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In 1st of 2 Rounds, County Adopts 14% Tax Rate Increase Against Scattered Criticism

| September 9, 2010

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Pay here. (© FlaglerLive)

The Flagler County Commission held its first budget workshop almost four months ago. It’s held nine such workshops since, many of them lasting four, five, six hours. They’ve discussed the budget in other ways during their eight or nine regular meetings, too. Over those months commissioners deconstructed every part of the budget, applying the same magnifying glasses to constitutional officers’ budgets. The sheriff, the clerk of court and the supervisor of elections each got scrutinized and, in the latter two cases, pared down. There are few questions most people might think of that the commissioners haven’t asked or wrestled over.

Thursday evening, the commission held the first of two public hearings on its way to approving next year’s budget, giving the public a chance to judge commissioners’ work. That fiscal year begins Oct. 1. At the end of the meeting, the commission took its first vote, approving the budget 3-1. Commissioner Bob Abbot was absent. Commissioner Milissa Holland voted in dissent—there are just certain positions I just cannot adjust my thought process on and cannot support,” she said, citing increases in portions of the budget she disagreed with.

The tax rate the commission approved—a “reasonable compromise,” in Commissioner Alan Peterson said, between needed reductions and necessary services that still need to be provided—was $5.5905 per $1,000 in assessed value. That’s up from $4.8894 per $1,000, a 14 percent increase. Commissioners approved a $138 million budget that includes 287 county employees, down 64 positions in three years.

This year’s budget hearings (at the county, the school board, in Palm Coast) have been unusually well attended. Attendance has been driven mostly by the activist effects of the “tea parties” on local governments, the mostly retired, mostly white, mostly wealthier set focusing on smaller government and lower taxes. The Flagler County Tea Party Group, as it officially refers to itself, has become a considerable force in local politics, filling their share of seats in government chambers—as they did Thursday evening—and ballot boxes at election time.

Not every speaker who addressed the commission Thursday evening wore a blue or red shirt with the tea party’s reigning acronym spelled out (“taxed enough already”), although most speakers were critical of the county in one way or another. (One who wasn’t asked a neutral question: how Flagler could become a charter county, another referred to “the joy” of the commission’s and Coffey’s transparency and patience. “That’s one of the first compliments I’ve heard in 18 years,” Commission Chairman George Hanns said.) Commissioners and the administrator, Craig Coffey, maintaining stoically courteous demeanors, engaged every speaker, at times in long back-and-forths without regard for the three-minute time limit.

Just as consistently, the questions and criticism commissioners and the administrator faced favored the general over the specific. “When times are bad, they should be bad for everyone,” one blue-shirted speaker said, unhappy with the extent of cuts in the county and particularly unhappy about the extent of technology surrounding her. She was suggesting that the county spent too much money on that technology (which is shared by the school board, Bunnell, and numerous advisory boards). Identifying herself as a civil servant, she said, “I have never ever seen a county service provide a service cheaper than a service you can contract out.” (The statement has no foundation in fact; the federal General Accounting Office has, on several occasions, analyzed the limits and pitfalls of privatization.)

Others, again without citing specifics or offering particular suggestions they had in mind, questioned why the county wasn’t paring down its employees and services further.  Tom Lawrence, one of the leaders of the local tea party, pointed out the significant budget reductions in two previous years, but only a 1.7 percent reduction for the coming year. “I’m, wondering if there isn’t more room there.” Coffey’s answer: “At some point you may reach a law of diminishing returns. If you become so efficient, you may actually become dysfunctional.”

Answering other questions about the county’s finances, Coffey noted that “the cost of running a jail did not go down last year. The cost of running law enforcement did not go down last year.” He also outlined a series of service cuts that most people haven’t heard of before: In the building department, which is no longer issuing permits as it once did, in meals for the elderly, in the number of adult day care patients the county was taking in, and at the Carver Gym, where the budget was cut 25 percent. “I guarantee you, we cut a variety of services,” Coffey said.

One of the complaints that got the most responses from commissioners was criticism over the construction costs of the county administration building and the new courthouse four years ago. “This board is a totally different board that was involved in the construction of this building and the courthouse,” Peterson said (the exception being Hanns). Peterson said he chose to run for the county commission precisely to look over the county’s books. “I think things have changed dramatically in the four or five years since this building and the courthouse was constructed,” he said, conceding that parts of the buildings may be nice to look at, but aren’t functional. “What was done was poorly done. It’s a whole new ballgame now.”

