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FDOT to replace
two bridges to Cedar Key;

Open house slated for Aug. 29;
Work set to begin next month
By Troy Roberts
Communications Specialist
District Two, Northeast Florida
Florida Department of Transportation
Published Aug. 15, 2017 at 10:57 p.m.
     CEDAR KEY –
The Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) is scheduled to begin the replacement of two bridges leading to and from Cedar Key next month, weather permitting.


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     Ahead of the bridge replacements at Daughtry Bayou on Airport Road and Lewis Pass on Gulf Boulevard, FDOT will host an Open House on Aug. 29 for residents who may have questions about the project.
     Replacement of the two bridges is scheduled to begin in early September. Temporary bridges will be installed to maintain access while the old bridges are removed and new bridges are constructed.
     FDOT has hired Anderson Columbia Co., Inc., of Lake City, to complete the $7.8 million project.
     Replacement of both bridges is scheduled to be completed by the end of 2018.
     FDOT has scheduled a construction Open House ahead of the start of the project and is scheduled to take place from 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. on Aug. 29 at the Cedar Key Community Center (809 Sixth St.). Staff will be available to answer questions and provide maps and flyers to residents and visitors seeking more information.


FEMA warns of fake
eclipse-viewing glasses

NASA offers safe tips
to see the eclipse of the sun on Aug. 21

Published Aug. 14, 2017 at 12:07 p.m.
     WASHINGTON, D.C.
-- Millions of Americans will watch the Aug. 21 solar eclipse and have already purchased (or will purchase) eclipse glasses or handheld solar viewers to do so, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) noted in a press release.

     Some of these people may be at risk from counterfeit glasses and viewers sold by disreputable vendors trying to cash in on this rare event. Watching the eclipse with fake protective gear can cause permanent eye damage, making this a community risk reduction issue, FEMA noted.
     Only glasses and viewers verified by an accredited testing laboratory to meet ISO 12312-2 are safe to use when viewing the eclipse. This standard requires glasses and viewers to be thousands of times darker than typical sunglasses.
     It may be difficult to tell the difference between genuine protective gear and fake glasses/viewers because some counterfeit makers are placing ISO labels on them.
     The American Astronomical Society has guidance to help eclipse watchers determine if their eclipse glasses or handheld solar viewers are safe. Click HERE for a list of good vendors.
     In addition, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) recommends that eclipse watchers refer to the NASA’s website for safe viewing tips by clicking HERE.

 


LifeSouth Community
Blood Centers clears hurdle;

Thanks expressed to all;
Dixie County Rotary Club results shared

By Jeff M. Hardison © Aug. 14, 2017 at 11:47 a.m.
     TRI-COUNTY AREA --
A donor recruitment assistant with LifeSouth Community Blood Centers on Monday morning (Aug. 14) noted. "We were just asked to take down our emergency signs. LifeSouth is no longer in emergency need status."
     LifeSouth only uses the word “emergency” when the reserve supply to restock area hospitals drops below a two-day level.
     "We hope that those who gave during the emergency period will come back (when they are eligible) to donate again and help avoid shortages in the early fall," she added.
     The blood donation center noted its appreciation for all donors at all times.
     LifeSouth Community Blood Centers provided results, too, from a recent blood drive by the Rotary Club of Dixie County.
     Dixie County Rotarian Holly Houghton and other Rotarians were thanked for their work in this regard.
     The Dixie County Rotary Community Blood Drive held on Aug. 9 resulted in the following donations.
     Prospective Donors: 15
     Deferred Donors: 2
     Actual Donations: 13
     This included one apheresis donation. There were seven first-time blood donors.   
     When one blood donation can save up to three lives, the LifeSouth spokesperson said, it is easy to see how donating blood can make a significant difference in someone’s life.

