A Special Message to Franklin County Property Owners

on Saturday, 30 October 2021.

A Special Message to Franklin County Property Owners:

On the 28th of September, in five minutes and with nary a comment, Franklin County passed the largest budget in its history at $77 million for this tiny vestige of Old Florida. That is approximately $7,300 for each non-incarcerated resident. Per Citizen—not taxpayer! For almost 20 years, Concerned Citizens of Franklin County have quietly and persistently attempted to save YOU, the taxpayers, from wasteful spending, lack of transparency, and policies and practices that are anti-constituent which continue year after year by our county leadership.

The Property Appraiser Tax Role shows 18,858 individual property Parcels in the county. Of these, roughly 8,000 are individual homes, condos, and/or apartments. Of those about 3,100 are homesteaded. Many county residents pay little or nothing in taxes due to various exemptions they have been granted. This makes it easy for commissioners to vote for higher taxes on everybody else. It’s legal but not ultimately fair. Aren’t Commissioners supposed to keep things fair? We, at the CCFC, believe they are not.

When county commissioners passed this year's budget, they spent about $1 million more than last year. They also handed out significant raises, some, way overdue while others were unconscionable increases, patting themselves on the back at how fiscally astute they were. This is a major sleight of hand. Deceit is created by highlighting a homesteaded property valued at $150,000 that will pay slightly less in county taxes than last year. That’s a minority situation of about 3,100 homes; allow me to explain:

The majority of properties in Franklin County are not homesteaded and consequently don’t receive the protections of Save our Home (SOH), the Florida Constitutional Amendment that slows down the growth of property taxes for homesteaded individuals but does not eliminate it. MOST non-residents have no such protection.

So, a more correct statement should have been that For the Sixth Straight Year, county taxes will be rising an average of 6% for the majority of property owners in the county. And, that while SOH Homestead Cap will slow down the increase for those affected, everyone’s will eventually go up to meet actual taxes assessed, only delayed, on unsuspecting property owners who are encouraged to believe falsely that they won again on their tax bills.

The Concerned Citizens of Franklin County presented at least 22 comments and suggestions to Commissioners this year that, if seriously studied and implemented, would have saved hundreds of thousands of dollars this budget year. Few, if any, commissioners can answer detailed questions concerning the budgets they annually assess on taxpayers. The budgets presented by Constitutional Officers and Department Heads are rarely questioned or seriously challenged. An additional one million dollars is being spent this year. Commissioners refuse to even consider the financially responsible idea of Zero-Based Budgeting.

Nothing will change in Franklin County until and unless the citizens demand it. We have a country today that is so much in turmoil that trivial things like your taxes don’t seem to rise to the level of concerned study or action. On behalf of myself and the CCFC, I am truly sorry.

The CCFC published our comments on its website. You can view the comments by clicking Here

This budget letter was made available to county staff and commissioners earlier this summer in time for the 2021-2022 budget Cycle. It is too late to do anything more this year. But when next year's budget cycle begins starting now, there should be an entirely new approach to next year’s budgeting cycle.

Let me share with you some of this year’s CCFC efforts made to achieve transparency, seek fiscally responsible, fair and accountable government for Franklin County.

Let me share with you some of this year’s CCFC efforts made to achieve transparency, seek fiscally responsible, fair and accountable government for Franklin County.

  1. Our most important function is to answer questions from members. We receive and appreciate taxpayer feedback from the many people who call, write or just spread our words on behalf of good government
  2. We have attended all online County Commission Meetings in 2021. When appropriate (under unreasonably restrictive Public Comment rules) we speak up with facts, concerns and alternatives to matters we believe to be important.
  3. We have asked that some meetings be held in the evenings and return to some being held in Carrabelle.
  4. We attend Hospital Board Meetings to hear reports and budget facts as presented. We push for accountability and logic in the expenditures for Hospital operations. Weems is, at best a very basic Emergency Room, not a hospital equipped or staffed for serious illnesses like Covid. Weems Doctors frequently have had past legal issues and are not Board Certified in Emergency Care. Just in: Franklin County is requesting $6 million from the State to construct a new hospital. Weems just hired its fourth CFO in the last 3-4 years. No reliable financial information.
  5. The CCFC constantly researches best business practices, freely sharing them with appropriate officials.
  6. We expect (sadly not always successfully) that public meetings be held with decorum and respect toward the citizenry. We ask that the public again be heard before a vote is held on each agenda item which was the rule as recently as 2017. Now, a three-minute limit for each public comment is only permitted at the beginning of each meeting and to speak for one minute for items on agenda items. Worse, you must file a Virtual Speakers Request Card before the meeting commences. And, sadly, Commissioners sit in stony silence completely disengaged with the very few people who actually come forward. Typically, zero to three people will run the gauntlet to speak.
  7. We reach out through emails and messages to the Apalachicola Times on a frequent basis.
  8. We engage professionals (lawyers, investigators, additional accountants) to help advise in our efforts toward good, honest, representative government for Franklin County.
  9. CCFC built, maintains and operates an independent website (ABetterFranklin.com). In addition, we incur mailing and other expenses to bring taxpayers the news, behaviors, decisions and actions of local leadership, including County Commissioners, elected Constitutional officers and others. Also, visit our Facebook page and “Like” us and/or “Follow” us to always be in the know!

Please feel free to share this letter with your friends; encourage them to learn more about the work of the Concerned Citizens and to join the CCFC as new members. It is your strength of numbers and financial support that ensures our continuing oversight.

Annually, we reach out to the community for help in meeting the financial challenges of continuing our work.

Please support the CCFC with your membership dues to help ensure our continued success. Please invest $25, $50, $100 or more in our Watchdog Association to allow our work to continue. Only through your help and support will we continue to ensure that good government in Franklin County can and will become a reality.

Make your check payable to the CCFC and mail it to P.O. Box 990, Eastpoint Florida 32328.(Dues are not tax deductible)

Please include your email address on your check to ensure you receive our communications and updates.

Thank you for your generous support.

Allan J. Feifer

Concerned Citizens of Franklin County, Inc.