Indiana Government Reform

An Evening with Larry Riley

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Having you been missing Larry Riley’s columns from the local newspaper?  If so, you won’t want to miss this event.

The Rest of the Story – An Evening with Larry Riley

When: May 29th, 2017

Time: 6:30 PM to 8:30 PM

Where: Kennedy Library

1700 W McGalliard Rd, Muncie, IN

Get directions

We know Memorial Weekend is busy, so even if you can’t make it at 6:30 PM, the doors will be open during the event.  Bring your questions.

Hope to see you!

Conflict of Interest and the City

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Conflict of Interest 2015
Source: Indiana Gateway for government units

W/R: Mayor Tyler’s conflict problem

Seems Mayor Tyler recently realized there may be a conflict of interest.  Stuff like that happens when the FBI comes knocking on your door

It took a handful of citizens working diligently for two or three years, investing their time and money to uncover several violations.

Within months of Craig Nichols appointment as the city’s building commissioner, his defunct business was reopened.  Shortly thereafter his company began receiving city contracts.  It took the local newspaper about nine months to report and even at that it was a lighthearted almost humorous article.

The paper is reporting Nichols had a conflict of interest statement filed in 2015.  The State of Indiana is not showing anything filed for Nichols in 2015.  The Conflict of Interest law states the form must be filed within 15 days with the State Board of Accounts and the county clerk.  (See picture).

Uodate: Newspaper responded on their story.

Keith Roysdon ·Watchdog reporter at The Star Press

In the Delaware County clerk’s office, there are separate state approved conflict of interest forms for Craig Nichols’ companies.”

Indiana Conflict of Interest law

For 2016 three council members, building commissioner and one attorney filed conflict statements.  Four of the statements were done at or near the time the investigation and Federal Lawsuit was reported to the public.

Another appearance of  conflict would be the street department superintendent and city contracts awarded to his nephew’s company.

“Obviously, I don’t see any problem with them doing work for the city because they are the best and the lowest,” said Campbell, a Democrat who is more high-profile this year because he’s running for Delaware County commissioner against incumbent James King. “They’re good guys.

“I know what people may think, but it’s all on the up-and-up,” Campbell added. “I don’t consider it a conflict. It goes by the book.” Duke Campbell, Muncie’s street superintendent

W/R: In politics, it’s all relative(s)

Not exactly sure how “goes by the book” is defined in this instance.  If the street superintendent’s nephews are awarded contracts to work on the streets one would think a conflict of interest statement submitted by Duke Campbel would be going by the book of Indiana State law.  There is no conflict statement for Campbell in 2015.

It’s not just about conflicts of interest, it’s the Federal lawsuit alleging contractors have been cut out of the bidding process in favor of friends and relatives of the Mayor and his close associates.

We will end this post with excerpts from the Muncie Star Press after the 2011 election.

“It’s not going to be a ‘good old boy’s club,'” Tyler said about the first Democratic city administration in 20 years.

At the same time, Tyler acknowledged that Democrats will now control both city and county government locally and with that control comes expectations.
“This isn’t going to be easy,” he said. “Democrats don’t have any excuses now. But I think people will be pleasantly surprised.” WALKER/ROYSDON REPORT: Tyler: No‘good old boys club’ Nov. 27, 2011

 

 

 

Muncie’s Financial Reports

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Knowledge will forever govern ignorance; and a people who mean to be their own governors must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives. James Madison

Please take a look at Muncie’s financials.

MC900439169

DEBT

These two reports ran in January 2016 and February 2016.    The latest report shows a debt increase of $10 million.

Muncie debt 2-26-16

January 2016 debt

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REVENUE

Muncie revenue received for the years 2011 to 2015.  The revenue sources includes property taxes, federal taxes, state taxes, local taxes, fees, donations and grants.

2015 $96,344,555.40

2014 $101,147,218.97

2013 $100,696,634.05

2012 $124,112,776.60

2011 $90,393,089.58

MC900439169

Detailed Receipts 2011 to 2015

If you would like to look at the revenue streams the reports below give details.  As you can see, property taxes have been on a decline since 2011.  This should have been the first clue.

Muncie Detailed Receipts 2015

Muncie Detailed Receipts 2014

Muncie Detailed Receipts 2013

Muncie Detailed Receipts 2012

Muncie Detailed Recepts 2011

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SUMMARY

When revenue begins to decrease while debt increases it would be wise to consider the cost of debt and what it means.  The first cost was public services which could only be fully funded with a tax increase.  The second cost is economic development and it will only partially be funded with the recent tax increase.

You do need to consider the cost. If the debt can not be met, and there are no more taxes to increase what then? Fees?  Fines?  You don’t need to be in the dark when it comes to Local and State government finances any longer.  In fact, it is imperative, for our future, to be well informed.

James Madison was a wise man giving wise advice which is still relevant today.

Source: State of Indiana Transparency Portal

 

 

Saturday rambling: TIF Districts, again

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mouse trap & money

“At some point the State is going to have to step in and do something about TIFs,” said Bainbridge. “If they don’t the whole State could turn into one. They might come to the point where they have to do what California did, and ban them altogether.”

Please see the links listed below:

Hicks: Economic development is important

Tax increment financing not bringing in more jobs or income, says analysis

Indiana state study slams economic benefits of TIFs

Revisiting TIFs (PDF)

2015 Indiana Tax Incentive Evaluation (TIF evaluation begins on page 97)

 

 

 

Saturday morning rambling: Fiscal Health – City of Muncie: Business as usual

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In light of the recent adoption of Local Option Income Tax (LOIT), this may be the perfect time to examine the fiscal health of our city.  The report covers 2013 and 2014 and does a comparison between the two years.  Being an informed citizen is a good thing, it’s hard to pull the wool over eyes that see.

In addition, knowledge is a tool to prepare for events which can affect a lifestyle.  Lowering Your Income Tax (LOIT) which was first mentioned by the Muncie mayor and adopted 14 days later by Muncie City Council is one such thing.  Two weeks is barely enough time to get the information out to the masses.

One interesting aspect is the information on the city revenue has been in the hands of nine city council members, one mayor and one controller for three years.  Yet, there was never a word said at council meetings, in the newspaper or during State of the City addresses.  It was all puppy dogs and happiness.

In the ranks of the people, the concern about the finances was growing.  How in the world is the city paying for all this?  No one knew.  None of this has taken us off guard, seeing it coming down the pike.  Interesting the very ones with information at their fingertips either never saw it (odd) or ignored it (likely).

Do need to recognize the speed in which the city racked up $65 million in debt as well as the lightening speed in which a tax was imposed upon every working stiff.

Please feel free to take a look at the fiscal health report.   You will find in nearly every category a decrease in revenue and an increase in expenditures.  An increase in government owned acreage, an increase in TIF, an increase in local taxes.   It’s business as usual.

Fiscal Health Muncie 2013-2014

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

Here, there, and everywhere

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$700,000  County Building Plaza Project
$700,000 County Building Plaza Project

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.

Source: High child poverty casts pall over gains in Hoosier schools

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.

State Launches New Website In Hope Of Improving Government Transparency

Click here to view the new website.

Muncie Community Schools $6.5 million referendum

That’s all for tonight, folks.

Saturday ramblings: Primary elections

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Primary Voting

 Delaware County

voting image

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.

Primary percentages 2006-2014

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.

Delaware County Election Results Primary 2014

Election Summary Report 2007 primary *

Election Summary Primary 2006(2)

*  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.