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Thursday, May 22, 2014

TOWNSHIP BUDGET MEETINGS

The Washington Township Board (Morgan County, Indiana) will be meeting to discuss and quantify next year's budget.   The public is invited and encouraged to attend.  The board needs your input and will listen....but they need someone to listen to.     
Please attend and contribute your ideas about how you think the township should be governed, or complain regarding how it IS being run.

What:     BUDGET MEETING

When:    Thursday May 29, 2014  5:30pm

Where:   Morgan County Administration Building
                180 South Main Street
                Martinsville, IN

Regular meetings are held at the same location, 5:30pm, monthly on the 2nd Wednesday of each month.  The board also invites public input at these meetings.


Wednesday, April 30, 2014

TOWNSHIP TAXES RISE..... AGAIN



                                                                                                                                              click on year and month------------------------------------------------------------>
                                                                                                                                                   for archived previous articles.
Surprise, Surprise

With the current dysfunctional township board of Bud Manley (Scotty Manley's father), Kim Meredith, Bob Bolin and Scotty Manley (Bud Manley's son) as Trustee and Scotty's wife as Poor Relief Investigator, Washington township property taxes outside of the city limits have risen again.    To be fair, Kim and Bud vote in lock-step and have voted the residents a tax increase.   Bolin voted against and Bud/Kim voted for the poor decisions that raised your taxes.   

Township Tax Rate 2013    .1498
Township Tax Rate 2014    .1543  (3% increase)

Fire Equipment Debt Rate  2013    .0143
Fire Equipment Debt Rate 2014     .0200  (39.9% INCREASE)

All other taxes in Morgan County for those outside the city have dropped from 2013 to 2014

County Tax Rate 2013         .2227
County Tax Rate 2014         .2218  (.4% decrease)

Schools 2013                        .6427 
Schools 2014                        .6243   (2.8% decrease)

Library 2013                         .0458                        
Library 2014                         .0448   (2% decrease)





WASHINGTON TOWNSHIP

According to the 2010 census, there are 17,073 residents in the township and 7,171 housing units, making it the most populated and richest township in the county.   The average home in the township is valued at $177,314.   With that many residents and valuable homes, the tax RATE in the township should be the one of the lowest in the county.  But wait, the opposite is true.  

INEFFICIENT WASHINGTON TOWNSHIP

A tax rate rate is a measure of efficiency by which the township is able to provide services to the public.  The main service provided by the township is fire protection.  The others are cutting lawns in cemeteries and poor relief.  Despite having the most residents and the most houses with the highest average value of any township in Morgan County, Washington Township has THE most expensive fire service and the third highest overall tax RATE in Morgan county.   Read High Costs and Idle Time.  Read Follow the Money Part II   The numbers below are directly from the county auditors office:

TOWNSHIP                           TAX RATE

Brown                                       .3185
Madison                                    .2173
WASHINGTON                        .1543
Green                                       .1296
Ray                                           .0601
Gregg                                        .0601
Jackson                                     .0598
Clay                                          .0561
Ashland                                    .0362
Jefferson                                   .0348
Adams                                      .0333
Baker                                        .0213
Harrison                                    .0110
Monroe                                     .0004


WHY THE TAX INCREASE??

In an earlier edition of the Martinsville Report, it was reported that the board was considering the options on how to buy a firetruck that BOLIN (ex-fireman) said we do not need and the Kim/Bud delegation wanted to buy.   He was outvoted.  Please read the report HERE, and in that article scroll down to the paragraph titled "A new firetruck".    For your convenience, here is a reprint of that section from the September 2013 Martinsville Report. 

"A NEW FIRETRUCK

The township is buying a new firetruck.  The cost is $219,070.  The purchase has been voted on and approved.  However, the financial judgement of the board leadership is under question here.  With $1.5 million in the bank, Kim keeps pushing Scotty to borrow bank money to buy the new truck.  I am sure that that banks lover her dearly.  She has been asked at these meetings why she is pushing to borrow money for a new truck when we have enough cash to buy 5 new trucks.  No financially logical answer from her or Bud was heard.  Board member Bolin wants to use the available cash to buy the truck and avoid paying interest and regular payments.  IF we are to borrow, Bolin argued that we could actually borrow from our own cash accounts and pay ourselves interest instead of paying banks.  His ideas about keeping the township out if debt were summarily dismissed and discounted by Kim and Bud.

THE REAL REASON

Currently, the township is still paying on a firetruck they purchased a few years ago.  The twice-a-year payment is in the neighborhood of $27K or so.  Bud and Kim want to finance the new truck for an even worse unmentioned and un-discussed township revenue scheme.  IF they finance a new truck, the township will have twice a year payments like they do now.  Those payments my friend, are calculated into the RATE at which you pay taxes.  IF the township buys a new truck with all the excess cash, and pays off the old truck, guess what?  Your tax rate will drop because those twice-a-year truck payments are no longer factored into the property tax rate.  This IS the heart of the matter.  If they "finance" a new truck, your taxes stay high.  If they buy it with cash, your taxes drop, as does revenue (play money) to the township.   2/3 of our board is "dead set" against any meaningful property tax reduction."

FAST FORWARD TO APRIL 2014

The previous 2 paragraphs were almost prophetic.    Kim and Bud voted to borrow the money to buy the new truck.  The truck was to be delivered this year, sometime in April.   The money was borrowed LAST YEAR.  Yes, I said last year.  We have been paying interest for the last 5 months on a loan for a truck that we do not even have.   The township has also been paying insurance to Morgan County Insurance, Kim's Employer, on the truck we do not have.   How does that affect us or even make any sense?

