I believe that the Franklin County Board of County Commissioners is out of control.
They have decided to limit public comments and input to three minutes by each person, which is allowed only prior to the meeting. There is no opportunity being given to add comments or ask questions about any agenda item as of now, by anyone who may attend with the hope that their input be heard on an issue of concern to them. No comments are being allowed on any agenda item even though the commissioners’ decision or action may directly affect you, the taxpayer.
Have you, as a taxpayer, attended any recent meetings of the current commissioners? Have you heard those speakers who come with legitimate comments, questions and concerns being criticized, ridiculed, insulted, ignored and dismissed for their wish to be heard by their commissioners? (More than once, we have heard with our own ears, commissioners essentially telling a speaker to “Go back where you came from!” with no apology, restraint or even remorse expressed by any other commissioner, including the chair.) Yet, these taxpaying speakers are often funding the majority of property taxes that add to the operational funds for Franklin County.
Current property tax figures show that less than one-quarter, that is 23 percent of Franklin County taxpayers - pay more than 60 percent – well above half - of the taxes collected and spent by commission approvals. And yet, those majority taxpayers are most often the subject of personal attacks - or the indignity of being ignored - by those same, self-important commissioners!
Do you know that the current five commissioners together pay a total of $3,325.75 in homestead property taxes to fund our county and schools? That is an average of $645.15 per commissioner’s payment. But, it is very important to note that, since one commissioner currently pays nothing and one pays a mere $50, the three others pay the remainder of that $3325.75 figure. And do you know that one of the current commission candidates pays more in property taxes - $4,776.24 - than all five seated current commissioners combined?
Is there perhaps something amiss with our assessments? Are new, out-of-town owners penalized for their interest and willingness to buy property in Franklin County? And it seems commissioners are most willing to take their high tax levy, just not their comments or questions in a public meeting!
How long will such high-paying taxpayers continue to come to Franklin County to be insulted and demeaned and even disregarded by their county commission, whose salaries taxpayers pay? Do you know that each county commissioner in Franklin County earns an individual salary of $27,305? Do you know that they receive more than $8,000 annually in benefits such a health, dental, vision and life insurance at no cost to themselves? Do you know that the state of Florida adds another 48.7 percent of each commissioner’s salary in pension contributions? (No, that is not a typo) How many of those high-paying taxpayers who are often insulted or disrespected at the speakers’ podium does it take to pay one commissioner’s salary, plus the additional benefits they enjoy? How many of those high paying taxpayers does it take to pay all five commission salaries at a total of $136,525 (without adding benefits and Florida Retirement System monies)? Conversely, how many of the taxpaying commissioners who pay only $50 in annual property taxes, or even pay $0, nothing, in property taxes to fund the county they oversee should have a right to shut out input from other taxpayers who seek to ask legitimate questions or make comments about the county they are supporting?
The arrogance and despotism of the Franklin County commissioners must be stopped. Taxpayers should realize they are being used for their monies, while being tyrannically shut out of their right to make legitimate public commentary on behalf of decision-making efforts and the processes of government that regulate their Franklin County lives and taxes.
The election to be held Nov. 6 has three new candidates running for the office vacated by retiring commissioner Cheryl Sanders and one new candidate running against the incumbent chairman, Smokey Parrish. You are encouraged to ask all candidates about their willingness to allow the taxpayers to better participate in county government. All new and current county commissioners must be held accountable and support transparency in their actions.
You are further encouraged to attend you county commission meetings as your time allows. When you attend, please consider using your personal three-minute allowance of free speech to tell the commissioners what you think about their decision to “tokenize” taxpayers’ input into the county government. Remember, they need taxpayer dollars to operate.
Franklin County commissioners have an important job to do. How they do it may well depend upon you, their bosses.
Former mayor of Carrabelle