Difference between revisions of "Citizens for Government Accountability"

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==Current Newsletter==
 
==Current Newsletter==
This is the September 2010 newsletter from [[Citizens for Government Accountability]].
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This is the February 2013 CFGA newsletter.
  
===Judge Jenkins and Magistrates Vote To Increase Pay 2.73%===
+
Ky. State Senator Dorsey Ridley
Just over 30 days after his May primary win, [[Union County, Kentucky | Union County]] Judge-Executive Jody Jenkins recommended a 2.73% pay increase for all county employees. As noted in the 6-23-10 Sturgis News, Judge Jenkins could not get a motion to pass the pay raise from the magistrates in open fiscal court, so an executive session (private meeting) on the issue was called.  Thereafter, the pay raise was passed by the magistrates.
+
Capitol Annex Room 255
 +
Frankfort, Ky. 40601
  
While one can argue the amount of a ‘cost of living increase’, we do not contend that the hourly employees of the county that actually punch a clock deserve something.  But so do all of us.  At $10/hr. pay this is a .273 cents/hr. raise or $567/yr.  At $15/hr. it is an $852/yr. raise.  On a taxpayer funded county government salary of $60,000 this is a $1,638/yr. increase. At $75,000/yr. it is $2,047/yr. increase in pay. These are county officials salaries we have mentioned by office in past newsletters.  As taxpayers, we all must be making a lot more money, or our elected officials wouldn’t be giving themselves a pay increase, right?  They did get re-elected in the May primary, so they must feel entitled.
+
Dear Senator Ridley;
  
====Bell, California Here We Come==== 
+
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.
When it comes to elected officials giving themselves pay increases it is hard to top the city of Bell, California, population 40,000. As uncovered via an open records request of the city’s payroll by the L.A. Times paper, and widely reported across the country, the 4 member city council had increased their own pay over the past decade to $100,000 each.  They hired their current chief administrator in 1993 at $72k/yr., but his current pay was $787,637. His assistant manager pay is $376,288. The police chief pay of $457,000 was $150k higher than the police chief of L.A. They are currently under investigation by the state atty. general, former governor, Jerry Brown.
+
  
This kind of political behavior, whether here in Kentucky or in California, or elsewhere, is the result of the same people, the same families, the same political parties, being in office too longOr for that matter, being there at allPopularity doesn’t equate to good leadershipWe have to wonder, with most people that don’t work for the government just trying to hang on to their job, we wonder how many got a pay raise from their employer this year or last. '''Of Note''': Prior to being exposed for these atrocious salaries by the L.A. Times, Bell California was in the news for being the first U.S. city to replace all of its city workers by hiring a private company, thus saving taxpayers millions. Everyone now knows where the savings wentCertainly not to the taxpayers.
+
==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 taxThis 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?
 +
 
 +
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 returnThat is political leadership! 
  
====Corpus Delicti====
+
===$8 million for a new Catholic school?===  
A national survey released in early August 2010 shows that the average government worker makes twice what a person working a non-government (private sector) job earns doing the same type work, once healthcare and retirement benefits are figured in.  How can taxpayers continue to afford this?
+
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 equallyWhat 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.
  
===School Board To Raise Property Taxes- Again- To Increase Salaries===
+
==Predacious by nature; State/county bureaucracies equals higher taxes==
As reported in the local media, the Union County School Board has voted in salary increases and passed an increase in property taxes to do so.  The tax increase will generate and additional $661,455Minus collection costs, just over 90% of the increase will go to higher salaries, the remaining to the building fund.  
+
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., etcNot 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. 
  
As quoted in the June 30, 2010 Union County Advocate, school board chairperson Jennifer Buckman stated, “We are very fortunate to be able to give our teachers these raises.”  What needs to be pointed out is the fact that their ability to give these raises comes solely from their ability to increase taxes.  It does not come from anyone at the central school office doing anything to reduce operation cost, such as consolidating positions to save money the way all corporations now do that don’t operate out of the taxpayers pocket. Any savings could be used to give teachers a raise, or simply give the taxpayer a break.  However, those working at the central office will get bigger raises than the teachers.  We reported these salaries by position in our January ’09 newsletter, and they were more recently reported in the local papers.  Simply put, the chiefs are making too much and the indians not enough. But don’t cry too hard for the teachers. They aren’t broke. Just not paid as much as they would like, just like most of the rest of us.  
+
The following are examples where state recommendations/oversight might help at the local level.
  