The cost of the old truck, the cost of the new truck, and the new insurance payments on the truck have all been factored into your tax rate.  As shown above, the fire debt tax rate increased 39.8%.  If they would have used the ample cash to buy the truck, your tax rate would have dropped.  THIS, and countless other similar votes by Kim/Bud, are the primary cause of the third highest township tax rate in the county.  In summary, Bud and were told what would happen to the tax rates if they made this decision. They choose to ignore the taxpayers and now you pay more real estate taxes. 

Decisions like this are not an isolated one-off occurrence.   After years of Washington Township board decisions without any strategic planning involved and absolutely ignoring the taxpayers, the tax rates outside of the city have been driven far too high, again and again.    Bad board members and bad trustees make bad decisions.  Bad decisions make higher taxes. 

INSURANCE COSTS

A few years ago, I opened the yellow pages for Martinsville and looked up "insurance".  To my surprise there were many agencies here that sell insurance.    I selected 3 companies and re-quoted insurance on everything I own.    To my surprise again, I was able to save about 30% on my policy that I had had for 20 years.    Morgan County Insurance, which was one of the companies that gave me quotes, was not the most economical.  Why do I bring this up?    

Almost all of the money Washington Township pays for insurance goes to or through Morgan County Insurance.  According to the township year end report published in the Reporter-Times on 1-21-2014, the township paid $159,228 in 2013 for insurance.      Former Board Chair AND current finance board member Kim Meredith is an employee of Morgan County Insurance.  Yes, this is a conflict of interest.  How can one serve two masters?  It is my belief that there is no motivation for her to reduce costs or unneeded township assets, as her company is profiting heavily off of Washington Township tax dollars while insuring everything the township owns and employs.     After attending all township meetings for the last several years, Kim's voting patterns and financial decision making history substantiate this.  It is again my opinion that she is a nice, likable, honest, and affable lady.  However, she should recuse herself from voting in matters that concern asset buying and insurance coverage or be replaced in the next election.     Even the best of us are unwittingly influenced by money.   Unfortunately, her new revived interest in township finances and efficiency seems to correlate directly with the upcoming election.   It will also disappear that quickly after the election.  Overall, many feel that she has been a managerial disappointment and that she is over-aligned with the personal interests of the Washington Township Fire Department employees. 

Kim Merideth

I have asked the trustee and some board members about re-quoting the insurance with some other agency to try and save money.   Only Bob was interested.    Scotty Manley told me that he does not even remember when the insurance was NOT with Morgan County.  No one remembers the township even going out for competitive quotes on insurance....ever.     This in itself shows how poorly the township tax dollars have been managed.  With the gold plated medical policies that the fireman have, and the other insurance expenses (collision, liability, and comprehensive), our payments are excessive.  We do not even know if we are getting a fair price as it has not been competitively bid for years.  We do know however, that the gold-plated medical and dental benefits the fireman have are very expensive, and are BETTER (lower co-pays, lower deductibles, lower monthly contributions by the firemen) than the benefits received by employees at Eli Lilly and Roll-Royce in Indianapolis. But whenever the topic of re-quoting insurance is brought up, the attention span of the township board seems to drift on to the next subject.
   
CHANGE

The next few years are crucial to Washington Township.    The issues that need to managed properly, professionally, and strategically with a plan and with the taxpayer in mind are as follows:

1)  I-69
2)  The new power plant
3)  The TIFF district
4)   Fire department district creation
5)   Funds are being cut by the state

For years, the township board has been run by socially conservative but "Pelosi/Obama" fiscally liberal republicans.   Spending the money of others seems to be no big deal to Bud and Kim.   Just look at your tax rate.  There has also been very little effort to plan the future, or study the present issues of the township by anyone except Bolin in the last three years.  It is apparent that 2/3 of the township board puts very little effort into planning for the meetings or working together for a better future.


THE NEXT TRUSTEE

The next township trustee must to be experienced.   With these crucial issues at hand, we do not need a greenhorn in the saddle and several of them are running.    Mr. Fraker, a candidate for trustee, has a proven track record, has been a fire chief, knows how to manage money when budgets are tight, and knows how to manage people.   He would serve the township well.


A NEW FACE


Ann Miller

Ann Miller is running for township board also.  I sat down with Ann at the Candy Kitchen a few days ago and discussed township issues with her.  Ann has been a resident in Morgan County for 17 years, is married, and has two children.  She has a degree in economics from Indiana University.  I asked her why she decided to run for the township board and her reply was "I'm just tired of the township shenanigans, the mismanagement, inappropriate spending, and the real estate taxes that continually rise."

 I asked her the following questions:

1)  Do you have any relatives in city, county, or township government?
2)  Will you be trying to hire any family members into government if you are elected?
3)  Are you related to any city council members or the mayor of Martinsville or do any work for the mayor?

Fortunately and refreshingly, the answer to all of these questions was "NO". 

If elected, Ann wants to see the fire department managed efficiently and effectively, especially in light of I-69 cutting the town into two pieces.   She is concerned about the effect that the new TIFF district has as it takes money from the schools and the township.   Also, she has promised that she would support having monthly meetings again, not every other month, which Bud/Kim voted for last year.   Understanding that Washington Township Morgan county government is the brunt of jokes in the statehouse in Indy, Ann want to restore the trust and respect of the residents in the township and make township government functional, transparent, and responsive to the needs of the people.  

