Stew Lilker’s

Columbia County Observer

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Columbia County News

County 5 approve every dime of over $1,000,000 of unbudgeted expenditures without one question

COLUMBIA COUNTY, FL – Last night's County Commission meeting provided no surprises as the County 5 approved every dime of the over $1,000,000 of unbudgeted expenditures on the consent agenda; approved a sky high trash collection assessment – once again without any provisions for recycling; and gave their approval to homeowner fire assessments that have drifted into the stratosphere, up 137% over last year. The County 5 proved once again that all meaningful discussion in Columbia County goes on behind closed doors when, after over an hour of presentations by County Manager Dale Williams, they approved everything without one question or any words of discussion.

County 5 gives stamp of approval to "budgeting by suggestion"

As was pointed out in yesterday's article, Columbia County 5 Begins New Era: Budgeting by Suggestion, the last night's suggestions were a cool $619,998.

Last night the County 5 didn't make a peep or ask any questions regarding the new Columbia County budgeting process of "budgeting by suggestion."

County Manager Dale Williams, who is scheduled to retire in January, has left the County 5 and his potential successor with a new tool. The County Manager explained how it works.

Basically, budgeting by suggestion works this way. A department head or somebody discusses their budget for the upcoming year with the County Manager, who is granted by the County Charter the responsibility of being the County's Chief Budget Officer. The department head tells the County Manager he will need various items for the upcoming year.

The County Manager looks in all the buckets of money spread around the County to see if the budget process can be bypassed. For years the County has maintained about $40,000,000 in various reserve funds (the buckets).

The County Manager and the County 5 meet and discuss this in various meetings, most in clear violation of Florida's Sunshine Laws. This is nothing new for the County 5 and the County Manager.

The item, such as the $582,358 from the Fire Department, is put on the consent agenda, which is approved and rubber stamped by Board Chair Stephen Bailey. In this way no public discussion is required and the County 5 gets to do its business, as usual, in the back room out of the public's eye.

Worthy of note was a consent agenda item that appeared to have been left off the list of "budget by suggestion" items.

Kevin Kirby, the County Public Works Director, included the purchase of $360,209 for public works vehicles. One of the items buried in the 157 pages of the consent agenda was $177,330 for two "worn out" dump trucks. It is not clear when Mr. Kirby discovered the dump trucks were "worn out" and nobody asked.

What's the rush?

In 60 days, the 2014 County budget has to be approved. The "budget by suggestion" and other items on the consent agenda were not exigent items – there was no emergency.

Neither the County Manager nor the County 5's rush to spend over a million dollars without any public conversation or oversight was nothing new in Columbia County.

Buried in the consent agenda was a new truck for the hand picked $92,000 plus county engineer.


It is good to be on the right side of the legendary Columbia County 5, where it's business as usual for Columbia County's legendary good ole boys.

The legend lives on.

The Columbia County 5 from left to right: Commissioners Ronald Williams; Rusty DePratter; Bucky Nash; Stephen Bailey; Scarlet Frisina

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