August 2007 - August Happenings!
Your CCFC has been mighty busy again this last month. Last Wednesday, August 8, was the Budget Workshop and things could not have been better insofar as the CCFC goes.
I don’t hand out accolades as much as I should, but I have to say our Budget Committee did us proud.
The Budget Committee, with Board oversight from Richard Harper, and I think they had a better grasp of the numbers than just about anyone else including our Commissioners and Constitutional Officers.
The State mandated a 9% cut in ad valorem spending for Franklin County. But that much needed start is imperiled by the ability of Franklin County Commissioners to overrule the state by the simple act of approving higher spending (ignoring the 9% rollback) of any amount with a 4-1 vote. That’s exactly the vote we had last year that gave Franklin County its first $50,000,000 budget. And, if you don’t think that could happen again this year, that our leaders would not dare to challenge the State’s mandate for a 9% rollback for the County with the worst fiscal record in the entire state; guess again. Gulf County did so last week by a 3-2 vote and Franklin County may be on that very same path.
Like hurricane predictions, trying to figure out what the numbers are is an exercise in dart throwing. But, with this preamble, I want to let you know that we are on the case and we are being felt and heard all across the County and also in Tallahassee.
The CCFC paid for and published a great two page tear out section in theApalachicola Timesfor citizens to understand the kind of budget questions we were going to ask and for citizens to be able to ask their own questions as well. This went over very well. We also passed out an additional 300 copies at the workshop.
The Budget Workshop was a standout success with over 300 private citizens in attendance! Few county employees or their families were in attendance this year as the issue of raises was taken off the table (or so everyone thought) early in the budget debate. That did not stop Commissioner Lockley from trying to sneak through an employee raise, which failed. The meeting was held in the old courthouse which featured much more space (we still filled it up!) than the new annex. The CCFC had a court stenographer, our attorney and our research people all ready to go. The County cooperated in allowing us unprecedented access (thank you Alan Pierce, Marcia Johnson and Commissioner Crofton) that allowed the CCFC to ask the final question or two for each department. The meeting was less contentious and more productive than any prior workshop according to everyone we spoke to. I must put one caveat in though. The source documents from which everyone works amalgamates both ad valorem and grant money. No one really knows what the final numbers are. The County is claiming they knocked down spending by a million plus dollars; I’m not so sure and we’ll keep working on it.
The biggest problem we have at the moment is Weems Hospital. Weems is requesting $1.931 million dollars in the new budget. This is a great deal more than had been previously indicated. To be fair, this also includes the $400,000 annual ambulance subsidy, leaving a net request for the hospital of $1.531 million. It’s impossible to get reliable numbers for past months and those numbers that we do receive do not conform to GAAP (Generally Accepted Accounting Principles. A study of theDiagnostic Related Groupswould show that most of the people who use Weems could have been better served, at less cost, by a simple Doc in a Box. Over 70 people have full-time jobs at Weems and this seems to be the driving factor. There will be two public workshops conducted by the County later this month to discuss the proposed Health Care Sales Tax (and the future of Weems). The 1stworkshop is scheduled on Tuesday August 28, 2007 at 5 PM at the Senior Citizen Center in Carrabelle. The 2ndworkshop is scheduled on Thursday August 30, 2007 at 5 PM at the Commission Meeting Room (Courthouse Annex) in Apalachicola (see “Events List”). I can tell you that everyone agrees that Weems is obsolete and needs to be replaced. I believe that a new $40+ million dollar hospital is the direction we’re heading.
There is an initiative underway to enact a one penny Health Sales Tax. It has no final form yet and there are technical issues to resolve but what we understand now is that half a penny would go to some form of indigent care and the other half penny for healthcare facilities. Let me tell you folks; that ½ cent wouldn’t begin to fund a hospital, maybe a couple of satellite offices, but that’s it. A good friend of mine with experience in the area said we need an outside professional needs assessment by a major unbiased consulting firm. Yes, it will cost money and time, but the answers could ultimately save us millions in new property taxes and deliver better care to the citizens of Franklin County. For those of you who don’t know Sacred Heart has started construction of a new state-of-the-art hospital only 15 minutes from Apalachicola. Can you say free new hospital!!!
CCFC membership now stands just a tad below 500. Thanks you to all for your support. Hopefully, we are doing what you want us to do, if not, please email me.
There are oh so many people that I would like to single out for special thanks. However, some have requested that I not use their name in a public forum for fear of retribution. That’s truly sad and something all of us need to recognize will be a true sign of our success when people are no longer worried about speaking out in public. The CCFC needs your contributions. If you not already a member, please consider joining and making a contribution (click the Membership/Why Join? icon on our homepage). If you are a member already; please contribute generously so that we can fight the good fight.
We are very proud of the work that our people did to get our interactive website up and running!
Thank you always,
Allan J. Feifer, President, CCFC