Sen. Alexander, tired of DMS delay, says make it a Cabinet agency
Sen. JD Alexander, clearly dissatisfied with the Department of Management Service's compliance with his monthslong push for a comprehensive inventory of state real estate and buildings, is considering legislation that would turn DMS into a Cabinet-level agency.
"There are some good people at DMS, and they're doing some good things," said Alexander, R-Lake Wales. "It's just, can we do better and more broadly? This is a time where we could attract some real high-quality people. There are a lot of great Realtors and professionals without jobs."
Alexander's comments came after a brief, but terse, exchange this morning with current DMS Secretary Linda South, who appeared before his Ways and Means Committee to explain why DMS has yet to complete the state-mandated inventory of all state property. Lawmakers in January, at Alexander's urging, passed a law that requires DMS to do so. Last month, DMS real estate director Dean Izzo raised Alexander's ire by claiming DMS could not complete the list without more state money for staff.Fast forward to this morning, and enter South to center stage before Alexander's committee. She told the senators that the state has more than 67,000 parcels, 75 percent of it conservation land. And on 18,000 of those parcels are state-owned structures. But she could only provide details so far on the 115 state-owned structures (think garages, museums, some state offices) that DMS manages and maintains. She said the other properties are overseen by various state agencies, and DMS has had difficulty gathering sufficient data on the properties' value, location and condition.
"Different tax appraisers treat state-owned land differently," South said. "Some aren't making it a priority to put a value on it if it doesn't add to their tax rolls. That makes it very difficult to get to that bottom line you're looking for."
Alexander wasn't buying it. "That seems a little disingenuous in my view," he told South. "I appreciate you updating us on some of these grand lists, but ... I just think it's amazing the state doesn't know what our inventories are. We are insuring them, yet we don't know if they're vacant or occupied, etc.
"Here we are trying to build a budget for next year that lets taxpayers know ... we are trying to reduce the cost of government everywhere we can. Every way we can find to spend more wisely our taxpayers' dollars, we should do that."
He asked South: "Is there any ambiguity in what the Legislature was asking you for?"
She replied firmly: "No, sir. But I do believe we are well on our way to getting you what you asked for. We are looking at ways to do the job you have asked us to do."