You can hardly pick up a newspaper without a columnist or an opinion piece writer telling us how fearful and sometimes even throwing in prejudice for impact. Likewise, we have our well-coffered TV newscasters, with worry in their eyes, using their best “reason” voice and in two minutes or less, our worse fears have been laid out before us. So, thank you media for showing us our fear. Without your guidance in our lives, we would be lost. Read the rest of this entry »
If you have been following the City of Muncie’s financials, a shorted till will be of no surprise. If not, you may find your paycheck missing a few pennies as the rush to fill the cash register gets underway. Yes, folks, the LOIT has entered the minds of our elected officials. L-O-I-T (Local Option Income Tax) if passed by the City of Muncie, digs into the pocketbooks of every working stiff in Delaware County. I believed it was just a matter of time before it was introduced and approved.
I’m not going to spend much time discussing the merits or pitfalls of LOIT today. Instead, I am offering two articles and an opinion piece for your reading pleasure.
The first article is the introduction of the tax, setting the tone. The second, a recap of the first and lastly a column by a local journalist (saved the best for last). Perhaps after reading, you’ll get a better understanding.
Here’s a side note: A few months ago I crossed paths with columnist Larry Riley and the chit-chat soon turned to the SAFER grant. I asked if he knew the status. Nope.
Next question, if the grant is not renewed, how would the shortfall be met? Larry responded (much to what he penned) – Mayor Tyler stated there would be enough money to cover the fire department.
The previous mayor, McShurley, was asked the question in 2011 and her answer much the same. If the SAFER grant did not come through, there would still be money to maintain the fire department. Then she said good-bye and left the city with over $7 million operating balance.
The real kicker is after Mayor Tyler said the property tax revenue was down and the LOIT tax is needed for fire safety and to shore up the coffers of Economic Development Tax Revenue (EDIT) he proposed an additional amount of spending nearing $50 million.
Here’s the short of it all.
1.) Mayor Tyler – the city would have enough money for the fire department. Never a word to the contrary.
2.) Mayor Tyler – the tax revenue is down and will need to pass LOIT to maintain the fire department and EDIT funding.
3.) Mayor Tyler – reveals the $48 million canal project.
Chew on it a while…
TIF Districts, two job openings in Delaware County all rolled into one opinion column. Nice transition.
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.
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.