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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.




Wednesday, March 20, 2013

MAYOR RETURNS AUCTION MONEY TO CITY

CAMPAIGN SLOGAN: HONESTY AND INTEGRITY


About a month after the Reporter-Times interviewed Mayor Deckard about his role in the surplus auction last fall, he quietly paid back the 3% money that he originally billed the city for.  In that interview, Deckard strongly defended his making money from the auction.  

THE MARTINSVILLE REPORT was first to disclose that Mayor Deckard was paid $2,592.23 when he auctioneered $80K+ of surplus city equipment sold last fall.   Since this story broke in Follow the Money Part 1,  Ron Hawkins did an interview with Deckard and wrote a comprehensive article about the auction in the Reporter-Times on Feb. 16, 2013.  

In that article by Hawkins, in the first paragraph, the mayor said that he did not see anything wrong with him making money from the city auction. He also stated "No one can do it better than the mayor being associated with the city". “You can never say that I was derelict in my duties.” 

These mayoral statements and ones made prior to the auction about  not charging the city for being the auctioneer riled up Martinsville residents and council members when they discovered that Deckard indeed had cashed in on the auction.  Evidently, the auction was done for free until an invoice arrived at the Treasurers office last fall. Few knew about that invoice and the subsequent payment to Deckard.  Those who did know were keeping very quiet, presumably to protect the Mayor.

Since the story broke, the mayor has taken major heat from both voters and council members. There were also questions about "becoming the auctioneer with no competitive bids" being in direct violation of the Sherman Anti-Trust Act which was passed by Congress in 1890 to prevent these type of transgressions. Potential investigations at the State level were rumored.



HERE'S YOUR MONEY BACK


On March 12, 2013, the mayor quietly waltzed into the treasurers office and wrote them a check for the balance of the 3% fee on the auction.  The amount, as you can see below is $2,592.23 which is the exact amount that was reported in my first article on this conflict of interest transaction.  





QUESTIONS OF THE DAY

Would the money have been returned if neither the Martinsville Report or the Reporter-Times had not exposed this and no one ever knew about it?

What else in the city is happening like this that we never find out about?




ASSESSMENT
We all make mistakes.  The mayor should be commended for returning the money and righting the wrong.   The mayor however, made several rookie mistakes which cost him some political capital.   As a long-time veteran politician, he should have known better.  

Surprisingly, in the Reporter-Times article, it was clear that the Mayor still did not "get it" that mistakes were made.  Sure, Deckard did the auction for a very reasonable cost, but unless competing bids are solicited, many do not believe that he acted in the best interest of the city, just self interest.  There may very well have been other auctioneers in the area that would have done it for free.....but no one asked for them and therefore trust in the Mayor's office was lost.  

In addition to that, the mayor, in telling many that he would auctioneer for the city at no-cost, and then redefining what "no-cost" means with a stealth 3% invoice, upset the voters.  This was very Clintonesque.    (Remember?   "It depends on what your definition of "is" is").

MISSED OPPORTUNITY

A golden political opportunity was missed by the administration again.  See #4.  
  
Mistake #1 -  Being the auctioneer with no competing bids.
Mistake #2 -  Telling the public that you did nothing wrong.
Mistake #3 -  Stealthily paying back the city.
Mistake #4 -  Not admitting nor apologizing for mistakes 1,2,and 3 above.

The administration had the chance to come forth, apologize for the one sided approach of the self appointing of Deckard to being the auctioneer, and to defending something in the paper that most voters felt was questionable, but they did not.  Now we discover the stealth mode with which the money was returned to cover tracks.    

The money was returned not because anyone was feeling guilty or because they thought that they had committed a possible unethical act with a conflict of interest.  No, it was none of these things.




The money was returned because the mayor got caught and you the voters and council members spoke up loudly.  Also, there were probably concerns about potential legal ramifications.  

Contrary to what the Mayor said above, it is clear that throughout this entire auction debacle, our gut tells us that "yes Mr. Mayor,in this instance, we taxpayers CAN say that you were derelict in your duties and our confidence in this administration has faltered yet another notch".

Democracy works if you engage.  This IS proof.     





Thursday, March 14, 2013

BOLIN - "$1/2 MILLION MISSPENT"


FOREWARD
Many think that being a fireman is always easy.  Nothing is “always” anything.   Like any job, there are those days where the time passes slowly, medical runs become routine, the book you are reading gets boring, and the day lingers.   However, there are those days that you wish would have never happened and pray that you will someday forget…but you can’t.

Examples of those days include the day that you were called into a house where an 8 month old had stopped breathing.  As a trained EMT, you do everything in your power to resuscitate the child, but in the end, the child fails to respond.  Although you did your level best, your responsibility now is to cradle that lifeless child, gently hand it over to its mother, and tell her that you are sorry.



Another day you are called to an accident scene where several teenagers are trapped in a badly mangled car.  As you are cutting them out of the car, you think of your own teenager as you feverishly work to free the trapped occupants.  You free them, only to have two of them flown to the hospital in the emergency helicopter.  You are not sure they lived or died.   One of them for sure will only have one leg if they live.   You wash the blood off of your hands and go back to the station in silence and make out your reports.   Later on you go home and give your own children a long hug. 

On another call, you respond to a domestic violence case where you have had repeated visits.  Instead of finding the usual, you have the unwanted privilege of watching a stressed out man in his car put a gun under his chin and pull the trigger, ending it all.   You are left to wonder why, and if the remaining occupants in the house are dead or alive.

Links are in BLUE (but not this one)

When you do get home, the night can be your worst enemy.   There are the nightmares, bad dreams, cold sweats, and re-runs of the above incidents in your mind.  (See the movie Groundhog Day)  You ask yourself, could I have done more?  Could I have done better?   What did I miss?   You lose sleep.   These moments affect your mood, personality, family, and your personal life because trauma and stress will change you.   These men can be called heroes when they step up and save lives.  They are an important group of men and I cannot envision a world without them. 

