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

CCFC-Good Stewards of the Purse

on Wednesday, 13 June 2018.

Hello Friends:

There is positive movement on the health front. Today, we are concentrating on this year’s budget kickoff. Here are a few of our concerns and information we’d like to share with you.

Franklin County is managed by individual department heads who report directly to county Commissioners as well as our elected Constitutional Officers who are required to request their annual budgets from the County Commission. Franklin County’s current budget of $52 million supports a population of approximately 10,000, not including state inmates. Small county we may be, but county taxes, to the tune of over $5,000 for every man, woman and child, puts our county budget at the very top rank of county spending per capita in the state.

Absent a County Manager, many of the county’s key financial decisions are made by well-meaning but too often financially inexperienced, individuals who perform well on the operational side of their position, but struggle with sophisticated financial decisions and operations that may be above and beyond their everyday duties and skills.

Questions that need to be asked and issues that need to be addressed by every department and constitutional officer before they make capital requests or before they submit a budget request are:

  • What is the economic life of an asset? Every piece of capital equipment should have an asset card associated with it that tracks its history and helps predict future obsolescence.
  • Does each piece of equipment follow a prescribed preventative maintenance program to maximize its life? Who ensures that standards are met?
  • Is there a standardized approach to the acquisition of capital equipment through open bidding or does the county leave that up to the individual discretion of constitutionals and department heads?
  • When financing is involved, does the county have an annual arrangement with a financial institution to acquire equipment for the lowest possible finance cost? Is this arrangement transparent and open to competition?
  • Under what conditions should leasing of equipment be sought? Leasing is rarely the most economic form of ownership for county government. Exceptions are capital leases with a defined buyout.
  • Does every county department have a mission statement that clearly states what is expected of that department and its employees so they can budget to that requirement?
  • Does the county undertake a periodic operational review by a qualified company to look for opportunities for savings and efficiencies that exist in every operational area?
  • In department and overall county-wide, is there a shared assumption by staff, management and commissioners to attempt to operate within the current year’s budget footprint when they submit their next budget? While not always possible, a stated goal/policy to aggressively attempt to keep costs level.
  • Is there anyone tasked by county leadership who looks for ways to reduce spending, increase efficiency and provide better services to the citizens?
  • Is there a countywide personnel policy and compensation program that employees can rely on for day-to-day operations and promotion guidance?
  • Be wary of “Free Money,” aka grants that are a huge part of our budget. Many grants start you off but don’t sustain that purpose over time. This means that when the grant money runs out, the county frequently continues paying for whatever activity or person that was at first “free.”
  • County leaders should expect and budget for excess funds not used in a budget year. There must not be a mad rush to expend every dollar to bolster next year’s request.

As we enter this year’s budget cycle, those that request and approve budgets should be cognizant of recent spending increases. In 2012-13, the county budget was approximately $38 million. The most recent budget saw a $14 million increase in spending to the current $52 million. That is a 37 percent increase in five years. That is substantial and hard to justify by our way of thinking when population numbers have not increased and no new services have been introduced. Has the population grown or number of visitors demanding services substantially changed?

After several years of increases in financial spending, it’s time for a pause in the annual “Fleecing of the Lambs.” We the taxpayers and citizens are all, of course, those “Lambs!”

The CCFC is asking the county commission to pledge a “no net increase in millage rate taxes” this year. Ask your representatives if they are willing to take the pledge.

I’d love to hear your opinions as well. Please call or write us if you have comments.

Thank you for your support of the CCFC. Some of our readers have not paid their 2018 dues yet. Please remember us if you can. Not a member? No problem, click on... http://abetterfranklin.com/index.php/join-ccfc Join today. We depend on your support!

Thank you!

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:

Cheryl Sanders - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. - 697-2534

Chairman-Commissioner Smokey Parrish - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. - 653-8790

Commissioner Ricky Jones - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. - 653-8861

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

CCFC News “Other People’s Money”

on Saturday, 28 July 2018.

Hello Friends:

The annual budget process is a three step procedure.

  1. Finance, at the direction to the Clerk’s Office, requests all Department Heads and Constitutional Officers submit their budget requests by June first. They were further instructed not to request additional funds over last year’s approved budgets without appearing at the County Commission Meeting prior to the Budget Workshop.
  2. The actual two day budget workshop was held on July 19th and 20th. There were few, if any issues. The initially proposed millage rate of 6.3460 was more than the rollback rate of 6.1524. FYI the rollback millage rate is the rate that would bring in the same amount of ad valorem tax as the current year to fund the budget at this year’s funding level. At the conclusion of the Workshop, the millage rate was set at 6.2762. The additional proposed millage rate will bring in about $400,000 more Ad Valorem tax than last year and increase your taxes by an average of 2%. Your TRIM Notices will reflect this level of proposed spending.
  3. Two separate Budget Adoption Hearings will be held in September. Commissioners can lower the millage rate at these hearings, but they cannot raise them.