The two-hour meeting adjourned around 8 p.m. The next and final budget hearing is scheduled for Sept. 23 at 6 p.m.

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24 Responses for “In 1st of 2 Rounds, County Adopts 14% Tax Rate Increase Against Scattered Criticism”

  1. PC Man says:

    Is there a less informed group than the tea party people ? As well taken care by the government as these people are you would think they would not bite the hand that’s feeding them or picking up their tab for the great medical care they get or drug coverage or the extra homeowners tax deduction or buses to drive them to the doctors or using the school as a meeting place. Greatest generation my ass !

  2. Kip Durocher says:

    ” Coffey’s answer: “At some point you may reach a law of diminishing returns. If you become so efficient, you may actually become dysfunctional.”
    Please don’t blow smoke Mr. Coffey. This may help you.

  3. Dorothea says:

    PC Man

    While I agree with your sentiments, you should know that the “greatest generation” is pretty much deceased or too infirm to care. What we have here in these elderly Tea Party people is the GREEDY generation. They want it all for themselves and nothing for anybody else.

  4. Lin says:

    Hit after hit towards the elderly and tea party people. I am not a member of the Tea Party nor am I old enough for Social Security. But I guess someone has to jump in and remind you that Social Security & Medicare are paid for in payroll deductions — in my case decades worth. I have never collected any check that I haven’t worked for. My income is down & expenses way up. Perhaps a sales tax increase would be a better way to finance county and/or school finances. Want it all for themselves????? What exactly do “they want”. I personally want to hold onto the house I paid for, and the way of life I have worked for. I want to be able to pay my own way — if taxes continue to go up and debt go up like it has been, health insurance has become unaffordable. Greedy is someone who wants what he/she hasn’t earned. By the way, the school was rented by the tea party just like other groups have done — and the school benefits from the funds.


    When is the government ( local/state/fed) going to get it?
    it seems that once they are elected all they know how to do is SPEND…..they forget about
    when they had to worry about paying the monthly bills!
    How in the world can you even consider any tax increase at this point…..what are you smoking ???????

  6. PC Man says:

    Thanks for the info Dorothea, it’s the “Greediest Generation”. I should have known these turds were not the heroic type. By the way tea baggers, what’s with the paranoia that you are the only ones paying taxes. You pay the least, but get the most, but that’s not enough. I can’t imagine spending the last few years of my life fighting for pennies.

  7. Dorothea says:


    I didn’t say elderly AND tea party people, I said elderly tea party people. There was no hit intended on the elderly in general.

    However, the tea party people, elderly or not, who are seeking to cut government jobs and projects to the bone need to remember that they are also cutting the number of employees contributing to the Social Security fund and to the tax base. Also remember that fired employees will be collecting unemployment benefits and the employer’s unemployment payments will increase. The employer also pays 70% of COBRA, (health insurance) for the fired employee. Therefore, I would have to say that probably the least effective cost cutting measure is firing employees.

    I will not even go into the humanitarian aspect of this downward spiral. Even a caveman, but maybe not a tea bag member, can see the harm that unemployment can do to the affected individual families and the community as a whole. The following is my definition of greed: I’ve got mine, screw everyone else.

  8. Lin says:

    Your coments about “elderly tea party” people indicts both. And “tea bag” is a very derogatory sexual term — do you know the definition? Speaking out & speaking up should be encouraged as part of our rights — and whenever Pierre mentions the Tea Party, he talks about them being elderly or grey-haired. That is irrelevant and not something to be set up for ridicule.

    The tax base can do only so much “paying”, just like my own personal financial situation can only do so much “paying” based on how much comes in. Whether federal, state or local gov’t or school board — if there is X-amt of $s coming in, X plus cannot be paid out. Debt results. Debt will result that will ultimately bankrupt governments and individuals. It is already happening. Most of us are making many sacrifices to make ends meet and help out others wherever we can. Unemployment has hit my own family but I don’t see how calling the elderly tea party people “greedy” is helping anyone keep their jobs. Cuts need to be made to make our governments efficient just like we do in our personal lives. It makes no sense for me to pay higher real estate taxes to support a job for someone that is not necessary to run the government. High real estate taxes also force buyers to look elsewhere for less expensive taxed areas to buy. It is a consideration when pricing homes to buy.

