Budget Time & Taxes are going up!

on Tuesday, 12 July 2022.

Dear Readers:

County taxes have been going up (that is above the rollback rate) every year for the last 8 years as property values continually rise. With this year’s Tax Digest rising around another 6%, County Officials will claim once again that they are great stewards of the public’s money by not raising the millage rate. While at the same time, taking more of your money in taxes this year vs. last year by not selecting the rollback rate. Various dynamics are working together that cause government costs to rise even as they are the beneficiary of more money in grants than they have ever experienced.

Next month, in the second half of July, the county will hold its annual Budget Workshop once again. And, as before, Commissioners have not expressed guidance to the Finance Department to keep the spending down to as close to current spending as possible. The growth of Franklin County Government should be easily evident in the table below:

Year Final Budget Adjusted for Actual Operational Outlays Operational Increase %
2017/2018 52,254,490 $38.37 million Base Year
2018/2019 50,838,272 $38.54 million + 0.44
2019/2020 58,679,230 $40.38 million + 5.20
2020/2021 62,287,079 $42.48 million +2.92
2021/2022 77,344,340 $43.72 million +4.57

There’s no denying it. Franklin County has been on a spending spree with more in the pipeline driving costs each year. But, there’s more to the story than we can impart in this article. Those large ‘Final Budget’ numbers reflect vast increases in Grant, i.e. free money, except it’s never really free.

Another part of the reason budgets exploded was the millions of dollars the county and Weems received due to Covid but that was largely unnecessary. But what I’d like to remind commissioners once again, is, that there is no free lunch. County expenses to maintain all those shiny new things bought must be maintained forever with your tax money driving future demands for every higher government cost.

Labor costs have leaped in recent years with the majority of county employees, including Constitutional employees receiving hefty increases tied neither to productivity nor to meeting what a “market rate” is here in this county. When you talk budget and personnel, the Sheriff has the largest budget, and for good reason. He’s one of the primary faces of government. I have had discussions with the Sheriff in the runup to this year’s budget cycle. He’s indicated that he plans to add four new Deputies in the new budget primarily for a greater presence on our roads. The CCFC supports this action and notes that in comparison, Wakulla County has a smaller land mass to patrol but has twice the sworn officers. Granted, they also have almost three times the population we do, but frequently, on summer weekends, we have an additional 20,000 people on top of our normal population load.

We believe that, while the county did a salary survey comparing salaries, benefits, and job descriptions, they inadvertently hopped on a runaway train. When salaries were raised here, Wakulla raised theirs as well as did other counties. Not because of Franklin’s actions only, but in a kind of arms race. Each county keeps trying to outdo the next, continually pushing wages higher. This is a “keeping up with the Jone’s” scenario.

I think the time has come to stop this kind of one-upmanship and let the market tell us what the right salaries are. Go by the number of county positions that go unfilled, rather than manufacturing numbers that don’t necessarily mean anything. With heavy government benefits, guaranteed pensions, cost of living raises, a relaxed work environment, and the best job security of anyone; why have wages risen so far and so fast above what ordinary citizens can make? Resentment and a desire to find a way onto the gravy train is where we have arrived. Have you seen how many families have multiple relatives on the county and school payrolls? I’m sorry if that ruffles feathers. It’s just a fact. County employment should be spread far and wide, instead. Not even some Commissioners are immune to this issue. It may be legal, but it has a strong whiff of corruption.

While salaries make up the lion’s share of County costs, there are other long-neglected points to consider. Several of these items deserve a closer look.

  • Recently, there have been several requests for project bids that have come up with only a single bidder. You can bet that costs are higher with only a single bidder. The county purchases millions of dollars a year in products and services. The CCFC believes it's time the county hires an incentive-based Manager to oversee the entire purchasing process and who will also scour all county budgets for inefficiencies. This ensures higher scrutiny of purchases but also might help us to discover where we are overbudgeting each year which the CCFC believes is a significant problem.
  • The lack of vision by the County Commission. There is no overarching process for positioning the county on several fronts: Tourism, Economic Development, and Affordable Housing come to mind, for example. The county would be wellserved to move toward an annual process that positions the county for future growth and development. Too often, many things that the county suddenly presents in a meeting come as a surprise to everyone listening. Agendas lack context and an ability to anticipate some of these major items. This needs to cease.
  • Improving governance. The lack of a professional manager overseeing the dayto-day operations of the county is both inefficient and political. Without a doubt, a professional manager could be tasked with creating efficiencies and meeting goals that simply are not on the table at this time. In essence, you don’t know what you don’t know.
  • A critical review of Weems is long overdue. How has Weems faired under Aliant Management since its inception? Has the financial needle been effectively moved? Is Weems competitive with other hospitals? Are the citizens of Franklin County getting value for the money spent? Are we losing more lives than we should when considering patients that are transferred who have bad outcomes? We don’t think so.

There’s always more, but our time and yours are limited. We hope that each of you thinks about these issues and urges your commissioners to step up their game or retire.

It’s your money! And remember, we have an election this November.

Now it's your turn! I’d love to hear your opinion.

If you have any questions or concerns, or if we can help you in any way in pursuit of our established goals, please reach out to us! And please help support the CCFC as it continues the battle for a better, more representative, and transparent government. Donations, which are not tax-deductible, may be sent to the address below.

Thank you.

Allan J. Feifer

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.
(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:

Commissioner Bert Boldt - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. - 519-4966

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

Chairman Noah Lockley - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. - 653-4452

Commissioner Jessica Ward - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. - 653-9783

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