Ann is articulate, intelligent, cares for the residents and the taxpayer, and wants to serve them well.    She would make a welcome and refreshing addition to the township advisory board.  

   
BUD

Bud Manley is a nice person, grandfatherly, and likable.  However, Bud is far too entrenched in the status quo/good-ol-boy network of Morgan county and should be replaced. At one meeting, someone asked him if he had ever voted for a spending cut or tax decrease and he replied "no".  For that behavior, he should be replaced by someone who is less anxious to spend someone else's money and raise their property tax rates.   He is no friend of the taxpayer.   After 3 years of attending township meetings, I agree with Bud's reply to that question.   I've never seen him NOT vote to spend your money.


SUMMARY

This election is very important to Washington township.   The township board is dysfunctional at best.  The Bud/Kim side will not work with Bob Bolin, and he is for the taxpayer.   Making sure that the candidates that we elect are more concerned about the good of the township and the taxpayer than the good of the "good-ol-boy club" is the best reason to get out and vote.   This township is way overdue for some new, intelligent, and dynamic management.  

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Wednesday, January 22, 2014

YES, city taxpayer are double paying.



This article is a Martinsville Report reprint from April 16, 2013, 5:31pm

The information provided by Bob Bolin Tuesday to the Martinsville City Council is NOT new news.  The story was first published in the Martinsville Report on April 16, 2013 in an article aptly named "FOLLOW THE MONEY PART II".

The real question is this:  Why did it take the Reporter-Times almost a year to publish this important information?

Here is the reprint:

MONEY MONEY (where did it all go?)

Bolin at work Wednesday Night
For years, Martinsville City officials and the general public have been unable to understand how and why the Washington Township Government has been so flush with cash, pay, and benefits, and the city has been so cash strapped.  During the Wednesday, April 10, Washington Township meeting, answers to some of those questions may have been finally answered.  After spending a considerable amount of his personal time over the past two years doing research and following the money trail, Bob Bolin presented eye-opening findings to the public Wednesday evening.   Bolin showed the budget process and money trail, which hinted that the township may have been using and spending money that should have been applied elsewhere.  At this point, Bob had the full attention of the audience.

As previously reported in the Martinsville Report, township spending for fire protection is high.  It is the highest in the county.   In the article, HIGH COSTS AND IDLE TIME and this article, FIREMAN FINANCIAL RESULTS ARE IN, the spending is detailed.   The Washington Township board is (supposed to be) the final controlling legal authority for all money spent in the township.   However, past boards have seemingly delegated the budgeting and financial controls to those who spend the money.

THE CONFUSING PROCESS  

At the meeting Wednesday night Bolin produced a process flowchart showing how state money should be/is distributed to the county and then re-distributed to the townships.
#1 The Money/budget and process Flow Chart
  He also showed how the legislature intended that money, in part, to be used equitably and fairly to reduce local property taxes and support local government.  

This money, commonly called CAGIT money at the statehouse, (comprised of what is called County Adjusted Gross Income Tax money AND Property Tax Replacement Credit (PTRC)),  is sent yearly from the state to the county in a form known as "certified shares" money, and then distributed to the townships.   After it is distributed, it is the responsibility of the township Board to see that it is properly spent.  The whole funding process is complicated and trying to explain it clearly is a difficult task.




THE DETAIL as presented by Bolin




#2 Property Tax Relief Credit and CAGIT math 
 From chart #2, the assessed value in the city is $359M and the assessed value of the township (not including the portion that lies in the city) is $332M.  The mathematical ratio between the two is noted in the chart.


THE SHOCKER
#3  The MONEY
In Bob's chart #3 the CAGIT certified shares money distributed to the township in the form of "certified shares" has been over $1.112M over the last 5 years.   However, what was done with that money will stun you.

The township is comprised of both township outside the city and township inside the city.  A long long time ago, CAGIT was SPLIT and spent proportionately, based on assessed values, between general township outside the city, and township within the city.    Somewhere along the line, that changed.   No one recalls when that change took place.  However, the lawmakers made a huge mistake and left a loophole big enough to drive a Washington township firetruck through it by giving township boards the option of where to allocate the money.   

The result of this, at least in Washington Township, was that the Washington Fire Department snatched all $1.1 Million over the last 5 years and spent every penny.  None of the $720K of certified share money was distributed back to city related township business, poor relief, or property tax relief.        

DOUBLE TAXATION

City taxpayers essence have paid twice for fire services.  They paid first for city fire protection and secondly, by not getting the certified shares money they were due, also paid for the township fire services that they will never use.   City residents then probably had to be taxed even more by the city to make up for the certified shares not received.   Township taxpayers not in the city also had to be taxed more to make up for the certified shares that were not credited  to general township expenses.  Every taxpayer in the township loses, except the fire department employees.

NOW WHAT? 

The legislature knows about this loophole.   Once it closes, what will happen?  The first thing that will happen is that the township fire protection will no longer be subsidized by the taxpayers in the city.  Next, city taxpayer may see both their township property tax rates and poor relief tax decreased.



DECISIONS

Township taxpayers not in the city need to make a decision.   What kind of fire protection do they want?  Do they want their property taxes to increase or stay the same?   After this years re-assessment, no one wants more taxes.  If the taxpayers want to continue to fund the highest cost fire station in the unincorporated portion of Washington Township, taxes will need to rise to keep fire protection employees living in the manner to which they are accustomed.   If not, change is on the way at the township fire station. 