The several hundred page proposed budget was not available until a few hours before the Workshop and therefore no one did any detailed analysis of spending and any means of creating offsetting cost savings. I hope this was not by design. While the Ad Valorem tax is the most noticeable and talked about aspect of the budget, it is only a portion of the proposed $51 million plus budget. The county takes in millions of dollars in other taxes, grants and fees that are uncounted in favor of concentrating on the politically visible millage rate. Franklin County will take in hundreds of thousands of dollars more this coming year than during this current year not even counting ad valorem taxes. Yet, there is no discussion of what actually drives the need to raise taxes on people again this year, as has been done for the previous three years.

No one raised their hand to or suggested to staff to offset the increased spending with savings in other areas. To put this in perspective, a less than 1% cut in the budget would deliver no tax increase this year. Why not look for savings?

The budget buster this year was outgoing Commissioner Cheryl Sanders request for a 3% COLA this year instead of the 1.5% proposed by Finance. This will cost the county an additional $135,000 over Finance’s recommendation.

Afterwards, some of the other Commissioners told me they were not pleased, but the damage was done.

Between now and the Budget Adoption Hearings in September, we will review and study the budget document, looking for those savings. We will present them to the Board of Commissioners once again in the spirit of helpfulness for their consideration.

In addition to budget matters, the CCFC is also making a major push to have Franklin County follow State Law and provide the opportunity at all public meetings and workshops to address our Commissioners before they vote on specific issues as is required by law before a vote is taken. As of today, the Commission only allows onesided public statements to be made at the beginning of County Commission meetings, and there is no comment or action currently allowed by Commissioners during that time. More than one person has taken their time to come to a meeting to offer input into an agenda item and only been given a perfunctory “Thank You” as their only acknowledgment. This is extremely disheartening to someone who believes in good democratic government and the right of the people to seek a response from their elected leaders.

The CCFC has sent to all Commissioners copies of the Public Engagement Policies from Wakulla and Gulf Counties which codify the right of individuals to speak to their Commissioners at various times during a meeting, and most importantly, before a vote is taken on an issue of personal concern. We have asked Commissioners to broaden their current policy and engage their electorate in the proper manner and with respect and patience. We believe that should be their job.

The CCFC would like to remain positive and upbeat concerning the public’s chances of being treated fairly. Sadly, not all Commissioners buy in to the concept of public involvement and as a consequence, we frequently arrive at an adversarial position. We are not convinced that Commissioners really appreciate the obvious…that it’s not their money, but yours. Let’s hold them accountable and remind them from time to time, and while we are at it, let’s remind them that the best interests of Franklin County’s people and not narrow special interests must always come first.

I’d love to hear your opinions as well. Please call or write us if you have comments.

Thank you for your support of the CCFC. Some of our readers have not paid their 2018 dues yet. Please remember us if you can. Not a member? No problem, click on... http://abetterfranklin.com/index.php/join-ccfc Join today. We depend on your support!

Thank you!

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:

Cheryl Sanders - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. - 697-2534

Chairman-Commissioner Smokey Parrish - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. - 653-8790

Commissioner Ricky Jones - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. - 653-8861

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

The Rising Tide of Rising Taxes

on Tuesday, 28 August 2018.

Hello Friends:

By now you have received your 2018 TRIM Notice. For most of us, you will see a significant rise in your proposed taxes. Some Franklin County taxpayers are seeing total County and School increases from 5-18%. What does your own notice show? This is to discuss the County’s share of this increase, which is the fourth in as many years. This harkens back to those days 13 years ago – just before the nationwide recession - when those in the County leadership believed that rising assessments gave them permission to increase spending. Extra monies resulted in frivolous projects with no long term benefits for today.

Now, rising assessments are back.

In fact, Franklin County has an embarrassment of riches. We have no debt and by our accounting perhaps as much as $7.5 million in reserves and other (non-constrained accounts and additional) sources of money at the disposal of the County Commission. In fact, we believe there is a possibility that Franklin County is violating State law in having more in available reserves than the statutory maximum of 10%. (This would include all the pots of money that are reprogrammable by Commissioners) Some say great, we are hurricane prone and need reserves. But just how much is enough? It’s never discussed and in point of fact, FEMA picks up the vast amount of hurricane expenses. It’s another reason that Franklin County lives at the top of the list for most per capita taxes among Florida counties.

