Difference between revisions of "Citizens for Government Accountability"

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==Current Newsletter==
 
==Current Newsletter==
This is the April 2010 newsletter from [[Citizens for Government Accountability]].
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This is the February 2013 CFGA newsletter.
  
===State Auditor Finds Several Inadequacies In Union County Fiscal Court Audit===
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Ky. State Senator Dorsey Ridley
The [[Kentucky State Auditor | Kentucky State Auditor’s Office]] released its annual audit report, dated 11-3-09, on the [[Union County Fiscal Court]] with the following findings and comments:
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Capitol Annex Room 255
*There is: A lack of adequate internal controls over the collection of and accounting for occupational/net profits tax.
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Frankfort, Ky. 40601
*A lack of adequate segregation of duties over revenues and bank reconciliations and financial statement preparation. 
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*Lack of adequate internal controls over decentralized receipts.
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*Lack of adequate internal controls over expenditures.  Specifically: Unused checks were kept in an un-secure location. One vehicle was not properly bid for within code. Eight expenditures (including county credit card) were missing supporting documentation. One vendor was underpaid.
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'''The auditors report states'''; The control deficiencies listed above are considered to be significant and material.  An outline of the report was printed in the March 3, 2010 Advocate.  The full report can be read online [http://auditor.ky.gov/2009unionfc-pr.html here]. The auditor’s report states these findings were sent to Judge-Exe. Jenkins, and the fiscal court magistrates.
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===State Auditor Blasts Taxpayer Funded KACo For Reckless Spending And Lack Of Board Oversight===
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Dear Senator Ridley;
After the Lexington Herald-Leader reported on the excessive spending by KACo officials in June of ’09, the Kentucky State Auditors Office announced in July of ’09 they would do a full audit of both KACo and the Kentucky League of Cities.  The 3 page KACo audit, released at the end of October 2009, can be viewed in its entirety by logging on to the auditor’s website at [http://auditor.ky.gov auditor.ky.gov].  The following are some of the findings we have taken directly from the report: 
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'''Auditor Crit Luallen states''': KACo’s  ‘self-serving’ culture resulted in more than $3 million in questionable spending over the years audited (July ’06 thru June ’09).  KACo is a public funded non-profit, governed by elected county officials.  In 2007 and 2008 they spent $48,426 for board Christmas parties. They also spent $43,000 for alcohol, $28,700 for ballgame tickets, $11,593 for birthday lunches, $10,315 on staff and board member gifts, $12,600 for the use of two Frankfort condo’s for one year, and $278,154 for legal defense of convicted government officials.
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In regards to your letter dated Dec. 2012, requesting comments/input, the following items are of concern to us, as we have addressed them, and others, in many of our past CFGA newsletters.
  
'''Board Pay''':  The auditor’s office reported KACo paid $334,300 to pay board members for attending meetings. To clarify information in our last newsletter, the CFGA sent an open records request to KACo in Feb. of 2010 that yielded the following for the years 2008 to current dateTheir response stated board pay was $250/meeting for the executive committee, and the program board members plus travel reimbursementRegular board members are paid $100/meetingUnion County Judge-Executive Jody Jenkins currently, and in past years, sits on the KACo All Lines Fund Board. Henderson Co. Judge-Exe. Sandy Watkins sits on 3 separate boards with KACo.   
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==School Property Tax==
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Way too high for what we’ve gotten in return. If simply throwing money at the problem was the answer, then every Kentucky student would be ready for Harvard. School issues have been reported in our newsletters dated Jan. ’08, July ’08, Jan. ’09, April 2010. Sept. 2010.  The school tax portion of property taxes in Union County (U/C) are 61% of the total tax.  This does not include school tax on other bills (utility, phone, etc.)  The problem is too much administration cost going to operate the school system, whether a failing school or not, and not enough going into the classroomWhy does U/C school system need a $65,000/year public relations person?
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To correct the school tax issue we strongly suggest implementing similar school property tax legislation as to what former Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels did regarding this issueAs much as we hate to brag on these yankee hoosiers; they lowered and capped school property taxes in their state, forced more of the money away from administration and into the classroom. They have a better national ranking than Ky. (not hard to do.) They don’t have a deficit, but enough of a surplus in govt. accounts that every taxpayer got a $300 credit toward their 2012 tax return.  That is political leadership!  
  