From a financial perspective, the Washington Township fire department could survive in its entirety without tax increases if the cost structure is re-aligned on par with the Martinsville fire department.  Many townships across Indiana have reformulated their fire stations and gone with part time firemen, volunteers, market wages, and a mix of full time firemen in order to keep their cost and tax structure reasonable and competitive. 

During the meeting, Lonnie Kern, the highest paid fireman of all, who was paid over $70K last year, stood up and said, "I just wanna reiterate, what is being done is perfectly legal, if we're gonna change the system, we need a plan to replace the funding in advance".   

SUMMARY

Your property taxes will either increase if Washington Township officials continue their current course (business as usual) of action or.........................................................your taxes will stay the same when and if the Washington Township board exhibits the foresight, leadership, and courage required to properly manage their own cost structure.....and your property tax bill.

I told you it was complicated.


Monday, September 23, 2013

FIRE DEPARTMENT MERGER and IGNORING THE VOTERS


On the front page of the The Reporter-Times on September 22, 2013 it was announced that an unscheduled Washington Township board meeting was to to be held on Monday September 23.  This meeting at the Martinsville city fire station was to specifically discuss "a contract or merger between the Washington Township Fire Department and the Martinsville Fire Department". Interestingly enough, within the last month, all three board members personally told me that neither party was interested in merging with the other.   This agenda seemed to interest many residents and especially the firemen as about 40 were in attendance for this meeting.

In classic "Washington Township" form, no sooner than the meeting began than the board announced that there would be NO discussion of a contract or merger between the fire houses.  The reason? Apparently, the township leadership is so oblivious to current events that they forgot that the Martinsville annexation is still being adjudicated and the board just now figured out that they should not be discussing anything that could be seen as being in support of or in opposition to the annexation.  The net result is that Washington Township, under the leadership of Kim Merideth and Scotty Manley, just wasted the time of 40 people. 


TOWNSHIP CASHES IN

In Indiana, township government has only 3 authorized functions.


1)  Provide fire protection 

2)  Administer the poor relief
3)  Maintain the cemeteries that they own 

Why then, in Washington Township, and many other townships, is there the 4th objective? ....Accumulate huge cash balances far in excess of what is needed for township business.  As of September 13, 2013, Washington Township had $1,571,555 in the bank....CASH.  



On 9-10-13 in the Washington Township Board meeting, Bob Bolin discussed how hard the times have been for local residents.  He cited figures showing that foreclosures and property tax delinquencies are at an all time high.  He reported that 50% of the children in our grade schools are now on the free lunch program (a reflection of poverty).  He cited examples where elderly residents could not even afford to pay their property taxes.  Finally, he said that some of that $1.5 million in excess cash should be given back to the taxpayer in the form of reduced taxes.  He was met with strong resistance from Kim Merideth and Bud Manley.  This money BELONGS to the people who earned it, not the township.


At the 9-13 meeting, Bolin introduced paperwork to reduce the local "general" property tax rate.  Merideth said that she could vote to give the residents a $12 per household per year property tax reduction,(yes, I did say a whole $12 per year), but then she said "I can't vote on this, it's too complicated".  If this board member thinls it is too complicated to give the money back to those who earned it, perhaps she should address the issue of her learning what it's all about.   After all, that is the job she is being well paid to do.  It was not too complicated to overtax the residents, but it is too complicated to give the money back.  At this meeting, a vote was not taken to reduce the general tax rate because Kim and Bud refused to agree to give anything back to the property owners.   Bolin says that with that kind of cash, the township could be run 8 years, and we could have a 0% (yes, zero percent) general tax rate in the township. It’s sad to think that an elected representative doesn't even know what her job requires her to know, but at least she admitted it.  The real problem here is the board lacks really knowing what it’s doing and they can't be bothered by the homework required of them.    


The board members were asked at the meeting on the 13th and at the meeting on the 23rd if there were any plans for this cash balance.  If there were capital plans or the funds were earmarked, then we could understand their reluctance to return them to the taxpayer.   All board members replied that there are no planned uses for these funds.   This is incompetency and greed in our township government.  No wonder so many people distrust politicians.   They earn the disrespect they get.  



A NEW FIRETRUCK

The township is buying a new firetruck.  The cost is $219, 070.  The purchase has been voted on and approved.  However, the financial judgement of the board leadership is under question here.  With $1.5 million in the bank, Kim keeps pushing Scotty to borrow bank money to buy the new truck.  I am sure that the banks love her dearly.  She has been asked at these meetings why she is pushing to borrow money for a new truck when we have enough cash to buy 5 new trucks.  No financially logical answer from her or Bud was heard.  Board member Bolin wants to use the available cash to buy the truck and avoid paying interest and  regular payments.  If we are to borrow, Bolin argued that we could actually borrow from our own cash accounts and pay ourselves interest instead of paying the banks.   His ideas about keeping the township out of debt were summarily dismissed and discounted by Kim and Bud.