    And if you are lookiing for “greedy” — it is the government (mainly federal) that is greedy — greedy to add new unnecessary jobs such as the thousands of new jobs to be added to administer this new healthcare bill/law & IRS to enforce new rules that noone has read and noone understands, greedy for power, greedy to control every aspect of our lives such as healthcare, internet, cap & trade. How about the greed of Congress to vote themselves a salary increase when denying social security recipients a cost-of-living increase. How humanitarian is that? The tax base will only be stronger when citizens are back to work — the only increase in jobs has been government jobs. Government jobs that we citizens have to pay for. Business and especially small businesses need help here. Supporting jobs and programs that we don’t need, don’t help anyone.

  9. Dorothea says:


    Several group photographs of local tea party members have been posted to this website. With few exceptions, all the members had gray or silver hair.

    The private sector has been slowly adding jobs. The government sector had a big drop in jobs when the government census takers were finished counting.

    I shall look at my box of Lipton Tea Bags in a whole new light now that I am aware that they are X-rated.

    I did not propose that we support unneeded jobs and programs unless you think that the infrastructure should crumble or we should stand in line for hours waiting to renew our driver’s license as good ways to cut costs.

    As for the rest, it was the removal of government regulations that brought about the current fiscal crisis, along with a president, George Bush, who spent us into this mess. Where were the Tea people when the Bush administration lied to get us into war, lowered taxes on the rich, and diminished the middle class into near poverty?

  10. Kevin says:

    “Where were the Tea people when the Bush administration lied to get us into war, lowered taxes on the rich, and diminished the middle class into near poverty”

    …Consider the fact that maybe things have gotten so bad under your savior Obama who has magnified the issues, constantly misrepresenting data and still like you, blaming Bush, did people wise-up and get involved my dear Dorothea. Haven’t thought of that simple possibility have you? You are too busy congratulating yourself on your historical knowledge of things that really are worth a penny when the shit hits the fan.

    Good Father in heaven, I can’t believe it when I hear individuals still blaming everything that has happened to Bush’s administration. How about blaming the policies and their creator, which haven’t worked to date as being part of the problem of worsening an already bad state of affairs??? No, that would take an ethically and intellectually honest person to do that my dearie Dorothea.

    “The private sector has been slowly adding jobs. The government sector had a big drop in jobs when the government census takers were finished counting.”

    …OMG! It’s not shocking to see you wrote this as much as it is funny. You actually think the numbers of new unemployment claims vs. new job creation, considering the stimulus spent (still some 40% or something like it, remains unused plus what was paid back in TARP is now available), is something in which you see a silver lining? Now he wants more to spend. Rigghhht.

    Stick with the simple pursuits like following history where you discuss and admonish people about who did what in 1864. Damn you sound just like a retired, or should be retired, educator if I ever heard one.

  11. Dorothea says:


    Who mentioned Obama or silver linings? Not me.

    All that studying must have given you a brain fart. Nothing I wrote in my comment happened in 1864. But what’s a century more or less to someone who thinks there is nothing to learn from history.

  12. Kevin says:

    Are you that obtuse specifically regarding my 1864 comment?

    “The private sector has been slowly adding jobs. The government sector had a big drop in jobs when the government census takers were finished counting.” …Whatever was your point in mentioning it in the first place given the specific context you used it?

    Ok, seems to me I’m not the one having a brain-cloud. Saying brain cloud is a less tacky, more polite and sophisticated description vs. what you chose to say. Yes, you may use it going forward so you appear smarter.

  13. PC MAN says:

    Sounds like Kevin is a tea bagger who graduated from Beck U.

  14. over it says:

    PC, you just insulted all tea baggers………

  15. Dorothea says:


    For a guy who has used the word “dick” instead of penis, you have peculariar sensitivities about the words “brain fart.” In deference to your objection, I will describe your comments as pure flatulence and leave the brain part out of it.

    My comment about unemployment was addressed to Lin and has nothing to do with Obama; it is a clarification of Lin’s comment that government employment is up and private sector employment is down.

    I don’t know what the year 1864 has to do with anything that I wrote. Please explain.

  16. Lin says:

    More and more people are unemployed in the private sector. The policies of the Obama administration have succeeded in increasing unemployment (private), increasing debt (public), size of government (goverment motors), increasing government control, etc. Every day there is government involvement in every day life and none of it for the better.

    Bush is gone — time for the Democratic majority in congress & Obama presidency and czars to take responsibility for what they are doing. The tea party and the elderly and whatever demonizing names you want to call people isn’t the point. This is a tactic that some have used to distract from what is really going on. Did the stimulus help, no. The healthcare bill has so far succeeded (in anticipation of “contolling” healthcare costs) in raising my premiums beyond affordability and the GAO projects costs when implemented to a ridiculous level of debt.. Locally, I just think we should take out that red pencil and make sure we are not overpaying for positions and equipment we do not need such as the IPADS the city manager wanted to add. They already have city-provided computers.

