Lots of things have been happening here, there and everywhere. Hot topics include Indiana’s surplus, education and local city & county events. Let’s go on a journey.
In 1998, Indiana had a record surplus of $2 billion, taxes were cut and then Governor O’Bannon increased spending for K-12 and higher education, and additional expenditures. Circa 2000 the State of Indiana saw the surplus depleted and on the way to losing 120,000 manufacturing jobs. Tax revenue fell and there was no cushion for Indiana to lean on.
Fast forward to 2014 and a budget surplus. The Democrats are mad as heck about this, claiming the books are cooked. Well, we’ll see if we are still operating in the black in 2016, unlike 2000. I suppose the good old days of being broke are more attractive. I dunno.
The biggest complaint? The education system not properly funded. However, according to the latest NEA report:
PERCENTAGE OF REVENUE FOR PUBLIC K–12 SCHOOLS FROM STATE GOVERNMENTS, 2012–13 Indiana ranks 13 nationally. Or up two points from 2011-2012
PERCENTAGE OF REVENUE FOR PUBLIC K–12 SCHOOLS FROM LOCAL GOVERNMENTS, 2012–13 Indiana ranks 36 nationally. Unchanged from 2011-2012.
According to NEA reports, teacher’s salaries began to decline as far back as 1997. No time to sift through the data on administrative salaries and to be honest, the time it took to read the current and previous reports was excruciating enough.
One indicator showing improvement with Indiana Public Schools came from the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Kids Count Data Book. Indiana is up eight points from 34 to 26 nationally. Do we still have room for improvement? Absolutely!
If past educational reforms don’t produce, examine why, make the changes and continue on. Funding is beneficial, but, without an action plan, it’s just spinning your wheels and going nowhere.
Governor O’Bannon wanted all day kindergarten. Even with the increased funding under his administration, it never materialized. You need strong legislative leadership for change to an antiquated educational system. People don’t like change. In fact, every living organism must change to survive. Education can be considered a living organism.
Further advancements included eliminating the “deghoster” funding and legislative changes:
These programs, while beneficial for districts with declining enrollments, left less money to be distributed among the remaining districts. Because the formula was using an average of past enrollments, instead of current enrollments, to determine per pupil funding, the money was not directly following the students. Therefore, the formula disadvantaged school districts with quickly growing enrollments. In short, Indiana school districts with rapidly growing student populations found themselves receiving less General Fund money per pupil, while simultaneously experiencing higher costs.
Source: Eliminating K-12 Public School Student Transportation as a Cost-Saving Measure Author(s): Lori G. Boyland and Walter D. Bourke Affiliation: Ball State University and Indiana Association of Public School Superintendents
Poverty plays a big part in education, and education plays a major role in successful economic development. Indiana lost 120,000 jobs circa 2000 with Delaware County seeing 12,000 over one decade. We must get our people working again. It’s not an either or thing, it is two important components required to make the State of Indiana more attractive, education more effective. Regardless of what you hear, data, reports and economists overwhelmingly agree, education and economic growth go hand-in-hand.
Delaware County, is hovering on the brink, in fact may already be arrived at financial disaster. It’s been brewing since 2009. Borrowing $4 million just to keep the doors open, with payback using money we don’t have. We are in big trouble and there is no plan, has been no plan to pull us out of the rut. We’re standing still and going nowhere.
Even with the gains we have seen elsewhere, Central Indiana is singled out:
But progress is fragile, particularly because of the continuing economic challenges that exist in central Indiana with high rates of child poverty and unemployment numbers that for the past several years have consistently exceeded the statewide average.
The City of Muncie seems to be the only area unaffected and personally, after reviewing data, I’m not sure how that’s possible. So much is happening so quickly it reminds me of the year before the housing bubble burst. It’s a concern for some, others applaud it.
Not much transparency in our local government on how this is all being funded, no information on why the city wanted to buy school property.
Speaking of transparency, most of us were aware of the transparency portal detailing local budgets and Indiana has launched a new website promising to be more detailed, more user friendly. The previous website could be a little difficult to navigate at times, still if offered what local governments did not, a look into city and county budget information.
The new website serves as an expansion of Indiana’s focus on transparency. The state’s website was recently named the most transparent state government site by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group. Baltzell said that, while it is nice to be the most transparent, the website still needs to be more user-friendly.
Click here to view the new website.
That’s all for tonight, folks.
If you live in Liberty Township, you may have recently received a letter from Liberty Regional Waste District. Better known as LRWD. It appears the Muncie Sanitary District (MSD) had increased LRWD’s rates by 25%.
