Archive for August, 2011

Out of the Blue

Heh.  Someone forwarded an email to me.  The subject of the email was “Ask me about your TAX CUT!”, and the body said this:

Ask me about your TAX CUT!

Doesn’t everyone want a tax cut?

Press release August 18, 2011

Dan Rattigan & Mary Ryan incumbent Supervisors running for re-election in November recently announced that there will be a

Tax Reduction for Upper Makefield Residents in 2012.

Dan Rattigan stated the reduction will be possible due to reduced expenditures for the past two years.  From June 30, 2009  to June 30, 2010 expenditures were down more than 9%.  From June 30, 2010 to June 30, 2011 expenditures were down another 10%.

Mary Ryan added that these reductions were accomplished by specific line item cuts, restructuring of contracts and review of consultant costs.  “We take our responsibility to the Upper Makefield taxpayers very seriously.” Ryan said.

Rattigan added “Our ongoing efforts and dedication is why there was no tax increase in 2011. We have navigated through the worst recession in forty years.”

Both candidates confirmed that they are committed to maintaining services while decreasing township taxes.  “We have the skills and experience to make sure Upper Makefield is fiscally healthy and remains a great place to live.”

Do you want to know more?

Email:
AskmeUMT@gmail.com

For the record, there has been no press release that has announced a tax cut for Upper Makefield, at least not one that I’ve been able to find.  Most of the quotes were taken from the news article reporting Rattigan’s switch to the Democrats.  And that was dated August 14.

And while a tax cut could happen, neither Rattigan nor Ryan – not even when you put them both together, with a dash of salt – can authorize a change in taxes.  That has to be voted on by the whole board of supervisors.

Beyond that, the whole tenor of the email is odd, as if a kid had put it together.  Actually, most of the kids I know would have put together something better than that.  But the message, especially that first line, sounds a little like “Ask me about ALL THE PRESENTS THAT I PLAN TO PUT UNDER THE TREE FOR YOU!!! (if you vote for me).”

It’s just what came to mind, reading the email.

My position?  No tax increases or decreases until the deficit is addressed.  A balanced budget, please!

Anyway, step up AskmeUMT@gmail.com and tell us more!

Advertisements

Washington Crossing – the Delaware After Irene

The Delaware was pretty high at around 3PM yesterday, but it was higher still earlier than that.  Here are some pictures from the afternoon, along Washington Crossing Park.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The water was moving fast!

(Yes, that was me, slipping slightly towards the end.)

River Road was closed further along; I could see the flooding but didn’t walk up to take a picture.  Taylorsville Road was closed from one direction as well.  A lot of people lost power.  One person I know just got their power back today.

We got some water downstairs, but that’s about it.  I think we were very lucky – no power loss.  The most worrying thing for me is the state of our trees.  All that water can undermine older trees, and they can come down suddenly.

But… kids were happy.  No school!

Heirloom Pens

For the past few years I’ve gone to the Delaware Valley woodcarver’s show, held in the spring at the Bucks County Tech high school.

I’ve been going because a friend of mine has taken up woodcarving.  He comes in from New York, and I go to visit with him, and see his work.

Last spring his table was next to a table where a number of wooden pens were displayed.  I got to chatting with the man at that table, Marc Dowdell, who’s located in Yardley.

His pens are rather unique, since they’re made with materials from places of historical interest.  I’m kind of a sucker for stuff like that.  Anyway, his pens were quite nice, and many of the prices are pretty reasonable.

Here’s his website.  I found his pens interesting, and I thought you might, too.

Town Without Pity

In my last post I went through the township budgets for 2008-2011, to demonstrate that the budget numbers proposed have been outlandish, and that actual expenses have never really been cut.

In this post I want to go back to November and December of 2009, when the preliminary 2010 budget was presented, and the one mil tax increase was proposed and passed.

