From the Council Packet Dr. Miller’s Letter to the Attorney General – Meeting Tuesday September 11th

TOWN OF WHITE SPRINGS

"On the Banks of the Suwannee River"

August 13, 2018

Attorney General Pam Bondi
Department of Legal Affairs
The Capitol PL 01
Tallahassee, Florida  32399-1050

 

Dear Attorney General Bondi:

 

RE:  OPINION REQUEST- LOCAL OPTION FUEL TAX – MUNICIPALITIES
  1.  May proceeds from the Local Option Fuel Tax (LOFT) authorized in 336,.025 (7), Florida Statutes, be used to fund municipal management, legal and operating expenditures, staff clothing and consumables; registration and travel expenses for staff attending conferences and training?
  2. Should municipalities establish City Street System (i.e. Municipal) Transportation Trust Funds for all transportation-related revenues and expenditures associated with their share of LOFT received pursuant to an Interlocal Agreement between the County and the Municipality?
On April 24, 2018, I was elected to the Town Council of the Town of White Springs.  A council member’s official duties include voting to pay / not pay accounts payable presented at the regular monthly council meetings.  Official duties also include participation in the development of the town’s annual budget at public workshops and hearings, and voting to approve the final budget.

 

In order to educate myself about the town’s sources of revenue, and their possible restricted uses, I have studied the enabling legislation and the section of the 2017 Local Government Financial Information Handbook that relates to the Local Option Fuel Tax (LOFT).  Additionally I have researched the Attorney General Opinions relevant to this revenue source.

 

My layman’s understanding distilled from these sources suggest that LOFT proceeds – passed to the Municipality from the County, pursuant to an Interlocal Agreement – are subject to the transportation project uses specified in subsection (7) of 336.025, F. S.   This understanding conflicts with the advice and direction delivered by the town’s auditor to town management and council members through a series of emails (attached, dated July 13,2018, July 19, 2018, July 20, 2018).  The town auditor delivers ever-changing and confusing instructions on the authorized uses of LOFT proceeds.  He states that “transportation does not exist in a vacuum….The term “operations” appears to be a very large umbrella and encompasses a broad range of services including management”.  He states he has found no Attorney General Ruling to the contrary.  The Town’s auditor concludes his advice (July 20, 2018 email) by suggesting that “if there is any ambiguity in the term “operations” that the Town’s Attorney provide a legal opinion.

 

When the Town Attorney was asked for her legal opinion on the authorized uses of LOFT revenue (during a town budget workshop held on July 17, 2018, prior to receipt of the town auditor’s July 20, 2018 email), she said the council needs to follow the town auditor’s direction.

 

White Springs’ following the auditor’s direction (since 2015) has led to several years of LOFT revenues being used for management and operating expenditures, specifically compensation for the town manager, town clerk / finance director, administrative assistant, and public works staff for consumables such as staff clothing and designer water, and registration and travel expenses for staff attending conferences and training.

 

During the same period of time (2015 to present), minuscule LOFT revenue was being used for public transportation operations and maintenance, for roadway and right-of-way drainage, and for traffic signs, traffic engineering, signalization, and pavement markings installation, operation, maintenance and repair.  (Town financial reports are attached.)

 

An attorney General Opinion is requested in order to define for myself and my council colleagues (1) the allowable uses for LOFT proceeds before the 2018-2019 fiscal year commences, and (2) the need to set municipal policy establishing a City Street System (i.e. Municipal) Transportation Trust Fund for all transportation-related revenues and expenditures associated with the municipal share of LOFT received pursuant to the Interlocal Agreement between the County and the Municipality.

 

Respectfully submitted
Helen B. Miller
Helen B. Miller
Council Member
Attachments:
cc:    Mayor Spencer Lofton
          Vice Mayor Tonja Brown
          Council Member Rhett Bullard
          Council Member Walter McKenzie
          Town Attorney Karen Hatton 

 

P. O. Drawer D [10363 Bridge Street ]  White Springs, FL  32096
Ph 386.397.2310   {Fax 386.397.1542]  www.whitesprings.org}  cityhall@windstream.net
“This institution is an equal opportunity provider & employer”

 

 

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