Stew Lilker’s

Columbia County Observer

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Columbia County News

The 5 Pass $104,911,711 Budget Without A Word
Pass on Nash Gas; $10k Salary Increases; More

Posted September 23, 2014  06:55 am | updated 12:22 pm*

COLUMBIA COUNTY, FL – Another budget year came to a close early last night with the approval of the FY 2015 $104,911,711 County budget. Throughout the entire budget process there was barely any substantive conversation among The 5.

The Nash gas increase, a motion to increase the gas allowances for the County's overpaid commissioners, disappeared in the backroom, along with a $10k increase for the newly hired Assistant County Manager, while the $10k bonus for the County's $85,000 a year Economic Development Director in training still lingers along with the Westside Library, a white elephant that was built to keep the County's burgeoning upper crust Westside population away from the main library located in the heart of the Lake City's deteriorating downtown.

Read more about Columbia County's infamous County 5.

Since 2012, the County budget has increased 15%, going from $91,198,049 to $104,911,711, a $13,713,662 increase.

Last night the county's cash  balance forward was revealed for the first time during the budget hearings. For FY2015 the county is sitting on a cash pile of $37,365,000. This compares to $29,710,000 in FY 2011. The cash balance forward appears to be calculated by the County's financial advisor and external auditor, Richard Powell, who over the years has been working with Columbia County in more than just an arms length agreement. The amount is unaudited. This year taxes are going up.*

The 5: how much do they cost?

Columbia County 5County Commissioners earn $41,143. The taxpayers pay for their health insurance and federal withholding, approximately $10,000 more, and yearly retirement benefits of $13,589, making the total cost to the taxpayers $64,732 per commissioner.

Commissioners Pass on Nash Gas and More

Previously, Commissioner Nash wanted an increase in the commissioner's gas allowance from $100 a month to $250 a month. After the motion died, the increase somehow found its way into the budget, but the County Manager explained that it wouldn't go into effect until the commissioners voted for it. The vote was to have been last night, along with the vote to give the assistant county manager $15,000 for working on the budget. Both items disappeared, along with the $10k raise for the newly hired asst. county manager.

How and when was the decision made to eliminate these items? No one was talking.

Once again The 5 postponed  any intelligent conversation on the future of the Westside library. The present drain on county resources is approaching $500,000 a year and will most likely increase. The Westside library is a five minute drive from the main library in downtown Lake City.


Columbia County's infamous County 5 continues to operate in the shadows. During the months long budget process The 5 appeared not to be engaged and asked few substantive questions.

Showing a total disregard and lack of the simplest of courtesies to the public that pays the freight, The 5 scheduled all the budget workshops at 9 am, which eliminated attendance and questions by the county's working families.

Additionally, The 5 didn't schedule either of the two required budget hearings on a night of a regular board meeting. During this budget cycle they didn't even try.

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

* Fund balance amounts corrected and updated.

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