Article Courtesy of The Sun
By Joe Kollin
Published September 4, 2007
Money paid into a trust fund by
every condo owner in the state might be
diverted for totally unrelated expenses if the state's budget shortfall
is greater than expected during the fiscal year that begins Oct. 1.
Each of Florida's 20,000 condo
associations pays the state $4 per unit annually for regulation,
education and mediation services for condo
owners. The Legislature-created trust fund, designated for condo
purposes only, last year received $4.4 million from the state's 1.1
million condo units.But an emergency plan
prepared at the direction of Gov. Charlie Crist
would take money from the trust fund and use it for general state
expenses if tax collections are lower than expected.
The State Department of Business & Professional
Regulation lists the following possible reductions in condo
services if it must dip into the trust fund:
*Eliminate all classroom instruction for condo
owners and directors at locations throughout the state, for a savings of
$240,000. Online instruction would continue at a cost of $10,000.
*Reduce the state's authority to investigate
unit owner complaints that involve "day-to-day" types of
disputes. Instead, it would handle only complaints that involve
finances, access to records and elections. This would let the department
eliminate 12 positions for a savings of $673,331.
*Do away with the free mediation service the
department provides when owners have disputes and, instead, refer owners
to private mediators, for a reduction of three employees and a savings
Ombudsman Danille R. Carroll's budget by $60,324. It would prevent her
staff from traveling to attend condo
meetings and to educate owners.
*Eliminate the position of financial analyst
from the ombudsman's staff, limiting Carroll's ability to help boards
deal with financial issues, for a savings of $63,141.
*End mediation for residents of homeowners
associations, the only service the state provides those residential
associations. Eliminating two positions would save $93,356.
The department came up with the outline after Crist
in June warned the state will receive $1.1 billion less revenue than
Not only does state law designate the trust fund must
be used only for condo owners, the
Legislature in 1991 and 1992 required that the fund be used to provide
education. In 1992, legislators raised the fee charged each unit from $1
To divert money would require changing state law. The
Legislature on Sept. 18 begins a three-week special session to cut the
budget and could consider raiding the state's several trust funds.
Crist's office on Friday
didn't respond to questions about the condo