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Columbia County Observer

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Lake Shore Hosp Authority

Hospital Auth Budget Presentation a Bust; Loyalty Deserves Money; Meeting Goes Deep South Ugly


Richard Powell (file photo)

COLUMBIA COUNTY, FL – Last night's Lake Shore Hospital Authority Final Budget Hearing was barely intelligible as various budget lines were recited at breakneck speed by the Authority's long time accountant-financial advisor-external auditor (all one person) Richard Powell. As in years past, there was no PowerPoint presentation or any kind of graphic to visually explain the Authority's $9,214,975 budget.

Former Authority Board Chairman and Tallahassee political insider, Koby Adams, who along with Authority Manager Berry was not sure how many years the tax rate had remained unchanged, complained that the Board "would be vilified and ridiculed and criticized" for saving the taxpayers money.

Then the meeting went Deep South ugly.

The Budget Hearing


Jack Berry (file photo)

For fiscal year 2015, the Authority is sitting on a $5,432,457 cash stash, which is over 50% of its budget, while Columbia County taxpayers are ponying up $2,158,518 in taxes to the Authority so it can subsidize the for profit HMA/Shands indigent care costs.

One of the Authority's largest taxpayers is the Lake City Medical Center, which gets nothing back for its Authority taxes.

Columbia County's taxpayers also receive nothing in return from HMA/Shands, although Manager Berry once explained the taxpayer's benefit this way, "They get the privilege to go there."

Murphy Against Raises


Tim Murphy (file photo)

Board member Tim Murphy came out against giving the Authority staff raises for 2015. The raises affect the Authority's two employees, one of whom is going to part time and is Mr. Murphy's niece.

Manager Berry explained that the raises represent a change in job duties for the two employees. He did not explain what those changes were, nor has the Authority Board approved new job descriptions for either of them.

The newly created job of administrative assistant duplicates the job of the terminated former 18 year veteran Authority employee, Sue Fraze, minus $13,000 in salary.

Recently, both employees were given a $1,000 bonus for doing their jobs. Cynthia Watson was also given a 6.1% increase and Mr. Murphy's niece, Courtney Bryan, was given 26% while at the same time going from full-time to part-time.

Mr. Murphy made a motion to exclude any salary increases for the coming year.


Marc Vann (file photo)

Board member Mark Vann said that the Authority pays its expenses, which includes salaries, from the rent money received from HMA/Lake Shore (the hospital). Mr. Vann does not consider the money coming into the publicly owned Hospital Authority to belong to the taxpayers.

Manager Berry said the total payroll savings amount for FY15 would be $14,500.

Mr. Vann said the Board should "trust" Mr. Berry regarding the raises.

Mr. Murphy said regarding Mr. Vann's remarks, "I concur with everything you said." He added that the money for the salary raises could be used next year to help reduce taxes again.

Loyal Employees Deserve Money

Board member Chancy said, "Loyal employees deserve some type of recognition." She said that would be the raise and that an "employee deserves additional pay when they've done a good job."

Ms. Chancy said that as a business owner she gives pay raises because, "I expect loyalty from them. These girls are loyal."

Ms. Chancy did not mention the recent termination of 18 year veteran Sue Fraze. It was not clear if Ms. Chancy thought Ms. Fraze disloyal.


Koby Adams (file photo)

Board member Koby Adams, Representative Liz Porter's Chief of Staff, said he agreed with the remarks of Mr. Vann and Ms. Chancy. He added, "I think that in this day and age of political correctness, salaries of people that work in government is mostly vilified in the press and in the public's eye because they consider people make too much money – they don't do enough – or they work for 'them' – which is essentially true."

He continued, opining about the cost to retrain a lost employee and concluded, "They have been loyal and I see no problem giving them any kind of increase we can give them."

Mr. Murphy's motion to deny another raise for the employees died for lack of a second.

The FY 2015 budget passed with Mr. Murphy voting to give everyone a raise.

The Meeting Then Went Deep South Ugly

A few years ago, Koby Adams's solution for folks who were foreigners in Columbia County and were unhappy with the way the government transacts its Columbia County business was for them to go back from whence they came.

As last night's budget hearing concluded, Mr. Adams opined, "For the past three or four years we’ve kept the millage rate at .962 saving the taxpayers ad valorem (taxes), I think almost 5.1 million dollars. Never in a million years would I have thought that a board that would save the taxpayers that amount of money in three years be vilified and ridiculed and criticized. But I guess I have now seen that day."

Mr. Murphy, referring to the tax rate, followed up, "How many years has it been point 9?"

Manager Berry answered, "I think this is the 4th year."

Mr. Murphy, "This is the 4th year?"

Manager Berry wasn't sure, "I think so. I’m pretty sure."

Mr. Murphy addressed the Lake City Reporter's African American reporter, Tony Britt, "Tony, you got a total savings in there to the taxpayers."

Reporter Britt responded, "Total savings – I got 5 million over three years?"

Mr. Murphy reminded Mr. Britt, "You missed it last time, that’s why I’m checkin’ on ya. You don’t remember either yourself, do ya boy."

Epilogue

The Governor appointed Lake Shore Hospital Authority has been without an African American board member for years.

Free – White – And over 21 lives on at the Lake Shore Hospital Authority.

 

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