At that point in time the board consisted of Dan Rattigan (chair), Bud Baldwin, Dave Kulig, Bob West, and Dan Worden, and it was clearly a divided board.  West and Worden opposed a tax increase; the others, not so much.

On November 4, 2009, the preliminary 2010 budget was presented.  There was a lot of talk about falling revenues, increased expenses, cost-cutting actions taken.  By then the supervisors had cottoned to the fact that the year-end deficit was not going to be the $2.779 million dollars originally anticipated (including the Gateway grant), but it would instead be closer to $850,000.  There was a chart showing how cash reserves had been used to balance the budget for years.

Here I just want to insert a note about the cash reserves.  There must be other things hitting those reserves, things not shown in the budget.  During this presentation the 2009 beginning year fund balance was shown as $2.581 million.  The 2009 outside auditor’s report dated July of 2010, available here, shows a 2009 beginning fund balance of $3.127 million.  That’s nearly a half-million dollar difference.

The tax increase was proposed to make up an anticipated shortfall in the reserves.  The point was made that at the beginning of any year, money is needed to carry the township for some months until new tax receipts start coming in.  The recommended reserve balance was about $600,000, and based on the projection for the remainder of 2009 and the proposed 2010 budget, the cash reserves would fall to about $50,000 by the start of 2011.

(That’s according to the township presentation.  My numbers don’t show that, but that slippery cash reserve balance won’t stay put!)

I have a problem with this “save the cash reserves and we’re okay” approach.  While the claim was made that a “scalpel” was used on the preliminary 2010 budget, “again and again and again”, budgeted 2010 expenses were $6.045 million, or $445,000 more than actual 2009 expenses of $5.6 million (adjusted for the Gateway grant).  The scalpel looks more like a spoon, adding to the dish rather than cutting away.

At the same time, the 2010 anticipated revenue total without the tax increase would have been about $4.534 million, up only $134,000 from the 2009 actual revenues of about $4.4 million (adjusted again for the Gateway grant).

The time when a tax increase was proposed would have been an excellent time to point out that deficit budgeting, which had already drawn down cash reserves, would only continue to do so in the future.

And we know exactly what happened.  Because, like “deja vu all over again”, on November 3, 2010, the board announced that the cash reserve fund would be in jeopardy at the start of 2012, and another tax increase – this time a 3 mil one – was proposed.

You might argue that you take things a year at a time.  The economy could get better, revenues could go up.  But you play the hand you’re dealt, not the wishful thinking in your mind.  If revenues have been going down for 3 straight years, and all national economic indicators suggest that a rebound is not on the immediate horizon, when do you get serious about real cuts to expenses?

That 2010 “scalpel” wasn’t applied to expenses at all.  Dollars out the door stayed the same in 2008, 2009, and 2010.  The 2010 “scalpel” was applied to whatever budget was originally suggested in September/October of 2009, and result was “only” a $445,000 budgeted increase in expenses over 2009.  The 2009 kabuki replays in 2010.  Actual expenses in 2010 were about $5.661 million, and budgeted 2011 expenses at that time were about $5.986 million, “only” a $325,000 dollar increase, an amount larger than the prior year’s tax increase.  And that proposed 2011 budget, with an assumed 3 mil tax increase, wasn’t balanced.

Even with multiple tax increases on the table, the deficits march on.

This… Budget… Won’t… BUDGE!

On November 8, 2011 (that’s Election Day), 3 Upper Makefield supervisor seats will be up for vote.

A hot issue, I suspect, will be the township’s finances.  There was a one mil tax increase in 2009 for 2010, which was voted on and passed by the supervisors.  There was a 3 mil tax increase proposed in 2010 for 2011, but that one failed, mostly because residents turned out en masse to protest.  Instead, it was agreed that the cable fund (something over $700K) would be transferred to the General Fund.

I believe that the 2009 tax increase, and the proposed 2010 increase, fueled the Republican primary upset in May, putting Larry Breeden, Ernest Sasso, and Guy Polhemus on the Republican ballot.