====Taxpayer Can You Spare a Dime====
+
===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. 
  
The American Federation of Teachers (AFT) 2008 rankings for teacher pay states [[Kentucky]] teachers rank 23rd nationwide in pay. However, they fail to consider cost of living difference between states, and state(taxpayer funded) teacher pension plans. In other words, it costs a lot more to live in the North East or West Coast areas compared to the South East. Therefore, teachers, carpenters, plumbers, attorneys, etc. all make more in big cities, and in other parts of the country because of the higher cost of livingThe John Locke Foundation, which routinely tracks teacher compensation nationwide, ranks Kentucky teacher pay at 3rd best in the nation in its 2008-09 figures. This ranking does include cost of living costs per state, healthcare benefits and state taxpayer contributions to teacher pension funds. The national average teacher pension fund match is 9.1% Kentuckians contribute 12.36% toward their teachers pension fund. <ref>[johnlocke.org/acrobat/spotlight-367_teacherpay2009pdf John Locke Foundation]</ref>
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===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 boardsAt 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.  
  
''Next to parents, teachers have the biggest impact on a child/students life''Higher pay, especially in administration, is not the answer to higher test scores in the classroomBetter accountability at all levels is neededAs reported in the June 30, 2010 Advocate, Union County Schools agreement with teachers has starting teacher pay at over $27,000, with a rank 1 certified teacher with 10 years experience currently paid $50,048/yr. based on a 185 day work year. Which is 2 less days than last yearNot many other careers can make this claim.   
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===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/benefitsIt 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).
====The High Cost of Public Relations in the Union County School System====
+
 
The position of Director of Public Relations has been brought to our attention by several in Union CountyVia a response from our records request, this position was ‘created’ in the 08-09 school year, based on a 240 day a year work schedule.  This position currently pays $61,671, and with the recent pay increase it will pay over $62,000/yearIn comparison, [[Henderson County Schools]], which has a student population 3 times greater than Union, pays all central office positions based on a flat pay schedule. This eliminates bias and favoritism. Their communications coordinator (P.R. person) starting pay is $22,800/yr. based on 261 days worked a year, with a 1% pay increase for the first 7 years on the job. (information received from Henderson Coounty Schools human resources department)
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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 taxpayer.  What has been the benefit to the taxpayer?
+
 
Most newspaper editors would be happy with the Union County salary, with less responsibilities. In a small community such as this, a newspaper editor would think they had won the lottery with a salary of this level, and a public relations person would be working under an editor or managerNow how can the Union County school board members justify this?
+
===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 moneyThe 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 familiesHow 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 taxFor 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 competitionTexas 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
  
'''Of Note:'''  Current [[Kentucky Department of Education]] figures show that [[Union County High School]] juniors ACT test scores lag the state average in all areas tested.
+
''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
  
===Courthouse Bi-Centennial Parking Lot – They Park, We Pay===
 
Over a year ago the fiscal court voted to purchase the Todd furniture building (formerly the Davis Ford property), behind the courthouse, adjacent to the new million-dollar library.  The purchase price in the mid eighty thousand dollar range was not a bad purchase.  The building was in bad shape and needed to be torn down.  At that asking price only the fiscal court, i.e. the taxpayers, could afford the property.  Currently the property is used by the courthouse workers and library for parking.
 
  
As reported in the local papers earlier this summer, the fiscal court has voted to allocate $190,500 to develop the current parking lot into the bi-centennial memorial parking lot, complete with a monument and other amenities with parking for up to 25 vehicles.  If all the money allocated is spent, and when hasn’t taxpayer money allocated to a project not been fully spent.  ''Then the cost of the parking lot for the courthouse staff and the library will be roughly $275,000, or about $11,000 per parking space''.  In regards to these type of expenditures some of the magistrates usually state that coal severance funds and state grants are ‘free money’ to spend.  We should all remind them that it is still taxpayer money regardless of were it comes from.
+
==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.
  
 
==CFGA Newsletter Archives==
 
==CFGA Newsletter Archives==
 
*[[Indiana Sales Tax Exemption for Farmers]]
 
*[[Indiana Sales Tax Exemption for Farmers]]
 +
*[[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]]

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.

CFGA Newsletter Archives


See Also

References

  1. Citizens For Government Accountability Website