Attention all Highlands County residents: It appears that the Highlands County Board of County Commission has been using tax revenues, based on values of all property, to pay for health insurance for all county, fire, EMS and sheriff employees and staff.

Other counties share the cost of health insurance with their employees. This board may feel it’s their “duty” to pay this, but I don’t believe the taxpayers should pay for it. Most of us have to pay it all or split it with our employers.

Florida Statute 125.01 paragraph (3) (a) states the board can “determine benefits available, including insurance and paid leave.” It doesn’t say the county has to pay the premiums.

My public information request indicates almost $51 million was paid for employee salaries for all six departments: BOCC, Sheriff, Property Appraiser, Clerk of Court, Tax Collector and Elections Office. The duty of the board is for managing budgets for public infrastructure. Health insurance is not a “public infrastructure;” treating it as a “special interest” is against Florida law.

People need to go to the public hearings on Sept. 5 and Sept. 17, 2019, both at 5:30 p.m. Speak up with me to prevent them from increasing our taxes and giving themselves raises and paid insurance. Also, reminding fishermen that they took seven “porta potties” away from seven lakes to save under $3,000, but want a $4 million increase for their budget to be at almost $72 million.

Beth Degnan

Lake Placid

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