''Of Note: KACo’s letterhead states they are: “Working for you in ways you never imagined. After reading the auditors report; you don’t have to imagine anymore.''
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===$8 million for a new Catholic school?===
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As voted on and approved by the U/C fiscal court on Nov. 13, 2012; Union County helping the Owensboro diocese build a new school in Morganfield with the county’s aid of $8 million in bonding assistance may not equal the landmark 2010 separation of church and state case of University of Cumberland vs. Rev. Pennybacker, but it does concern us equally. What precedent does this really set? If any of the many protestant churches in the county ask for this kind of assistance will they get it?  It should be all treated equally or not at all– ''“What has been the effort of religious coercion? But to make half the world fools, and the other half hypocrites.'' – Thomas Jefferson –1785.
  
===Traveling Man – And He Just Can’t Stop===
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==Predacious by nature; State/county bureaucracies equals higher taxes==
Beginning with his 2007 trip to the Czech Republic, we have tried to cover as many of the out-of-state trips Judge Jenkins and his wife have taken at taxpayer expense. We have reported on, or made mention of several (N.Y. City, Memphis, K.C.,etc.). Most recently; New Orleans, 1st week of Jan. 2010But these are only a few of the total number. The overlying question is: what did all these trips bring back to the county? And how have county taxpayers benefited from the judge’s trips out-of-state, or even the constant in-state travel? The next segment will hopefully help explain some of this and how the good-ole-boy system works at our expense.
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We understand it is the nature of government to create more government agencies, disguised as a benefit for the average citizen.  There is no denying that good things can come from local boards of citizens.  The problem arises when the ‘board’ requests and is granted taxing authority by its fiscal court. Most all of Ky. counties have various boards or commissions such as library, extension, health dept., etc. Not all counties have granted them ‘taxing authority’. Once granted, the fiscal court rarely has the courage to take away such taxing abilitySimply put, a board has a voice to make recommendations. Given taxing authority, they have the ability to tax for their benefit, which creates power.  And no one wants to give up power, especially to tax. Everyone on such boards always thinks they can spend your money better than you, and do things they consider great.
  
The Milkman and The Cow; (county elected officials training program):  The county elected officials association’s collectively lobbied for and got passed in 1999 H.B. 810, which became K.R.S. 64.5725, which gives elected county officials extra pay for going to seminars and training meetings.  The rate of pay is adjusted annually based on the consumer price index, with 40 hours of meetings equal to 1 unit.  A unit is worth $906 in extra pay in 2010.  The extra pay comes from county taxes.
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The following are examples where state recommendations/oversight might help at the local level.
  
'''Our View''':  While most training is good, it is also part of the jobThey are already making an average of nearly $75,000 plus benefits.  Should the taxpayers have to pay them extra to go to voluntary training throughout the state and country?  We reported in the Jan. 2009 newsletter that elected officials associations have voluntary membership, at a rate of roughly $1,000/yrUnion Co. officeholders do not pay their own dues. They have them paid by taxpayers out of their office expenses. (source: u/c year end financial reports/ expenditures by elected office).  Obviously: The milkman is the elected official and the cow is the county taxpayer.
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===Union County Library Tax===
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A few years ago the board had accumulated roughly a half-million dollars in it’s tax funded account and voted to build onto the existing library at a cost of roughly $1 million. This in a county of less than 15 thousand people.  The rest was paid off via the state tax payersAs with any of these projects, the county taxpayers are left with paying extra taxes to operate a large building.  For the past two decades anyone with internet access can access any library in the world with just a few clicks, or download any book.  The glaring reality is when you look at your property tax bill and see the library tax is almost half of what the county gets to operate the entire county. The county often ‘supplements’ many of these buildings, as has been reported in our past newsletters, via open records request of the county.   We suggest that the fiscal court take away the library’s taxing authority.  Doing so might require a slight increase in the county portion of taxes, but it would still be less in overall property taxes.   
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We commend the citizens of Hopkins County for letting the magistrates there know a few years ago that if they granted taxing authority to their library board, as was requested, there would be new magistrates after the next election.
  
