Stew Lilker’s

Columbia County Observer

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Columbia County News

County 5 Budget Hearing Tonight  — $39,432,968
Public being kept in dark about real spending

COLUMBIA COUNTY, FL –  Tonight, the Columbia County 5 will rubber stamp the FY 2014 County budget. Mostly all of the discussions regarding the budget were done in the shadows. The County's budget workshops earlier this year's were mostly useless exercises in evasion, with virtually no substantive questions asked by the County 5. The County continues with an internal auditor who does not use a computer. Its long time financial consultant continues as the external auditor and budget consultant. If one is looking for County presentations that present trends over time, charts, or other things that are presented in the civilized world during budget presentations, the County 5 has seen that is not going to happen.

The Budget Workshops

During the April 9, 2013, budget workshop the three county division chiefs (Administration, Operations, Safety) made their presentations. Hundreds of slides were presented during their power point presentations. Only three or four slides had any actual financial information.

The Public Works Department, the largest County department presented 186 slides of pictures of water pipes; community centers; baseball fields; and other things. One slide presented the cost of doing something to the County roads.

In Columbia County, budget information and questions from the public have no place in budget workshops.

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

The County 5 has seen to it that there has been nothing presented to the public that shows the amount of fulltime and part time personnel; payroll costs; benefit costs; equipment costs; rental costs; consultant costs; and virtually anything else that shows in any meaningful detail how the public's money is being spent and squirreled away in a myriad of funds that are by design almost impossible to track .

$8,000,000 to $12,000,000: Where is this money going to come from?

During the August 9th Safety Manager's presentation there was one slide that presented an actual dollar amount. This slide showed that in order for the County to upgrade its communications equipment from a VHF radio system to an 800MHz system the estimated cost was between $8,000,000 and $12,000,000.

The County did not explain where that money was going to come from and the County 5 has not been discussing this in public. If The 5 begins to implement this system this year, nothing about it appears to be in the budget.


The Columbia County budget process has not been open and transparent – ever.

The heads may change on the County 5, but the body continues to remain the same, and while the County has buckets of reserve money buried all over the County, at last count approximately $40,000,000, the County 5 cries that they can't give many of their employees raises or a living wage.

In Columbia County the legend lives.

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