Citizens for Government Accountability
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.  The organization publishes a regular newsletter featuring the latest information about issues concerning Union County.
- Executive Director - J.C. McElroy
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.
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.
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.
“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
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
- Indiana Sales Tax Exemption for Farmers
- September 2010 Newsletter
- April 2010 Newsletter
- January 2010 Newsletter
- June 2009 Newsletter
- January 2009 newsletter
- July 2008 newsletter
- January 2008 newsletter
- August 2007 newsletter