We all need to remember that in midst of all the budget/financial squabbles and problems that we face in the township and the country, they are nothing compared to some of the horrible things that the firemen can be faced with on any day at any time. 
In the big scheme of things, the politicians are the ones that get us into financial trouble, not the city workers or the firemen.   The politicians spend our money like there is no tomorrow, and cause us to point fingers and fight amongst ourselves on how to pay the bills and fix the aftermath of their bad decisions.  The blame must always lie with the elected politicians.   

The wet paper bag..what's inside?
Unfortunately, once the politicians get us into trouble, their cures are often worse than the disease.  They exit office and leave us holding the wet paper bag.   The next group of politicians comes in and their solution is usually “more taxes can solve everything”.   It’s true in Washington DC and it’s true in Washington Township.    Just check your property taxes this year.

However, we know the difference.  More taxes do NOT solve everything.   Making government efficient does.  This is the principal core and foundation of my beliefs and that is why I write like I do and say what I say. 


CEMETARY MAINTENANCE BIDS REVIEWED
The Washington Township Board met last night, 3-13-13.   All board members were in attendance as well as the Trustee and the Fire Chief.
8 bids were reviewed by the board for the grass cutting and clean-up of township cemeteries.  The job requires mowing at certain intervals and cleanup of brush, paper, etc.   Most bids were in the range of $4K-$5K for this mowing season.  However, one bid from South Central Contracting was a whopping $16,100.  That was the first one thrown in the circular file.   2 bids were too confusing to read and the rest were very competitive.  The contract was awarded to Payne Lawncare out of Monrovia (317) 224-7989.  Their winning bid was for $4,230.     Here is their website:  http://paynelawncare.com/

FIRE REPORT
Chief Herrington reported
28 runs
17 Medical
6 Vehicles Crashes
5 Fire Reports

If you have a dry hydrant on your property, the FD will be flushing them soon.   If you have a big pond and would like one installed on your property, then the FD would be more than happy to facilitate this and put you in contact with the right folks that do this sort of work. 

ACCOUNTING
There was an accounting error several months ago.   $23, 963.52 was deposited in the firemen’s account in error.   The money needs to be transferred out of the fire fighters account back into the township account.   The board is still waiting on guidance from headquarters, the DGLF, on how to accomplish this seemingly easy but apparently difficult feat.  They are trying to decide whether it is best to do it by an appropriation or a resolution.   They each have consequences and using one over the other may bring on excessive paperwork and/or meeting requirements.   The board is looking for the best way to do this.  The board has been thinking about this for over two months. 

It does appear that they may be intentionally stalling until the Spring money deposit by the State.  There is some concern that the fire fighters account may not have enough funding to last to the next deposit, henceforth, the $23.9K can be looked at as a short term loan to the account to keep it from going dry until the cash deposit by the State.  When that happens, then the board will find a way to return the money.     

LEGAL BILLS
A resolution passed 3-0 to establish a legal fund within the fire budget to pay any legal bills incurred by the firemen in the course of their employment.  In previous years, the township paid all legal bills.   Board member Bolin did some great research and found out that this was improper accounting as tax payers in another taxing district (city) were paying the firemen’s legal expenses.  It is against state rules for this to happen.  With this resolution, the issue is gone.

Discussion followed regarding the legal bills.  Chief Mike asked the board how this would work.  The board’s advice was that firemen should not just go to see a lawyer without going through the proper chain of command, that being the chief and the trustee.   “If you don’t do that you may end up having to pay the legal bills out of your own pocket” Merideth said.   Everyone agreed with the chain of command procedure.



CAGIT MONEY-$1/2 Million gone?
Bolin brought up a discussion on CAGIT money.   CAGIT money is money given to the townships by the State.   The primary intent of this distribution is to reduce local township property taxes.  In Washington Township, the money should be split approximately 53% going to the city and 47% going to the township.   Bolin did his research again and found some shocking facts and numbers.
Past Washington Township Boards did not follow the intent of the legislature.  Bob went to the statehouse and pulled records back to 2009.  From what he reported, past Boards took the entire amount of distributed CAGIT money and dropped it into the fire fighters bank, when they only should have gotten about half of it.  Bolin estimates that well over $½ Million, yes he said $½Million, was used in the fire department that should have gone to either township poor relief or property tax reduction.   Doing the math, if these funds had been used in past years in accordance with the intent of the legislature, the general property tax rate in Washington Township would be zero.  Yes, I said ZERO.  That is the intent of your state legislators.
This year, it looks like the CAGIT distribution will be about $277,961.   The Board has promised to do the right thing this year.  Following the rules is a good thing.


DRUG TESTING FOR ASSISTANCE
Bolin reported that Posey County Indiana, Black Township has started a testing program for township benefits.  In other words, if you need help getting your rent, heat, lights, utilities, or food bills paid by the trustee, you must undergo a drug test.  When this was discussed, there was applause by the audience.  It was decided that Scotty would look into that in light of the rise in heroin problems in the city.   
When this has been tried in other cities, the number of applicants falls off, but hopefully, the cost of the testing will be offset by the savings due to fewer applicants.  Only time will tell.  It was discussed that generally, when someone is told that they have to have a drug test (and they have drugs in their system), they don’t get the test.  They just quit asking for assistance.  

You can read the article about it in the local Evansville paper here:

QUESTION OF THE MONTH
Is former fireman Bob Bolin the only Board member who does the homework and research necessary to ensure Washington Township  becomes fiscally stable and compliant with State Laws?

The next meeting is April 10 at 5:30 in the County Building.