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Sunday December 21st 2014

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State owes Escambia County $1.7 million, says it cannot pay it

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We keep hearing how much money the state of Florida has, thanks to the leadership of Rick Scott. In September, Florida had a projected surplus of $845 million in fiscal year 2014 even after meeting current enrollment needs for schools and health care programs such as Medicaid and setting aside $1 billion in reserves.

However, the state doesn’t have the funds to reimburse Escambia County $1,721,217 for Juvenile Justice detention costs.

Here is the memo that was included in the agenda packet of yesterday’s Board of County Commissioners meeting:

The Department of Juvenile Justice, pursuant to the county cost-share provisions of Section 985.686, Florida Statutes, by which Escambia County is responsible for pre-disposition secure detention costs, issued a letter dated November 27, 2013 with the reconciliation of shared detention costs for FY 2012-2013 which was then revised with a final reconciliation spreadsheet on December 3, 2013. Escambia County is due a credit of $1,721,217.83. The Department of Juvenile Justice has refused to honor the credit alleging that it has no budgeted funds to apply the credit to future payments owed to the Department of Juvenile Justice for FY 2013-2014.

Under the terms of the final reconciliation, an appeal with the Department of Administrative Hearings would have been due no later than December 18, 2013. At the request of the Legislature and Florida Association of Counties, the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice issued a letter dated December 12, 2013 which postponed appeal rights until the 2014 Florida Legislature has met and determined whether or not to fund the credits owed the counties. As an inducement for the counties to forestall an appeal, the DJJ through its Chief of Staff has included this language in the December 12, 2013 letter: “All rights and remedies for the counties originating from the FY 12-13 reconciliations are preserved, and not waived, between now and the date of final agency action stated herein.” With this letter in hand, the County can take a wait and see approach while the legislature is in session for 2014 to determine whether it will appropriate monies to fund the credits.

The December 12th DJJ letter has been discussed with Amy Lovoy, Director, Department of Management & Budget Services, and she concurs with postponing an appeal with the Division of Administrative Hearings until such time as the Florida Legislature has determined whether or not to fund the County’s credit. In recent telephone conferences with several county attorneys and retained attorneys representing counties affected by the FY 2012-13 reconciliation, a consensus was reached that the counties will preserve all rights and remedies with the DJJ December 12th letter and that the counties should await financial assistance from the legislature during the 2014 session before taking legal action.