===Connect-GRADD  or  GRADD Mis-Connected With Your Tax Dollars?===
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===Extension Tax===
We stated in our [http://www.freedomkentucky.org/images/2/2a/CFGA_July_2008.pdf July ’08] newsletter that the number of towers stated by GRADD officials to bring high-speed inter-net to the rural sections of the 7 counties it serves was under-estimated by at least half.  This we learned from speaking with others in the industry.  The idea of high-speed inter-net availability to all is a good idea that we agree with.  However, we disagree with the connectgradd program’s obvious lack of a complete feasibility study that would have polled rural residents on their likeliness to sign up for the service.  The following info is taken from a 1-14-2010 Owensboro Messenger-Inquirer article: Currently there are 1,160 customers of connectgradd spread across 7 counties.  At least 4,200 customers are needed to pay back the loans the counties took out for the project. The counties put up $1.2 million initially, then borrowed $1.1 million from the Kentucky Infrastructure Authority. GRADD recently applied for nearly $2.1 million in federal stimulus funds, and agreed to match 20% of that amount. If the stimulus funds are received, 11 more towers will be built, bringing the total to 68.
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While we are of a farming/ranching background, it is troubling to many of us when we asked why the county extension service recently bought a large vacant piece of property next to them, and spent thousands more to clear the trees. The response was that it was voted on by the board. That they had a lot of money sitting in their account from taxes and interest didn’t pay anything these days. When this becomes the situation then it seems they should give the money back to the taxpayer, or lower or eliminate the taxIt is a clear example of lack of oversight and true accountability that the new state auditor recently spoke of in regards to these types of boardsAt a minimum there needs to be a state law regarding thisWe once again give reference to the Daniels plan enacted in Indiana; once a set level of tax is collect per fund/board, a tax credit is given to the taxpayer in the following years. Not go out and buy/build somethingWhen the library and extension tax are more than the health dept. taxyou know there is a strong lack of oversight at the fiscal court level.  
 
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Of the few people we have spoken with who have connectgradd, most love it, but say their neighbors either can’t get it or have spotty serviceOur stance from the beginning has been that the better use of tax dollars would have been to work with existing phone companies who were already upgrading their lines for high-speed service to rural counties, covering the cities and surrounding areas firstAssisting them to upgrade the rural areas of the counties would bring the service in faster, although it would not be wi-fiCurrently AT&T, and others, have high-speed access in populated areas around rural cities here at a rate of $24.95 and $29.95/monthCheaper than connectgradd. If connectgradd can not quadruple its customer base, then guess who is going to bail this thing out. Union County Judge-Executive Jody Jenkins is on the board at GRADD.
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===Money Don’t Grow On Trees===
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===Elected Officials Associations===
In past newsletters we have covered the high cost of the multi-million dollar buildings built in the past decade in [[Union County, Kentucky | Union County]]. Beware of the politicians and their supporters who say most of the money came as a grant from the state, and cost us nothing.’  Nothing is free.  Money from the state is simply our state tax dollars.  It seems what our local elected officials haven’t done in the past 25 years is bring jobs hereInstead they keep spending our taxes on large buildings, in a county with a dwindling population and skyrocketing substance abuse. The old adage, ‘If they’re gonna waste our taxes they might as well do it here,’  is just as silly.  How about don’t waste our taxes.  Don’t build things that require more state/local taxes to maintain because they are not self-sufficient.  No politicians name should be on any of these structures, since they were built with taxpayer dollars.  We do need change in political culture.  That always takes a change in elected offices.  Political change should be ongoing at all levels of government. If not, we end up with what we now have in Kentucky:  A billion dollar deficit, and politicians living like kings.
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(covered in Jan.’09 newsletter) We strongly feel no elected officials should be allowed to form an association/union to lobby the legislature for higher pay/benefits.  It came to our attention several years ago in talks with the state auditor’s office regarding this matterWhile membership is voluntary, the roughly $1,000/year dues per office holder is usually charged back to the taxpayer as an office expense, (this fact found through our open records request and county budget).
  