CF cuts the ribbon
at new campus in Levy County
Dignitaries cut the ribbon Friday (Aug. 11) at the ceremony to dedicate the new Jack Wilkinson Levy Campus of the College of Central Florida. Fred Roberts Jr., chairman of the CF Foundation (left) and CF District Board Chairman Bill Edgar handle ribbon-cutting duties. Pictured (from left) are Dr. Raynne Giddis, provost of the new campus; dairy farmer and donor Ron St. John; CF President Dr. James Henningsen; land donor Loy Anne Mann; Roberts; Edgar; State Rep. Charlie Stone (R-Ocala, Dist. 22) who successfully lobbied for state funding to build the college; Ron Ewers, district board of trustees member; Joyce Brancato, Levy County representative on district board of trustees; District Board of Trustees Vice Chairman Rusty Branson; Don Taylor of the district board of trustees; and Vernon Lawter, vice president of regional campuses.

Story and Photos
By Terry Witt, Senior Reporter of HardisonInk.com
© Aug. 12, 2017 at 12:37 p.m., All Rights Reserved
     LEVY COUNTY --
The College of Central Florida unveiled the campus of the Jack Wilkinson Levy Center north of Chiefland on Friday (Aug. 11).

     The main structure is a two-story set of classrooms, labs, meeting rooms, a workout room and administrative offices that has been 13 years in the making. There appears to be ample parking. Vending machines are the main source for food and drink currently.
     Constructed with community donations totaling $3.5 million and another $11.5 million in state funding, this new CF campus is the first permanent structure for the college in Levy County.
     The ribbon-cutting took place at the front entrance of the main building, with the ribbon and participants being framed by colonial style columns.


(from left) Ron St. John, a donor to the college and local dairyman, Sheriff Bobby McCallum, Stewart Wasson and Levy County Property Appraiser Osborn Barker (walking behind them) take a tour of the new college campus.



The Jack Wilkinson Levy Campus won the hearts of many with its stylish architecture


Dr. James Henningsen, president of the College of Central Florida addresses the assembled guests and dignitaries from the podium in the conference center of the new campus.


The executive meeting room offers ample space for meetings. The college meeting room facilities are open to all people for use. Just contact CF for more information about the potential to uses a meeting room.

The front entrance of the campus administrative and classroom building is framed by tall columns dwarfing visitors entering for the first time.
 
College officials expressed pride in the science laboratory -- complete with drop-down screens.
 

The student lounge is roomy with large windows.


An exercise room is available for students to utilize

     The entire campus overlooks a small forest along U.S. Highway 19, north of Chiefland south of the City of Fanning Springs.
     The campus is named in honor of the late Jack Wilkinson, a former Chiefland High School math teacher and Chiefland farmer who gave the college $2.5 million as a gift from his personal fortune.
     Wilkinson lived in a modest residence along U.S. Alt. 27, and few individuals would have surmised that he was a relatively wealthy man, until after he had presented the breathtaking gift to CF.
     When asked why he gave CF the gift, Wilkinson said he had dedicated his life to teaching children, and this present was in keeping with his life’s work as an educator.
     The CF District Board of Trustees voted to name the campus in  Wilkinson’s honor in 2009.
     Former CF Trustee Loy Ann Mann and her husband, the late Dr. Jack Mann, a Chiefland chiropractor, had donated 15.3 acres of undeveloped land for the college site in 2006.
     This couple started the series of other actions resulting in the campus coming to fruition this year.
     Additional property was purchased by the college in 2007.
     The new building itself is named in honor of the family of Ron and Marcia St. John, who donated land to CF that was sold to generate additional cash for constructing the classroom and administrative building.
     The building is named the St. John Educational Center.
     Drummond Community Bank and its founder Luther Drummond, president and CEO, donated for construction of the college as did countless other donors.
     “This wouldn’t have happened without community support,” said Dr. James Henningsen, CF president.
     The building looks classy.
     “The facility will be important to dual enrollment students who will be impressed with the seriousness of college. There will be no mistaking this for a high school,” said Warren Parkin, a visitor to the dedication.
     The Levy campus of CF has been housed since 1993 in the Providence Mall Shopping Center across U.S. 19 from Chiefland High School. The lease on the mall space expires on Aug. 31.
     Before the 1993 opening in what is also called the Save-A-Lot shopping center, the campus was housed at the Bronson center east of Bronson since 1982.
     Dr. Rayanne Giddis, provost of the Levy Campus, said 786 students had been enrolled at the Levy Campus in Chiefland, but 200 new students have been added.
     While the campus won’t officially open for classes until the third week of August, students can register now at the new campus during weekday business hours.
     The college also has online classes.
     Bob Hastings, who was the Levy County superintendent of schools when the new building began to receive community donations and state funding, said he was very impressed by the new campus.
     He and Carol Sullivan, also a visitor at Friday’s dedication were members of the CF board when the vote was taken to move forward with a permanent campus. Sullivan said either Hastings or she made the motion and one of them seconded it.
     “I’m telling you this turned out to be so nice,” Hastings said. “I think this will add a lot to Levy County. The difference between the storefront center in Chiefland and this is amazing. When you come here, you know you’re in college.”
     John Adams, landscape architect for the campus, said CF committed to preserving as many trees as possible. He believes the trees make the campus fit well with its surroundings.
     “I think it says a lot about fitting the campus in instead of just plotting it in,” Adams said. “The college had this commitment to save these trees across the front. When you drive past on U.S. 19 you are looking through trees at the college.”
     The rear of the college connects with more forest and the Nature Coast State Trail, a walking and bicycling trail stretching from south Chiefland through Fanning Springs and across the Suwannee River before terminating in Cross City..
 

