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Concerned Citizens of
Franklin County, Inc.
PO Box 990
Eastpoint, Florida32328
(850) 653-5571
info@ABetterFranklin.com

CCFC - Budget Workshop

on Monday, 18 July 2016. Posted in News from the President

Mid-Summer Happenings

Hello Everyone:

Oh joy! It’s that time of the year again when the public gets to take part and/or observe the county preliminary budget process. Next week at 1:00 p.m. on Tuesday the 19th of July and Wednesday at 9:00 a.m., your CCFC will be representing the taxpayers as they try to work out a just budget for the County Commission and Constitutional Officers. The Florida Constitution requires your County Commissioners to approve all Constitutional Officer Budgets. There is a reason for that. There is a built in conflict of interest between the leader of a constitutional office and the financial needs of the people. The founders of Florida understood that issue and made your Commissioners the arbiter of “how much is enough.”

While the final budget requests are not yet available for us to view and review, we do know that the largest component of the budget will be the Sheriff’s. The Sheriff is requesting a budget busting increase on top of the increase granted last year. We can’t see it. I have attached an analysis of problematic areas we are concerned with and will challenge next week. A couple of budget busters the outgoing Sheriff has built-in to his budget is the purchase five new vehicles a year instead of the traditional three and 10% raises for his Lieutenants and 5% raises for his Sergeants. Keep in mind, that the county itself almost always delivers an across the Board raise or bonus on top of this. It’s no wonder that virtually all the highest paying jobs in the county are government. Coupled with an extremely generous package of benefits, have we effectively separated the haves (government workers) from the have not’s (the rest of us)?

The County Tax Digest (all the taxable property in the county) as appraised by the Property Appraiser will show an overall 3-4 percent increase in the taxable value of properties. Some will see a slight decrease, but most of us will see a substantial rise in the value of their properties after many years of flat or decreasing values. That’s good news and bad news. Everyone wants their property to go up in value but don’t want a bigger tax bill as a result. The shell game the County plays is the misleading “I won’t raise your taxes.” Since the value of a home may increase 4% or more, if the Commissioners pass the same millage rate as last year, you’ll pay more and they will tell you they did not raise taxes. That’s not true. The only way a Commissioner can say they did not raise taxes is if they vote for and pass what is described as the Rollback Rate. The rollback rate is designed to bring in the same amount of revenue as the current year and adjusts the millage rate to achieve that.

I have been informed by at least one Commissioner that they want to raise taxes to meet the needs of the Sheriff and Hospital. Yes, our old friends Weems and the Emergency Management Services that they control, are hemorrhaging money and need more money than just the 1% Healthcare Trust Fund is currently providing. Now, there is an effort to take more ad valorem tax money to fund the existing three ambulances (an increased subsidy was provided for exactly that purpose three years ago) or Weems will be forced to borrow even more money from the Trust Fund that ostensibly was to pay for capital improvements and new construction, but is well on the way to being depleted due to ongoing emergency needs.

These two drivers (known to us at this time) are set to enable Commissioners to raise taxes on us all. Keep in mind that Franklin County is one of the top five spending counties per capita in the State. We are not a poor county, we just act like it.

Please join me at next week’s Budget Workshops as we discuss individual budgets. The Tuesday Workshop is to agree on Non-Governmental Entity contributions like the Humane Society, Meals-on-Wheels and many other worthy organizations that get at least some of their support from the County. The main event is Wednesday morning when we hit the bigger budget requests. If you can come for only a few hours, then Wednesday morning is preferable.

Too often, it appears as if the CCFC is anti-government at these workshops. County Commissioners should be the watchdogs, but they don’t see the hundreds of pages of documents in the budget until a few days or even the same day of the workshops. Often, they don’t understand what they see and rely on those asking for funding from them. Every county department and Constitutional Office tends to look out for themselves; it’s the nature of government. Ultimately, you are the watchdogs that either enable or restrain government from taking more than it needs.

Thank you for continuing support as the CCFC attempts to bring greater transparency, fiscal responsibility and accountability on behalf of Franklin County officials and voters. If you haven’t already, please don’t forget to renew your CCFC membership this month. We depend on your support!

Please feel free to download the Analysis Speadsheet for the Workshop Here

Sincerely,

Allan J. Feifer
President
Concerned Citizens of Franklin County, Inc.
P.O. Box 990
Eastpoint, Florida 32328
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
ABetterFranklin.com
(850) 653-5571

“The Concerned Citizens of Franklin County, Inc. serves as a citizens’ advocate to ensure that our Franklin County governments are more open, affordable, efficient, and responsive to our citizens. The organization seeks to hold public officials accountable for their actions in the administration of their duties and in their fiduciary responsibilities to the taxpayers.”

