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.
These two reports ran in January 2016 and February 2016. The latest report shows a debt increase of $10 million.
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.
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.
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.
On Thursday the Muncie newspaper reported on the purchase of a property by Muncie Sanitary District. The District purchased the property for $395,000.
On Friday, the newspaper reported the property was appraised by unlicensed appraisers.
I would like to point out the quote from Mayor Tyler:
Mayor Dennis Tyler said Friday he wasn’t familiar with The Star Press report about the purchase of the flea market building in the 1700 block of East Main Street.
“All I know is that the city of Muncie and sanitary district have to get those levees recertified,” Tyler said. “It’s an expensive process they’re going through.”
In December 2014, the State of Indiana audited the District finding eight projects paying over the quoted prices. The lowest percentage was 22% and the highest was 822%. The total amount over the quoted prices was $300,763. Knowing an expensive process is in the making, perhaps Mayor Tyler needs to be more cognizant of how tax money is used. Read the rest of this entry »
There is no doubt in anyone’s mind Delaware County Economic Development is a hard area to follow. Both financial and in practice.
Today, Larry Riley, a regular columnist in the local newspaper lays it out for us. I’m not sure anyone could have done a better job at explaining. Nevertheless, here it is in all her glory. Enjoy.
TIF Districts, two job openings in Delaware County all rolled into one opinion column. Nice transition.
House Bill 1018
Introduced House Bill (H)
Authored by Rep. Robert Cherry.
Tax increment financing. Provides that if a redevelopment commission adopts a declaratory resolution or amendment after June 30, 2015, that establishes, renews, or expands an allocation provision or area, the base assessed value used to determine the amount of allocated tax proceeds for the redevelopment district must be increased each year so that the incremental assessed value is 50% of the incremental assessed value in the allocation area without the increase. Provides that for the allocation area in Marion County that is identified as the Consolidated Allocation Area, the expiration date for the allocation area is June 30, 2026, or the last date of any obligations that are outstanding on July 1, 2016, whichever is later.
You may be asking why the dislike of Tax Increment Financing. Used properly, it has the potential for economic impact. Unfortunately, too many Redevelopment Commissions have abused the funds. Read the rest of this entry »
“Are you feeling lucky, citizens? Well, are you?”
Making a play on words from Clint Eastwood’s famous movie, Larry Riley’s column continued with an outline of the debt the City of Muncie has accrued over the past few years. Read the rest of this entry »
But we need to acknowledge the extent to which we’re banking, literally, on the success of the development now that the city of Muncie is the primary financial investor in the project — to the tune of $30 million. Larry Riley – Muncie goes all-in on hotel Star Press
Riley’s column took me off guard because there was no warning. Certainly borrowing $30 million is newsworthy. Yet, the paper didn’t report on Muncie City Council’s vote. With the additional borrowing, the grand total of debt accrued since June 2013 has reached $55 million. I’m sure there is more, good luck in researching it, though.
An on-line commenter said it shouldn’t have been a shock. He had presented over the summer to City Council regarding the bond. I went to the City of Muncie’s website to review city council’s minutes. Unfortunately, the last minutes posted – June 2014. Muncie Redevelopment Commission minutes most current is 2010, too.
He went on to post the financing was a done deal, just taking longer than expected. And if the financing didn’t go through, the City of Muncie would own the hotel property. Initially we were told the private financing was a done deal. Ground was broken and no mention of the financing problems, no mention city would be the sole financer. How can we be assured of something proving to be unstable financing? We simply can’t. Read the rest of this entry »
In the summer of 2013, the City of Muncie embarked on two projects. One was Prairie Creek Reservoir bathhouse and the other remodeling of City Hall. At the city council meeting the bond issuance was voted on (a yes vote, no surprise) and the bond debt was $4,000,000.00.
We heard from city grant writers of the private donations for PCR, unfortunately, it had to be mums the word on donors. I watched from the sidelines of the citizens gallery as council woman Mary Jo Barton shook her head in disbelief at the condition of City Hall.
True to form, she most likely forgot the requests for money for upkeep and repairs. Forgot about the information of the leaking roof or curled up carpeting. Forgot she consistently voted no for any repair money. Imagine for a moment if the roof had been repaired when needed, could have avoided $600.000 expense. Sadly, we will never know the true cost of a roof repair. There was no need to pursue it. Council said NO.
I can’t tell you the exact date City Hall was built, but it was during the Carey administration. For decades, no money was allocated for maintenance on the building. When the previous mayor requested funds, you can imagine all the comments on the newspaper forum. One even said there was no need to budget, as it was a newer building. Mayor McShurley was crazy to ask the council for money. Indeed she was.
However, all buildings, even 25 year old ones, require general maintenance now and then. The point is, citizens were aware of the roof leaking as far back as circa 2010, but a person with over 20 years as a sitting council person did not?
So we fast forward to 2014 and find that not only did we pay for new landscaping to replace maturing and beautiful plants, we get to replace the roof at a tune of $600,000.00.
The metal roof, which is supposed to have a 50 year warranty, is approximately 25 years old. Half the life span of metal roofs and a little better than an asphalt shingled one. President of Muncie Economic Development, the one who presented the bond to the city council, said the roof was improperly installed and the warranty has been voided. Mayor Tyler has been reported to blame the previous administration for not allocating funds. So, there you have it.
According to Todd Donati, since the roof was improperly installed, there is no warranty recourse. Once again, the taxpayers are on the hook, financing less than stellar craftsmanship. We had the sting of the Justice Center and the Gawd awful construction, in which we saw cost overruns, additional bonding, lawsuits, etc. The Justice Center was so poorly designed, it actually is an ineffective building for its intending purpose.
Of course, who could forget the Royerton Sewer System fiasco, another shoddy government project in which parts had to be replaced. Once again at the taxpayers expense. Time does not allow for listing all the mismanagements of these projects.
So, today, we can add the City Hall roof to the list. Or can we? Has anybody seen the reports and the costs associated with the replacement or repair of this roof. Not really.
An excerpt from Muncie City Council June 2014 meeting minutes:
Committee Reports: Barton asks if he (Energy Systems Group) did repair the roof. Koons stated they have provided several options to the Building Commissioner and it wasn’t part of the agreement.
It appears the only option considered is a complete tear-off and an additional $600,000. If you are interested in the other options, get in touch with the Building Commissioner.
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.