3 million, and include approximately 1%, or $1 million, reserve for contingency. Fund Balance Policy AR 6.04-4 established a range of 8 - 17% as unassigned fund balance with the goal of budget stabilization. The same as last year, when the “true-up” occurs, we expect reserves to increase.
The County’s Fitch Rating is AA for the water and wastewater system revenue refunding bonds, series 2016. The Rating Outlook has been revised to Positive from Stable. The upgrade to Positive reflects Fitch's expectations that leverage will remain low and below 5.8x over the rating cycle. Bolstered cash balances and improved year-over-year Funds Available for Debt Service, contributed to low leverage of 2.7x in fiscal 2020. Fitch expects leverage to rise modestly due to increasing capital improvement plan (CIP) needs but ongoing service area growth, and rate increases should keep leverage below 5.8x. Moreover, the County expects substantial access to state and federal grant proceeds for eligible CIP spending, which are expected to offset cash and additional debt financing needs.
Moody’s assigned the County an Aa3 issuer rating. The issuer rating is equivalent to a rating for a hypothetical General Obligation Unlimited Tax rating and is used as a reference rating for the county's water and sewer enterprise rating (Aa3). Moody’s cited Citrus County benefits from low debt, robust liquidity, and a strong, stable financial position. We expect the rating agencies to look favorably on the increase in assessed value when they update the County’s financial ratings.
Animal Services continues to meet and exceed the nationally recognized definition of No-Kill with a 90% or higher live release rate by implementing progressive programs and policies while being socially responsible. Animal Services cares for approximately 5,000 animals annually.
Animal Services continues its partnership with the University of Florida (UF) Maddie's Shelter Medicine Program and the UF Veterinary School. This mutual relationship provides hands-on training for veterinary students and shelter medicine veterinary interns in exchange for access to the nation's leading veterinary field experts and the most up-to-date resources available for shelters. This year, Animal Services hosted two Shelter Medicine Veterinary interns, which allowed for more services to citizens with uninterrupted surgical and medical care.
So far in 2022, Animal Services has handled 20 animal cruelty cases, resulting in over 200 animals in the County’s care requiring specialized, extended medical and behavioral care for the duration of the legal process. Animal Services is the evidence-holding facility for the County. It provides crucial veterinary forensic evidence for Animal Control, County Attorney, and the State Attorney to ensure that abused animals in Citrus County receive justice. Animal Services' partnership with the CCSO and Animal Control has created a stronger stance against animal cruelty. This unified partnership continues to foster relationships with the American Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) Anti-Cruelty Forensic team, which has aided with veterinary forensics and forensic analyst.
Animal Services’ Pet Retention program continues to help citizens keep their pets that otherwise would be surrendered to the shelter. The Pet Retention program offers low-cost medical care, a pet food pantry, and assistance providing resources for working with unwanted behavior. In the first six months, the Animal Services food pantry assisted the owners of over 500 pets.
Animal Services Veterinary Medical Retention program has assisted 99 pets, reducing the number of unwanted pets in Citrus County. The Community Cat program (Trap- Neuter- Vaccinate- Return aka TNVR) is the internationally accepted effective and humane method of controlling feral and free-roaming cat populations. TNVR is the least costly, most efficient, and compassionate way of stabilizing community, feral, and outdoor cat populations. This year, 186 cats have gone through the Animal Services Community Cat program.
The Animal Services Slumber Party program has increased the number of successful adoptions opening kennel spaces for other animals in need. This year to date, 448 pets have been in the Slumber Party program. Animal Services has placed over 400 pets through their lifesaving foster program. Through collaboration and relationship building, 154 pets were transferred to other shelters and approved rescue partners. Animal Services has continued to build a relationship with The Bissell Pet Foundation, and their Empty the Shelters adoption events have brought positive National media coverage to Citrus County Animal Services and increased our adoptions.