Annual Fundraising Drive

on Thursday, 22 October 2015. Posted in News from the President

Good Afternoon Fellow Franklin County Property Owners:

2015 has been another great year for our Association and marks another year of continued fiscal restraint. We want to remind all Franklin County citizens that the Concerned Citizens of Franklin County, Inc. represents those without a voice on matters of financial propriety, transparency, efficiency and public corruption in Franklin County. We work with the County Commission, Hospital Board and other elected officials throughout the year. Many of you have probably had the feeling that you are powerless to affect our leadership. That’s where we come in. We hold elected officials to account and influence the debate. Let me share with you just some of the highlights for this past year:

Annual Budget:   The budget process went much more smoothly this year, mirroring last year’s. The Sheriff’s Office did receive a substantial raise in budget this year which we believe was probably not justified with lower costs in several areas, such as fuel. However, with the prepared budget presented to Commissioners and with better State funding, most of the Commissioners were inclined to take the “win” with a slightly below rollback millage rate. The CCFC believes there could have been a greater reduction in the millage rate, but it was not to be. I was pleased at the turnout by CCFC members at the Budget Workshop. Thanks to all that attended. This is an example of the CCFC saving you money on taxes!

Health Care: The Commission recently approved moving forward with an over $10 million project to improve Weems. A ballot initiative that mandated a new hospital drives an agenda that is unjustified and unaffordable. Sources state a new hospital would cost in excess of $35 million. The truth is that no one really knows what is to be built, but it won’t be a new hospital. Our understanding is that Architects are to be given a go ahead to design something to available funding; we just don’t know what that will be at this time. Mike Cooper, Weems current CEO, is very competent and knowledgeable. Our problem is one of demographics and economics. Weems loses over $1.5 million a year (before county subsidies) and there are legitimate concerns and cautions going forward both as to costs and quality of the healthcare delivered locally. The CCFC will closely follow developments and will influence the debate. All options should be on the table. The last thing we all want is for the citizens of Franklin County to be paying for a mistake for the next 40 years. The CCFC believes that the hospital needs to be removed from County control and to be associated with a stronger system with more resources.

Outreach: Each year I speak with dozens of people in public and private settings explaining the need and mission of our organization. We are working with our county-wide Property Assessor on inconsistent property assessments concerning mobile homes and long-lasting, inconsistent property tax records.  We assisted citizens and businesses with issues with the East Point Water and Sewer district, leading ultimately to a long-sought change in management.  We have worked this year with Lanark Village concerning a series of thefts that have devastated fund-raising support of their local Association.

Annually, we reach out to current and past members, and other property owners for help in meeting the financial challenges of continuing the work of the CCFC. We engage professionals to further our mission (lawyers, accountants and investigators) we maintain and operate our website, and there are substantial mailing and other expenses to continue our work. Many members support us with dues payment of $100 or more to ensure our continued success. But whatever you can contribute, perhaps $25, $50, $75, will allow our year round work to ensure that good government for Franklin County becomes a reality. Please support our important work by citizens and for citizens by putting your check in the mail today! Make your check payable to the CCFC and mail it to P.O. Box 990, Eastpoint Florida 32328 while it is top of mind. Please feel free to share this letter with your friends; encourage them to join the CCFC. We represent you and you alone.

Thank you for your generous support. Dues are not deductible for income tax purposes.

Sincerely,

Allan J. Feifer—President

Concerned Citizens of Franklin County, Inc.

P.O. Box 990

Eastpoint, Florida 32328

ABetterFranklin.com          (850) 653-5571

FC School Board Approves Mailed Ballot

on Thursday, 31 March 2016. Posted in News from the President

A big win for the CCFC!

Update: With the School Board Approving after two Board meetings (one of them a special meeting) The FC School Board has agreed to change the vote to a mailed ballot to help insure the widest possible access. A big win for the CCFC!

Hello Everyone:

We have three subjects to bring to you today:

First, our Annual Meeting is to be held on April 16th at 10:30 a.m. at the Eastpoint Firehouse. We will elect Directors and Officers, listen to your concerns and interests and collect 2016 dues. Please come and meet the group and participate. We need your input and support.

Second, we have a bone to pick with the School Board and we’d like you to attend if you can. The School Board wants to raise an additional ½ mill by ostensibly transferring it from the capital side of the budget to the operational side, and they need voter approval again. Without disputing the veracity of their claim, the CCFC takes issue with the method the School Board employed to get their wish. Instead of putting the issue on last month’s Presidential Preference ballot or later in the year for free, the School Board chose to disenfranchise as many voters as possible and put the Special Election on in June at a cost to you of $22,000 vs. free. All of us should be concerned about that kind of legerdemain. If you think like we do, please attend Monday’s Regular School Board Meeting with us at the Willie Speed Boardroom on 85 School Road in Eastpoint at 6:00 p.m. We’re going to ask them to change their minds, save $22,000 and respect the will of the voters; whatever that may be.

Moving on to an ongoing issue….