Lost man finds
remote EMS station

By Jeff M. Hardison © Aug. 11, 2017 at 8:17 p.m.
     LEVY COUNTY –
An 80-year-old Thonotosassa man who left his house Thursday (Aug. 10) ended up just north of Inglis on Thursday evening, according to information from an Emergency Medical Technician and Lt. Scott Tummond of the Levy County Sheriff’s Office.

     Dennis Edward Truluck, 80, went missing from his Hillsborough County residence on Thursday, and given his suffering from Alzheimer’s, his wife contacted the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office, which issued a “silver alert.”
     Levy County Department of Public Safety EMT John Partain said in a telephone interview on Friday that the man knocked on the door at the LCDPS Rescue Station on Thursday evening.
     EMT Partain and LCDPS Paramedic Thomas Waldron were on duty then at the LCDPS Emergency Medical Services outpost located behind a former Florida Highway Patrol building on the west side of U.S. Highway 19 north of Inglis and south of Gulf Hammock.
     Truluck had driven a pickup truck there, Partain said.
     The confused man asked for help. He was unable to say who he was or where he came from, Partain said.
     Partain used the only ID that the man had - a health insurance card -- and he asked that company’s representative for help in identifying this confused man.
     The EMT obtained a telephone number and called the man's wife.
     The LCSO took custody of the missing man who had just been found. Family members came to the final rescue, collecting Truluck from the Levy County Sheriff’s Office.
     Partain said this seems like the fourth elderly person who was lost who came to the EMS station near Inglis this year, although one of those four was in an electric wheelchair riding on U.S. 19, he said.
    Partain has a 28-year record with first response service.
     He was involved with law enforcement for 12 years and with Levy County Fire Rescue for the past 16 years.
     Sandwiched between law enforcement and being an EMT, he worked for seven years specifically helping patients with Alzheimer’s Disease.
     The EMT said he is glad that he and LCDPS Paramedic Waldron were able to have helped this family find their lost loved one.


Yankeetown-Inglis
Woman's Club seeks help with
Kidz Eatz weekend meals

By Marty Hilliard of the Y-I WC
Published Aug. 10, 2017 at 7:47 a.m.
     YANKEETOWN --
There are 15.9 million children who live in households in the United States of America where they are unable to consistently access nutritious food necessary for a healthy life, according to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).

