Stew Lilker’s

Columbia County Observer

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Columbia County News

County 5 Sets 2014 Budget Priorities
Total Cost Could Be Over $100,000,000
Chairman Williams: You've got to think about raising taxes

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

COLUMBIA COUNTY, FL – Last night, in an abbreviated County Commission Meeting, the County 5 (County Commission) began planning for next year's budget. Sheriff Hunter, without submitting the required request, kicked off his year by requesting and receiving a $335,000 unbudgeted transfer for bonuses. The money will come out of the general fund. The transfer was previously approved by resolution.

Board Chairman Ronald Williams, after looking at the list of eight budget priorities said about the top two, "You're talking about a maximum of $18,000,000 on the 800 MHz communications system and I just hate to guess what it’s going to cost to implement the salary survey. We promised our employees that we’re going to implement one, so that’s something that we’re going to have to do.”

Budget Workshop Priorities

County Manager Dale Williams gave The 5 a list of eight budget priorities. It is not clear why this list was not available before the meeting. The list included two additional items: one related to the budget, an overview of the County finances; and another regarding the "nuts and bolts" of government operations, policy development.

The 5 agreed that the first three items on the list were the most pressing and would be discussed at the first budget work shop on February 27, at 9 am.

Board Chair Ronald Williams: Each one of us know we do not have enough revenue coming in to implement any of it. We know that. You've got to think about raising the millage rate, to what percent I don't know, to halfway accomplish all these things."

Budget Work Shops Scheduled When No One Can Attend

None of The 5 mentioned those who foot the bills for the County and pay The 5's salary, nor the County workers, who have a stake and must clearly be interested in the salary survey, will be able to attend the budget workshops which are all scheduled for 9 am.

The purpose of the salary survey was research into salary alignments and a potential adjustment in County employee salaries for inflation and job description. Most County workers have not had a real raise since 2008.

In early 2013, County Commission meetings were changed from 7 pm to 5:30 pm. It was agreed that workshops would be able to be scheduled when the public could attend, in the evening. The 5:50 pm time gave The 5 essentially an hour and a half of evening time, which it didn't have before the meeting schedule was rolled back.

Notwithstanding that certain employees have been banned from attending County Commission meetings, The 5 has ignored the scheduling opportunity and continues to schedule its workshops when most of the public and county employees cannot attend.

Last night, Sheriff Hunter, who is bleeding road deputies leaving for better pay, came to the microphone to discuss the $18.5mil 800 MHz communications system. Once again, he was silent on salaries.


After the meeting, the Observer inquired of the County Manager about the total cost of the eight items on the County's list of priorities.

County Manager Williams told the Observer, "I didn't figure it out but it's a lot of money."

Your reporter responded, "It looks like it could be a hundred million to me."

County Manager Williams said, "I wouldn't doubt it. I know we could spend a hundred million on roads if we had it."


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