Two readers say local governments lack transparency
Why all the transfers out of the stormwater fund?
In the Aug. 16 edition, the Palm Coast Observer reported on the proposed rate increase in the city of Palm Coast stormwater fees.
The city’s website says the following: “The City of Palm Coast has established a stormwater utility, which is an enterprise fund. That means that monies generated by the stormwater fee are used solely for the maintenance and rehabilitation of the stormwater drainage system. All properties within the Stormwater Utility Service Area are assessed a fee that contributes to the annual budget needed to maintain the system.”
If these funds are solely for "the maintenance and rehabilitation of the stormwater drainage system,” why has almost $700,000 been transferred to "other” funds, and now they are studying a double rate increase?
Perhaps they should consider hiring department heads who can 1) propose a working budget, 2) utilize the fund budgeted to his/her department, or 3) hire a budget office for the city that can manage the current budget, as the stormwater budget is not the only budget to have funds transferred to this phantom "other funds.”
Editor’s Note: The following statement was provided by Palm Coast spokeswoman Cindi Lane to answer your question: “There are two reasons why we transfer money out of the stormwater fund. First, all city enterprise funds contribute to the overhead of our overall central operations such as IT, payroll, purchasing services, contract review, etc. Second, we use some stormwater funds to purchase equipment through the city fleet fund, but those purchases are strictly for trucks and other equipment used to maintain the stormwater system. So those are the transfers you saw in the budget. The transferred money is still spent on stormwater-related expenses.
“We should also point out that the city also supports the stormwater fund with more than $500,000 in ad valorem property tax revenue annually – far more than what we transfer out of the fund. This is property tax revenue that we use to supplement the stormwater fund. We do this for a variety of reasons, but the bottom line is that effective stormwater management is a communitywide benefit, so it’s appropriate to dedicate a certain amount of tax revenue to support that function.”
County administration shows lack of transparency
If you would like to confirm County Administrator Craig Coffey's level of incompetence, then review the Aug. 20 County Commission meeting regarding item 7i and watch the commission’s fire drill. Pathetic!
This was a consent agenda item for an application for an $8 million Enterprise Florida (EFI) Florida Job Growth Grant Fund Public Infrastructure Grant on Mr. Coffey's hand-prepared agenda. I asked for it to be pulled for public discussion because the backup documentation erroneously included two pages from a Palm Coast commercial property.
I stated to Chairman Greg Hansen that the public needed clarification on this item because of past history in failing to be transparent: The county had previously demolished 21,000 square feet of the old Memorial Hospital wings to create the Sheriff's Operations Center. The demolition of the wings was never voted on as a direct action of the board.
Chairman Hansen, the commissioners and their employees Coffey and County Attorney Al Hadeed are technically inbounds but drastically fail the public smell test on transparency! This board should have terminated Mr. Coffey for cause when they were fined by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection the maximum $500 fine allowed, for failing to properly notify the DEP of the demolition.
The voters should require the Board of County Commissioners to uphold standards that are a basic expectation of all employers. In this case they represent us, the voters and taxpayers — but do they?
Kudos to Palm Coast for GunSafe program
I applaud the Parks and Recreation Department and the Flagler County Sheriff's Office for bringing to the Palm Coast Community Center the Eddie Eagle GunSafe Program as shown in the "Your Calendar" section on Page 24 of the Aug. 30 edition.
And, I applaud the National Rifle Association for developing this program. For those who didn't know, this is the gun safety program developed specifically for kids by Marion Hammer, at the time a lobbyist for the NRA, in 1988. According to the NRA, "with a firearm present in about half of all American households, young children should learn that firearms are not toys."
Hammer won a National Safety Council's Outstanding Community Service Award in 1993 for her work on the program. As of 1997, the NRA says it reached 10 million children, and by 2015 it said that the number had grown to 28 million. The program has been mandated for schools in North Carolina and Oregon, and is used in individual school districts across the country.
That this NRA Eddie Eagle GunSafe program is made available here is a good thing. We need to educate our kids about guns and gun safety. We need to keep our kids safe. Ignorance is not bliss. Ignorance is dangerous.