We have sent “Franklin County Fiscal Year 2018-2019 Proposed Budget” analysis to both Commissioners and Finance for comment for potential action on lowering the millage rate so taxes would not have to be increased this year. Our requests have been deferred until the first Budget Adoption Hearing. And, with the arrogant new public access policy adopted this month, citizens are virtually barred from having a conversation with their Commissioners at this meeting or any Public Meeting. Here is a link if you would like to view:

http://abetterfranklin.com/images/PDFs/CCFC-Franklin-County-Budget-Analysis-2018-2019.pdf

All numbers derived from County Documents.

Webster’s Dictionary defines Conversation as:

  1. Oral exchange of sentiments, observations, opinions, or ideas
  2. An informal discussion of an issue by representatives of governments, institutions, or groups

This right of an exchange of thoughts or suggestions has been taken away by a recent act of fiat of the Board. I promise you this will not survive. This leadership conduct is the epitome of a kind of hubris not often seen except in governmental operations not held accountable. It is insulting and vile to the conscience. You only have to experience the awful feeling once of finally getting up the nerve to stand up there alone on an issue of importance to you and to be totally ignored (one Commissioner frequently leaves the room during public comments) or stopped in mid-sentence as the small amount of allotted time expires, or told to “go back where you came from” or asked “are you finished yet.” The not-so-subtle message is that, even as a member of the voting public, you have no standing with your own Commission or District Commissioner. How is it possible that one’s own Commissioner does not stand up for the rights of their constituents or demand courtesy toward their electorate? But, no one does.

There is something you can do to demand attention from your Commission who has the ability to lower or maintain your current tax rate. Come to the Adoption Hearing on September 4th and speak. On my own, I can be ignored. But, if a roomful of citizens demands their rightful hearings, and demonstrate that the County does not need this tax increase, Commissioners will get the message. We need to demand that Commissioners direct staff to submit budgets that do not raise taxes! If our voices are heard, such magic will happen because of YOUR involvement and commitment!

We go to these Hearings, workshops and other venues to better understand the intricacies of a 50 million dollar budget as well as to make the public aware of the unnecessary tax increases that are being demanded of our local taxpayers. For example, Wakulla’s proposed budget is half of ours on a per capita basis (not counting their Enterprise Fund for Economic Development). Gulf County’s proposed budget is virtually the same as ours but their population is half again as large. At Franklin County meetings, you will be given this or that excuse for why our budget is higher than may seem appropriate or necessary. However, it is the huge amount of cash that we possess that turns $19,309,426 (Estimated Revenue Sources) into a $50 plus million dollar budget.

Please consider contacting the CCFC to see what you can do to help lower your own taxes this year. Come sit in the audience and either speak or glare at the stewards of your county. Write them, speak to them on the streets and let them know how you feel about these continuing patterns of unnecessary tax hikes. If I am the only person sitting there in that courtroom on September 4th, they will receive the message that no one else objects to their ‘fundraising.” They will continue the cycle of overspending and rewarding themselves and their friends handsomely in the process.

A less than 1% cut in the budget would deliver no tax increase this year. Why not ask all departments and Constitutionals to find savings on behalf of the county’s taxpayers?

The budget buster this year was Commissioner Cheryl Sanders’ request for a 3% cost- of-living increase this year instead of the 1.5% proposed by Finance. This will cost the county an additional $135,000. One wonders if this was meant to be a ‘taxpayer gift’ from outgoing commissioner Sanders. Other Commissioners later told me they were not pleased by Sanders disregard of the county’s own finance department, but no objections were registered during the meeting so the damage was done.

Between now and the Budget Adoption Hearings in September, we will continue to review and study the budget document with the additional help of outside accounting professionals, looking for more potential savings. Once again, we will present our recommendations to the Board of Commissioners in the spirit of helpfulness for their consideration.

On September 4th at 5:15 in the Courthouse Annex, the first of two Budget Adoption Hearings will be held. Please consider your attendance as a mandatory part of living in Franklin County. Remember, we get the government we deserve when we don’t participate.

We’d love to hear your opinions as well. Please call or write us if you have comments.

Thank you for your support of the CCFC. Some of our readers have not paid their 2018 dues yet. Please remember us if you can. Not a member? No problem, click on... http://abetterfranklin.com/index.php/join-ccfc Join today. We depend on your support!

Thank you!

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:

Cheryl Sanders - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. - 697-2534

Chairman-Commissioner Smokey Parrish - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. - 653-8790

Commissioner Ricky Jones - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. - 653-8861

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

WHO's the BOSS???

on Friday, 28 September 2018.

Guest Editorial by: Mel Kelly (Former Mayor of Carrabelle)

I believe that the Franklin County Board of County Commissioners is out of control!