Animal Services continues to work towards building a new shelter. The new shelter will be groundbreaking and will positively impact the safety of the animals, staff, volunteers, and community. It will enhance the care they can provide to the pets, reduce stress for the pets, and increase involvement with the Citrus County citizens.
Although Animal Services has received national recognition for its accomplishments, we continue to strive for a world-class culture by adding and enhancing programs and creating policies to benefit the animals and citizens of Citrus County.
With the emergence from the coronavirus pandemic, focus has shifted from recovery to resiliency, leveraging resources to further diversify and strengthen the economy. This, in part, entails the development and marketing of key sites, including the Inverness Airport business park, Suncoast Parkway Interchange Management Areas, and other key corridors.
Work is ongoing for the Suncoast Parkway IMA at Cardinal Street, State Road 44, and County Road 486. Other corridors will be evaluated to identify critical properties in those areas to continue discussions with owners about potential sale, development, and marketing. Economic development funds through the CARES Act have been set aside for projects deemed essential by the advisory committee and County Commission.
There are several projects that will add to the economy in Citrus County. The Suncoast Parkway from US 98 to SR 44 is complete and the next phase from SR 44 to CR 486 is anticipated to begin construction in 2022/2023. There are several phases of US 19 from the Hernando/Citrus County line up to Ft. Island Trail currently under construction. The next phase of CR 491 widening in Lecanto from south of Audubon Park Path to Horace Allen is anticipated to begin construction in mid to late 2023. These noted projects are multi-year construction projects, along with additional road improvement projects, all provide jobs and opportunity for expansion in our community.
The NW Quadrant Sewer and Water Extension provides an upgrade to the County’s utility infrastructure with installation of a 5.6-mile wastewater system and 3-mile water main. This project is expected to start in the first half of calendar year 2023.
The construction of the Barge Canal Boat ramp will support the expansion of a robust recreational, charter, and commercial fishing industries in the County. The Gulf Coast Consortium has agreed to fund the construction early. Consequently, we expect the design to be completed by December 2022 and construction to start in late 2023.
The County, based on Board direction, is committed to adding and improving the network of both off-shore and in-shore artificial reefs in the coastal waters of Citrus County. A future project would locate up to 10 inshore artificial reef sites to be developed to meet the increasing recreational demand for fishing and scuba diving opportunities. A current offshore project is the deployment of additional material to Fish Haven Number 1.
Extension Services, a local branch of the University of Florida (UF), delivers proven information to foster healthy citizens and a healthy environment while fostering a productive economy for over 100 years. Extension Services provides solutions to citizens, businesses, youth, and community partners. During the pandemic, Extension Services continued delivering solutions through technology, including social media, answering questions by email and phone, and providing in-person and online training and programs. Prioritized efforts resumed based on a stakeholder-influenced roadmap, with local energies primarily focused on water resource protection, positive youth development, agriculture, and individual and family well-being. Extension Services continues to improve local lives as we face the challenges of tomorrow.
In FY22, Fire Rescue was able to implement advanced life support (ALS) service at the remaining two fire stations: Station 8 in the Highlands and Station 24 in Floral City. This makes all 10 of the County’s fire stations able to provide ALS services. The ability to provide ALS services to the citizens and visitors of Citrus County is an important undertaking that comes with a lot of responsibility.
To ensure that personnel can obtain needed supplies at any time, grant funds provided by the Florida Department of Health (FDOH) were used to purchase two UCapIt controlled medical supply dispensers for each side of the County. The Controlled Access Pharmacy (or CAP) allows County personnel the ability to restock their units 24/7 and have real-time usage and inventory tracking. The CAP can check multiple forms of ID and will prompt for station or dispatch specific data. All withdrawals are cataloged, time stamped and regulated by tech clearance/training level. This system allows management to track inventory and dispense products according to access protocol.
