Which Pill Will You Take?

on Saturday, 13 August 2022.

Dear Readers:

Sometimes these pieces write themselves and this is one of them. Having been involved in the Franklin County budget process for about 20 years, I’m very familiar with both the process and politics of budget making. Commissioners hate to be seen as tax raisers but their implicit loyalty to their employees trumps their concern for you. Being a politician means you belong to an exclusive club. It shouldn’t be that way

TRIM Notices should be in your hands right about now. You will likely see a significant increase in your assessment. Mine went up a mind-boggling 40% and with the county millage rate currently projected to be the same as last year; that translates into a 40% increase in county taxes if I was not homesteaded. What the heck is going on? Let me tell you a story.

Covid. But not the way you might think. Covid barely moved the expense meter in our county for either the county itself, the school system, or Weems Hospital. Sure, there were some extra expenses But, Uncle Sam anticipated that and way over delivered with the Cares Act, the American Rescue Plan, and for schools ESSER relief funds which were doled out as follows:

  • The County received approximately $5 million
  • The School System received approximately $5.3 million
  • Weems Hospital received approximately $3 million

That’s a lot of money! And, they spent every dime they could on normal operations, capital costs, and yes, even a few dollars for direct Covid costs. Now, these sources are drying up and the great wealth every one of these entities felt with these enrichments is seeking a new source of money. That’s where you come in. The County is proposing a new budget that brings in another $1.8 million in new spending. Coincidentally, the School System wants another $1.5 million and Weems expenses are up approximately 30% from three years ago. We don’t have accurate and up-to-date numbers from Weems because the Chief Financial Officer quit without notice last month (the 7th CFO in the last 10 plus years) and the last Weems financials are from last April and they are highly suspect.

I witnessed more capital spending on both needed and unneeded items in the last two years than perhaps in the last five. That’s what money burning a hole in your pocket does. Some of that spending was wasted, especially at Weems.

What I am asking each of you to do is to look at your TRIM Notice when you get it and then get on the phone and tell your elected leaders at the County and School System to take that pencil they have, turn it around and start erasing spending. (Below my signature is their contact information) Do you remember the movie “The Matrix”? That’s where you are given a choice of taking a blue pill and you will be blissful forever after or taking the Red pill and see things for what they truly are.

The County took the blue pill last year and put its Compensation System on autopilot and steroids. I had one employee tell me he is looking at a $ 10,000-a-year raise in the new pay plan. He’s not alone! The county is phasing in a massive pay increase over several years. This year’s employee compensation increase to the budget is for an additional $350,000 for about 187 employees after a sizzling increase last year. And, Cost of Living raises are built in on top of that!

The School System is asking for another ½ cent sales tax for CAPEX, i.e., capital spending on the November ballot that will raise another $1.2 million. But wait, not factored into their capital spending plans is that the School System is retiring its K-12 School Note, which gives them another $1.5 million back, and additionally, they have over $2 million on hand in their Capital Account at present. None of this has been explained. The CCFC has looked at the numbers and the Capital Spending requests and they are way overfunded for their stated goals. I must point out though that the CCFC Board has decided not to take a position on the School Systems ballot initiative.

Not to kick a dead horse, but if the school systems budget is approved as is, they will take in $22.4 million for approximately 802 students in the K-12 and 350 students at the ABC school (per the Superintendent). Ad Valorem proceeds are not shared per student with the majority of those funds being retained by the K-12. We will be spending over $20,000 per student at the K-12 if this budget is enacted. I believe we are not getting our money's worth.

The Big Picture. We have entered a recession. Property values have likely peaked for now and it would not take much to see the County Tax Digest be significantly reduced next year. What then? Will we have a repeat of the last time when the county had to cut jobs, reduce services and raise the millage rate yet again? No one seems to examine the budget in detail or do any forecasting.

Please consider taking the Red Pill with me. I’d rather know the truth than listen to a politician explain away this massive increase in spending as ‘prudent’ oversight. Think you are protected by the Save Our Homes Amendment? Only temporarily, as thousands of people found out last time. Your 3% increase will occur over and over again until you catch up with your assessed value even as property values decline. SOH only delays your increase; it does not eliminate it.

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

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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