Your Property Tax Distribution: Taken from the chart posted in the Sheriff’s office concerning where your taxes go. Remember the sheriff only collects the taxes, each tax board sets their own rate.   
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Example: in the late 1990’s the Ky. Jailers Assc. successfully lobbied the legislators to grant them by law equal pay to the county judge-executiveAll office holders seem to want more pay/benefits from the taxpayerWhat has been the benefit to the taxpayer?
*School  61%
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*State of Ky. 13%
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*County 11%
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*Library 8%  
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*Extension Service 4%
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*Health Dept. 3%. 
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===State Takeover of County Jails Via Privatization===
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===Area Development Districts (ADD’s)===  
As recently reported in the local news media, the [[Kentucky | State of Kentucky]] is considering a takeover of the county jail system to lessen the burden on the county taxpayersThe first CFGA newsletter in the spring of 2006 covered the county jail system and the occupational tax put in to help offset the cost of funding a new facilityWhile we are not arguing for or against a jail run by the state or the county, or even having a transport facility here. We simply are providing some independent information for these decisions whether made at the county fiscal court level or at the state level.
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We realize all counties by state statute must belong to yet another form of bureaucracy known as their area development district.  We feel this is a good place to save taxpayer money.  The true benefit of belonging to an ADD is questionable, especially with there being a department of local government (DLG) in Frankfort, as well as other agencies who are most helpful in answering questions on how to get things doneWe have reported in many past newsletters (via our open records requests) about the lavish trips, some to other countries, organized by ADD’s such as GRADD, at taxpayer expense, for the sole benefit of its directors, who are county judge-executives, and their families.  How can this be justified as a necessity to the taxpayer, and still ask for their vote.
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==Energy Points of Concern== 
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===Unmined minerals tax===
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We feel only coal, oil, gas, and corporations that derive the majority of their income from mineral holdings should have to pay this tax.  For all others, this tax is the equivalent of being taxed a percentage of the jackpot amount for simple buying a lottery ticketOnly a bureaucrat would come up with such a tax, or a govt. that has already wasted enough money and needs an extra source to continue to waste.  
  