     Therefore, we have children in our own country who go hungry. 
     In 2014, the Yankeetown-Inglis Woman’s Club realized that many of the students at Yankeetown School were returning to school hungry on Monday mornings after going home on Fridays.
     Due to a myriad of reasons, those children of southern Levy County didn’t have access to food over the weekends.
     Kids in our own community were part of the USDA statistics. There were one in five (20 percent) who were not eating on weekends.
     The members of the Yankeetown-Inglis Woman's Club in 2014 decided this was unacceptable, and that we needed to “Make It Better!"
     We formalized the program with a name, a pantry and volunteers to package food for the kids to take home.
     Kidz Eatz Weekend Meal Program became a reality. Community member Chris Fineout accepted the challenge of coordinating the unbelievable outpouring of support from the communities of Yankeetown and Inglis.
     Three years ago, the cost to provide seven meals and snacks for one student for the school year was $150 and we were feeding 20 kids. Today both numbers have grown. We now provide food to 30 students at the staggering cost of $325 each!
     Once again, when the Yankeetown-Inglis Woman's Club reached out for help to cover increased food costs, our neighbors and community businesses came to the rescue. When presented with the statistics concerning our own kids, many of them made substantial donations to keep the Kidz Eatz Weekend Meal Program going. 
     This all-volunteer endeavor is asking for help from our neighbors once again. You can purchase items on our food list for a month or a year; you can make a monetary donation and we’ll purchase the needed items for you; you can volunteer to help pack the food each week or volunteer to shop for items not donated. It's your choice. But know that anything you choose to do will directly impact the life of a child and certainly your own. 
     Contact Chris Fineout at 352-586-3415 or email the Woman’s Club at yiwomansclub@gmail.com for all of the details on what food items are needed or where your talents can be used best.
     Our club thanks our community neighbors for allowing the Yankeetown-Inglis Woman’s Club to be the conduit for “Making It Better” in our towns. Together let us HELP keep Yankeetown School from being part of the USDA statistics and let NO child go hungry!


Levy County adopts
controversial plan to control
health insurance costs

Some county workers lose
$5,000 in cash in one year


Levy County Finance Director Jared Blanton (right), CPA, speaks to the County Commission at a budget meeting on Thursday (Aug. 3). County Commissioner Mike Joyner is seen at the left of the photo and County Clerk Danny Shipp is in the middle (behind the screen).

Story and Photo
By Terry Witt, Senior Reporter © Aug. 5, 2017 at 2:27 p.m.
     BRONSON --
The Levy County Board of County Commissioners approved one of the most gut-wrenching decisions they can remember when they voted 4-0 on July 18 to cap the amount of money they spend on health insurance at $9,512 per full-time employee, a substantial decrease from the $12,488 they had been spending.

