Somewhere over the rainbow…

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Coming up Wednesday May 30, 2012, there will be a special meeting of Delaware County Council.  Some of the topics and decisions to be had will be, returning the pay and hours back for the county workers,  bond issues and amending the salary ordinance.

Some of you may remember last fall when Delaware County  voted to close the County Building on Friday and decrease the pay by three hours as a cost saving measure.  I haven’t heard the savings and one wonders if the county has suddenly found itself solvent since last year.

The $1.8 million dollars the city taxpayers forked over to the county is gone.   James King said that money was going to restore salaries.  However, since we don’t know the savings, let alone the cost of restoring the salaries, it seems we are in the dark, yet again.  Somewhere in the mix of spending, the county allocated $880,00 for sheriff pensions and somewhere over the rainbow is $850,000 needed for employee insurance.

Don’t get your calculator out, but it totals $1,730,000.00 (does not include the salary restoration, of course).

The bond issue may be just as frightening. The county voted to bond $3.2 million dollars for Park One on 332.  The problem is, should the tax revenue not cover the payments, you as taxpayers, are on the hook for it.  When two county council members voted no and brought up the question of using Morrison TIF, the others balked at it.

It’s o.k. to take $1.5 million from Morrison Road TIF to purchase some non-functioning street lights, but completely unacceptable to use tax dollars to insure the citizens of Delaware County aren’t stuck paying the bill.   Morrison TIF has been a slush fund for all types of county spending, protecting the people from additional tax liability isn’t even on their radar.

Right from the start in 2009  Commissioner Todd Donati returned the highway department to its antiquated and costly operating procedures. To give you a little background, the previous commissioners restructured the highway department saving approximately $450,000.00 per year ( This is from memory, I can’t find the notes).  Donati hired additional employees and claimed he had saved money.  No figure was given.

Found in the minutes of the Commissioner meeting was Donati defending his decision and citing the recent snowstorm as proof of its success. Something tells me that the  department would have performed just as well under the previous cost savings.  The highway department would certainly adjusted from the 4-10 hour days to tackle the snowy weekend.

Eliminating the county engineer was another of Donati’s cost savings.  At a salary of $78,000 with the State picking up $20,000 Delaware County had a licensed engineer for $58,000.  But, then an engineering firm was hired at a cost of $30.000 (roughly) and Donati increased his cousin’s salary by $10,000 since she would be taking over some of the engineering duties.  On paper, the savings was $18,000.00.

Although the loss of revenue has been consistently mentioned, the County has continued to spend, hire and indebt you further with bonds and I believe the COIT (County Option Income Tax) will be increased after the 2012 election.

Mike Jones, County Council member has stated publicly, along with others the problem is with the property tax caps and those who voted for it.  God forbid we should desire to keep our properties from being subjected to the 2007 massive tax increase again.   Each one of these elected officials are obligated to pay the figure on their tax bills.

There is no law that says you can’t pay more.  The elected officials could ignore the caps and pay the full amount.  They haven’t so let’s just say they are enjoying the tax caps, too.

So, as they are moaning and groaning they went through $8.3 million dollars in less than six months, lost $450,000 per year in savings in just one department,  dished out $1.5 million to a failed company (before the contract was signed) as just three examples.  The county would have gouged you regardless of the caps.   Take for example the cost of county insurance under Culpepper, the increase in salaries when the money wasn’t there (2002).   And countless other ways to decrease your disposable income as they devise more ways to increase their revenue.

The $7 million dollar bond approved November of 2010 (after the election) came with a promise to pay back the Rainy Day fund.  That money is gone and chances of it being replenished is close to zero.  Despite operating in the red at the end of 2009, the bond went through.

Hello?

The county could dissolve the Tax Increment Fund (TIF) pay off the bonds saving interest and return the remaining money back into the general fund.  Of course, that would mean the slush fund would be unavailable for spending at will.  Larry Riley’s recent column indicated there are  47 different taxing units.  The county is unable to monitor tax abatements, let alone  all these taxing units.

No one can.

Just a bit of humor, Harvey Wright, Muncie Parks Superintendent, Todd Donati , County Commissioner,  and Ron Quakenbush  County Council were outrage at the Stormwater fees the county and city will be forced to pay.   Not so humorous is elected officials telling us to suck up any increase and spending.   Talk about a double standard….

County Council Special Meeting

Wednesday, May 30th @ 5:00 PM

Commissioners Court – County Building  Third Floor

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