====Reasoning behind State Privatization====
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===De-Monopolization with continued regulation===
*county jails financially break small counties via personnel and liability costs.
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(covered in 4-10 newsletter) This has proven, in states such as Texas, to have spurred innovation, economic growth, and created many jobsIt gives consumers a choice in electric providers, and holds down monthly costs to consumers by having competitionTexas did this nearly a decade ago, and consumers there have a choice of seven electric providers, all regulated by the stateIsn’t freedom suppose to be about having choices. Of Note:  Century Aluminum (Hawesville) and Alcan Aluminum (Sebree) have announced they plan to move their plants out of Kentucky over rising electric costs and no alternative choice.      
*Ky. already has 3 privatized state prisons with much lower costs than govt. run facilities. 
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*flat rate per prisoner and no employee costs saves state taxpayers money. 
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====Effect at the county level====  
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*No need/excuse for an occupational tax.
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*county prisoners would be responsibility of state and private prison contractor, not the county taxpayer.  
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*current jail employees would have to apply for jobs with private operator.
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====Jailers position====
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By state law an elected jailer gets to keep their jailers pay rate until next election. This is true even if fiscal court votes to operate the jail as a transport facility.  Jailers position would become a transport officer at a maximum pay of $30k/yr. with part-time employees.
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====Of note====
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The last time the state tried to help the counties via a regional effort was with county economic development.  The idea is good. Union and three other counties belong to North West Ky. Forward, which does economic development for the counties.  The annual fee the county pays to N.W. Forward, around $30,000/yr., is a fraction of what it cost a county to operate this office themselves. ($150,000/yr. plus employee benefits). The Problem: Union County did not discontinue these positions, they simply renamed them from county economic development director to director of community development and director of tourismThus no savings to taxpayers, but more cost.  Would you really expect anything else from local bureaucrats?
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===Electric Companies Rate Increase: More Is Never Enough===
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In our June 2009 newsletter we reported on the tri-state utility providers annual net profits, CEO compensation, and all of their requests for rate hikes even before the ice storm, and the costs reported by the utilities that the storm causedRecently the [[Kentucky Public Service Commission]] (PSC) has granted most rate increases, and now Eon (k.u./l.g.&e) has sent letters with the monthly bill showing a requested monthly increase of $11.70 for residential customers and $17.40/month for general service.  The way the game is usually played between the PSC (3 governor appt. members) and the utility company, is the utility asks for a big rate increase and gets a smaller one.   
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Our information requests of the Ky. PSC for the June ’09 newsletter stated they used a “complex accounting method” to determine if a utility company had enough net profits going forward to be profitable. The information request also yielded the following concerning Eon (parent company of Ky.Utilities): net profit for 2008: $7.1 billion ($986.9 million from KU/LG&E).
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Their expected 2009 net profits were expected to be inline with ’07 and ’08 profits2007 CEO compensation was $3.7 million.
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===Fox In The Henhouse===
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(newsletters 1-’08 & 6-’09)  With top electric company CEO’s making multi-million dollar compensation, it is ludicrous for power companies to get any rate/fee increase from the PSC and atty. general’s officeIt should be standard written policy that the state atty. general, and anyone in his energy regulation office, as well as all voting members of the PSC, should not be allowed to own stock, or have personal, family, or business ties to the companies they supposedly regulate.
  
====Deep In The Heart Of Texas====
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Past rate increases are simply more of a negotiationAsk for a large amount, and take anything you can get.
We contacted state and city (Arlington) officials in Texas, as they de-monopolized electric companies 5 years ago.  A person can purchase electricity from one of many companies that operate in the state, that are regulated by the Texas Public Utility Commission, whose mission statement is: To protect the customer, foster utility competition, and promote high quality infrastructure.  Texas is one of 7 states with no state income tax. Their sales tax is 6.25%Now that’s political leadership!  We sent a letter of protest on behalf of rate payers to protest this latest rate/fee increase, along with the information on Texas, to state senator [[Dorsey Ridley]] and state representatives [[John Arnold]] and [[Mike Cherry]].  Without enough complaints from citizens to our elected officials, be prepared to pay more, more, more.
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===A $1 Trillion Stimulus or Just More Bureaucrats Gone Wild?===
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==In Closing==
Many have argued the true need, effect, and actual job creation of the nearly $1 trillion federal stimulus.  While there’s no doubt over the pork barrel projects and massive overspending contained in the stimulus programs, there has been a much circulated alternative approach to the $1 trillion federal plan to fix the ailing economy caused by the Wall Street to Washington connectionHere’s our take on it:  Some have said with nearly 300 million people in the U.S. it would be cheaper to give everyone a million dollars. If you limit that to those over the age of 25 with at least a high school diploma, who aren’t in jail, can pass multiple drug tests, our guess is the figure is closer to 150 million people. To receive the million you would also have to agree to immediately: pay off your credit card debt, pay off your home loan and/or buy a new home and pay cash. – Banking and real estate crisis solved?? Pay off your car loan and buy a new Ford , GM, Chrysler and pay cash. – A much better way than having the federal government takeover GM and Chrysler.  Anyone over the age of 55 that gets a million would have to quit their job and stay out of the job market for at least 2 years. – Job crisis partially solved??
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These are but a few of the issues that are of concern to usWe hope you will draft meaningful legislation to these issues of concern, that will allow the citizen/taxpayer to keep more of what money they have leftHowever, as long as the majority of voters continue to elect the same people from the same political parties, they will get the same results from government. To that point; the majority must like paying high gas prices, no job creation, and no government accountability. They keep voting for it.
====The real problem====
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Neither ‘stimulus’ plan addresses the problem that caused the crisis. More importantly, it does not hold those accountable that created the problem, prospered, then were ‘bailed out’, and now are prospering again at taxpayer expense. Until the problem, the money flowing between the two major political parties and Wall Street is curtailed, and all are held accountable, then we are doomed to repeat this process until we get it right.  Obviously, what we need is new elected officials at all levels of government.  
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Don’t be fooled by congressmen who have decided not to seek re-election because they, ‘don’t like Washington. Public Citizen reports that 43% of the members of congress that have left office since 1998 are now registered lobbyist. And many more are un-registered lobbyists.  Since giving themselves a pay increase in early 2009, members of congress make nearly $200,000/yrAs lobbyists, the average is roughly $1 million a year.
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==Notable quotes==
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“''The good thing about a democracy is everyone has a voteThe bad thing about a democracy is everyone has a vote, and the majority prove themselves to be fools at every election.''” --Mark Twain
  