CARES Act funding allowed new roof installations at Station 23 on Kensington and Station 24 in Floral City. The bay floors at all 10 fire stations have been stripped and recoated with industrial epoxy. Exterior painting was completed on Station 7 in Connell Heights and Station 23 on Kensington. The interiors of the Fire Training Center and Fire headquarters at Meadowcrest were able to be painted. All thirteen thermal imaging cameras (TIC) with high-definition cameras were replaced. All fire apparatus were outfitted with vehicle extrication equipment and stabilization equipment and all outdated fire hose was replaced.
This year, some required maintenance and repairs were performed to existing fire stations. Air conditioner replacements are being assessed at Station 14 in Citrus Springs and Station 23 on Kensington. Hurricane shutters were added to Station 9 in DeRosa. The second-floor windows were replaced at Station 7 in Connell Heights. Fire headquarters at Meadowcrest was outfitted with a keyless entry security system. The Fire Training Center security camera system will be installed. Thirty complete sets of bunker gear were purchased.
Emergency medical transport services were absorbed by the Fire Department this fiscal year. Due to the short turn around, emergency purchases were made for the following: 15-LifePak 15 cardiac monitors, 6 ambulances, 13 electronic medication vaults and 13 medication coolers for each rescue unit, 13 video laryngoscopes, 26 tablets for report writing and dispatching, uniforms, medication and soft supplies for rescues, and cell phones. The expansion of services also included the addition of a Division Chief of EMS, Medical Billing Specialist, Quality Assurance Specialist, and an EMS Training Captain. Ten full-time rescues which operate 24/7 have been assigned to each fire station and three high-performance trucks are staffed on staggered 12 hour shifts dependent on peak operating times.
During FY 22-23, we plan to purchase new report writing software for Fire and EMS personnel. Station maintenance includes roof replacement at Station 14 in Citrus Springs, retiling the offices at Station 23 on Kensington, bathroom remodels at Station 3 in Homosassa and Station 7 in Connell Heights, bunk room remodel at Station 8 in the Highlands, and generator replacement at Station 24 in Floral City. Small equipment replacement plans will be established for Fire Rescue and EMS.
We are upgrading EMS computers to Dell Rugged Extreme laptops. Fire Rescue intends on implementing a community paramedicine program to help the community by reducing the burden on other providers. By treating patients in their homes or other locations, community paramedics reduce the number of patients in hospital beds, nursing homes, or emergency rooms and reduce unnecessary transports.
Geographic Information Services
In FY22, the GIS Division continued to develop new maps for stormwater and elevation datasets, enhanced the utilities basemap, and began development of new web applications focused on Damage Assessment and Search and Rescue. These applications have been developed using the ArcGIS Online cloud-based services to assure continuity of operations during critical events. The GIS Division has continued the buildout of stormwater and infrastructure assets and continues to
synchronize data between Infor IPS and GIS, providing for additional functionality which did not exist in the previous asset management system.
The Division has continued development of web-based map layers for the CDR portion of the Hansen to Infor migration. The Division completed a project with the Sheriff’s Office converting data to the NextGeneration911 standards and is currently working on data provisioning for the CAD system upgrade with Motorola.
Grounds Maintenance is responsible for maintenance of County parks, sports fields, cemeteries, beaches, boat ramps, fishing piers and docks, maintenance and safety inspections of playground equipment and lightning detection systems at the parks, as well as landscape and maintenance of County Buildings.
Grounds Maintenance continues to be proactive in the preventive maintenance of field renovations, playground equipment, tree trimming, and boat ramp docks. The Eden Boat Ramp dock and sidewalk project was successfully completed in May. The installation of the Highland and Wesley Jones playgrounds is on the schedule for this fiscal year.
Growth Management includes Land Development, Code Compliance, and the Building Division, and facilitates bringing together all planning and land development permitting activities under one department. The Department provides regulatory review for building and planning services, issues permits and development orders, provides building and site inspection, and provides technical assistance to other County Departments and Agencies. The Department also provides Code Compliance services for the County at-large.
