Pay more taxes or pay less? A public hearing will take place Tuesday 6 p.m. before the City Council’s Budget and Appropriations Committee in the City Council Chambers, 45 Lyon Terrace regarding Mayor Bill Finch’s $520 spending plan for the budget year starting July 1. If you support a tax increase here’s your chance to step up and say we want to pay more. If you’re tired of paying more, you can protest a tax hike to the city’s budget and legislative body.
This is your last chance to speak for or against the budget. The full council is expected to vote on the budget within the next week. The budget then goes back to the mayor for possible veto action until the council sets the mil rate in June. This is an election year for the council and what the all-Democratic body does will decide how many primary opponents will surface in September as well as contests in the November general election from Republicans, petitioning candidates and Working Families Party members.
Actually, there is one other public hearing on the other tax increase. Why does yahooy take a bath only twice a week?
*** Unfortunately most of the Mayor’s proposed budget is a done deal with some nickel & dime cuts by the B&A to save some face in lowering the mil rate from 2.5! However the only protesting that really would have helped was not to vote in this admin. and 50% of the present City Council in the first place, no? *** ZOMBIE ECONOMICS 101 ***
Taxes are not the only thing going up. The WPCA is ready to increase sewer fees from an annual bill of $352 per year average to a minimum of $423 to a maximum of $455.
Public Facilities deputy director Joe Grabarz, chairmen of the WPCA Commission, states they need to raise rates to attract a private operator to manage the facility. Grbarz also stated the rate increase is necessary to invest in the city’s sewer infrastructure.
Mr. Grabarz stated he is proposing to investigate charging owners who have large paved areas extra for the water runoff during rainy periods. He states 60% of the water treated at the plants is water runoff. Well Mr. Grabarz, how about the runoff from sewers and catch basins on city streets, how about the runoff from I-95 and RT 25? Come on for god’s sake we are trying to encourage companies to move here and you are trying to do the opposite. Pretty soon you guys will tax the dirty air we breathe.
Why not look at the way the agency is run. The other day they replaced an old sewer top with a new sewer top, this required some masonry work to complete. There were four trucks, a backhoe and 10 guys on this 2- or 3-man project. They came at 11, took an hour lunch and packed up and left at 2 PM, job done. Mr. Grabarz, where does your expertise in sewer systems come from?
Last night I spoke to the City Council once again. Simple subject: comparing the monthly financial report they received for February 2012 with the one they received one week ago for February 2013. I held them up and described the differences. No shock on their part. No recognition of the differences.
So this morning I placed copies of each of them in front of two taxpaying women and asked them to scan what they saw in one minute and tell me what differences they observed. Bingo!!!
1) Cover page of 2012 warned of a projected $3.8 Million deficit in June 2012. 2013 monthly had no such summary. (As a matter of fact it had no totals of expenses on its final page.)
2) Revenue and Expense sections had no introduction page for 2013 like 2012.
3) Last year many variances of Revenue and of Expense were explained in a narrative section. 2013–no narrative section pointing out and explaining why the planned amounts did not happen and why.
4) The 2013 report has a cross hatched background of horizontal and vertical lines so that it is easier to read the financial numbers.
5) Variance in expenses for many line items are not carried out to the final column though the budget has already been expended.
6) There are more historic columns for comparison for 2013 than 2012.
When the ladies identified the first four differences in 1 minute, I tried the same experiment on two young African American businessmen. One of them is a business owner who reads OIB but does not post here. He greeted me with, “You’re John Marshall Lee!” No bow tie at the time but he identified me anyway. We greeted and they took the same one minute quiz as to the obvious differences. They passed the quiz also.
The Council has not demanded the Finance Department deliver them information in a form they can easily use. And the Finance Department is still delivering everything late. And when public safety overtime is exceeding planned amounts by several million dollars, equivalent to another deficit year, there is a real problem. Public and Council watchdogs need to bark louder. Time will tell.