===Notable Quote===
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“''The American republic will last until the politicians realize they can bribe the citizens with government money''” – Alexis DeTorqueville
“I have come to the conclusion that one useless man is a shame, two is a law firm, and three or more is a congress. -  John Adams 2nd  President
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===In Closing===
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“''The beginning of the end of this nation will be when the citizens realize they can vote themselves a check from the government by simply supporting a particular candidate or party.''” – Ben Franklin
Thanks to all that have donated. Contributions are tax deductible.  View current/past newsletters at the Union County Library, or on-line at freedomkentucky.org , or you can request current or past newsletters by emailing us at cfgagov@yahoo.com
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Thanks to all those who contacted us to express their anger over Judge-Executive Jody Jenkins’ wife being appointed to the state coal mining board over the former miners that had applied for the position.  We would have covered this issue in the January newsletter, but the January edition had already been printed when the appointment was announced.
 
  
Don’t forget to vote on May 18th, and even though some elected officials have no competition in this election you can still let them know at the voting booth you’ve had enough. Simply don’t vote in those races. A low vote count is the only way you can let someone with no competition know you aren’t satisfied.
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==Disclaimer==
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Any attachments to this 2 page newsletter are not the work of anyone involved with the CFGA, and are therefore unauthorized.  We encourage all to distribute this newsletter, but attachments will be considered libelous by us.
  
 
==CFGA Newsletter Archives==
 
==CFGA Newsletter Archives==
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*[[Indiana Sales Tax Exemption for Farmers]]
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*[[CFGA September 2010 Newsletter | September 2010 Newsletter]]
 
*[[CFGA April 2010 Newsletter | April 2010 Newsletter]]
 
*[[CFGA April 2010 Newsletter | April 2010 Newsletter]]
 
*[[CFGA January 2010 Newsletter | January 2010 Newsletter]]
 
*[[CFGA January 2010 Newsletter | January 2010 Newsletter]]
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[[Category:Transparency]]
 
[[Category:Transparency]]
 
[[Category:Nonprofit]]
 
[[Category:Nonprofit]]
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[[Category:Citizens for Government Accountability]]

Latest revision as of 09:29, 14 February 2013

Citizens For Government Accountability



CFGA is a non-profit organization that fights for accountability in Union County, Kentucky and surrounding counties. CFGA formed in the spring of 2006 around in response to public policy issues such as the county jail and occupational taxes, and how local taxpayer money is spent on a variety of public buildings. CFGA obtains its information through interviews, formal open records requests, and attention to detail. [1] The organization publishes a regular newsletter featuring the latest information about issues concerning Union County.

Personnel

  • Executive Director - J.C. McElroy

Contact

  • cfgagov@yahoo.com

Current Newsletter

This is the February 2013 CFGA newsletter.

