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

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