    I’ll stop here because this article was about local & I’m getting off topic.

  17. Dorthea says:


    I have to agree with you about Obama, even if we are discussing local politics. However, not for the same reasons. The longer Obama is in office, the more I see his administration as an extension of George Bush’s failed administration. When Obama supports warrantless cell phone tracking and other violations of our civil liberties like due process under the guise of national security, yes, he is taking government control of our lives. When he supports deregulating even more industries, despite the havoc already caused by deregulation, I have to wonder if Obama wasn’t really a Republican in disguis when he was elected.

    I, too, will stop here because we are supposed to be discussing local politics.

  18. Dorothea says:

    Sorry Lin, not trying to hide anonymously, but somehow that’s how the name came up. I wrote the former comment about Obama.

  19. Pierre Tristam says:

    Lin, thanks for the comments, compelling even when not related to the post (and even if we disagree). But as a point of fact: Private-sector employment has been rising, not declining. The private sector added 67,000 jobs in August, and figures for June and July were revised upward. In July, the private sector added 107,000 jobs. The unemployment rate rose a tenth of a percent and overall job losses continue due to governments (federal, state, local) laying people off: census folks at the federal level, all sorts of agency and department layoffs at the local level (including, for example, the 15 or so people laid off from Palm Coast’s government last month). The irony is that people still beat the drums of “big government” when, even at our level, if you look at Flagler County’s government in the last three years, about a fifth of the workforce (64 employees) have been cut. The only reason that hasn’t happened wholesale in education is thanks to stimulus dollars. It may yet.

    Dorothea, or anyone else who has a problem with comments, send an email to, one of us here in our colossal, big-government loving staff with a bank of 57 customer-service proles in Bangalore will get it fixed.

  20. Lin says:

    Pierre, not seeing what you see, especially in Flagler County. And I did say government is growing, mostly federal. Where are the new jobs here in Flagler & Volusia besides the very low-paying? Statistics can be made to show whatever you want them to — I know that from running the businesses I have over the years. If the private sector was truly healthy so many I know that are unemployed or under-employed would be working & paying taxes. And the Administration wouldn’t be running scared like they are. And I enjoy your essays, too, especially when they are local. You give lots of info and timely that we don’t get elsewhere — even when we don’t agree.

    Dorothea, I wasn’t happy during with Bush during his second term either. Don’t forget that Congress was controlled by Dem’s since Jan, 2007. And the biggest contributors to the Real Estate mess are Barney Frank & Chris Dodd and the push by the Dems to lend money to people who could least afford it. That didn’t help anyone. 2007 is when I really noticed the slide so when Obama keeps saying Bush, Bush, Bush, he should remember he voted for alot of the spending even before his ascension to the Presidency.

    OK, I promise, I’ll shut up now.

  21. NOT OUT OF THE WOODS says:

    How about learning to STOP spending & raising taxes and learning to SAVE tax dollars…a very simplistic concept but it really does work… The moment our elected officials take office all they know how to do is SPEND… Throwing more money ( tax dollars) at the problem does not solve the problem….extend the Bush tax cuts ! And get real…when did the government ever create private sector jobs? NEVER…have all the job summits you want…they don’t do anything but waste time!

  22. Dorothea says:

    Not out of the woods yet:

    You should probably get out of the woods and observe the sidewalks/bike paths under construction in Palm Coast. These sidewalks will allow our children to walk safely to school. Three-quarters of the cost of these sidewalk is paid for by grant money, one-quarter by the city. Everybody benefits; walkers, bicyclists, children, cement suppliers, contractors and the contractors’ employees, etc. This is just one example of how the public sector creates jobs in the private sector and for a worthwhile public cause..

  23. over it says:

    Not out of the woods: I understand you wanting to extend the Bush tax cuts. I’m going to assume you make more than 250k/yr. If that’s the case, then I get it. You SHOULD support that extension, because you have a very good economic reason to want them extended. BUT…………if you do NOT make more than 250k/yr, i believe you have been hoodwinked into supporting said extension. If you DO make that much, you should admit it and be proud of your very good income. You deserve to be proud of every penny you make.

  24. silent says:

    The county should not raise the tax rate at all!!!!!

    Many of the tax payers int he private sector have had to adjust to redced benfits and salary reductions.

    Let the county tighten their belt!!!!!!!

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