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Stew Lilker’s

Columbia County Observer

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Lake Shore Hosp Auth News

Lake Shore Hosp Auth final budget hearing:
$8 mil + approved without comments or surprises


Authority Manager Berry reads from the budget.

COLUMBIA COUNTY, FL – Last night's final Lake Shore Hospital Authority budget hearing had no surprises. Two members of the governor appointed board, Bruce Naylor and Laurie Chancy were missing without explanation for this important meeting. Also missing was the man that prepared the budget, the Authority's external auditor and account, Richard Powell. The Authority's General Manager, Jackson P. "Jack" Berry, prepared no additional information for the public, other than a salary comparison and the printed budget, which, as usual gave no year to year comparisons of expenditures or revenues.

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Watering the lawn and professional services

After the public hearing opened, Barbara Lemley asked how much money was saved by the Authority after it invested $10,000 for a well to water the Authority's administration building's lawn.

Lake City's utility department used to supply water to the Authority for lawn watering.

General Manager Berry claimed the savings were $450 a month "from now till ever."

Ms. Lemley asked how much was spent for legal services and accounting and auditing for the 2011 budget year.

General Manager Berry responded, "We haven't closed out that year yet, so I don't have those numbers."

GM Berry's contract calls for him, among other financial tasks, to supervise "the Authority’s disbursement process." GM Berry "is responsible for overseeing Authority funds and reviewing reconciliations of the various checking accounts."

Ms. Lemley followed up, "Do you have any idea?"

GM Berry gave a one word answer, "Nope."

Ms. Lemley tried again to get a number for the expenditure of accounting and legal fees, "On either accounting or legal fees, nothing?" she asked.

GM Berry gave the same answer, "Nope."

The tax levy

The Authority's sheet of budget explanations explained ad valorem taxes (the taxes you see on your tax bill) this way: Value of 1.5 mils required to be levied under the lease.

This is not true. The lease does not require the Hosp Auth to levy anything. The lease requires the Hospital Authority to turn over the equivalent of 1.5 mils every year "in an amount equal to the funds that would be generated by the levy and collection of an ad valorem tax of 1.5 mils (the "Indigent Care Funds")."

1.5 mils in ad valorem taxes is approximately 3.5 million dollars. This comes out of the pockets of property and business owners in Columbia County.

An unspoken fact is the money everyone thinks is actually required to go to indigent care can also go into reimbursement to HMA for "equipment, personal property or improvements to the Hospital Facilities."

Earlier this year the Hospital Authority Board agreed to fund $2,000,000 of renovations proposed by HMA out of money collected from Columbia County taxes.

The lease requires HMA, a private company listed on the NY stock exchange to repair and upkeep the hospital at its own expense.

Neither the Authority Board members, the Authority Manager, nor the Authority Attorney addressed this misstatement regarding the 1.5 mil requirement in the budget material.

Diverse Business Activities

Authority Manager Berry has claimed that he is responsible for the "diverse business operations" of the Authority.

Your reporter brought up this issue at the budget hearing and inquired about these so called diverse business activities. There was no explanation from the Board or the General Manager.

Health Insurance for Hospital Authority employees

Your reporter asked the Authority to change its policy of paying $5274 to employees for health insurance, which enables some employees to make a profit on their health insurance costs. The Board did not address the issue. (More on this issue can be found here).

Epilogue

Without any comments or surprises, the Board passed the $8,613,113 budget. Included in the budget is a $7,355 contribution into the state retirement fund for General Manager Berry, which is paid for by the folks in Columbia County. This is just under 10% of his salary before benefits.

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