MSD processes the township’s waste. For a fee. LRWD is claiming MSD is not just charging for processing exclusively, but for such incidentals as the Federal mandate to separate Muncie’s sewage from rainwater and other undisclosed charges. All of which is unrelated to LRWD fee of processing sewage. LRWD believes this violates their contract with Muncie Sanitary District.
It was early 2012 when the MSD raised the rates and taxes on Muncie property owners to cover the cost of separation of stormwater from sewer flow. Just a few months ago, MSD bonded $300,000 of stormwater funds to build a compressed natural gas (CNG) station.
One might ask, why the MSD would invest funds that were DESIGNED to fund the separation and instead build a CNG station? Simple. Because they can. No elected city official will question it.
LRWD, on the other hand, will and has questioned paying for services totally unrelated to their legal contract. I don’t know much about the LRWD, but it does appear they have placed their priorities on the residents of Liberty Township over being charged by MSD.
Here is the letter sent to LRWD customers. Liberty Waste
The train has just pulled into the station and its tooting its horn. All aboard for the ride. Here we go….
The newspaper reported June 26, 2014 the city is wanting to implement a “quiet zone” at a cost of approximately $4 million. This doesn’t include the $237,000 study on the project. But, wait a minute, didn’t the previous administration ask Muncie City Council to consider permanently closing 9th & 10th street crossings? Wasn’t there a possibility of $4 million in funds? Yes, I think so. I won’t bother you with a lot of details, the city council would not even entertain the idea.
Read about the August 2011 council meeting here.
A committee laying dormant since 2007 was resurrected after the August 2011 meeting. The Land & Traffic Committee went into full swing. Councilperson Mary Jo Barton, representing District 3 for 16 years, was appointed to one of five positions on the committee. 9th & 10th streets, the proposed closed crossings, resides in District 3.
Talk about a speeding locomotive. The Land & Traffic Committee scheduled their first meeting two weeks after the city council meeting. Before the first public gathering started Councilperson Barton was working the auditorium. She had lots of questions and it was more than obvious she was itching to fight for those crossings to be reopened. A few minutes past the hour, the meeting canceled due to no public posting. You can read what transpired at this meeting and the subsequent meetings. Search the blog for Choo Choo or click the links below.
For months one of the biggest campaign issues was the railroad crossings closing. Of course, it was so big they were wiling to toss out the quiet zone and $4 million bucks. That just shows how important this issue was to Muncie City Council.
Of course, after the election, the train jumped the tracks and it no longer mattered. The Land & Traffic Committee stopped meeting. I don’t believe they have met or done any land and trafficking business since 2011. Now that the paper has reported 9th street may be permanently closed, will Barton put on her armor and fight for her district? I am guessing no.
On January 2nd, 2012, after six months of very little activity, the ordinance was tabled. The reasons, we were told, parking and legalities concerning the ordinance. I would think six months be plenty of time to straighten out the issues. It really was just politics as usual at the expense of the citizens.
President Dishman asked Mayor Tyler his thoughts on the street closing. A short moment of silence and the mayor gave his answer. He followed what the paper wrote and “other” things and said he was certainly willing to look at it.
The June 26th article quoted Tyler “This the boldest project to improve our quality of place in the city of Muncie in many years,” Tyler said. “And it’s the right thing to do for Muncie.”
I’m going to respectfully disagree with the mayor. This is not the boldest project to improve our quality of life. Boldness would have been for the Muncie City Council to put aside their politics and carefully consider the possibility of $4 million, and pursuing a quiet zone.
Three years have passed, no movement on the closings, no quiet zone and the taxpayers will be funding at least $4 million for this project. That’s not bold, that’s business as usual.
If you were wondering about the 2014 Primary election being the worse turnout in the county’s history, you may be right. So how did we do? In 2014 Delaware County had a whopping 10.87% voter turnout. Not much enthusiasm for this election. In fact the ballot was sparse with many uncontested seats.
Party backed Republicans and Democrats easily won their respective race, including the darlings of Team Democrat. Team Democrat is known for running their own campaigns outside of Democrat Headquarters. And for the most part, have churned out winning candidates.
This year, the incumbents of Team Democrat are not opposed. Of course, this could all change if the political parties pull some candidates out of the hat.
My opinion is the judges are pretty safe and secure. The sheriff race would follow the same. History of elections, even outside of Delaware County, seem to favor the incumbent sheriff.
So, let’s take a look at the primaries and throw in Muncie special election for good measure.
Darn tooting, it was a dismal turnout. Trending on twitter that day, a tweeter from Indy wrote: “Those that wanted to vote, did vote.”
