Saturday morning ramblings: Early voting begins

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voting imageFor those of you voters living in the City of Muncie, there doesn’t seem to be much to draw you to the polls.  In the majority of seats, there is just one Democrat running and no Republican.  The exceptions are as follows:

District 2: The Republican ballot is incumbent Mark Conatser and Dan Ridenour.  The Democrat ticket is Todd Smekens.

District 6: Democrat ballot is incumbent Julius Anderson and Richard Ivy.

At-Large candidates include three incumbents, Linda Gregory, Nora Powell and Alison Quirk.  Three hopefuls Philip Gonzales, Marwin Strong and Robert York.   This may be the hottest race – you can only vote for three and only vote if you select a Democrat ballot.  Remember, just because someone appears on the ballot and you don’t want to cast a vote for that person, you are not obligated to do so.

You might be asking, where is Brad Polk?  Well, he’s still here, sitting in District 4.  Brad has no one running against him.  Not on the Republican ticket nor on the Democrat ticket.  In other words, Polk has already won the primary election.

I told you, the ballot is sparse.

“If you are unable to vote in person on Election Day you have the option to vote in person before Election Day at the County Building, 100 W. Main. The election room on the 1st floor. Absentee voting begins 29 days before Election day from 8:00am to 4:30pm and ends at noon the day before the election.” LWV Delaware County

Update: I don’t know much, but I know enough. Liberty suing MSD….

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In its lawsuit, Liberty says the Muncie district raised the rate that Liberty pays in 2013 in a maner that is “not permitted under the contract.” Liberty objected but MSD continued with the billing.

Liberty’s lawsuit argues that it has now been overcharged by MSD by $61,000.

At the heart of Liberty’s lawsuit is the assertion that MSD can raise its rates to Liberty only because the cost of processing sewage has increased. MSD acknowledged, Liberty said, that it was raising its rates in part because of its multi-year, multi-million-dollar project within the city of Muncie to separate storm and sanitary sewers.

Liberty vs MSD

For a local utility to raise its rates while overpaying by $300,000 on quotes is inconceivable.   Of course, the Mayor will look the other way and no one will be watching over our money.

MSD under scrutiny

The way it goes is something like this:  Elected officials appoint people to positions, often where large sums of money can be spent with little oversight.  Neither the elected officials or their appointments take any responsibility.  Sometimes, a sum of money, say around $10,000 coming from Economic Development Income Tax, may be used for the purpose of finding a legal loophole to remove board members before their appointment has expired.

Your rates and your taxes will increase, but you won’t mind a bit.  Said it before, will say it again.  When you vote the person into an office, you also vote in their appointments.

Well, it’s only money and we have plenty to burn.

Saturday ramblings: Don’t know much, but know enough

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muncie city hall landscape 8-11

In earlier posts, discussed the TIF districts, the financial impact and the bill to monitor Redevelopment Commissions.  For those which don’t understand the overreach of these commissions, they have the power to spend with very little oversight.   No one seems to be accountable.

Recently, Delaware County voted to bond $5 million backed with TIF revenue.  The purpose – installing sidewalks – averaging about $500,000 per mile.  Last November, the Muncie Redevelopment Commission authorized temporary payments of $4,500 per month for maintenance at the Village parking garage.   Muncie Redevelopment and City forgot to include upkeep of the city-owned garage.   No word if that expenditure has been continued, perhaps hoping the public will forget.  Is it too early to get the amount of revenue for the parking meters and garage?  These charges were guaranteed to make the bond payment, ya know.

There has been a successful effort to monitor the financials of local units, and doing so, found MSD‘s overpayment of quoted work by $300,000.  Nothing from the mayor on the State Board of Accounts audit.    I don’t know where Liberty Regional Wastewater stands today on their petition against the MSD.  Some of you may remember LRWD’s rates increased to fund areas in the MSD which LRWD receives no benefit.  Money collected for the purpose of separating sewers also went for a natural gas station about 18 months ago.  No update on the revenue generated.   However, at the public hearing for MSD rate increases, the citizens requested assurance the tax hike would be strictly used for stormwater.  Obviously not.

Muncie Community Schools is still in the market for a superintendent and chief financial officer.  No word on how that search is coming along or if there are any viable candidates.  A county school is looking for a new superintendent, too.

We’ve covered some basics for Delaware County, MSD and MCS, so let’s take a look at Muncie, Indiana’s tax rates, debt and TIF districts.  ThIs is basic information but, more than enough to bring you up to speed, if need be.

Muncie’s 2015 tax rate has increased, in 2014, the rate was $4.93.  Today the rate is $5.17.  Certified tax rate is based on $100 per assessed valuation. Simply, a property valued at $100.00 would pay $5.17 or a little over 5%.  If you would like to see the additional tax rates Muncie and Delaware property owners pay, please look at Delaware County 2015 Budget Order here.  Of course, property owners are protected with tax caps or we would be experiencing 2007 property tax crisis all over again.

It is a common belief among economists and those who follow TIF districts nationally. Tax Increment Funding increases the tax burden on all regardless if you live in the TIF district.  It makes sense as Muncie has expanded and created TIFs capturing tax dollars which would be designated for schools, libraries, and various other taxing entities.  Those specific taxing entities, in turn, must increase their levies for funding and the cycle becomes vicious.    In addition, economic revenue may take years to realize if it does at all.

