Consumer eViews

Volume 3, Number 52, December 25, 2006


We all aim to save, but many of us just don’t follow through on our good intentions. I encourage Floridians to make 2007 the year that they resolve to thoroughly review their finances and find ways to save more money. Small measures can make a big difference in your finances.

  • Lower the cost of your outstanding liabilities.
    Review interest rates on all of your credit cards and loans. Do research to see if you are paying a higher rate than the current average. If you are, contact your creditors and negotiate a new rate.

  • Make additional monthly payments.
    If you decide to keep your current credit card debts or mortgage loan, consider making affordable pre-payments. Using a mortgage loan as an example, sending in $25 extra a month can save you thousands of dollars in interest and shave years off of the term of your loan.

  • Review your bank account to determine if it is the best product for you.
    Review your monthly bank statement to see exactly what fees you paid during the last billing cycle. You may find you can save money by simply changing from one type of account to another or by consolidating multiple accounts into one.

  • Pay bills on-line.
    Today, most major businesses and service providers, including utilities and phone companies, have websites for their customers. With the cost of a postage stamp now at 37 cents, it may be worth your while to pay recurring debts over the net.

  • Change your computer passwords.
    With identity theft now the number-one fraud in the country, you can’t be too careful when it comes to safeguarding computer passwords and personal information. Most of us don’t change our passwords frequently enough. Take the time to change all of your passwords.

  • Check Your Credit Report.
    Make it a New Year’s resolution to check your credit reports on a frequent basis and address any discrepancies or errors. By correcting any errors, you may save money on loans and other types of credit.

Wishing you the best for the New Year,

 -- Tom Gallagher


Chief Financial Officer-elect Alex Sink announced the appointments of Eric Miller and Karen Chandler as deputy chief financial officers, Dr. Karen Stanford as research and planning administrator and Tara Klimek as communications director.  

“I’m pleased to welcome experienced and talented professionals to my administration,” said Sink.  “Their history of public service, commitment to accountability and leadership skills will be an asset to the Department of Financial Services and the people of Florida.” 

Eric Miller, Deputy Chief Financial Officer-- To increase the Department of Financial Services’ focus on fraud prevention and investigation, Eric Miller has been promoted to the position of deputy chief financial officer.  As deputy CFO, Miller will oversee the Divisions of State Fire Marshal, Insurance Fraud and Workers’ Compensation.  Miller is currently the director of insurance fraud and has served as a sworn Florida law enforcement officer for over 24 years.  CONTINUED

Karen Chandler, Deputy Chief Financial Officer-- With two decades of public service and a focus on consumer outreach, Karen Chandler will continue her service as deputy chief financial officer.  As deputy CFO, Chandler will oversee the Divisions of Consumer Services; Insurance Agent and Agency Services; Funeral, Cemetery and Consumer Services; and the My Safe Florida Home mitigation program.  Chandler has a proven track record of managing more than 1,000 state employees that advocate for Florida consumers in a variety of areas including: banking, insurance and funeral and cemetery services.   

Dr. Karen Stanford, Research & Planning Administrator—A nationally-recognized expert in performance measures and cost-effective programming, Dr. Karen Stanford has accepted the position of research & planning administrator.  In her new role, Dr. Stanford will spearhead the development of specific projects, including the implementation of more stringent accountability standards and the evaluation of state procurement practices.  Dr. Stanford has served in the Department of Children and Families for the past eight years, focusing on performance, planning and contracting issues.  Prior to her service at DCF, Dr. Stanford was executive director for the Florida Commission on Government Accountability to the People for five years, during CFO-elect Sink’s tenure as chair. 

Tara Klimek, Communications Director-- A communications professional with several years experience in state government, Ms. Tara Klimek has accepted the position of director of communications.  She recently served as communications director for the House Democratic Caucus in the Florida Legislature.  She was also communications director for the Alex Sink for Chief Financial Officer Campaign, Tampa press secretary for Kerry/Edwards Victory 2004 Campaign and issues director for the Bill McBride for Governor Campaign.  Chief Financial Officer Tom Gallagher’s Communications Director Tami Torres will serve as special program administrator for the My Safe Florida Home mitigation program under Deputy CFO Chandler. 

CFO-elect Sink has previously appointed Jim Cassady as her chief of staff, Leslie “Les” Hallman to serve as the director of the State Fire Marshal’s Office, and Diana Flagg as the director of the Division of Administration.



More Than 83 Percent of Survey Respondents Rate Service as Good or Excellent

Tom Gallagher, Florida’s chief financial officer, said that based on the results of an electronic survey of 5,500 homeowners who have received inspections through the My Safe Florida Home program, an overwhelming majority of homeowners are pleased with the service they received through the program.  More than 35 percent of homeowners surveyed, or 1,940, responded.  When asked about the application process, over 95 percent stated that it was easy (79 percent) or somewhat easy (16 percent).  When asked how they would rate their experience with their free inspections, over 87 percent of homeowners who have received inspections stated that they were completely satisfied (62 percent) or somewhat satisfied (26 percent) with their experience. 

More than 83 percent of respondents indicated their overall experience with the My Safe Florida Home program to be excellent (45 percent) or good (39 percent).

“Homeowners are our number one customers and we are striving to provide the best service possible,” said Gallagher, who oversees the Department of Financial Services which administers the My Safe Florida Home program.  “We are pleased with the initial responses to our survey and will incorporate suggestions from our customers as we move forward in the program.” 

The survey was created to help the My Safe Florida Home program evaluate the progress and services provided.  During this evaluation time period, the program will continue to accept applications and conduct free inspections on a limited basis. 

Gallagher also stated that another important lesson from the survey is to ensure that information important to the homeowners is made available, and we will make this an integral part of our service with future inspections.

The My Safe Florida program has completed roughly 13,000 inspections as of November 30, surpassing Gallagher’s goal of 12,000.  The program currently has an estimated 560 inspectors and 800 contractors that have been specifically trained for the program during the pilot phase.  Nearly 100 percent of homeowners surveyed about their experience with inspectors indicated that their inspector was professional and courteous.

The program, funded with $250 million by the Florida Legislature, was created to better protect Floridians by strengthening their homes against hurricanes and to reduce the state’s exposure to hurricane damage.

Inspections have been done in Broward, Charlotte, Collier, Escambia, Hillsborough, Indian River, Palm Beach, Pinellas, Lee, Manatee, Martin, Miami-Dade, Monroe, Santa Rosa, Sarasota, St. Lucie and Walton counties over the last few months.

Applying and obtaining a free home inspection is just the first step of the program.  Homeowners who undergo a My Safe Florida Home inspection may also qualify for matching grants of up to $5,000 to fortify their homes.  As directed by the new law to reduce hurricane exposure and property losses in Florida, grants will be prioritized and awarded to homeowners who live in high-risk, hurricane-vulnerable areas of the state.

Floridians eligible for a free home inspection must live in a single-family, site-built home with an insured value of $500,000 or less and have a valid homestead exemption.  Documents verifying this information must be submitted with a completed application.  Floridians can apply on-line at or by calling 1-800-342-2762 to get an application packet.

Gallagher said that the public response to this program and support for strengthening homes has been tremendous. Nearly 100,000 Floridians have gone on-line or called to learn more about the My Safe Florida Home program.  Nearly 58,000 eligible Floridians have submitted completed applications for free home inspections.

Consumer Services HelpLine (800) 342-2762

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