Thursday, January 20, 2011

New Castle County is more BROKE than we thought

Recently, the News Journal broke stories (2 months too late) that prove Chris Coons is nothing short of a liar.  Both were from a report by Independent observer Dace Blaskovitz.  Coons spent more than 6 months telling Delawareans (especially New Castle County residents) that he was responsible with the County finances and that it was not in trouble.  He told us that everything was fine and that he was able to save the county from the brink of a fiscal meltdown.  Today, the News Journal's Chad Livengood has another story on the fiscal woes of New Castle County.  The new County Executive, Paul Clark (the man of a thousand ethics problems), has put in place a 30 person transition team ($$$$) to figure out how to get the county out of the HUGE hole it's in. 

What hole you ask?  If you've only been listening to Chris Coons, Paul Clark, Tim Sheldon and the rest of the Democrats in New Castle County government you would be unable to see the huge hole in county finances that they were hiding.  If County Council did not know the MASSIVE gap between spending and revenue existed then it is time to fire every single one of them (and this includes Councilman Weiner if he knew and was silent).  Folks, this is an absolute TRAVESTY of justice.  New Castle County began the new millennium with a $200 million SURPLUS and by 2015, if nothing changes, we will be $68 million in debt.  It will have swung 134% in the opposite direction.  This is DESPITE an increase in sewer fees of more than 60%, increases in other fees including the introduction of a new fee on contractors and a 54% increase in property taxes.  Does this sound like fiscal responsibility to you?  Could you do this at home?  Let's say you already had a huge savings account but were spending more than you made and you asked your boss for a raise of more than 60% and got it.  Now your pay has increased by more than 60%, you are spending all of your income and you still are eating into your savings account at more than 6% per year . You are to the point where you will be IN DEBT within 4 years.  Would it be time to go your boss for another raise or perhaps to address your spending habit?

Well according to Clark's transition team ($$$$) it's time to come to you for a raise.  Oh, Clark doesn't think that you property owners can afford more property taxes.  Instead he and his team will focus their "revenue enhancements" on "raising sewer bills to pay for federally-mandated improvements, charging for inspections of rental homes, cutting grass in county parks less frequently and county-wide reassessment of property values."  No mention of selling county land BACK to the private individuals who managed it before (like Carousel Park which was a net PLUS before the County took it over).  The report also calls for personnel cuts but it does not get specific except to say that the county should hire MORE employees in key areas.  In fact, the finance committee ($$$$) stated that it did not want to recommend specifics to actually FIX the structural problems with County government yet later in the report they call for Clark to lobby the General Assembly for the same 911 tax that Chris Coons lobbied for in 2007

The countywide reassessment of property values would be painful to some and easing on another.  The fact is that it MUST be done.  Homeowners today have their land values assessed at the 1983 level.  That's the same value as houses built almost 30 years ago.  Also addressed by the transition team is the suggestion that Clark address the county employee pay and benefits.  Currently many (mostly union members) county employees are receiving step increases annually and have MASSIVE pensions that are coming due more and more rapidly.  About 45% of the 1,400+ full-time county employees currently receive "step raises".  On the pension front, the report calls for the county pensions to be rolled into a more manageable 401(k) plan that is in line with private sector benefits.  This has of course, set the public employees unions into a tizzy.  Some of the county leaders have shouted that Coons and Clark have filled vacancies and then forced current employees to take pay cuts thereby punishing current employees.  ENOUGH!  I'm sick and tired of this stupid argument, hurting current employees by hiring new ones.  FOR YEARS the suggestions from every transition team and independent audit has been to deal with two things:
  1. Public employee Pensions
  2. The cost of the size of government (a.k.a. personnel costs)
And for years the unions and county managers have screamed that the county politicians are hiring new people and screwing current employees.  Meanwhile politicians have asked for the unions to take pay cuts.  Folks, they are both right!  The bottom line is that vacant positions must be eliminated and public sector employees must take cuts to pay and benefits.  It's unsustainable as it stands and the people don't want the cost for the services they are provided.  It's THAT simple.  That may mean we have to cut services or do more with less.  That is an issue that private companies face every single day.  It's called a tough choice and these politicians claim that they make them every day.  They are lying to us.  Their answer is to raise fees, that's the easy way out.  It's like us telling our bosses that we are going to TAKE a raise and not simply asking for it.

Folks, how long will we continue to sit back and let these people take every dollar we make in taxes?  When is enough going to be enough?  A sewer fee is no different than a property tax folks.  It's a tax in a different area of our life but it is a tax.  Are we that STUPID New Castle County?  Where is the line?  Please tell me, comment here, let me know, where do we draw the line?  When do we hold Chris Coons, Paul Clark, Tim Sheldon and the rest of these people accountable?  Electing Tom Kovach doesn't hold them accountable, Tim Sheldon is still on County Council.  Electing Tom Kovach is a STEP in the right direction but folks we need to elect people who will actually TAKE these steps that need to be taken.  We need to stop the union control of the county and work to bring the county back in line.  By balancing county government we will be able to focus on job creation in the private sector, returning companies like Dupont and others to prosperity by opening up new opportunities to bring their business efforts BACK to Delaware.  I say the time is now, what say you?

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