    The county was ranked fifth in the state in spending for employee health insurance behind Duval County, Hillsborough County, Palm Beach County and Collier County, according to a Florida Association Counties study of health insurance costs.
     Forty-seven counties participated in the study.
     The study factored into the County Commission decision to reduce health insurance contributions for full-time employees.
     “They (commissioners) realized how much they were paying for employee health care and they realized it wasn’t sustainable to keep absorbing those costs,” County Coordinator Wilbur Dean said.
     As part of the new insurance plan, commissioners converted the $544,733 in savings on health insurance to $549,145 in pay raises for employees in an effort to soften the economic blow and give employees opportunities to invest their money in one of the better insurance plan options available to them, or to spend the increased pay as they saw fit in the community.
     The health insurance changes have been unpopular with some county employees, especially those who will pay substantially higher premiums for family coverage. They said the county didn’t consult them in advance of changes to the health care plan.
     Many were embittered by the lack of advance notice. Both of the county’s labor unions plan to file grievances challenging the changes to union member benefits. They say changes to benefits and pay for union members must be negotiated.
     County Commission Chairman John Meeks visited the county road department early Thursday morning to answer questions about the health insurance changes and said he felt the wrath of employees.
     “You should have been with me this morning when I faced 100 angry employees,” Meeks said. “I know how Custer felt, except they didn’t have tomahawks.”
     Meeks said he stands by his decision to give employees a pay raise using the savings from reduced county commission spending on health insurance, and he agrees the pay raises could be negotiated, but he also sounded a note of caution.
     “I would say ‘Yes.’ I would agree with that, but insurance benefits? I don’t know if that has to be negotiated. In the past we have offered additional family coverage for employees,” Meeks said. “I’ll tell you and them, I gave my people a raise and if the union people want to take that away then that’s on them, it’s not on me. That’s probably not very politically correct but that’s the way I feel about it.”
     The pay raise approved by the county commission during a budget hearing on July 18 has five tiers. The lowest paid tier of employees will receive the biggest raise while the highest paid employees get the least. Employees earning $25,500 or less will receive a $3,000 raise; those earning $25,501 to $32,000 will get a $2,500 raise; those earning $32,001 to $50,000 an $1,800 raise; those earning $50,001 to $80,000 a $1,200 raise and those earning $80,001 or higher a $1,000 raise.
     Employees say the increased costs of their family coverage wipes out the pay increases.
     In fact, in some instances the loss is as much as almost a $4,000 loss from an annual income of about $27,000.
     In one instance, an Emergency Medical Technician with Levy County is losing more than $5,000 a year as a result of the increased insurance cost.
     Jimmy Jones, an EMT for Levy County Fire Rescue said his insurance costs will rise $5,200 annually even with his $1,800 raise factored into the equation. He had been paying $186 per paycheck twice a month.  Under the new plan Jones will pay $457 per paycheck twice a month, an increase of $271 per paycheck. County employees are paid every two weeks.
     That $271 increase means he sees more than a 100 percent increase in that cost. And he is not the only county employee who is actually suffering a significant pay cut rather than an increase in pay this coming year, starting in October.
     Jones said employees found out about the changes on July 5 and they will be forced make decisions on how to adjust their family budgets before the Aug. 21 enrollment period.
     “It is what it is,” Jones said. “I have to work somewhere.”
     Jimmy Willis, a union steward for the Northeast Florida Public Employees Local 630 at the road department said the coverage for him and his wife will rise from $156 to $423 per paycheck. He is paid twice a month like other employees. He said they didn’t give Meeks a friendly greeting but they didn’t tell him to go home either.
     “There wasn’t anybody in there that liked what was said. We weren’t disrespectful. We don’t agree with what they are doing,” Willis said. “I asked John if they are as broke as they say they are, why are they buying four new graders and paving roads.”
     He said Meeks told the assembled group the county is financing purchase of the graders.
     The study by the Florida Association of Counties in 2016 found that Levy County with its 212 full-time employees was ranked fifth in health insurance spending ahead of Monroe County with 1,170 employees that ranked sixth in health insurance spending at $12,420 per employee.
     Duval County ranked first with $14,500 for each of its 8,099 full-time employees, Hillsborough County second with $13,404 for each of its 5,475 full-time employees, Palm Beach third with $13,260 for each of its 4,333 full-time employees, Collier County fourth with $13,100 for each of its 13,100 employees.
     Following are some other counties' limits of where they pay for employees' health insurance coverage:
     ● Citrus County $6,628;
     ● Gilchrist County $6,708;
     ● Alachua County $9,618; and
     ● Marion County $9,220.