THE REAL REASON
Currently, the township is still paying on a firetruck they purchased a few years ago.   The twice-a-year payment is in the neighborhood of $27K or so.  Bud and Kim want to finance the new truck for an even worse unmentioned un-discussed township revenue scheme.   IF they finance a new truck,the township will have twice a year payments like they do now.  Those payments my friend, are calculated into the rate at which you pay taxes.   IF the township buys a new truck with all the excess cash, and pays off the old truck, guess what?  Your tax rate will drop because those twice-a-year truck payments are no longer factored into the property tax rate.    This IS the heart of the matter. If they "finance" a new truck, your taxes stay high.   If they buy it with cash, your taxes drop, as does revenue (play money) to the township.  2/3 of our board is "dead set" against any meaningful property tax reduction.  

DOUBLING MY HOURLY PAY

Taxpayers voiced displeasure that Kim and Bud outvoted Bolin in deciding to hold the township meeting every other month instead of every month. Once again, the 2/3 coalition of the board ignored the taxpayers.  A motion made by Bolin to meet every month was ignored by Kim and Bud.   It was obvious that the residents wanted the board to meet monthly so they would have the time to do a better job.  Too many issues and actions get hidden and swept under the rug (on purpose) when the board only meets every other month.     It is sad that they ignore the taxpayers' wishes.

Seems as though going to a meeting once a month is too much work for 2/3 of our board.  Breaking it down, they each make $3,000 per year for being on the board. (Our Washington Township Board IS the HIGHEST PAID BOARD IN THE COUNTY).  When the meetings were held monthly, there were 12 meetings a year and the meetings lasted about 1.5 hours each.  12 meetings * 1.5 hr. per meeting =18 hours of meetings per year. $3,000/18 hours=$167 per hour.  Not bad if you can get it.  Now, let's vote ourselves a raise and have meetings every other month!  Now, we only have 6 meetings at 1.5 hours which is a total of 9 hours of meetings per year.   $3,000/9 hours=$333 per hour.  This is even better than a raise.


When will the voters here figure out that they have been hoodwinked?  Voters won't really know what’s going on unless they make the effort and come to the meetings to see first hand.   Unfortunately, they are content to vote on who is popular, and that rarely translates to being competent.  

The issue here is not always money.  From my and others observations, Bolin spends countless hours interviewing people and doing his homework.  He is over-prepared for each meeting and clearly understands state law.  I know because I interview him and when I do, I get clear, concise, well researched answers.  When I try to interview the other two board members, I get one-word answers and generalizations you would expect from a politician that does not want to discuss the topic.  2/3 of our board members seem content to be under-prepared for each meeting, and are rarely prepared or willing to discuss the topic of the day in an intelligent manner. It is clear that they do not know the information required to do their jobs.


A DISTURBING TREND

Over the past year in attending township meetings, I have observed a voting pattern within this board which is not only bad for the township, but it is dysfunctional in nature and against the best interests of the taxpayer.   This board votes in blocks.  No matter what, Kim and Bud vote lockstep together on virtually everything.  Bolin seems to be voting "no" often, and his ideas, generally taxpayer friendly, are shut down by the "ol-boy-network" voting of Kim and Bud.

For example, Bolin, and ex-fireman himself voted against buying the new firetruck because he said we just do not need it yet.  He was out-voted.  He wanted to vote to cut the general tax rate in the township and return some of the excess cash to the taxpayer, but Kim and Bud declined and postponed.  Bolin and several taxpayers want to spend the township's cash on the new firetruck and avoid putting the township into debt again.  Kim and Bud are seemingly ignoring everyone and are instructing Scotty Manley to continue to work with banks on financing.   Bolin wanted to have township  meetings every month so taxpayers and residents could attend and see how township government works, or more aptly  does not work.  He was outvoted.

In repeating fashion, this happens at every board meeting.   Bolin wants what he feels is best for the taxpayers, but Kim and Bud want what is best for their own interests.  Their own interests seem to be protecting the status quo and the good-ol-boy club.  No matter what Bolin does for the taxpayer, Kim and Bud throw huge logs in the road and block any new or different ideas from ever being implemented in our township.


 Tax reduction??

but we have $1,571,555 in the bank.


  





Thursday, June 20, 2013




CITY COUNCIL RECAP 06-17-2013   Martinsville, Indiana

THE ANNEXATION CHESS GAME

SCORE:  Remonstrance 1   Martinsville 0

At the Martinsville Common council meeting on Wednesday night, the city revealed that it is taking a different strategy to work through and break the annexation remonstrance.   After months and weeks of purporting and propagating that the Mark McDaniel led remonstrance was insufficient and not legally compliant, the city threw in the towel and withdrew its challenge to dismiss the remonstrance.  Evidently, the high priced Indianapolis anti-remonstrance lawyers (Ice-Miller) that the city just fired may have been ringing their register at the citys expense while providing unsatisfactory advice.  According to the city treasurer’s office, since January 1, 2013, the city wasted?/paid/handed Ice-Miller $19,300 of your tax dollars for their errant legal advice on the remonstration.  The new lawyers are guiding the city in a completely different direction. 

A couple months ago the Reporter-Times had a story in which Phil Deckard said that the re-zoning had NOTHING to do with annexation.  No one believed that.   

A couple days later, Holloway stated that the re-zoning was all about maps AND annexation.   How hard is it to get the truth from our politicians?  Last night at the meeting, it was revealed HOW the re-zoning scheme fits the annexation puzzle.   Read on.

REMONSTRATORS CONCERNS



The city’s new attorney and super-lawyer (click here, he really is super), Nicholas Kile, a Partner at Barnes and Thornburg in Indianapolis, gave the council his recommendations.  (The problem with super lawyers is their super fees)  His advice was that the city should “listen to the remonstrators” and address their concerns.   He said that their concerns were twofold:

1)      The annexation was taking far more property than necessary for the stated goals of the city.
2)      There will be negative financial implications for those being annexed. 

