Chairman Dr. Barbara Murray requested an update from Harold Bistline, School Board Attorney, on the conflict resolution with the County Commissioner's Office and the Impact Fee situation.
Mr. Bistline explained that the School Board has had two staff conflict resolution meetings to date with the County and City of Titusville. All jurisdictions have waived the time limits; therefore, another meeting is scheduled in October. Suggested revisions to the Interlocal Agreement have been proposed and communicated between all parties; some of which were not agreed upon. Mr. Bistline shared that it appeared that the other jurisdictions were interested in running our schools and the budget process. He expressed that he did not believe that the School District should give up authority to control its own budget. Mr. Bistline explained that the County is interested in the School Board adopting criteria for school closures as a Board Policy, which he agreed with and it will probably be proposed to the Board. Mr. Bistline then stated the next steps in an effort to resolve the conflict.
Mr. Ziegler commented on the conflict resolution overview that was provided by Dane Theodore, Assistant Superintendent of Facility Services, which gives more detail on the County's interest in becoming involved with the District's budget process by establishing a Capital Outlay Committee. The Committee would analyze concurrency to ensure that the School Board is providing adequate vacancies and communities for growth. Mr. Ziegler stated his concerns about their interest as there are a lot of logistical thoughts that go into making these decisions and he believes it would be difficult for them to assist due to lack of information. He stated that it should not be granted to them unless they plan to dig in deeper, which he doesn't believe is their intention.
Mr. Ziegler pointed out that the County Commissioner's Office requests that the School Board not take any actions unless all of the items within the Interlocal Agreement are complied with. He expressed that he has a problem with this as it opens the door to political stone walling which prolongs certain actions. For example, the Impact Fee Benefit District Advisory Committee not holding their meeting, which in turn delays the distribution of Impact Fees to the School Board. Mr. Ziegler feels it is a political game being played by the County and he does not believe there should be anything within the Interlocal Agreement that could be manipulated and cause delay to what we need to do to run our schools.
Dr. Murray asked Mr. Bistline to provide the Board and viewing audience with an update pertaining to Impact Fees. Mr. Bistline explained that the County is holding Impact Fees that should be turned over to the School District to use according to the Ordinance and Interlocal Agreement. Mr. Bistline stated that we are currently at a stand still due to actions from the County.
Dr. Murray asked Mr. Theodore to the podium to provide additional information pertaining to Impact Fees. Mr. Theodore stated that we have $8.3 million available for disbursement (through April 30, 2013). We originally projected $4.7 million for fiscal year 2012 and put that amount into this year's budget, as it typically isn't a problem collecting the funds. Mr. Theodore stated that a meeting was scheduled in May, which was agreed upon by all parties. The day before the meeting was to occur, we were informed by the County that they would not be attending. Mr. Theodore said that nothing will happen with the funds until committees come together. It is his understanding that all parties, except the County, are ready to meet.
Ms. Kneessy explained to the Board and viewing audience exactly what is happening. She stated that we have approximately $8 million sitting in a bank that has been collected from people who have moved into our county, purchased a home and paid their impact fee. These funds are to come back to the School District to offset dollars, such as the debt on buildings, classroom construction, and air conditioners, which we are in desperate need of right now. She explained that this money is just sitting there and is money that we need to spend because of the $25 million in cuts that were made this year.
Ms. Kneessy expressed that there is direct impact to our classrooms because the bullies in the County office didn't get there way and have decided that they are going to hold hostage the $8 million of the School District's legally collected dollars. Ms. Kneessy stated that she told Matt Reed and others many months ago that Robin Fisher said to her that if we did not keep a school open, then he and Chuck Nelson would personally see that we would loose our Impact Fee money and they would make us pay. She wants everyone to be aware that the money is just sitting in a bank, unable to be used by Brevard Public Schools, because they didn't' get their way and won't come to a meeting.
Ms. Kneessy also pointed out that the County Commissioner's Office gets to keep an administration fee from these funds. They are funding three positions out of the Impact Fees. Ms. Kneessy stated that the County is using their dollars to fund positions, yet we sit here unable to pay debt, buy school buses, repair roofs, and take care of air condition units, all because they are not happy. She asked the viewing audience or whomever read the morning paper, to pick up the phone and call their County Commissioner.
Mr. Ziegler stated that because we have a budget that we are approving shortly, which incorporated the $4.0 - 4.7 million of Impact Fees and we are unsure of how long this game is going to be played and whether we have any recourse on this money, staff should present at the upcoming Final Budget Hearing an alternative set of cuts to the Board. Mr. Ziegler expressed that the community needs to know what we are going to be prepared to cut.
Dr. Krupp asked Mr. Theodore if the Impact Fees went towards renovations in the North Area (Commissioner Fisher's area). Mr. Theodore explained that yes, the Impact Fees were used for those renovations. Dr. Krupp asked Mr. Theodore how much was spent on Astronaut, Titusville, and Mims, which were just a few of the schools that were renovated in the North Area. Mr. Theodore gave the dollars amounts spent at these three schools, which totaled $78 million. Dr. Krupp expressed to Commissioner Fisher, if he was listening, that we spent $78 million on just three schools and he is sitting on $8 million that belongs to the School Board. He asked that we get real about this, and as Ms. Kneessy stated,"grow up".
Dr. Murray apologized to the Board for having to cancel the joint meeting with the County Commissioner's Office at the last minute. She stated that there seemed to be some confusion and lack of awareness about how the School Board operates under a different set of rules than the County, in terms of providing notice of the meetings and our agenda to the public.
Dr. Murray provided the Board with a timeline of events that have occurred pertaining to establishing the joint meeting. She thought it was time to bring this topic to the table for the Board to make a unified direction as to what we are willing to do for this meeting. Dr. Murray stated that in May, it was agreed upon by all parties that we would house the meeting but Andy Anderson and herself would co-chair the meeting. At this time a list of topics were established for the joint meeting and the County was going to decide what they wanted to do and she was going to bring it to the Board, which never occurred until the draft agenda was received last week.
Dr. Murray feels it is necessary to request the Board's input on topics for this meeting. She stated that this meeting needs to happen and quickly; therefore, she suggested a discussion be held pertaining to how we should proceed with this at this point in time.
Discussion ensued among the Board on a proposed meeting date and additional topics for the agenda.
Dr. Murray stated that the State mandated ethics training for all elected officials. When this arose last Spring she advised Ms. Pace, Associate Superintendent of Human Resources, to establish an in-house training to alleviate the off-site expenses. Mr. Bistline explained his intentions to review the rules to ensure that we would be in compliance.