     Therefore, Citrus County and Marion County, which are larger counties with bigger tax bases, are below Levy County in per-employee limits of health insurance coverage assistance.
     Dean said the Levy County Commission felt it didn’t have the tax base to continue the higher level of spending on health insurance for employees.
     Levy County paid most of the employee health insurance instead of giving the employees pay raises for many years. The County Commission absorbed increases in premium costs from Florida Blue Cross Blue Shield, the county’s healthcare insurer. The practice of absorbing a big chunk of the health insurance costs was particularly helpful during the Great Recession when the board couldn’t afford pay raises, Dean said.
     Midway through the year 2016, Levy County Clerk of Circuit Court Danny Shipp hired Jared Blanton, a Certified Public Accountant who holds a Master’s Degree in Business Administration to serve as finance director for the County Commission.
     In addition to being the clerk for the circuit and Levy County Court, Shipp serves as the comptroller for the Levy County Board of County Commissioners, and his staff builds the County Commission budget in cooperation with board staff members and commissioners.
     Blanton realized the board’s health insurance costs were contributing to the County Commission’s $3 million in deficit spending annually for the previous three years before he took over as finance director. Deficit spending means the board was spending more tax revenue than it was receiving. The board was operating in the red and dipping into reserve funds to keep the county afloat.
     Since the County Commission was reticent in increasing taxes to cover costs, Blanton hatched the idea of cutting health insurance expenditures and giving back some of the savings to employees in the form of pay raises.
     Blanton said the early discussions were about simply cutting health care contributions to stabilize the budget, but he felt the cuts would have less impact if the savings were plowed back into raises.
     Blanton said he realized there was no perfect solution, but he also recognized that if the board continued to spend its reserve cash every year to the tune of $3 to $4 million, the reserves would eventually disappear entirely, leaving the county vulnerable in emergencies or in economic downturns.
     “They (the County Commission) have been held hostage by always paying for health insurance increases,” Blanton said. “We just want to balance the budget.”
     He believes the county is on track to adopted balanced budgets by 2019.
     The vote to approve the new health insurance plan came in a budget hearing following the July 18 board meeting. The board had originally planned to discuss the new health care plan on July 5 but decided to wait until the next board meeting.
     The vote was 4-0.
     Levy County Commissioner Mike Joyner left after the regular meeting ended and was unable to cast a vote for the health care plan in the budget hearing.
     Joyner, who has been battling cancer, said he was sick and had to leave. He feared he might throw up if he didn’t leave the meeting, but he said he won’t ever leave again.
     “I’ll tell you, I’ll have to be on my death bed before I leave another meeting. People said I didn’t want to face the music. I was sick. That’s why I left,” Joyner said.
     The four who voted to approve the increased cost to county employees for health insurance were Chairman Meeks and commissioners Rock Meeks, Lilly Rooks and Matt Brooks.
     A Facebook page named Spotlight on Levy County Government published a letter from Blanton explaining changes were coming to employee health insurance the day before the July 5 County Commission meeting.
     That was the first time Katy Yanok, a Levy County paramedic and president of the International Association of Firefighters Local 4069, heard about the changes coming to employee health insurance.
     Linda Cooper, former general manager of the Levy County Journal, which has closed, is administrator of the Facebook page.
     Yanok said the union she represents has filed two grievances challenging the county’s decision to change union member benefits and pay without negotiating the changes. She also didn’t like the fact that the changes were made without giving adequate notice to employees.
     “It was sprung on the employees at the last minute. They (commissioners and staff) were still crunching the numbers in the meeting where this was approved,” she said. “I think it was last minute and poorly thought out and hard on our employees.”
     She said the purpose of employee labor unions is the ensure fairness and equality when it comes to benefits and pay. She said the unions were left out of the picture.
     Meeks said it was odd that neither of the unions had made an effort to begin contract negotiations before the County Commission made the decision on health care spending. He concedes that employees received late notice of the impending changes, but Chairman Meeks said it wasn’t the fault of the board.
     “It’s not as if we waited for the last minute. We were not provided with numbers from the insurance provider nor did we have the numbers from Oz (Levy County Property Appraiser Osborn Barker) about increases in land value. It came to our office late – not later than usual. It’s just the time of year they calculate that stuff,” Meeks said. “This is the way it is every year in July and August when we have to make the tough decisions.”