But, but, but, you can find some interesting information if you look hard enough. For example, 2008 primary saw nearly 41% or twice the percentage of the other elections. Looks like the Voter ID didn’t stop people from voting, at least in Delaware County. “Those that wanted to vote, did vote.”
Muncie’s primaries for 2007 and 2011 so close you couldn’t slip a hair between ‘em. Both of these elections saw a full slate of candidates, too. Only 16.30% showed for the 2013 referendum vote, just slightly less than the primaries.
The special election saw people clucking their tongues at the low voter turnout. Although, it seems typical for the City of Muncie.
You can find election results for 2008 through 2013 here.
2014, 2007 and 2006 are not available on Delaware County’s site as of 5-9-14. Although a minor complaint, let’s hope the next clerk can clean up the website. 2007 election results have been “coming soon” since 2007.
* I apologize in advance for the difficulty in reading the results. The election information has never been on Delaware County’s website and the data was taken from another site.
Yes, this post may seem boring to many. It should be a warning the trend in voter participation is waning. This has been a major concern, still if you don’t participate it could mean you aren’t involved or informed enough to cast a vote. The latter being beneficial in staying away from the polls.
There could be hundreds of reasons and plenty have been brought forth by far more politically savvy pundits. Those that have followed the trends, candidates and political powers for decades having a wealth of information at their finger tip.
Here is the unofficial vote totals. Turnout was 10.87%. The PDF has links to the precincts’ totals.
Currently working on a comparison of the past Delaware County primary elections.
Stop back in when you get a free moment.
On April 14, Delaware County Treasurer, John Dorer, was arrested. Per the Muncie Star newspaper Dorer saw “47 criminal charges that accuse him of repeatedly mishandling, and in one instance stealing, county funds.” No one from the local level to the Indiana Statehouse can say with any certainty if money has been stolen on more than one occasion. The books are in such bad shape, it is impossible to follow the accounting records, making it easy to siphon off funds unnoticed.
As would be expected, varied opinions on his guilt or innocence appeared in the story chats. Some went as far as to say he was framed by the local Democrat Party. The Democrat Party may be in control in our little neck of the woods. Doubtful their power extends to the state government. Dorer is a Democrat, but divorced his affiliation from the Headquarters and instead ran on the Team Democrat “ticket”. He won in 2008 and again in 2012.
Rather than take the newspaper’s word as gospel, decided to head to the Indiana State Board of Accounts and read for myself the audit reports. Having read audits on the Muncie Sanitary District, City of Muncie, Muncie Public Schools and other various taxing units I gleaned quite a bit of information on the workings of Delaware County. One common theme seems to be the same mistakes are repeated again and again. You’ll find the audits below:
John Dorer is responsible for his actions and should he be found guilty will need to be accountable to the State of Indiana and finally the taxpayers of Delaware County. The treasurer is the start of the financial chain and may even possibly be the leading cause to Delaware County’s fiscal woes. The Treasurer’s Department prepares the financial information and submits it to the Auditor’s Office, which in turn disseminates the fiscal information to the County Council and County Commissioners. If the records are in such disarray from the start, then it’s obvious their decisions are based on faulty accounting. That’s a problem, folks.
Who’s minding the store?
At the close of every audit, an exit interview is conducted by the State Board of Accounts with sundry elected officials attending. No action is taken by the elected officials to insure the violations are curbed, the same happens again the next year. Again and again. Public servants, elected, have ignored the audits while untold millions in taxpayer money slips into the abyss of shoddy management.
While we point our fingers and cluck our tongues at Dorer’s arrest, we refuse willingly or out of ignorance to ask our elected officials what role did they play in all this? By their inaction, plenty. When they knock on your door, seeking your vote, gently ask of them “Who’s minding the store?”
If you have some time to kill, take a gander at other State Board of Accounts audits. Imagine allowing non-bonded employees to collect cash; employees paid cash without any paperwork; one cash drawer (City Clerk lost $13,000); no contracts for services rendered; $3,500,00.00 with no internal controls(2012 Redevelopment audit), etc, etc, etc.
“Governmental units should have internal controls in effect which provide reasonable assurance regarding the reliability of financial information and records, effectiveness and efficiency of operations, proper execution of management’s objectives, and compliance with laws and regulations. Among other things, segregation of duties, safeguarding controls over cash and all other assets and all forms of information processing are necessary for proper internal control. (Accounting and Uniform Compliance Guidelines Manual for Counties of Indiana, Chapter 1)”
The rumor has finally been put to rest. Did the City of Muncie Building Commissioner, Craig Nichols, get the remodeling contracts for the City of Muncie’s City Hall? This very rumor had been circulating for months, and finally a rumor that has truth attached. Yep, folks, he got it. In fact, other city projects, you know, the ones that have received city as well as State tax dollars may have his company written all over it.
