When I worked as a spokesperson for the Santa Rosa County Board of County Commissioners in 2006-2007, I learned a lot. In fact, I came to know so much about the inner workings of our local government that it transformed me into a watchdog.
Toward the end of the 2006 fiscal year I was handed a few catalogs and directed to “order” about five things because money was leftover and needed to be spent — otherwise department allocations might be cut back during the budgeting process. So I ordered custom embroidered clothes. Were they needed? No, not at all.
I also came to realize the only reason my Assistant County Public Information Officer position was needed was because the PIO at the time was a slacker who enjoyed too much solitude, which he combated by playing Solitaire. When I suggested we start newsletters for each commission district. I was told that would be “work.” Well, duh.
Additionally, Tony Gomillion, who is now County Administrator but was then Public Services Director, was driving his county vehicle back and forth from his home in Jay. His planning and zoning director was doing the same from Pensacola. Other staff were also misusing their county-assigned vehicles for personal transportation. That was stopped after a whistle was blown.
I could go on and on, but the bottomline is there was excessive fat in the county’s budget prior to the 2007 housing market crash, so when I hear talk about having fewer employees now, I know that is a good thing.
Santa Rosa doesn’t need its budget fattened back up to its pre-2007 bloat but rather commissioners need to PRIORITIZE its spending, and therein lies the problem.
Elected officials promise they will be agents of change. However, commissioners too often get a bit too comfy in their $63,302 per year part-time seats and buddy up with the six-figure salaried county staff who like to steer the ship themselves.
That’s why I am thankful that Santa Rosa County has active Tea Party members who have the courage to rise up and speak out against local government waste.
Our story about this week’s budget hearing details how citizens called on commissioners to “roll back” the millage rate, pointing out that millions will be pouring into the county coffers after commissioners doubled the local gas tax in January and voters approved a half-penny local option sales tax Aug. 30.
Although some politicians want to say not rolling back the millage rate to offset increasing property tax revenue isn’t a tax increase, I ask why the state requires published notification of such as a proposed property tax increase? Shame on those who try to obfuscate that.
“No government ever voluntarily reduces itself in size,” said late U.S. President Ronald Reagan.
We certainly can’t count on politicians to scale it back. That’s why citizens who have the courage to speak up are crucial to reigning in government taxation and spending.