THROWING A SMALL BONE 



In order to alleviate their concerns, the lawyer recommended that the city reduce the amount of acreage being annexed, especially the property that has nothing to do with I-69.  At this point there were many heads nodding “yes” in the gallery.  Attorney Kile stated that the total acreage being annexed at this time is 3,100 acres, mostly farmland.  To appease the remonstrators, he recommended that the city vastly reduce what they are annexing by……….70 acres.  At this point in the meeting you could hear chuckles and muffled laughs.  Let’s do the math.  In order to appease the folks who do not want to yield 3,100 acres to the city, the city is willing to reduce their claim by 2.2%.  Previously however, the city did reduce the annexed area by 37.5%.  Many have told me that they feel the city purposely over-annexed so that they could give back that 37.5% when the residents protested.   McDaniels mentioned to me that every time a proposal is made, maps are redrawn and Holloway engineering is paid again  and again for new maps.  No doubt about it, annexation is a laborious, expensive, and iterative process for all taxpayers. 

Lawyer Kile also stated that in May of this year 2013, the Indiana legislature passed laws that would allow annexed farmland to be permanently exempted from real estate taxes.  It was recommended that Martinsville offer this to the farmers being annexed.  If you do not own a farm, your city taxes would be phased in (meaning increased) over a four year period.  The council voted 6-0 to throw both of these bones to the remonstrators.  After the meeting, Mark McDaniels stated to me that the remonstrance will continue. 

MARTINSVILLE CITY TAX INCREASE?

If the remonstrance coalition is broken and the city annexes 3030 acres, due to the agricultural tax exemptions, THE ANNEXED PROPERTY WILL NOT GENERATE ENOUGH TAX REVENUE TO SUPPORT ITSELF.    With little additional revenue to pay for road repairs, snow removal, water, sewer, infrastructure, bridges, and police/ fire in the annexed areas, the only folks left to pay the bills for annexation will be the ones that live within the city limits.  

That leaves three distinct possibilities; 

1)      Martinsville could go bankrupt maintaining the annexed area and/or
2)      City services to the annexed area will be poor to non-existent and/or

3)      The real estate taxes in the city will have to rise so much to pay for annexation that many residents leave town to avoid the taxes.  As the original tax base erodes, tax rates will be raised again, and a nasty cycle of tax increases and a population exodus spirals Martinsville into an afterthought.    

The super lawyer somehow forgot to address the “double-edged-sword” nature and financial implications of agricultural tax exemptions for the city.  
But then again, Kile is a super lawyer, not a finance guy.  This point #3 was raised by McDaniel two years ago during the annexation hearings.  The question that we should all ask our council reps is "where are you going to get the money to do all this?"

A PHILSOPHICAL QUESTION

After Mr. Kile told the council that they should “listen” to the taxpayers and remonstrators, I verbally posed this question to the entire council:

“Why does the city have to hire an attorney to learn that they should listen and respond to the taxpayers?”   After all, over 75 percent of the land owners in the annexed area have spoken.   They spoke very clearly with their remonstrance. 

After hearing my question 5 council members just hung their heads and refused eye contact.  (Shannon was not there)  Eric provided a response.  He said that they are listening and that is why the annexation was cut down last year.  No one else tried to answer my question.  They just stared with blank faces showing disdain for my question.    


The annexation saga will continue………………

Friday, May 10, 2013

WASHINGTON TOWNSHIP TRUSTEE INEFFECTIVE?

WASHINGTON TOWNSHIP BOARD MEETING REPORT

In a board meeting that was once again under-reported by the Reporter-Times, the local paper since 1889, the township board met and some interesting things were said and unsaid at the meeting regarding the fire truck purchase and the competence of  our trustee.    Why actions or statements are NOT reported  in the local paper is always a mystery to me.  They will be reported here, for all taxpayers to read.

A NEW FIRETRUCK (PUMPER)



Fire Chief Mike was all spiffed out for the occasion to ask the board to vote to solicit bids for a new pumper truck with a cost not to be greater than $220K.   Mike Herrington had on his white pressed starched shirt, tie, and "mirror-shiny" black shoes for the presentation.   The board voted to seek quotes for a new truck.

According to the Chief, this new vehicle will replace two working vehicles, the EMS truck and the brush fire truck.  The Chief also said that they would get rid of (his) the chiefs' vehicle.    Mike reported that the total cost of the new truck would be offset by selling the other vehicles and that the cash from the sales of the old vehicles would probably bring in about $40K.   However, no one really knows what they will bring until put on the market and someone buys them.    
"Fire" Chief

Because the township has a rolling debt fund for capital equipment, the taxpayers are still paying on the last firetruck that was purchased for $328K. Mike reported that this loan will be paid off in June 2013.  He stated that since the current tax rate assessment from the current debt will not change when we go into debt again, your property taxes would not increase if we bought the new truck.


A TAXPAYER VIEW  

Over the course of the last 6 board meetings or so, several individuals appeared presenting positive re-enforcing statements telling us how marvelous the Washington Township Fire Department is.   This usually happens around budget time, interestingly enough. 

Questions/statement that come into mind regarding this purchase that were not discussed in the meeting are:

1)  If the service is so wonderful, as many witnesses have testified at the board meetings, why do we need new equipment at all?  