Unfortunately, we won’t know how much his company made. That’s private.
Mr. Nichols signed a conflict of interest disclosure, so everything is O.K. I wonder, the person responsible for the construction code, as in the position of Building Commissioner, will cite his own company for violations? Or will it just be disguised as a change order, and payment submitted so the Advanced Walls & Ceilings won’t lose any money? I don’t believe the Board of Public Works will even consider questioning any bills from Mr. Nichols, the Building Commissioner a/k/a owner of Advanced Walls & Ceilings.
Advanced Walls and Ceilings Indiana Secretary of State information
Just last year, the attorney for Muncie Sanitary District, Mike Quirk, started a business and began collecting payment for services rendered. His business was filed with the State of Indiana several months later. As with Mr. Nichols, we have no idea if this is saving us money or costing us money. SOS
However, there is a bit of history which can help you determine if this is beneficial.
The County purchased a truck from a county’s highway employee’s son. Cash for Clunkers, Delaware County Style. I’m glad as a taxpayer, we could help a poor fella out of his upside down truck loan.
The county dog catcher resigned after the County animal control truck was stolen by a drunk neighbor. The ex-dog catcher later received a contract to roof a county building. The contract was rescinded and he threatened to sue the county. But, never fear, the City of Muncie, saved the day. How, you ask? Simple. Fire a company that did building debris clean-up and hire the ex-dog catcher. Problem solved.
Remember the rumor the previous mayor would fire anyone that disagreed with her? MITS board member, Karl Kizer, felt it first hand. 25 years on the board, well-respected and knowledgeable had the audacity to question the mayor. Out he went. Oh, this was done by the current mayor.
Does anyone remember Culpepper insurance? If you don’t, being a big Democrat party supporter, the commissioners hired the company to take care of the county’s insurance. Boy did he, as costs skyrocketed out of control. 2003 mayoral candidate Dennis Tyler said there was no place for Culpepper in his administration. Tyler won in 2011 and take a guess who showed up to offer us insurance? No word if he saved us money on our liability policy.
We take care of our own here. We’re loyal like that.
What a fiasco when the commissioners tried to pass an ordinance limiting the area that Center Township Fire could service. Kind of like if your house is located in Muncie but closer to CTFD station, they were not allowed to go put the fire out. Oops, some 911 calls got misrouted, too.
Friendships and loyalty run deep here. In fact, it is the backbone of our very existence. Take for example, when the Democrat Chair was being indicted for forging papers to remove a candidate from the ballot. The chair, Phil Nichols, resigned and appointed Dennis Tyler, the now current mayor. Mr Tyler then appointed Phil Nichols to the election board. Let nothing like an indictment stand in the way of a friendship.
Time doesn’t allow for everything in complete detail, as that would really take a book. But consider these things:
The Fair Board ordinance requires an even number of members from both parties. This didn’t happen so solving the problem was simply rewrite the ordinances to match the appointments.
The Justice Center which was filled to the brim with party favorites, made national news and cost a pretty penny for the taxpayers.
Royerton Sewer, again a board filled with wives of party members, cost the taxpayers some dough. And it hasn’t stopped costing the residents.
LOIT comin’ back?
Here we go again, an opportunity for Muncie City Council to open back up the LOIT debate. This time we can be taxed for public transportation throughout the county.
In 2009, if you will recall, Muncie City Council held a public hearing to pass a tax on every working person regardless if you lived in the city or county. It never got passed, and I don’t believe it was ever tabled. Somewhere in the abyss it’s still festering. This time though, Indiana wants to use it for transportation.
At least, voters will have a say instead of allowing nine people to make the decision. The majority of which salivate over any tax increase, where spending millions delights and barely blink an eye at increasing city tax levies. The majority increased the Muncie City tax levy and the budget, County was looking at passing Cumulative Capital Development (CCD tax). They also came out in support of $45 million tax increase and finally in ’09 the love for the Wheel Tax came to fruition.
LOIT was their baby, too.
Muncie City Council ignored the budget for nearly two years, and what is the first thing when realizing there is a fiscal problem? Why increase your taxes, of course. Last year the city ended with over $8 million balance and a tax increase. Proof any time is a good time for more taxes with the majority of Democrats in office.