Three Commissioners appear to want Weems to build a new/renovated facility no matter (what) the potential financial consequences or issues. Several recent developments paint a picture of a Hospital System in name only, running on fumes and not delivering the kind of care that you would expect from a traditional hospital. These four developments, when taken together, scare two current Commissioners, several former Commissioners and your own Association:

1. The proposed foundation for future financial repayment of the county debt is shaky at the onset. It has been publicly explained that the $10.5 million USDA loan is to be paid back with future Medicare reimbursements. But depreciation reimbursement for the new facility predicated on current rules may change in the future as they have in the past. Without these future depreciation monies, there may be little or no cash flow to pay back a dime of the $10 million loan. If the Hospital cannot make its debt service, who do you think will be on the hook to pay that money back?? You guessed it! You and me. The taxpayers of Franklin County.

2. Since December 2015, and continuing through March, Weems has been unable to make payroll or pay its bills and regular expenses. The County has advanced funds totaling $677,000 since December 2015. Weems payback was supposed to occur in March, based on hospital management projections. Instead, Weems continues to be in dire financial straits. $243,000 of that “loan” has been authorized by the BOCC, but has not yet been drawn down. Of the over $12 million collected in taxes, less than $2 million remains. Remember these “loan” monies are granted in addition to the generous and dependable support already provided by the Healthcare Sales Tax. These additional monies (loans) are coming out of the Capital Fund that was intended and designated on the referendum ballot to be used for construction of a new hospital.

3. Month after month, Weems CEO Mike Cooper has put the best possible public spin on anything good, while seemingly ignoring facts that are more negative. The latest Financials we have (through February 2016) show the Weems System in the red after subsidies and owing $419,000 to TMH for salaries they pay on behalf of Weems and $461,000 in payables, mostly over 30 days overdue. Where’s the money to pay these bills and others going to come from?

4. Last week the Chief Financial Officer was suspended for a week for, and I quote from the email sent to the Board from the hospital CEO, “In short, the information that I delivered to all of you in December regarding how much money the hospital was expecting was flawed. A good portion of the meaningful use monies were disallowed. The reasons are rather technical and we will eventually get a good portion of the money. However, it won’t be in the accelerated fashion that we expected. More concerning, there was a major oversight in the calculation of what we expected from our normal cost report settlement. The result of all of the above is that there will not be a large Medicare check that will allow the hospital to replenish the Trust in one payment.” And, “With that said, the mistake that was made in creating the projection of the cash we were expecting was egregious. It was an honest mistake but, egregious nonetheless. It needed to be addressed. In meeting with each of you, I attempted to collect your thoughts of what you expected should happen. I also consulted TMH.TMH sent their VP of Human Resources down on Thursday to consult. After much thought, I, with the blessing of TMH and the hospital board chair, suspended John Graham (Weems CFO) for one week without pay.”

Why are alarm bells not going off all the way to Tallahassee? Confidence in leadership is the glue that holds civil society together and allows for the everyday functioning of government. Citizens must be able to trust their representatives. The national debate on both sides centers around whom you trust more to tell you the truth. Quite remarkable, really.

For the record and before someone says otherwise, there are no bad actors here. Whether on the BOCC, the Hospital Board or other leaders, these are good people who have to make difficult choices. One choice to be most seriously considered is what option is actually going to deliver the best healthcare choices for the citizens of Franklin County. Too often that is forgotten in our desire to claim the prestige of a local hospital, even when it has been unable to deliver much more than limited emergency room treatment and a shiny brass plaque with local names inscribed thereupon for all to see.

If you agree with us that the county has a runaway expenditure train called “Weems”, help us let taxpayers know the truth, not a ‘wishful thinking’ bill of goods that others may want you to hear and/or think. Thank you for your continuing support as the CCFC attempts to bring greater transparency, fiscal responsibility and accountability on behalf of Franklin County officials and voters. Please remember to renew your 2016 CCFC membership if you have not already. Not a member? No problem, click on…http://abetterfranklin.com/index.php/join-ccfc. Join today. We depend on your support! Membership dues are not tax deductible.

Sincerely,

Allan J. Feifer
President
Concerned Citizens of Franklin County, Inc.
P.O. Box 990
Eastpoint, Florida 32328
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

ABetterFranklin.com (850) 653-5571

“The Concerned Citizens of Franklin County, Inc. serves as a citizens’ advocate to ensure that our Franklin County governments are more open, affordable, efficient, and responsive to our citizens. The organization seeks to hold public officials accountable for their actions in the administration of their duties and in their fiduciary responsibilities to the taxpayers.”

Commissioner Contacts:

Chairman- Cheryl Sanders <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>697-2534
Commissioner Smokey Parrish <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.> 653-8790
Commissioner Rick Watson <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.> 591-4770
Commissioner Noah Lockley <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.> 653-4452
Commissioner William Massey <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.> 653-8861