Recent highlights of the Department include development and adoption of an Evaluation and Appraisal Report (EAR) based comprehensive plan amendments and amendments to incorporate a planning strategy for the Cardinal Street Interchange Management Area (IMA). The Department continues to work internally and with our customers to improve our online permit application submittals process. This online process provides efficiencies and reduces redundancy in the permit review process and reduces the amount of paper applications and permits the Department is required to store. Code Compliance continues to work with our citizens and customers to remove and reduce blighted and dangerous buildings.
Due to an increase in permitting over the last few years and the volume of inspections, the department added two Development Review/Permit Specialist and a new Inspector position in FY 2022. It is anticipated demands for permits will decrease as interest rates increase and the economy slows.
Local museums foster pride of place and strengthen community connections. Historical Resources and the Old Courthouse Heritage Museum strive to provide a robust schedule of events, including programs, exhibits, and educational activities on a variety of cultural and historical topics related to Citrus County and Florida history.
In March 2022, Historical Resources adjusted its hours to serve the community better. The museum is now open Tuesdays-Saturdays, making our county’s history even more accessible to working residents and families. Youth and family programming, rooted in humanities education, is now offered to the community on the first and third Saturday of every month, including history scavenger hunts, art projects, historical nature walks, literacy programs, and more. Monthly visitation has almost doubled since the introduction of the new operating hours and family days.
With school tours still limited due to the challenges of COVID-19, the newly launched Traveling Trunk program allowed Historical Resources to bring the museum into Citrus County Schools. Each trunk contains nine experiential, hands-on STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math) lesson plans covering topics of state and local significance. Lesson plans are adaptable to different grades and follow state educational standards. This year, 146 students were served during FY21, with many teachers already rebooking a trunk for the upcoming year. Historical Resources staff look forward to returning to in-person school field trips in FY22 and expanding the traveling trunk program.
The Citrus County Archives boasts a comprehensive collection of historical information about Citrus County and our surrounding areas. The archival holdings include official county records, poll tax records, historical newspapers dating back to the 1800s, photographs, oral histories, and more. The preservation of these resources is a priority for Historical Resources. The archives are available to the public for research and are a cornerstone of social studies education programs offered to students.
Housing Services provides many grant-funded services, such as the State Housing Initiative Partnership (SHIP), rehabilitation and emergency home repair, Section 8 Housing Choice Vouchers, Housing and Urban Development Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing (HUD-VASH), and heating and cooling utility bill assistance. Housing Services has been awarded a Community Development Block Grant for Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR) that provides home replacements with elevations for approximately three homes in repetitive flood loss areas.
Housing Services received a new grant from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) to develop a Septic Upgrade Incentive Program. This program encourages homeowners to voluntarily remediate conventional Onsite Sewage Treatment and Disposal Systems (OSTDS) to include nitrogen-reducing enhancements. If installing public sewers is not feasible in the next five years, the incentive program will offset a portion of homeowner costs by providing up to $7,000 after installing enhanced nitrogen-reducing features to existing septic systems in targeted areas within Citrus County that are pre-approved by the FDEP.
Library Services strives to implement efficiencies and service level adjustments to stay within the parameters set by the Library Special Taxing District established by a referendum in 1984 (the millage cap is .3333). The current millage for the district is .3207. The proposed millage for FY 2023 is .3147 reflecting the rolled-back rate plus a 5% increase.
There remains a concern regarding the millage rate for libraries since overall revenues continue to be impacted by decreased or flat funding from external revenue sources like State Aid to libraries.
Recent years have also put a strain on donations, since the pandemic impacted fundraising by the Friends of the Library groups. Future forecasting for Friends fundraising looks positive as things continue to improve. Other grant sources remain flat or inconsistent. With continued rising costs in all areas, including building and equipment maintenance, finding a funding strategy to meet all staffing, operations, and public service needs will be a challenge.
