Tuesday, December 31, 2013

New Year’s Resolution

  1. I will no longer believe politicians who promise me something for nothing
  2. I will no longer trust politicians to fix all my problems
  3. I will no longer trust politicians to care for me and my family
  4. I will no longer believe politicians who promise to protect me by stripping me of my rights
  5. I will no longer believe politicians can fix a problem by simply writing a law or taking a vote
  6. I will no longer believe nice and caring implies effective and competent
  7. I will no longer trust politicians who promise to fix problems after their terms of office
  8. I will no longer trust politicians who promise to fix broken promises
  9. I will no longer trust politicians who think I’m stupid for believing they mean what they say
  10. I will no longer trust politicians who are more giving with other people’s monies than their own
  11. I will no longer support politicians who think I work for them
  12. I will no longer support politicians who take all the credit and none of the blame

May this be the year government works for us.
>>> Read more!

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

What’s the School Plan?

Why are teachers using online courses to attain higher degrees but the students are not? Rather than expand and experiment with new teaching technologies, the Information Technology budget has been slashed by over 30% in two years to $163,000. That’s roughly $4 per student. Add the total district library budget, and you’re just over $20 a kid.

Meanwhile, during that same period, per pupil expenditures (ignoring overhead) is up 13% to $13,430 per student.  $5,000,000 was added to capital expenditures. Teacher benefits are galloping along at annual increases of 10%.

The simple reality is that public school is too expensive and the education is woefully below student needs.

The school district should pursue a blended approach of technology, individualized instruction, and teacher/student interaction.

As a first step, the district must approach parents for permission to instruct their children in math and science via online courses. The students could work at their own pace in a supervised school environment. Those who need more time and help, will get it. Those who can fly will be allowed to do so. Parents can withdraw their children from the program at any time.

It’s either this, charter schools, or implosion. By staying the course, the district will have chosen implosion.
>>> Read more!

Monday, August 26, 2013

Aberdeen’s Death Spiral

If you’ve been living in Aberdeen a while, have you noticed a change?

Have you noticed that big projects never seem to get done anymore? Transit station, swim club, Glass Anchor, senior housing, everything seems to be in limbo.

Have you noticed the money problems getting worse? That Aberdeen no longer maintains a rainy day fund, that its credit rating has been cut, or that it might, on occasion, need to raid the public library’s coffers?

Have you noticed retirees increasingly leaving Aberdeen to escape the high property taxes?

Have you noticed more vacant properties in the area? (Ten more sheriff sales scheduled for September.)

Have you noticed certain programs getting cut and the money never seems to be restored?

Have you noticed few seem to care and nobody does anything about it?

This is what a death spiral looks like. It starts slow and nobody cares. It speeds up and everyone pretends someone else will fix the problem. And then . . . collapse.

Need more evidence?
2006 Pension Contributions:
Police and Firemen - $238,883
Public Employees - $51,558

2013 Pension Contributions:
Police and Firemen - $945,052
Public Employees - $248,170

Percent Increase over 7 Years:
Police and Firemen - 396%
Public Employees – 481%

2007 Employee Group Health - $810,000 (2006 numbers unavailable)
2013 Employee Group Health - $1,640,804
% Increase over 6 Years – 203%

>>> Read more!

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Aberdeen's Budget Gnomes at Work

Budget is policy.

Budget is spin.

Budget is sleight of hand.

In Aberdeen, budget is all of the above.

Although the final budget was adopted a month ago, the final numbers have not been posted and we’re reduced to relying upon “press releases” from the town council. Still, we do have the initially proposed budget and the final numbers are likely similar. The initial budget also provides a great window into the township’s budget approach.

Sheet 3B of the initial budget states the following:
Maximum Allowable Amount to be Raised by Taxation 10,690,838
Amount to be Raised by Taxation for Municipal Purposes 10,690,314

The township started the budgeting process from the maximum amount it could tax residents and then worked backwards, looking to make small cuts here and there.
>>> Read more!

Monday, April 29, 2013

More Taxes for Everyone

"Those are just some of the things that the town provides to the residents for essentially $121 a month," Councilman Gregory Cannon said. "That's less than my cable bill." – Matawan-Aberdeen Patch, March 25, 2013

Give Councilman Cannon credit for saying what everyone on the council was thinking. “Don’t worry. You can afford another tax increase. Taxes too high? It’s not our fault. We spend so little. We really are doing a great job spending your money.”

I wonder if there’s a single homeowner whose cable bill is higher than his property taxes.

Oh, you say, I make an unfair comparison. After all, the municipality only controls municipal taxes. It’s not the council’s fault that you’re also taxed for school, county, fire, sanitation, and sewage.

I think the comparison is quite fair.

First, the “average” homeowner pays far more than $121 a month once you exclude apartments and condos from the mix. (No offense to Councilman Cannon.)

Second, the council budget is $16.3 million, $5.6 million above the tax levy. Where does Councilman Cannon think that money comes from if not the taxpayer? And even that number doesn’t include the two fire districts, over another million dollars a year. Nor does the budget include the full cost of the road program, millions a year paid with IOUs. Debt payments have skyrocketed 15% in one year and now account for nearly a tenth of the budget.

And what happened to the reserves? In 2006, the township had $7.6 million in reserves. Now, it’s half that.

As for the school district, the fact that it costs an average $15,000 to educate one child hasn’t discouraged the township one whit from residential housing. But all the non-residential development, those projects that would actually reduce property taxes, have been in “development” for a decade. Then again, what can you expect when the town engineer is bankrolling every election.

Of course, council members can shield themselves from tax increases by voting salary increases for themselves, which they do.

Total municipal spending including all the township’s branches of government, is over $50 million a year or, using Councilman Cannon’s “average homeowner”, about $600 a month. That’s awfully close to the "average" property tax bill not to mention a lot of cable.

Here’s a different comparison for Councilman Cannon – How many councilmen have municipal salaries higher than their property taxes? Maybe they should learn to pay their own property taxes like everybody else >>> Read more!