I am one member of a five person board. The opinions I express on this forum are mine only, and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of the Escambia County Staff, Administrators, Employees, or anyone else associated with Escambia County Florida. I am interested in establishing this blog as a means of additional transparency to the public, outreach to the community, and information dissemination to all who choose to look. Feedback is welcome, but because public participation is equally encouraged, appropriate language and decorum is mandatory.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Struggle over $21,000.00 Fee Highlights the Need For Individualized Board Member Dues Payments

The Volusia County School Board decided, by a 3-2 vote, to continue their board's membership with the Florida School Boards Association.  Along with that decision comes a $21,000.00. invoice payable for this one year membership for the board.  From the Daytona Beach News Journal:

"Political divisions between Volusia County School Board members underscored a debate Tuesday night about whether to renew the district’s membership with a statewide organization that provides training, lobbying and legal services.  The board ultimately voted 3-2 to remain part of the Florida School Boards Association, with board members John Hill and Melody Johnson casting the dissenting votes, during a regular meeting Tuesday night. Hill and Johnson balked at the $21,000 annual membership fee and the organization’s stance against a popular state program that diverts

 tax dollars to private schools. But their colleagues said they feel the benefits provided by the association are invaluable.  Johnson said she was irked when other members declared their political affiliations and one man made vomiting noises to express disgust during one of the organization’s recent training sessions. She also took issue with the association’s lawsuit against the Florida Tax Credit scholarship program, which allows corporations to receive dollar-for-dollar tax credits for contributions to a fund that pays private school tuition for low-income students across the state."

The interesting thing about the deliberations and eventual vote is that the swing vote to continue the membership came from Volusia's chairman Linda Costello.  She did not want the two board members that wanted to remain members of FSBA to not have the ability to access the services FSBA provides.  Interestingly--Linda Costello is also a member of the newly formed Florida Coalition of School Board Members (an alternative advocacy organization for Florida School Board Members).  Like many other board members around the state, Linda has expressed displeasure with the FSBA's lawsuit to end Tax-Credit Scholarships in Florida.  In this instance, Linda could have voted with her other two board members and not spent the $21K in taxpayer money, however she did not want to deprive them of something they wanted.

So this catch-22 vote she made is even more compelling proof of the desperate need for INDIVIDUAL BOARD MEMBERS to be able to allocate their portion of dues memberships to the organizations they choose, and not be subject to making such votes.  If this was the way the law required such tax-dollar financed memberships to be funded currently--I believe the FSBA would have received $8,500 from the two members that supported the FSBA and the services they provide--and the remaining $12,500 would have either been withheld and returned to Volusia's general fund or a portion of this remaining amount could have been allocated by the other three board members to fund a different advocacy group more in alignment with the the values and priorities of these three members.

Because right now this individual dues allocation is not codified in statute, it becomes an "all or nothing" proposition.  This stymies competition and all but assures a monopoly on advocacy by one organization, allowing them to use these financial resources to sue the state and to work against many of the educational priorities of the legislature and the Governor.

This is not the way the system should work.  Each individually elected constitutional officer should be able to opt-out of funding groups with which they do not agree--while simultaneously not depriving fellow constitutional officers of their discretion.   This current dysfunctional, "all or nothing" system must be fixed so that everybody has choice.

I'm working on a fix and I am hopeful this will be addressed by the legislature.


Anonymous said...

Mr Bergosh,
I appreciate your efforts and will attend future school board meetings to promote the "Individual Freedom of Choice in Advocacy Act" and “opt out” of funding individual shares of the Florida School Boards Association dues that are supporting the lawsuit of the FSBA. It's good to get a truly Conservative thinker on the School board.

Jeff Bergosh said...

Thank you Anonymous. The best way to help is to urge the Florida Senate to accept the house language in HB549 and adopt that language into Kelli Stargel's SB 1114--- as SB1114 did not make Special Order for this upcoming week. HB 549 will have language added that will allow us to "opt-out" and HB 549 will be passed by the house this coming Thursday if all goes according to plan. Thank you for your support.