Provides for the establishment or expansion of public transportation services in an eligible county through local public questions placed on the ballot under ordinances adopted by the fiscal body of the eligible county. Provides that Delaware County, Hamilton County, Hancock County, Johnson County, Madison County, and Marion County are eligible counties. Authorizes eligible counties to fund approved public transportation projects through various parts of the local option income tax rates that are available under current law for other purposes and by imposing on C corporations a county income tax or a county employment tax. Specifies that fares must cover 25% of the operating costs of a transportation system established or expanded under the bill. Authorizes interlocal agreements, public-private partnerships, and bonding with respect to a public transportation project. Provides that if a transportation project is approved in an eligible county, transportation services must be provided through the transportation project throughout the eligible county and must be made available under this article to all citizens of the county. Prohibits a political subdivision from using public funds to promote a position on a local public question regarding transit. Prohibits an eligible county from carrying out a light rail project. Provides that in the case of a public transportation corporation in an eligible county that has approved a local public question, labor agreements may provide for the nonbinding mediation of salaries, wages, and salary and wage related fringe benefits, including accident, sickness, health, dental, vision, life, disability, retirement benefits, and paid time off. Provides that the provisions in the bill do not create a moral obligation of the state.
Click on the Indiana General Assembly for SB176 and 2014 Session.
We have been reading a lot about the state of education in this country. From Common Core curriculum to school vouchers. Muncie Community Schools is seeing a complete change over from closing schools, to bus waivers. A few days ago, the local newspaper published an “Our View: Voucher system creating two education classes“. In all honesty, I very seldom read the paper’s “Our View” yet this title sparked my interest.
I like to feel the pulse of what local citizens think about a particular subject. Although , very seldom surprised by the comments, read with interest their obvious dislike for any change in the education system outside of the “how it’s always been run”. They all seem to be big on “choice”, only it must be their choice, not your choice. Most did not favor the parent’s right to choose and definitely against any tax dollars going to “private” schools. Never mind we have been financing the 21st Century Scholars, PELL grants, GI Bill and the like, for decades. Continue reading →
If you care to read the ruling from Indiana Department of Education, you may find it here.
Muncie Community Schools has some daunting issues and no plans on how those will be addressed. No plan for transportation and possibly no cost savings for the high school consolidation or closing.
Muncie Community School’s waiver request was denied by the Indiana Department of Education (IDOE).
IDOE says the waiver was denied because the district’s plan was “insufficient and fails to demonstrate that Muncie has formulated a sufficient plan that provides for the safe movement of eligible students to and from school,” as required.
Muncie Star Press 1-11-14
We weathered (pardon the pun) a snowstorm. A major casualty when a snowplow caught fire. A total loss to a county with no money. and with hopes to recoup the loss with outside funds. The driver escaped injury, and that is definitely something to rejoice over. The next big weather event will be flooding. Can’t wait.
None of us will be looking forward to the utility bills. This storm is going to be expensive for everyone.
The filing season has begun and will continue until February 7th. As expected, some of the old gals and guys will be looking to continue their tenure or switch positions. Mayor Tyler and his crew were ecstatic in 2011 all of his good friends were now controlling both city and county. No excuses, he said. There are, though. It’s not their fault, it’s yours. The judicial race is pretty much sewn up for me.
Another big event is watching the Muncie Sanitary District as they slowly slide into the $168 million storm water project. Removing Steve Murphy from the board and replacing him with Joe Evans was a major turning point. Joe was an intricate player in the Royerton Sewer Fiasco and so one must entrust him to a project 168 times more expensive. My prediction is: you will be paying a lot more.
No matter where you choose to live, you just can’t get away from the crew. Although we looked for homes in Royerton, the expensive sewer bills deterred us. Neighboring county, Hamilton, is looking like a good place to retire in 10 years. Talk about progress.
We live in a strange little area. While we constantly talk about bridging the gap between town and gown, as soon as a gown addresses the town all bets are off the table.
Yesterday, a local economist Dr. Cecil Bohanon, (one of my favorites) wrote another column. This one titled Why Politics is so Nasty is really a non-partisan look at our current political climate. Many good points made and the one which resonated with me “it is so much more fun to be entertained than to have to think through a serious argument.”
Fortunately, one doesn’t need to travel far for entertainment.
“Of course one of the big problems he ignored was the amount of money ij politics today and Cecil is a fully owned subsidiary of the Koch brothers. ” wrote a local poster in the newspaper chat section. The person attached a link to PDF document as proof, I suppose. 30+ pages of grant information complete with graphics. I’m sure many took the time to read it. Not.
I had read the document earlier, so I just skimmed through the pages. Yep, the dude was right. Dr. Bohanon received a $2,000 grant from…drum roll, please…
Charles Koch Foundation
All the proof one needs right there in black & white. Perhaps the informed poster was first alerted to the connection from reading the Muncie Squeak.
Have a nice weekend, y’all.