I’m glad.

(It also caused RATtigan to get into a major snit and take his toys over to the Dems.  And it caused KC Christian to flutter to the left, cooing “I loooooove me some Democrats”).

Anyway, I think the time has come to take a closer look at the township budgets, and attempt to answer these questions:

Questions

  1. How have the supervisors done with the budgeting over the last few years?
  2. How have the supervisors managed deficits over the last few years?
  3. How have the supervisors done controlling expenses over the last few years?

Answers

  1. Suck-y
  2. Suck-y
  3. Double-plus suck-y

Now for the part where I back this up.

My premises are two, and they are simple.

First, how you perform against your budget means nothing if your budget is crap.

Second, you’re not cutting expenses if your expenses remain about the same every year.

On the township website is the ‘final 2011’ proposed budget in .pdf form.  You can get it here, but I wouldn’t bother.  The final 2010 actuals are not filled in, and the beginning and ending cash balances are all weird and wrong.

The documents I’ll be referring to are the preliminary 2011 budget that was available to residents last fall (and you can get it here); the 2008 budget vs. actuals document from the township (available here); the 2009 budget vs. actuals document from the township (available here); and the 2010 budget vs. actuals document from the township (available here).

The reason I go back to 2007 is because 2007 is the last year that Upper Makefield had a balanced budget.  So let’s start there.

But first, let me say this.  The 2007, 2008, and 2009 General Fund budgets contain 2 expense line items and 1 revenue line item that I strongly feel do not belong there.  These belong to the Gateway grant for the Washington Crossing Streetscape project.  This is a multi-year grant with a fixed purpose, and that purpose is not to fund the township’s operating costs.  These line items obscure some relevant patterns of expense.  So I removed these from the revenue and expense totals.

In 2007, adjusting both totals down by $100,000 for the Gateway grant, actual incoming revenues for the township’s General Fund totalled about 5.8 million, and actual expenses totalled about 5.8 million.

Yay!

Now let’s look at 2008.  In that year, total budgeted expenses were just over 10 million dollars (adjusting down $2 million for the Gateway grant).

You read that right.  In 2008 the supervisors actually thought expenses would increase more than 4 million dollars – more than 70%! – over what was actually spent in 2007.

And what did they end up spending in 2008?  About 5.6 million (adjusting down $1.8 million for the Gateway grant).

2009: total budgeted expense, adjusting down $217,000 for the grant, was about 7.8 million, almost a 40% increase over 2008 actuals.  Actual 2009 expense, adjusting down $200,000 for the grant, was about 5.6 million.

There’s that number again!

2010: total budgeted expense (the grant is now gone) was about 6 million, pretty close to the 2007 budget (but without the 2007 revenue).  Actual 2010 expenditures… wait for it… about 5.6 million.

What is it with that number???

Why doesn’t it ever move?

Lets compare actual revenues to expenses for the years 2007 – 2010 (adjusted for the streetscape grant):

2007 revenues 5.8 million vs 2008 revenues 4.6 million: down 20.6%

2007 expenses 5.8 million vs 2008 expenses 5.6 million: down 3.5%

2008 revenues 4.6 million vs 2009 revenues 4.4 million: down 4.3%

2008 expenses 5.6 million vs 2009 expenses 5.6 million: no change

2009 revenues 4.4 million vs 2010 revenues 5 million: up 13.6% (and don’t forget that includes the 2010 tax increase!)

2009 expenses 5.6 million vs 2010 expenses 5.6 million: no change

Since 2007, township General Fund revenues have dropped nearly 14 percent.  Expenses since 2008: no change at all.

If you’re serious about cutting expenses, your budget will be something less than the actual expenses of the prior year, barring known one-time experiences or upcoming events.  This hasn’t been happening in Upper Makefield since 2008.  Budgets have been wildly out of line with prior years, and with the actual experience.

And expenses, in total, haven’t moved an inch.

