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Columbia County Observer

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Budget Time Tonight for the County 5: After 1 Year, Chairman Murphy's Leadership Leads to Confusion 

COLUMBIA COUNTY, FL – Tonight, the Columbia County 5 convenes its first budget hearing. After a year of trying to hash out a budget, Chairman Murphy's leadership has come up short in a budget cycle that has been nothing short of a big mess characterized by poor planning, Sheriff Hunter's unneeded $30+ mil county jail, and the failure to have meaningful budget workshops where the 5 County Commissioners could hash out their differences and receive guidance from County Manager Ben Scott and his staff. This failure falls squarely on the shoulders of Chairman Murphy, who is responsible for approving all agendas and calling special meetings as needed.

Murphy & Sheriff Hunter: Budget Busters

Chairman Murphy and Sheriff Mark Hunter's relationship goes back to their days in diapers.

Chairman Murphy's total disregard of the intent of the County Charter's non-interference clause has resulted in among other things, meetings in violation of Florida's Sunshine Law: meetings held in order to find a way to deliver to his boyhood chum a new and unneeded $30+ mil jail for a jail population that this year has a monthly average of 200 inmates and has been declining for the past 5 years, Department of Correction facts which have not been divulged by either Chairman Murphy nor Sheriff Hunter.

The County 5 Tentative Budget: $164,944,375

It is now known that County Manager Scott is presenting two budgets at tonight's budget hearing. If there is a third in the wings minus a new jail nobody is talking, yet.

Chairman Tim Murphy: the new Boss Tweed?

County 5 Chairman Tim Murphy, who has trampled the non-interference provisions of the County Charter, has been the leader of the worst budget cycle in recent County history as he works over time to deliver to his boyhood chum, Sheriff Mark Hunter, a new County Jail for approximately 200 inmates.

The jail price, not counting financing, is hovering around $30+ mil and if approved at the budget hearing will be a budget buster for years to come, affecting quality of life, economic development, and the overall health of the County.

Chairman Murphy is not alone, as some of the other 5 are working hard to deliver for County Sheriff Mark Hunter the new and unneeded jail, which according to Sheriff Hunter has not been written up by the state, or any other agency.

Revenue Allocations: Extortion 101

While Chairman Murphy approves the agendas, it is not clear if he reviews the County Manger's PowerPoint presentations. Considering Mr. Murphy's involvement in the County's business, based on his performance, it would be almost impossible to imagine he did not have independent input.

During the August 23, 2018 budget special meeting, County Manager Scott prepared two "Major Revenue Allocation" reports: one for 8.015 mills, which included the now defunct and failed Charter County Surtax and totaled $50,514,267 in revenue; and another report which represented the increased threatened millage rate of 8.87 mills, minus the failed Charter County Surtax, resulting in major revenues of $48,095,207.

Fast forward to this evening, September 6, County Manager Scott's "Major Revenue Allocation" report only includes the allocation with the 14.4% tax increase (8.87 millage rate increase) included.

Left out: County revenue has increased 7.2% ($3,066,498) over the past two years, well above the rate of inflation, while relying on the present millage rate of 8.015.

For this evening's presentation, Mr. Scott has not provided a "Major Revenue Allocation" work sheet with the present millage rate (8.015).


This is not rocket science, but a flailing around by what Commissioner Nash has recognized as a disorganized County Commission.

If the primary responsibility of the infamous Columbia County 5 is fiduciary, it would appear by almost any measure, they deserve an F.

Tonight, the public will find out if The 5 makes good on its threat to raise taxes for an over budget and unneeded jail (yes, it needs some repairs) for a Sheriff who is looking to make his legacy a $30+ mil over capacity jail for 200 inmates.

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