Ky. State Senator Dorsey Ridley Capitol Annex Room 255 Frankfort, Ky. 40601

Dear Senator Ridley;

In regards to your letter dated Dec. 2012, requesting comments/input, the following items are of concern to us, as we have addressed them, and others, in many of our past CFGA newsletters.

School Property Tax

Way too high for what we’ve gotten in return. If simply throwing money at the problem was the answer, then every Kentucky student would be ready for Harvard. School issues have been reported in our newsletters dated Jan. ’08, July ’08, Jan. ’09, April 2010. Sept. 2010. The school tax portion of property taxes in Union County (U/C) are 61% of the total tax. This does not include school tax on other bills (utility, phone, etc.) The problem is too much administration cost going to operate the school system, whether a failing school or not, and not enough going into the classroom. Why does U/C school system need a $65,000/year public relations person?

To correct the school tax issue we strongly suggest implementing similar school property tax legislation as to what former Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels did regarding this issue. As much as we hate to brag on these yankee hoosiers; they lowered and capped school property taxes in their state, forced more of the money away from administration and into the classroom. They have a better national ranking than Ky. (not hard to do.) They don’t have a deficit, but enough of a surplus in govt. accounts that every taxpayer got a $300 credit toward their 2012 tax return. That is political leadership!

$8 million for a new Catholic school?

As voted on and approved by the U/C fiscal court on Nov. 13, 2012; Union County helping the Owensboro diocese build a new school in Morganfield with the county’s aid of $8 million in bonding assistance may not equal the landmark 2010 separation of church and state case of University of Cumberland vs. Rev. Pennybacker, but it does concern us equally. What precedent does this really set? If any of the many protestant churches in the county ask for this kind of assistance will they get it? It should be all treated equally or not at all. – “What has been the effort of religious coercion? But to make half the world fools, and the other half hypocrites.” – Thomas Jefferson –1785.

Predacious by nature; State/county bureaucracies equals higher taxes

We understand it is the nature of government to create more government agencies, disguised as a benefit for the average citizen. There is no denying that good things can come from local boards of citizens. The problem arises when the ‘board’ requests and is granted taxing authority by its fiscal court. Most all of Ky. counties have various boards or commissions such as library, extension, health dept., etc. Not all counties have granted them ‘taxing authority’. Once granted, the fiscal court rarely has the courage to take away such taxing ability. Simply put, a board has a voice to make recommendations. Given taxing authority, they have the ability to tax for their benefit, which creates power. And no one wants to give up power, especially to tax. Everyone on such boards always thinks they can spend your money better than you, and do things they consider great.

The following are examples where state recommendations/oversight might help at the local level.

Union County Library Tax

A few years ago the board had accumulated roughly a half-million dollars in it’s tax funded account and voted to build onto the existing library at a cost of roughly $1 million. This in a county of less than 15 thousand people. The rest was paid off via the state tax payers. As with any of these projects, the county taxpayers are left with paying extra taxes to operate a large building. For the past two decades anyone with internet access can access any library in the world with just a few clicks, or download any book. The glaring reality is when you look at your property tax bill and see the library tax is almost half of what the county gets to operate the entire county. The county often ‘supplements’ many of these buildings, as has been reported in our past newsletters, via open records request of the county. We suggest that the fiscal court take away the library’s taxing authority. Doing so might require a slight increase in the county portion of taxes, but it would still be less in overall property taxes.

We commend the citizens of Hopkins County for letting the magistrates there know a few years ago that if they granted taxing authority to their library board, as was requested, there would be new magistrates after the next election.

Extension Tax

While we are of a farming/ranching background, it is troubling to many of us when we asked why the county extension service recently bought a large vacant piece of property next to them, and spent thousands more to clear the trees. The response was that it was voted on by the board. That they had a lot of money sitting in their account from taxes and interest didn’t pay anything these days. When this becomes the situation then it seems they should give the money back to the taxpayer, or lower or eliminate the tax. It is a clear example of lack of oversight and true accountability that the new state auditor recently spoke of in regards to these types of boards. At a minimum there needs to be a state law regarding this. We once again give reference to the Daniels plan enacted in Indiana; once a set level of tax is collect per fund/board, a tax credit is given to the taxpayer in the following years. Not go out and buy/build something. When the library and extension tax are more than the health dept. tax, you know there is a strong lack of oversight at the fiscal court level.

