7-2-2008 Tax increases or: Reality sucks

You know, I never could quite understand why average citizens with much better things to do were so enraged over Halliburton, and other companies such as Bechtel.

Ooh, Bush gave them no-bid contracts. Yeah, but so did other administrations dating back to WWII. Doesn’t matter, it’s proof that Bush and his evil Big Oil and evil Big Baseball buddies invaded Iraq so as to personally profit!!!

Huh?

The Clinton administration did the same exact thing. Doesn’t matter, it’s proof that Bush and his evil Big Oil and evil Big Baseball buddies invaded Iraq so as to personally profit!!! Besides, Dick Cheney used to work for Halliburton, and he taught Ozzie Osbourne how to bite the heads off of bats when he wasn‘t shooting his friends in the face and chairing the resurgent Nazis!!!

Huh?

Look, I realize that it’s fashionable to read some of those militant 527 sites and then carry on as if you’re informed, but Halliburton? Dude, what about the Super Bowl? How ‘bout them Cowboys? Did Barry Bonds really inject the Incredible Hulk’s DNA directly into the middle of his forehead? If you were the very last man on Earth and Rosie O’Donnell was the last remaining woman, would you…

Why, you ignorant, homophobic, racist and sexist Rush Limbaugh fan! Halliburton is the worse thing since baseball, apple pie and Chevrolet. And if you don’t know that, you’re beyond help and should be aborted quite belatedly. Go thump your bible, molest your daughter and have another keg while you watch FOX news!!!

Huh?

Why would a guy with a wife and a kid and a car and a house and a teenaged daughter with a see-through blouse give a flying funk about Halliburton for even a fleeting nanosecond? What gives with these crazies? I don’t get it.

Well, turns out, all of the many, many, many 527s that relentlessly and savagely attacked Halliburton were and still are funded by international corporate raider, bank crasher and currency crasher George Soros. And when the attacks on Halliburton first began, Halliburton’s stock price was riding fairly high. And after years of relentless and vicious attacks by the ignorant and unknowing, but willing myrmidons, Halliburton’s stock price dipped to previously unimagined levels. And that’s when George Soros upped and purchased 2 million shares of Halliburton, the relentless attacks mysteriously subsided, the average dimwitted myrmidon in the street forgot all about Halliburton, the stock price returned to where it once was and George Soros made millions upon millions upon millions. In fact, he is now a major stockholder.

So, if you must spout and shout the company line you gleaned from sites such as MoveOn.org, the Center for American Progress, Media Matters, or Democracy Now, let it be known that you are a hapless, willing chump of still unknown proportions. You’re a dimwitted, easily-led dolt. You were used and George Soros is not going to share even a dime of his profits with you. The guy manipulated the stock market by using you, made an absolute killing and he owes it all to you, the chumps who graduated from Conspiracy Theory University with flying colors and all the pomp and circumstance to be expected.

The same folks who call those they disagree with Nazis in lieu of any cogent thought processes or any notable writing skills to speak of.

Halliburton?

Huh?

You dumb fu>ks.

From the e-mail inbox Mark--Have you seen this one?

Anonymous said...

I have not attended any City Council meetings due to my schedule, however I have an interesting question for you to ask the Mayor and Council Chairperson Kathy Kane regarding the City and its lack of accepting the reassessment.

I would like you to ask the City Council and Mayor if the reason for the City not accepting the County Reassessment values is because the City Administration is planning to raise our taxes this year and if they accept the reassessment values then the law would prohibit that from happening as well as the fact that all the folks in the BID would be placed in a very difficult position because they would be required to pay 2.57% on the new values which would put a lot of these businesses out of business,. Think about this for a minute and remember I am not very often wrong when I call something regarding this City Council. Remember when the City Council tried to stop the redistricting issue to try to save some council members full pension.?

The City Council has a budget of 20 million dollars in real estate taxes for 2008 and if they accept the County plan then they can only raise the taxes a MAXIMUM of 10% in 2009 which is 2 Million., and a lot of the merchants in the BID would be screaming because they would be having a increase in taxes twice because of the 2.57% on the assessed value of their property, this would be a major uproar in the downtown BID and a reason for some to lose their business. If the city does not accept the County plan the BID is safe from an increase and all the rest of the taxpayers are subject to another huge tax increase like we received in 2004 when Mayor Leighton increased our taxes by 12 mills which generated more than 2 million dollars to the City, therefore this year if the City rejects the county plan the City can raise taxes as much as they want because the Mayor has plunged the City into 30 million dollars in debt since taking office in 2004 and the City Union Contracts are up for negotiations and the City is going broke and needs more than the 10% allowed by the County plan for 2009. I would speculate that the City will accept the County plan in 2009 because then the city will be able to raise taxes as much as needed because the State mandated window of restriction is ended at the end of 2009 and therefore the City can have plenty of room to increase the taxes again in 2010 because the millage will have been reduced to allow for the reassessment values and then the taxpayers will be prepared for the increase as well..

