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Stew Lilker’s

Columbia County Observer

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FGC $22 mil Budget Presentation a Bust: Staff Gets Raises - Kitchen Workers Get 'Zero-Zip-Nada'

FGC President Lawrence Barrett eats in the cateteria off clean plates, but doesn't think the kitchen help should earn a living wage. Neither does the governor's board. Addittional copy reads: No raises for these folks. Food service: dishwasher $8.25, chashier $9.00, cook $10.50

COLUMBIA COUNTY, FL – While some of its workers don't make a living wage, the Governor's Florida Gateway College (FGC) board decided to give an across the board 4% pay increase to its educational staff and 5% to the FGC Foundation head. When your reporter brought this up, nobody flinched and the college president tried to get your reporter thrown out of the meeting.

Florida Gateway College: June 4, 2019

Photo: Florida Gateway President, Lawrence Barrett
FGC President Lawrence Barrett looks through the agenda material during the meeting.

As the June 4, 2019, FGC board meeting got underway the board heard from a handful of speakers, one of whom was your reporter, who inquired about the evening's main agenda item, the $22 mil FGC budget.

While each part of the budget is approved separately and requires a separate action by the board, board Chair Suzanne Norris, a board member since 1999, only allows a total of three minutes of comment and questions for everything on the agenda, including the six budgets up for approval in the 2019-2020 budget year: scholarship plan; student activities budget; FGC Foundation budget; student fee schedule; operating budget; and the capital improvement plan and legislative budget request.

Holding up the Foundation Budgets,
Your Reporter Addressed the Board

"I noticed that the rates of pay in the foundation have increased dramatically. The technical and clerical staff went from 47 thousand to 63 thousand. I don't know if the board goes through this stuff. I know a 15 or 20 minute workshop with no specifics doesn't cover anything. (FGC Budget Prelude: May 14 Workshop Was In Good Measure Unintelligible, Budget: $21,805,664 ) The staff should be ashamed of not presenting stuff in a literate manner to this board, which is clearly responsible for fiduciary goings on."

Your reporter continued:

"I looked at the raises. You're giving raises to the staff and everybody else. And then I looked at food services, because these are the folks that I look at. The people that are low on the totem pole that can barely make their ends meet. Not the people at the top like Dr. Barrett. You are apparently ashamed to put his salary in the budget. As you see, food service dishwashers eight-twenty-five; cashiers nine dollars; cooks ten fifty [per hour].

Your reporter concluded:

"I would like to ask this board, while you're giving everybody else raises; you've got eight million dollars in the bank; you've got an almost 22 million dollar budget, why these people, who are on the lowest end of the totem pole – that need the money the most, aren't getting the raises and aren't getting the paid time off that the staff gets? I hope that this board and you [Norris] take notice."

A little beep beeped at the lectern. Your reporter's time was up.

Board Chair Norris said, "Thank you."

Your reporter followed up as he was packing up his papers and leaving the microphone, "I hope that you do."

As he walked away from the microphone, your reporter gave the board and the Chair a good hard look to drive home the point.

Ms. Norris remarked, "Staring at me is not going to make a difference, Mr. Lilker."

President Barrett signaled for the Sheriff's Deputy to throw your reporter out of the meeting.

The Deputy may have thought better; your reporter went to his seat; Ms. Norris was correct: it didn't "make a difference."

The Budget Presentations: Projector Didn't Work

It wasn't clear why, but the college couldn't get its slide presentation to project anything large enough to be read.

Ultimately, it didn't make a difference, as the board, with only one question, rubberstamped each of the six budget requests.

President Barrett: On the job since July 2015
The Foundation budget is "complicated"

The Foundation budget couldn't be simpler. It is 15 lines: two lines for salaries; three lines for benefits; 4 lines for travel; and the others for office expenses and lawn care, with a line, without any explanation, for "contracted services."

budget document showing FGC Foundation budget
"The Foundation page"                ++ Click to enlarge

The 2019-20 Foundation budget is produced on a standard form. The system that produces these pages is an Oracle program. All the operator has to do is fill in the spaces and the form automatically generates the report.

The account headings increase and decrease are meaningless, as the increase is the actual proposed budget amount.

It is not clear if President Barrett directed his staff to prepare budget documents which compare prior year's expenditures to current proposed expenditures.

If he did, the comparisons were not presented publically or apparently to the board. These types of budget comparisons are standard operating procedure across Columbia County.

Spreadsheet comparing FGC Foundation budgets
FGC Foundation budget comparison.              (Columbia County Observer graphic)

It would have been easy to show the difference between the Foundation's last year's budget and this year's. President Barrett could have easily accomplished that simple task. He did not.

Instead, President Barrett, the Chief Budget Officer for Florida Gateway College had this to say to the Governor's board (as spoken):

"I want to thank you for your budget support. I will state to you that some of the information in here could be could be complicated, such as the information provided on the Foundation page that shows the increase of technical and clerical. Shows 63,239. That is not the case. That is a Banner form - part of our processing form and it includes two full time clerical staff members for $63,000 dollars. So those are how complicated this budget can be..."

Epilogue

The Foundation budget is not complicated. If President Barrett wanted the board and the public to know that the Foundation staff increased by one, he could have added it in the form, i.e., "Technical Clerical – 2 employees."

He didn't.

Instead, he tried to get your reporter thrown out of the meeting.

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