Why would someone propose such bizarre budgets?  I have 3 ideas:

  1. They don’t know what they’re doing
  2. They want to push for a tax increase
  3. They want to look like they’re holding the line at costs, so they inflate anticipated costs

In 2008, the deficit looked like it would be nearly 5.3 million.  In fact it was about 863,000.

In 2009 the deficit looked like it would be nearly 2.8 million.  In fact it was about 764,000.

In 2010, the year of the one mil tax increase, the deficit looked like it would be nearly 1.3 million.  In fact it was about 682,000.

That’s just sick.

And how does 2011 look?  Budgeted expenses totalling nearly 5.9 million, pretty close to the actual experience of 2007 (albeit with some $300,000 less in expected revenue, even with the Cable Fund money).  Anticipated deficit of nearly 382,000.

Let’s hope the final actual expense number for 2011 is somewhere south of 5.6 million.

I think I’ve made my case.

Yes We’re Gonna Have A Party – Party – Switch

Word is that Kathleen – “KC” – Christian, who lost in the Republican primary for Upper Makefield supervisor last May, is… wait for it… going over to the Democrats.

Hmmm… isn’t this the same KC who proudly posed with Mike Fitzpatrick and Chris Christie?

Whose father may be considering a run for PA senator as a republican?

Whose fiance, Sean Schafer, is an aide for republican state senator Tommy Tomlinson?

Geez, with Republicans like KC Christian, who needs Democrats?

Here’s a picture of one of her pieces of campaign literature from last May’s primary.

Here’s a thought: KC Christian is a young woman who’s selling her soul to go after a job that’s not very sexy.  Why?

Once she’s married, where does she plan to live?

Why has she lost her pride in being a Republican?

Maybe it’s time to rethink support for her father, should he run, and rethink support for Tomlinson, if he runs again.

I know I will.

This boat won't float with these 3 clowns!

Rattigan? Not THAT again!

That’s my campaign slogan for Dan Rattigan, one of them, at least.  Free of charge!  Sign it and spread it around!

Or maybe he could say everytime the voters vote me out, I find a way to drag myself in.

Why would someone do a party hop?  Because Dan got his panties in a wad when he was knocked out of the ring in the Republican primary last May.  If he has to high tail it to another party to get on the ballot to stay in the running, he will hike his butt anywhere.  Disgusting.

Democrats deserve him.  Rattigan’s record is one of raising or wanting to raise taxes (2009 up 1 mil, 2010 wanted another 2-3 mil increase) so he can SPEND it.  And he says he’s running on tax cuts?

Pay attention, folks.  The Upper Makefield budget has been in deficit since 2008.  Spending less than you anticipated in any given year doesn’t mean you’ve filled the
hole, and these supervisors haven’t.  The actual 2010 deficit was nearly one million dollars.  The budget is on the Upper Makefield township website (look under Government / Departments / Finance), but this new online version leaves off the line: Revenues Exclusive of Cash vs. Expenditures.  That’s what I have in my printed version, and that’s where you see the scary annual deficits.

So you’ll have to do the math yourself.

Subtract Total Expenditures from Revenues Exclusive of Beginning Cash.  For 2010, that would be an income of $4,870,333 minus expenses of $5,862,866. That year’s revenues includes the 1 mil tax increase. Deficits are made up from the cash reserves  (aka Beginning Cash), which are shrinking fast.  2008 deficit: $863,310.  2009 deficit: $573,287.  There was no concerted effort to cut expenses in 2009; the streetscape grant and expenses, which should never have been in the general fund, distort the figures over these 2 years.

Rattigan and Ryan saying they are cutting expenses is EXACTLY like the lady who owes $30K on her credit card, has no job, and reluctantly agrees to a less expensive granite for her kitchen remodel project.  Hey, she’s saving money!

Anybody awake out there?

Send this loser RATtigan down the Delaware, along with Cryin’ Ryan.

My other campaign slogan: Not Dan RAT again!  Take your pick!