2)  If we swap two service vehicles for one, will the fire department be able to continue that marvelous service?  What if we have 2 calls and we only have the one vehicle?  Are we then going to have to go into debt MORE and buy another vehicle?

3)  Sure, the tax rate will not increase if we continue being in debt again, but what was unsaid is that the tax rate will decrease if we do not buy the new truck and we pay off the old loan.

4)  There were no discussions or questions by the board at all like this: 
     -Are the maintenance bills on the old truck too high?  No.  What is wrong with the current truck?  Anything?  Interestingly enough, after reviewing the township financial records through April 2013, no money from the maintenance account has been spent this year to repair old firetrucks.  Seems like the old trucks work just fine for now.     
     -If the township fire service is so wonderful as reported by many individuals in the township meetings, then why do we need to indebt the taxpayer again?
     -What would happen if we wait a few years till the economy picks up?
     -What happens when I-69 splits the township and the firemen will not be able to get across the highway?

These are the questions that the board has to ask and ponder.  I'm not sure why they did not ask or discuss any of these points.






  TRUSTEE'S EFFORT AND COMPETENCE QUESTIONED   

Board member Bob Bolin drove to all the township cemeteries and did an inspection of their condition last week.  Bob reported, "I am not happy!  There are no paths cut to walk on, there is brush overgrowing, the grass and weeds are not cut to the fences.  The condition of our township cemeteries is sad, and of the last 4 Washington Township Trustees, they (the cemeteries) have never looked worse.    I was shocked and saddened at their condition".

In a second blow to the bow of the good ship Scotty Manley, his competence was directly questioned regarding the management of the township cemeteries by a local resident and subcontractor of the township.  Hartley and Son has been working with the trustee to fix and/or replace some cemetery signs.  See the signs below.  A representative from Hartley monument reported that "she was done dealing with the Trustee".  After a year of confusion, having her financial capital tied up in the signs, and having to deal with a complete a lack of business etiquette from the trustee's office, a frustrated Mattie Hartley told trustee Manley that he was "incompetent" and that getting anything done through him was pretty much impossible.  Looks like we won't be getting those signs replaced any time soon due to the problems with the trustee.


Hartley and Son high quality cemetery signs.



A TAXPAYER VIEW

In Indiana, all township trustees have ONLY 3 major responsibilities.
1)  Pay the firemen
2)  Administer the poor relief in the township
3)  Maintain the cemeteries

Paying the firemen is automatic.   It is all done by the payroll system and this responsibility is primarily done by the Scotty's wife who works for him in the trustees office.  The poor relief is also administered and managed primarily by Scotty's wife, as she is the only person in the office during township service hours.  

That leaves one thing left for the trustee to do and it seems that he is failing miserable in this responsibility.   Our cemeteries are an embarrassment to all of us.  Scotty is busy though.  Maybe too busy to be trustee.   He already has a full time government job working for the city.   In addition, he is getting paid $15K to be the trustee and the cemetery grass and overgrowth are not being properly controlled.   How hard can that be?   

Nonetheless, it is his responsibility, not a board members', to drive out to the cemeteries  inspect them, maintain, them, and make them accessible and pleasant to the eye.

Recently, Scotty and the board awarded a new contract to a lawn cutting business to maintain the cemeteries   The board assumed that the trustee would actually "manage" the subcontractor.  Think again.  There was nothing in the contract that showed any sketches or drawings of the areas that must be maintained and it is painfully clear that the trustee has not visited the cemeteries WITH the subcontractor to SHOW them what needs to be done.   Maybe he does not care, or he is too busy to be trustee.   Your guess is as good as mine.






MARTINSVILLE YOUTH CENTER

City councilman Eric Bowlen gave an impassioned presentation at the board meeting regarding the future Youth Center in Martinsville. "Too many kids are latchkey kids" he stated and "there are a lot of bad things that can happen between 3pm and 5pm before mom and dad get home if the kids are there by themselves".   

He is gaining momentum with sponsors. The financial donation goal for 2013 is $200K.  Our children need our help.  The children ARE the future.  If you can manage to give up one soft drink a week and donate that small amount to the center, that is all Eric asks.  We know that you can sign up and contribute.     Several businesses have signed up for a small weekly payroll donation and the Washington township firemen will be seeing Eric's presentation soon.  If interested, contact Eric at bowlen@yahoo.com or call him at 765.318.3039 to contribute to our future.





NEXT MEETING

Recently, the board voted to meet every other month.  The next meeting will July 10 in the County Building at 0530.   The only question that needs to asked is this:

If the board just cut the number of meetings that they are required to attend, why did they not also cut their pay?   How many of us can vote to cut our hours in half and keep the same pay?

Your government working (less) for you!!!









Tuesday, May 7, 2013

BIG DOIN'S IN MARTINSVILLE


TIME TO GO DOWNTOWN

If you like to get out and do things, this is the month for you.   May 17-19 IS the big weekend.  There are BBQ's, downtown cart racing, car shows, children's activities, food, BEER, WINE, and community band performances.  (hyperlinks in Blue)

The cart racing is presented by the Southern Indiana Racing Association and the city of Martinsville.   

Quit complaining about nothing to do in Martinsville.  This month, there is plenty to do!  Get out and spend that pile of cash you've been sitting on all winter.  

For all you bikers, on Saturday May 11, there will be a benefit ride for National Guard families.   Be at the American Legion in Martinsville about 7:30 am for breakfast, then be ready to ride sometime after eating.  After you return from the ride, there will be more food and entertainment.