Last year (21-22), Library Services adopted the rolled-back millage rate, along with most county services. Previously, there was a three-year period when libraries were permitted not to roll back the millage. This exception allowed for multiple needed maintenance projects to move forward, including new roofs at the Central Ridge and Coastal Region branches, replacement of both chiller units at the Homosassa branch, and multiple HVAC rooftop units at Central Ridge, Lakes, and Coastal Region Libraries. Due to ARPA funding, Floral City will have its HVAC units replaced within the year. Thanks to multiple grants, library WiFi networks, including outdoor services and a complete internal upgrade at all five branch locations, is bringing the next generation of WiFi to the public with increased capabilities and higher network load capacity.
A considerable concern moving forward is identifying the funding sources and developing a realistic timeline for the major interior renovations needed at the Lakes and Coastal Region facilities (now over 35 years old). These two projects are included in the plan for Capital Improvement Projects for FY24 and FY25, respectively. They are continuing to be rolled forward until funding can be identified.
Parks and Recreation
Parks and Recreation strives to enhance the quality of life for all Citrus County residents and visitors through active lifestyles and stimulated community involvement by providing safe, healthy, and family-valued recreation programs, special events, parks, beaches, and boat ramp facilities. This year, staff provided various virtual and in-person events, including art camps, painting classes, open mic, sports, Movies in the Park, and a concert series, among others. The Bicentennial Pool continued to operate with safe accommodations, with the staff providing water aerobics, senior fitness, lap swim, and open swim.
The collection of boat launch fees at four County Ramps: Fort Island Gulf Beach, Fort Island Trail Park, MacRae's of Homosassa, and Hernando Beach, went live in January 2022 with an expected annual revenue of $400K. Furthermore, the ADA-accessible beach mat installation at Fort Island Beach was hugely successful.
During this past fiscal year Public Works has completed, continued, or initiated several key County Projects. Some of the completed projects were the resurfacing of the Meadowcrest parking lot, and four Small County Outreach Program (SCOP) projects which included the resurfacing of CR 491 from Grover Cleveland to Laurel St, Citrus Springs from Santos to US 41, Deltona from Homeway to Citrus Springs Blvd, and Canary Palm from Green Acres to Oaklawn St. In addition, ten new leasable T-hangers were constructed at the Crystal River Airport.
A major project continued from last year is the widening of CR 491 from West Audubon Park Path to West Horace Allen Street. Plans and permitting are complete and right of way acquisition is nearing completion. Construction is expected to begin in late 2023 or early 2024. The Florida Turnpike recently accepted the Suncoast Parkway Extension, and the County is in the process of making the final connections to the trail.
Two projects are underway at the landfill. The first will upgrade the scale house with new software and a new automated scale for commercial haulers. The second is the design and permitting for the next cell at the landfill and associated customer service area renovations. This new cell will have a site life of approximately 15 to 20 years.
The Inverness Airport Business Park is part of the Inverness Airport master plan and the design, permitting, and construction will be partially grant funded by the State. The Crystal River Airport paved runway resurfacing will rehabilitate and strengthen the original portion of the runway to meet B-II standards. The FAA will fund 90% of this project, and the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) will fund 8% of the project. Finally, the fleet fuel site expansion will add a 15,000-gallon gas tank and a 15,000-gallon diesel tank to our existing fuel site. This project will double the County’s fuel capacity and better accommodate our needs in the event of a natural disaster. Through a joint effort with Transit, this project will be partially grant funded. It is expected that right-of-way, for the remainder of CR 491, will be certified by fall 2023, construction will start late 2023, and the project will be completed in 2025.