They have decided to limit public comments and input to three minutes by each person, which is allowed ONLY PRIOR to the meeting. There is no opportunity being given to add comments or ask questions about any agenda item as of now, by anyone who may attend with the hope that their input be heard on an issue of concern to them. NO COMMENTS ARE BEING ALLOWED ON ANY AGENDA ITEM EVEN THOUGH THE COMMISSIONERS DECISION OR ACTION MAY DIRECTLY AFFECT YOU, THE TAXPAYER!

Have you, as a taxpayer, attended any recent meetings of the current commissioners? Have you heard those speakers who come with legitimate comments, questions and concerns being criticized, ridiculed, insulted, ignored and dismissed for their wish to be heard by their commissioners? (More than once, we have heard with our own ears, Commissioners essentially telling a speaker to “Go back where you came from!” with NO APOLOGY, RESTRAINT or even REMORSE expressed by any other commissioner, including the Chair.) Yet, these taxpaying speakers are often funding the majority of property taxes that add to the operational funds for Franklin County.

Current property tax figures show that less than 1⁄4 - that is 23% of Franklin County taxpayers pay more than 60% - well above 1⁄2 - of the taxes collected and spent by commission approvals. And yet, those majority taxpayers are most often the subject of personal attacks - or the indignity of being ignored - by those same, self-important commissioners!

Do you know that the current 5 commissioners together pay a total of $3,325.75 in homestead property taxes to fund our county and schools? That is an average of $645.15 per commissioner’s payment. BUT, it is very important to note that, since one commissioner currently pays NOTHING and one pays a mere $50, the three others pay the remainder of that $3325.75 figure. And do you know that ONE of the current commission candidates pays more in property taxes ($4776.24) than all five seated current commissioners combined!

Is there perhaps something amiss with our assessments? Are new, out of town owners penalized for their interest and willingness to buy property in Franklin County? And it seems commissioners are most willing to take their high tax levy, just not their comments or questions in a public meeting!

How long will such high paying taxpayers continue to come to Franklin County to be insulted and demeaned and even disregarded by their county commission, whose salaries taxpayers pay? Do you know that each County Commissioner in Franklin County earns an individual salary of $27,305.00? Do you know that they receive more than $8000 annually in benefits such a health, dental, vision and life insurance at no cost to themselves? Do you know that the state of Florida adds another 48.7% of each commissioner’s salary in pension contributions? (No, that is not a typo) How many of those high paying taxpayers who are often insulted or disrespected at the speakers’ podium does it take to pay ONE commissioner’s salary, plus the additional benefits they enjoy? How many of those high paying taxpayers does it take to pay all five commission salaries at a total of $136.525.00 (without adding benefits and Florida Retirement System monies?) Conversely, how many of the tax paying commissioners who pay only $50 in annual property taxes, or even pay $0, NOTHING, in property taxes to fund the county they oversee should have a right to shut out input from other taxpayers who seek to ask legitimate questions or make comments about the county they are supporting?

The arrogance and despotism of the Franklin County commissioners must be stopped. Taxpayers should realize they are being used for their monies, while being tyrannically shut out of their right to make legitimate public commentary on behalf of decision-making efforts and the processes of government that regulate their Franklin County lives and taxes.

The election to be held on November 6th has three new candidates running for the office vacated by retiring commissioner Cheryl Sanders and one new candidate running against the incumbent Chairman, Smokey Parrish. You are encouraged to ask all candidates about their willingness to allow the taxpayers to better participate in county government. All new and current county commissioners must be held accountable and support transparency in their actions.

You are further encouraged to attend YOUR county commission meetings as your time allows. When you attend, please consider using your personal three minute allowance of free speech to tell the commissioners what you think about their decision to ‘tokenize’ taxpayers’ input into the county government. Remember, they need taxpayer dollars to operate.

Franklin County commissioners have an important job to do. How they do it may well depend upon you, THEIR BOSSES.


The CCFC has just sent a list of questions for all the Candidates running for County Commission. We will make sure that the answers we receive will be available to you prior to the start of early voting. The CCFC is non-political and supports no candidates.

We’d love to hear your opinions as well. Please call or write us if you have comments.

Thank you for your support of the CCFC. Some of our readers have not paid their 2018 dues yet. Please remember us if you can. Not a member? No problem, click on... http://abetterfranklin.com/index.php/join-ccfc Join today. We depend on your support!

Thank you!

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:

Cheryl Sanders - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. - 697-2534

Chairman-Commissioner Smokey Parrish - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. - 653-8790

Commissioner Ricky Jones - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. - 653-8861

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

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