Below are the official posters circulating around town, but for more detail, click here:

Grand Prix in Martinsville





MAKING DOWNTOWN LOOK GOOD

Also, sometime this year or next, you will notice downtown looking a whole lot better.  Through the hard work of many dedicated people, some $464K will be spent improving the appearance of our downtown buildings.  The Rediscover Martinsville folks should be applauded for their dedication.  Here is a copy of the revised planning budget that was presented 5/6/2013, to city council last night.  Lot's o' money.  


Tuesday, April 16, 2013

FOLLOW THE MONEY PART II




MONEY MONEY (where did it all go?)

Bolin at work Wednesday Night
For years, Martinsville City officials and the general public have been unable to understand how and why the Washington Township Government has been so flush with cash, pay, and benefits, and the city has been so cash strapped.  During the Wednesday, April 10, Washington Township meeting, answers to some of those questions may have been finally answered.  After spending a considerable amount of his personal time over the past two years doing research and following the money trail, Bob Bolin presented eye-opening findings to the public Wednesday evening.   Bolin showed the budget process and money trail, which hinted that the township may have been using and spending money that should have been applied elsewhere.  At this point, Bob had the full attention of the audience.

As previously reported in the Martinsville Report, township spending for fire protection is high.  It is the highest in the county.   In the article, HIGH COSTS AND IDLE TIME and this article, FIREMAN FINANCIAL RESULTS ARE IN, the spending is detailed.   The Washington Township board is (supposed to be) the final controlling legal authority for all money spent in the township.   However, past boards have seemingly delegated the budgeting and financial controls to those who spend the money.

THE CONFUSING PROCESS  

At the meeting Wednesday night Bolin produced a process flowchart showing how state money should be/is distributed to the county and then re-distributed to the townships.
#1 The Money/budget and process Flow Chart
  He also showed how the legislature intended that money, in part, to be used equitably and fairly to reduce local property taxes and support local government.  

This money, commonly called CAGIT money at the statehouse, (comprised of what is called County Adjusted Gross Income Tax money AND Property Tax Replacement Credit (PTRC)),  is sent yearly from the state to the county in a form known as "certified shares" money, and then distributed to the townships.   After it is distributed, it is the responsibility of the township Board to see that it is properly spent.  The whole funding process is complicated and trying to explain it clearly is a difficult task.




THE DETAIL as presented by Bolin




#2 Property Tax Relief Credit and CAGIT math 
 From chart #2, the assessed value in the city is $359M and the assessed value of the township (not including the portion that lies in the city) is $332M.  The mathematical ratio between the two is noted in the chart.


THE SHOCKER
#3  The MONEY
In Bob's chart #3 the CAGIT certified shares money distributed to the township in the form of "certified shares" has been over $1.112M over the last 5 years.   However, what was done with that money will stun you.

The township is comprised of both township outside the city and township inside the city.  A long long time ago, CAGIT was SPLIT and spent proportionately, based on assessed values, between general township outside the city, and township within the city.    Somewhere along the line, that changed.   No one recalls when that change took place.  However, the lawmakers made a huge mistake and left a loophole big enough to drive a Washington township firetruck through it by giving township boards the option of where to allocate the money.   

The result of this, at least in Washington Township, was that the Washington Fire Department snatched all $1.1 Million over the last 5 years and spent every penny.  None of the $720K of certified share money was distributed back to city related township business, poor relief, or property tax relief.        


DOUBLE TAXATION

City taxpayers essence have paid twice for fire services.  They paid first for city fire protection and secondly, by not getting the certified shares money they were due, also paid for the township fire services that they will never use.   City residents then probably had to be taxed even more by the city to make up for the certified shares not received.   Township taxpayers not in the city also had to be taxed more to make up for the certified shares that were not credited  to general township expenses.  Every taxpayer in the township loses, except the fire department employees.

NOW WHAT? 

The legislature knows about this loophole.   Once it closes, what will happen?  The first thing that will happen is that the township fire protection will no longer be subsidized by the taxpayers in the city.  Next, city taxpayer may see both their township property tax rates and poor relief tax decreased.



DECISIONS

Township taxpayers not in the city need to make a decision.   What kind of fire protection do they want?  Do they want their property taxes to increase or stay the same?   After this years re-assessment, no one wants more taxes.  If the taxpayers want to continue to fund the highest cost fire station in the unincorporated portion of Washington Township, taxes will need to rise to keep fire protection employees living in the manner to which they are accustomed.   If not, change is on the way at the township fire station. 

From a financial perspective, the Washington Township fire department could survive in its entirety without tax increases if the cost structure is re-aligned on par with the Martinsville fire department.  Many townships across Indiana have reformulated their fire stations and gone with part time firemen, volunteers, market wages, and a mix of full time firemen in order to keep their cost and tax structure reasonable and competitive. 

During the meeting, Lonnie Kern, the highest paid fireman of all, who was paid over $70K last year, stood up and said, "I just wanna reiterate, what is being done is perfectly legal, if we're gonna change the system, we need a plan to replace the funding in advance".   

SUMMARY

Your property taxes will either increase if Washington Township officials continue their current course (business as usual) of action or.........................................................your taxes will stay the same when and if the Washington Township board exhibits the foresight, leadership, and courage required to properly manage their own cost structure.....and your property tax bill.

I told you it was complicated.