The projects we can look forward to this fiscal year, besides the typical SCOP and resurfacing projects, are:
- Design and permitting of the Inverness Airport Business Park
- Resurfacing the paved runway at the Crystal River Airport
- Fuel site expansion at Fleet
- Start of construction on the remainder of four-laning CR 491 between SR 44 and CR 486
Support Services assists and provides resources to Citrus County citizens in a variety of ways. Senior Programs assist senior citizens with remaining active and healthy by promoting participation in the community and improving their quality of life. This is done through an assortment of grant-funded services, such as Home Delivered Meals, Senior Dining, Nutrition Education, Emergency Alert Response, Homemaking, Personal Care, Respite Care, Adult Day Care, Screening, and Case Management, as well as the provision of referrals to other agencies, such as Home Health Care. These services promote self-sufficiency and increase the ability of senior citizens to remain in their homes.
The Nature Coast Volunteer Center (NCVC) continues to enhance the quality of services to citizens of Citrus County through the dedicated efforts of volunteers of all ages. NCVC also manages the Retired and Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP), which utilizes grant funding to offer those aged 55 and older challenging and rewarding volunteer opportunities to impact our community positively.
Court Alternatives collaborates with the courts and offers court-ordered treatment programs to increase the opportunity for success of participants. Felony Drug Court, Dependency Drug Court, and Mental Health Court are three adult programs where participants receive treatment in place of incarceration or loss of children. All three share the following goals: improve public safety by reducing criminal recidivism, improve the quality of life of people with addictions and/or mental illnesses, and unite families and their children. Veterans Treatment Court recognizes the unique challenges facing veterans with PTSD and Traumatic Brain Disorder. It helps link veterans that have been arrested in Citrus County who have a mental illness and/or substance use disorder to treatment and services in place of having their case proceed through the regular court process. Teen Court is offered as a positive experience to divert a first-time teen offender from a pattern of criminal behavior.
Systems Management has focused significantly on the next phase of the migration to Infor Public Sector (IPS). In phase one, Water Utilities and Public Works were largely addressed and in 2022, the focus has been on developing new requirements and methodologies for Growth Management to increase services, have increased visibility and accountability, and improve workflows in the IPS Community Development and Regulatory (CDR) module. Completion is targeted for April of 2023.
The programming team has worked to write workflows in IPS CDR and cleaning up data to speed up the implementation to have the most accurate and concise data upon going live. The previous system has been in place for over 20 years with two previous systems having been imported into it. Programmers have also worked with optimizing systems in Geographic Information Services new websites.
Cybersecurity continues to be a challenge to all local governments. Staff have improved logging and detection services across the network as well as implementing recommendations based on
third-party security reviews. Staff training for both technical staff and end-users is one of the most effective means to reduce risk. The recent adoption of State Statutes on cybersecurity emphasizes and requires the statewide need to harden our systems.
Records Management has aggressively reclaimed office space formerly used by physical records through scanning to digital images, reducing duplicate records, and performing dispositions on records which have met state retention requirements. This eliminates wasted staff time going through cumbersome physical records. The conversion to digital records also expands the usefulness of the IPS CDR project. The implementation of a new public records request system has simplified the overall process for the citizens and staff.
The addition of EMS to the County has impacted the Operations staff significantly by incorporating new systems in cooperation with Fire Services command staff and the 911 services. Modernizing equipment and software has improved overall efficiency.
Transit Services is committed to providing safe, secure, clean, and reliable transportation services to all residents and visitors, Monday through Friday, 6:00 AM to 6:00 PM. Transit Services offers a deviated fixed route and door-to-door paratransit service.
The Deviated Fixed Route is Citrus County’s public transportation system, which is comprised of four main routes throughout the County: Beverly Hills, Crystal River, Floral City, and Hernando. The routes run in loops that return to Citrus County Transit Center six times per day to accommodate cross-country trips. The deviated fixed route has designated stops and times and is available to anyone.
The door-to-door paratransit service provides a transportation option to the County’s transportation disadvantaged population (elderly, disabled, and economically disadvantaged) and offers a potential alternative for single-occupancy driving. Trips are prioritized based on need, with medical appointments having the highest priority. We accept reservations for work, medical appointments, nutritional needs, shopping, and other needs.