Capital investment, according to Todd Donati during his four years as Delaware County Commissioner, ran about $230 million.  It is been close to seven years and no financial return in the county.  Still as broke as they were in 2009.

I digress.  On to the financials of Muncie City.

Currently, Muncie is holding a debt for the next 24 years of $64,285,942. (See report)

Unit Total Debt 3-8-15 Muncie.

The debt was decreased by approximately $4 million in two weeks. (See report)

Unit Total Debt Muncie 2-23-15.

Two possible reasons for the decrease come to mind.  The city paid off debt although nothing has been in the paper.  Or the debt was transferred to another bond and the paperwork has not caught up with the transaction.  Hard to say at this point.

Muncie TIF dollars (which the general fund or other taxing units will never see) amounts to $49,748,322. Two weeks ago is was $54,437,236.  It appears to reconcile with the decrease in total debt.

UnitTotal Debt Muncie TIF 2-23-15

Unit Total Debt TIF 3-8-15

If you still don’t believe TIF districts are expensive, consider the $30 million in just interest alone.  I would also like to point out, these figures do not appear to include the Village garage at $5 million or the hotel at $30 million.  All of the debt included in these reports confirmed with loan documentation, which leads me to believe nothing is available on the Village or hotel.  At least not on public

More to read:

TifEconEffects-012815

Upcoming event: Indiana Fair Tax Summit March 7th, 2015

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When:  March 7, 2015

Time: 10:00 AM

Where:  First Church of the Nazarene,

3101 N. Benton Road Muncie, IN

Cost: Free

Additional information, please click on FairTax Summit Flyer!

FairTax Summit flyer

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Indiana Education: Senate Bill 331

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Could this be the start of the end to standardized testing?  Finally, every step taken is better than no step at all.

Indiana Senate Bill 331

Student testing. Provides that after June 30, 2016, a public school may not require a student to take a qualified standardized test. Removes the requirement that a school is required to administer a college and career readiness exam to identify students who may require remedial work at a postsecondary educational institution or workforce training program. Requires the state board of education to provide a report to the general assembly that includes recommendations as to how to reduce the number of standardized assessments administered to students.

Senate Bill 331

Tuesday Tidbits: More on TIF districts and employment opportunities

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TIF Districts, two job openings in Delaware County all rolled into one opinion column.  Nice transition.

Larry Riley Sure look like regular budget use of TIF

Saturday ramblings: Saturday morning comin’ down – elections and whatnot

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voting imageThe candidate filing has ended for the 2015 primary.  Few surprises to be found.  Davenport dropped his challenge against incumbent Mayor Dennis Tyler.  Nora Powell back on the ballot tossing aside her pen name Nora Powell for her ballot name, Nora Evans Powell.  She appeals to the 7% voter base who chooses the first name on the ballot.    Hey, a girl needs to get a vote where she can.

Three Republicans running in two Republican districts.  This is as exciting an election as one can get, folks.   I didn’t expect any R’s to run for other offices, no one did.   The Republican chair is likely to turn-off prospective candidates as he has done in the past. It’s kind of a waste of money, time, and effort.  This may be lower than last year in regards to voter turnout.  The interest is not there, the candidates are lacking, and creative plans are missing.

I miss the old election campaign stumping, when candidates actually had a platform.  Nevertheless, the city is facing a looming $62 million in debts and we will continue to imagine the possibilities.  I would prefer to have the incumbents continue their place at the table to see creative budgeting in action.  Last time the elected officials faced a mere $3 million deficit, the street lights were scheduled to be shut off, animal shelter closed and 12 employees cut from the payroll. They saved a ton of money by cutting the Mayor’s Office copier and supplies.

Ex-president Sam Marshall wanted to cut Tuhey Pool utilities in his last month of office.  Although, his cuts were asked to be read into the Muncie City Council minutes, it never happened.  Maybe with a new city clerk, one can get that information.  Emails to the office never get a response.  Maybe that will change.  Maybe, maybe, maybe…

I guess it is safe to say, the $2.00 hydrant fee never materialized.  Instead, we saw over $3.00 charge on our water bills.  Local Option Income Tax was not passed at the highest percentage.  It’s still waiting to make a comeback.    Muncie ending for the second time with a sizable operating balance increased the tax levy and the budget.  A line item added to the budget for a newly created position while an employee of Prairie Creek was let go due to budget restraints.  Lack of revenue caused the mowing crew to stop mowing.

Five weeks into 2015, we already earmarked $500,000 spending.  Nobody outside of Muncie really cares how Muncie runs.  Well, until they find $250,000 of Federal bucks to fix up three houses worth pennies on the Federal dollar.  The Mayor said visitors to Central High School would see these homes and perhaps want to invest here.

There is a bright side to all this.  No longer are we bombarded with accusations of affairs, nepotism, cronyism, embezzlement, drug addiction and we finally settled the closing of Ninth & Tenth Street railroad crossings.  Barton lost her hard fought battle when Mayor Tyler took the reins.

Two of the five lawsuits have been settled against the mayor and the city.  Nothing on the Mayor’s appeal to the State of Indiana’s $12,500 fine against Advanced Walls & Ceilings.    The newspaper reported on it along with the $50,000 City Hall landscaping a year after the fact.

I sure hope the economic investment kicks in to generate some revenue soon.  We surely need jobs, living wage jobs.

Tomorrow is another day…stay tuned.