I also find it very strange that this issue was never even put on the Agenda for any work session for discussion and this is the City Council's duty to handle this issue...

Walter Griffith Jr
570-XXX-XXXX

TXX

Yeah, I saw that. Thing is, it’s so completely lame, it wasn’t even worthy of a response.

A tax increase? Say it ain’t so, Walter! Say it ain’t so!

Perhaps he should start paying closer attention to the latest, breaking economic news.

Let’s do this:

The credit crisis plaguing Wall Street has also placed stress on the city's finances. With investors shying away from buying bonds, the interest rate municipalities have to pay has skyrocketed. Wilkes-Barre depends on debt to fund both its operating budget and projects such as a $25 million riverfront redevelopment project and a $22 million transportation facility that are already underway.

If borrowing becomes too costly, then it may have to scale back its ambitions or raise taxes, said Mayor Tom Leighton, who is hoping Wall Street returns to normal by year's end, when the city plans to restructure some of its debt.

"It's going to cripple us if we can't afford to borrow," he said. "The more it costs the city to borrow money, the less we can do."

Source: On the knife's edge of the downturn 4-9-08

Local municipalities, including Wilkes-Barre, often use bonds to operate more efficiently, ease budgeting shortfalls, build roads, renovate schools, and repair bridges. Bond insurance can help lower interest rates and increase demand for the bonds. The problems that bond insurers now face can create problems for the municipal debt markets and make it more difficult for cities and counties to provide the services that their citizens expect. As a result, cities might have to delay needed local projects or raise taxes to pay for them.

Locally, Ambac, one of the industry's leading players, insures about $50 to $60 million of Wilkes-Barre's debt and XLCA, another insurer, guarantees about $6 million of the city's obligations. Through these issued bonds, Wilkes-Barre funded many projects including the development of the Intermodal Center to improve transportation in the city and the creation of multiple parking garages in the downtown area. Fitch, one of the top ratings agencies recognized by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, recently downgraded Ambac and XCLA, which both had AAA ratings, to AA and A, respectively. Because the municipal bond ratings reflect the rating of the insurer, these downgrades could prove problematic for cities like Wilkes-Barre going forward.

Source: Wilkes-Barre Mayor Leighton Testifies at Capital Markets Subcommittee Hearing 2/14/08

County officials said millage rates must drop dramatically when the new assessed values take effect next year. That goes for school districts, the county and municipalities. For example, the county millage, currently at 94.9 mills, is expected to drop to about 5 mills after the reassessment. A mill is $1 tax for every $1,000 in assessed property. That means someone with a home worth $150,000 after reassessment would pay $750 in county taxes at 5 mills.

Luzerne County budgeted $70.3 million from property tax this year. The county is allowed to only collect that amount plus 10 percent in 2009 – the first year of the reassessment.

Source: Taxing bodies not in for windfall 7/2/08

Jeez, where does one start?

The unemployment rate in NEPA has risen approximately 1.5% during the past year. Obviously, every local community with a police, fire and/or department of public works department have gone seriously over budget whereas the exploding fuel costs are concerned. In Wilkes-Barre’s case, borrowing bond money is not only harder to achieve, but suddenly, almost prohibitively expensive.

We’re being told by Kevin Lynn of WILK to conserve, while the prices of produce rise almost above our reach. Gasoline is over 4 bucks a gallon and it’s surging price has not reached it‘s apogee. And for the first time ever, we’re seriously considering burning our children’s toys as an affordable, supplemental heat source.

In addition, we’ve got this reassessment fiasco. In a financial nutshell, just about nobody fully understands it, nor knows what to expect. I quizzed a city official about the city’s reluctance to adopt the county’s reassessment as it is, and I was told, quote: “It’s a mess.”

Unquote.

It’s a mess. That it is.

Leighton said city officials are looking at the new numbers but the uncertainty makes it difficult to prepare a budget.

“My budget for the city is due, by law, Oct. 15,” Leighton said. “Due to potential appeals, we won’t know what the actual assessed values are; therefore, we can’t calculate the anticipated tax revenue.”

The 2008 city budget totals $37 million and the taxing rate is 73.63 mills. A mill is a $1 tax for every $1,000 of assessed value.