Furthermore, we provide transportation to medical appointments for Citrus County Veterans to the Tampa VA Hospital on Tuesdays, Gainesville VA Hospital on Wednesdays, and The Villages Outpatient VA Clinic on Thursdays. All vehicles are wheelchair accessible and provide home pickups and returns.
Citrus County Transit is supported by various funding sources from the Federal Transportation Administration, the State of Florida, and the County.
Veteran Services provides support and resources to our 19,000+ veterans. Veteran Services assists veterans and their families to navigate Veteran Administration (VA) systems, the National Personnel Record Center, Department of Defense retirement systems, and the Florida State Benefits Programs. Our Veteran Service Officers guide veterans and families on how to receive a pension, compensation, burial, educational, medical, insurance benefits, tax exemptions, and other local veteran resources.
The Veteran Service Office provides community outreach to educate the public on their services. Furthermore, they partner with the Citrus County Veterans Foundation, Mission United, Bridge4Veterans homeless shelter, and the Citrus County Veterans Coalition to ensure that veterans and families receive all the benefits they are entitled to. The Veteran Service Office directly impacts $116 million in Compensation and Pension dollars flowing to the County.
Water Resources continues implementation of septic to sewer projects. The Sea Otter Path Project is nearing completion and connections are anticipated to start in that area in the fall. In addition, the engineering designs for the Old Homosassa West, Old Homosassa East, and Cambridge Greens projects are ongoing. Construction of the new water and sewer lines along the Suncoast Parkway have been completed and the water system is now in service. The sewer lines are complete within the Parkway corridor but require further extensions to be fully connected to the County sewer system. Construction of the water system interconnection between the County’s water supply system and the Homosassa Special Water District (HSWD) has been completed and the County can now provide emergency backup water to the HSWD, if needed. Bids for construction of the Northwest Quadrant Water and Wastewater Extensions Project have been received and the project is scheduled to start construction late summer of 2022.
The utility customer base continues to increase. The three-year tally of new meter installations are as follows: 720 in FY 2020, 1,200 in FY 2021 and 1,400 in FY 2022 (projected).
The Department received its 6th Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) WaterSense excellence award for its water conservation awareness program. The projected water savings from the water conservation program amounts to 275,000 gallons per day.
2023 and Beyond
When developing a balanced budget, we must consider difficult tradeoffs between competing priorities and develop solutions with available resources. During times of economic uncertainty, striking that balance is even more challenging. The preliminary budget attempts to provide a balanced approach to accomplishing the County’s goals within its fiscal parameters.
We continue to seek ways to provide greater services with increased efficiency to the citizens of our County. I feel we have developed a good fiscal plan for our County. We have once again created a balanced budget, one that protects essential services.
We proceed on our path to continually raise the bar as to how Citrus County does business. I appreciate the hard work of dedicated County staff in providing a high level of customer service while expanding and strengthening programs that enhance the quality of life for Citrus County citizens.
I would like to thank our Management and Budget staff for their hard work in compiling a budget that best serves the needs of our residents. Good budgeting is more than looking for ways to cut costs. Above all, it is a plan for prudent, necessary, and appropriate spending to support the needs of the County. With your cooperation and support, we can make 2023 a year that lays the foundation for a prosperous and sustainable future.
Additionally, I want to recognize directors and staff of the various County departments and divisions who are committed to delivering quality services to Citrus’ residents, workers, and visitors in an efficient, effective, and equitable manner, while working to build a stronger community. In the end, it is the County employees who put the annual budget into action. Every day, they respond directly or indirectly to the citizens of this community. They are the County government’s greatest assets, and they do an exceptional job.
Charles R. Oliver
Charles R. “Randy” Oliver
Colleen J. Scott, CPA, CGFO, CPM
Management & Budget Director