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!
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:
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.
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.
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?
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.
Allan J. Feifer
Concerned Citizens of Franklin County, Inc.
P.O. Box 990
Eastpoint, Florida 32328
“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.”
Chairman- Cheryl Sanders