Elected Officials Associations

(covered in Jan.’09 newsletter) We strongly feel no elected officials should be allowed to form an association/union to lobby the legislature for higher pay/benefits. It came to our attention several years ago in talks with the state auditor’s office regarding this matter. While membership is voluntary, the roughly $1,000/year dues per office holder is usually charged back to the taxpayer as an office expense, (this fact found through our open records request and county budget).

Example: in the late 1990’s the Ky. Jailers Assc. successfully lobbied the legislators to grant them by law equal pay to the county judge-executive. All office holders seem to want more pay/benefits from the taxpayer. What has been the benefit to the taxpayer?

Area Development Districts (ADD’s)

We realize all counties by state statute must belong to yet another form of bureaucracy known as their area development district. We feel this is a good place to save taxpayer money. The true benefit of belonging to an ADD is questionable, especially with there being a department of local government (DLG) in Frankfort, as well as other agencies who are most helpful in answering questions on how to get things done. We have reported in many past newsletters (via our open records requests) about the lavish trips, some to other countries, organized by ADD’s such as GRADD, at taxpayer expense, for the sole benefit of its directors, who are county judge-executives, and their families. How can this be justified as a necessity to the taxpayer, and still ask for their vote.

Energy Points of Concern

Unmined minerals tax

We feel only coal, oil, gas, and corporations that derive the majority of their income from mineral holdings should have to pay this tax. For all others, this tax is the equivalent of being taxed a percentage of the jackpot amount for simple buying a lottery ticket. Only a bureaucrat would come up with such a tax, or a govt. that has already wasted enough money and needs an extra source to continue to waste.

De-Monopolization with continued regulation

(covered in 4-10 newsletter) This has proven, in states such as Texas, to have spurred innovation, economic growth, and created many jobs. It gives consumers a choice in electric providers, and holds down monthly costs to consumers by having competition. Texas did this nearly a decade ago, and consumers there have a choice of seven electric providers, all regulated by the state. Isn’t freedom suppose to be about having choices. Of Note: Century Aluminum (Hawesville) and Alcan Aluminum (Sebree) have announced they plan to move their plants out of Kentucky over rising electric costs and no alternative choice.

Fox In The Henhouse

(newsletters 1-’08 & 6-’09) With top electric company CEO’s making multi-million dollar compensation, it is ludicrous for power companies to get any rate/fee increase from the PSC and atty. general’s office. It should be standard written policy that the state atty. general, and anyone in his energy regulation office, as well as all voting members of the PSC, should not be allowed to own stock, or have personal, family, or business ties to the companies they supposedly regulate.

Past rate increases are simply more of a negotiation. Ask for a large amount, and take anything you can get.

In Closing

These are but a few of the issues that are of concern to us. We hope you will draft meaningful legislation to these issues of concern, that will allow the citizen/taxpayer to keep more of what money they have left. However, as long as the majority of voters continue to elect the same people from the same political parties, they will get the same results from government. To that point; the majority must like paying high gas prices, no job creation, and no government accountability. They keep voting for it.

Notable quotes

The good thing about a democracy is everyone has a vote. The bad thing about a democracy is everyone has a vote, and the majority prove themselves to be fools at every election.” --Mark Twain

The American republic will last until the politicians realize they can bribe the citizens with government money” – Alexis DeTorqueville

The beginning of the end of this nation will be when the citizens realize they can vote themselves a check from the government by simply supporting a particular candidate or party.” – Ben Franklin


Disclaimer

Any attachments to this 2 page newsletter are not the work of anyone involved with the CFGA, and are therefore unauthorized. We encourage all to distribute this newsletter, but attachments will be considered libelous by us.

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See Also

References

  1. Citizens For Government Accountability Website