     The County Commission funds its own budget as well as the budgets of the elected constitutional officers – the sheriff, tax collector, property appraiser, clerk of courts and supervisor of elections. The County Commission is the taxing authority for those constitutional offices.
     The County Commission technically is funding the health insurance of the constitutional officers by funding those budgets.  The sheriff is the only constitutional officer not on the County Commission’s health insurance plan. The total budgeted amount for health insurance for all the county offices in 2016-17 was approximately $4.2 million.
     County commissioners budgeted $2,485,181 for health insurance in the 2016-17 year; the Levy County Sheriff’s Office $1,068,888; the clerk’s office $332,909; the tax collector $194,424; property appraiser $133,453 and supervisor of elections $43,000.
     Most of the constitutional officers said their health insurance costs included life insurance, but the amount spent on life insurance was insignificant. The health insurance numbers included life insurance. They didn’t break out health from life insurance costs.
     The changes in the health insurance plan were largely endorsed by constitutional elected officials like Barker in the property appraiser’s office.
     “I think it’s a step in the right direction to get control of healthcare costs,” Property Appraiser Barker said. “It’s going to be hard on some employees because they will have to adjust to the costs. But health care costs are way out of control. They had to do something.”
     Barker said the fact that Levy County was one of the top five spenders in the state on employee health insurance was not good for Levy County. Even with the reductions, he said the county remains in the top 15 counties for spending on health care insurance.
     Levy County Tax Collector Linda Fugate said “family coverage is pretty darn expensive,” but she said she is thankful the County Commission provided the higher level of contributions for as long as it did.
     “We are blessed our county did this for us for many years,” she said. “It’s still a big benefit for the board to pay that much.”
     County commissioners and constitutionally elected officials on the new health plan won’t receive the raises. They are not entitled to give themselves raises. The state is the entity that gives them elected officials pay raises.
     Blanton told county commissioners at a budget meeting on Thursday (Aug. 3) that the county transferred $5 million from excess debt fund reserves this year to the general operating budget to boost the amount of cash in reserves. He said the money wasn’t needed to repay debt and the county had been using the debt reserve like it was part of the operating budget anyway. Blanton felt it was best to have a bigger reserve on hand in the operating budget. The operating reserves are $8.7 million from recurring sources.
     The county at one time had talked about using the debt reserve funds to repay the remaining debt, but given that deficit spending continues to be a problem, and that there is a relatively small amount of debt left on the books, Blanton felt it was best to move $5 million of excess debt reserve funds to the general fund. There is ample money left to pay the yearly debt.
     He told commissioners the deficit going into the 2017-18 budget year will be $1.3 million, a considerable improvement over previous years, but nothing to brag about. The commission tentatively adopted a 9 mill property tax at the meeting. The proposed budget for the 2017-18 year is $64.8 million.
     Levy County’s latest budget concern is beyond its control.
     The Florida Legislature is talking about creating a third Homestead Exemption for homeowners. The state already has two $25,000 Homestead Exemptions on the books, which means the first $50,000 of a homesteaded home’s value is exempt from taxation.
     Adding a third Homestead Exemption would cost Levy County an additional $600,000 next year but would mean homesteads would have $75,000 in exemptions.
     Therefore, if that came to be, a house and property with an appraised taxable value of $100,000 would only be taxed on $25,000 worth of that value if it was qualified for Homestead Exemption.
     The increased insurance costs for employees starts in October, as do the raises that are planned to somewhat soften the significant financial impact these massive increases will have on county working families’ budgets.
     The proverbial bottom line for some number of families of Levy County workers is that they will have significantly less net revenue as a result of this action by the County Commission.




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92nd Jingle Performers

Pastor Alex Christian and his wife Velma Christian of First United Methodist Church of Chiefland sing the jingle on Tuesday morning (Aug. 8, 2017) in the pastor’s office. The couple had just finished conferring with the publisher of HardisonInk.com when they were asked and agreed to sing the jingle. Each performer or set of performers brings his or her, or their (when it is two or more performers) own special something to the jingle. If you see Jeff Hardison and you want to sing the jingle, just let him know or send an email to hardisonink@gmail.com. He asks people to sing it, too, and some of them agree to sing it. (Thanks people!)
Published Aug. 8, 2017 at 2:17 p.m. © Video by Jeff M. Hardison, All Rights Reserved

 

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WEDNESDAY Aug. 16  8:27 a.m.
Levy, Dixie and Gilchrist counties




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--UPDATED--
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Levy, Dixie and Gilchrist counties