News-Sun photo by CHRISTOPHER TUFFLEY School Superintendent Wally Cox appears before the Highlands County legislative delegation. Cox asked that no more unfunded mandates be handed down.
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published: Sunday, January 20, 2013
Legislative delegation listens, and gets an earful
By CHRISTOPHER TUFFLEY
SEBRING -- While some agencies pleaded to not be cut from the budget, or have their current allotments lessened, money was not the main topic of discussion at the Legislative Delegation's public hearing Friday morning.
Four main concerns did emerge however - unfunded mandates, unrealistic time lines, flexibility within state ordinances at the local level, and stability.
Several social service agencies asked the legislators to think in terms of prevention as a way to lower crime rates, and several agencies and organizations had specific requests and warnings.
School Board chairman Andy Tuck told Senator Bill Galvano, Senator Denise Grimsley, and Representative Cary Pigman, "If there are any new mandates, hold off on the ones that would require more funding." Tom Conner, executive director of the Heartland Educational Consortium, whose allotment had been vetoed by the governor two years in a row, told the delegation that the consortium spends more per child in smaller counties, "because we must help to fulfill the mandates."
Wally Cox, superintendent of schools, praised the new direction in education, especially the concept of "Common Core" classes. He warned the delegation, however, that the switch to end-of-course tests needed attention.
The state board of education's end-of-course tests in place are an excellent measurement tool, Cox said, but only two or three subjects have them.
"We need to get those exams in place," Cox said. "It's a high stakes situation. The way it is now, every county must write its own end-of-course test, but every district should have the same tests."
Tim Cook, director of Florida Hospital Heartland Division, told the delegation, "Medicaid money is most on our minds. It is a real factor here." This was why, he added, regarding fluctuating allotments, "... without stability and the ability to predict, it is hard to plan."
Cook warned the delegation that mental health services in the county, except help for seniors, was virtually non-existent.
Dr. Barry Hummel, representing the Tobacco Prevention Network of Florida, asked that loose tobacco and "filtered cigar cigarettes" be taxed as other tobacco products are taxed.
June Fisher, county administrator, asked the delegation to make it possible for municipal-elected officials to meet with county-elected officials at the county seat.
Sheriff Susan Benton asked the legislators to support legislation to end texting while driving.
The plan to centralize the distribution of license through a third party vendor was not a sensible one, Tax Collector Erik Zwayer said. People will have to order the tag over the Internet and wait for it to arrive, yet the Tax Collector's office still does all the processing.
"I'm all about saving money," Zwayer said, "but there are no savings in this model. It will cause delays and problems, especially for industry fleets.
"Our job is to serve the public. We shouldn't be so laser focused on money that customer service suffers."
The Heartland Ridge Home Owners Association asked that developers acting as managers be forced to be financially transparent when dealing with association money.
Gingerlee Mitchelllindo, a private citizen, said there had to a better way for citizens to protect themselves from unethical government behavior.
She recommended simplifying paperwork.
"So that every day citizens who see (an ethical) wrong being done by their government and desire to address it to see the wrong righted will not be dissuaded by the cumbersome and sometimes forced repeatable paperwork and costs of the process to file a complaint."
Unfortunate Delay (by: Blindman - 1/22/2013)
Unfortunately governing bodies will be stretched to the extreme another four years before this mess is over thanks to the Progressives.
Think About It (by: Spectre - 1/20/2013)
This is getting absolutely crazy. If things are this bad right now and just about everything that can be cut, has been cut.........what do you think it's going to be like 5 to 15 years down the road. The "doing more with less" principle can only be stretched so far and then, something has to give. And I don't see things getting any better in the next four years. Think about it.
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