“Many city residents will be appealing their new assessed values,” Leighton said. “I just don’t see how all those appeals will be completed by the deadline.”

Source: W-B has yet to OK new values 7/2/08

As things currently stand, for the purposes of municipal planning and administration, financial containments and financial uncertainties abound like never before. So, with all of that stated, it doesn’t take a freaking rocket scientist to predict municipal tax increases at this thoroughly jumbled and troubling juncture. Although, it does require a certain sort of self-aggrandizing person to suggest that something nefarious, or secret is afoot.

So, what would you do? If the keys to the city were entrusted to you, would you look to contain costs in a significant way? And I might add, in a city that is already running pretty lean and mean as it is. Or, would you accept the reality of the situation and raise taxes as little as humanly possible? Either way, if the word “mayor” regularly appears before your name, you’ll be a villain to some segment of the population no matter what. Maintain services and raise taxes? Or hold the line on taxes and shave off some of the services? Either way, as an elected official, you lose. And as a self-appointed political gadfly/candidate, Walter would be biting your heavily-taped ankles no matter what you decide to do.

As for “not very often wrong” Walter, this is the same guy who outright demanded we stick with the five firehouses, and the same guy who fought for the hiring of additional “per shift” manpower for the fire department. In other more pointed words, he was for a heftier payroll, and a substantially beefier budgetary outlay being devoted to the fire department. He rails against the benefits and pensions of the 7 elected officials, but argues for hiring new employees at nearly every turn. Employees, by the way, that would also be drawing decent benefits and pensions. Employees, by the way, that already number over 300. And now…now, he warns us about possible tax increases? What’s next? The tax increases are the direct result of the mayor’s exorbitant salary?

This is complete sophistry.

He spoke out against removing the downtown canopy, an obvious Wrong! on his part. So did I, but I was also the first to admit, after the fact, that the removal of the canopy network was the right way to go. He was vociferously against the formation and implementation of the Business Improvement District (BID), yet, our downtown has never, ever looked cleaner. Oh, yeah, and he told us that voting for council people by districts instead of at-large would lead to a “republican revolution.” With Walter, you have to consider the ill-informed source.

The thing that blindsided me was, why has he suddenly resurfaced? Is there an election being held later this year that I didn’t know about?

School districts across the country are cutting back on bus routing in an ill-fated attempt to cut their exploding fuel costs. So now the “kids today” can sound just like we do when we recant our illustrious tales of walking 10 miles to school at the furious height of the last 100-year typhoon. School lunch prices are being noticeably bumped up as the prices of foodstuffs continue to inch on up and into the ozone-depleted skies.

Numerous police departments across these fruity plains of ours are parking their vehicles where and when they can, and putting police officers on foot as a way of trimming back on those aforementioned rising fuel costs. And all of a sudden, lo and behold, bicycle patrols, long considered an ancillary to normal policing techniques, are on a serious up tick as a way of trying to protect the municipal bottom line. And just you wait for those winter heating bills to start arriving at city halls all over the place.

People, we’ve got ourselves some serious economic problems manifesting themselves all over the proverbial pie chart. And, it’s early yet. When those municipally-owned buildings need to be heated just a few short months from now, who knows where this is going to lead.

As far as Mayor Tom Leighton is concerned, I don’t care if Walter holds him, and Tim Grier makes a cameo appearance and beats on him. This, Gee, I think the mayor has a secret plan to raise your taxes and I am not very often wrong is so much superheated hot air, we could use it to resurrect the Wilkes-Barre Steam Heat Authority with ease. The entire interconnected financial world is desperately trying not to collapse all around us. And what? That’s Walter’s next vehicle to ride all the way to a seat on city council?

Cut me a major break already!

From the e-mail outbox To: Josh Klein
Subject: Re: The House Passes Sewage Right to Know

I'm curious. Why is it that I don't see my local congressman's, Paul Kanjorski, name on that bill? Was he for it? Against it?

Mark

From the e-mail inbox If Kanjorski didn't sign on as a cosponsor than it's tough to say whether he was either for or against it and he doesn't sit on the T&I committee so I doubt he had much of an opinion. His relative neutrality doesn't make for much - that's just how it is. And yes, I am very aware of the inflatable dam - I've met Dr. Fitzsimmons and Don Williams and was happy to be a part of an event two weeks ago honoring Don's work to kill the dam.

Fair enough, I guess.

It’s been very nuts and very crowded here this week. Grandrodents and their parents everywhere. And I love it, being surrounded by what’s most important to me: family.

Later






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