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Posted: 20 April 2013 08:32 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 16 ]
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This sort of reminds me of the time when Sam Brownback was student body president and sought to cut all student funding for debate, which at the time was funded by the student senate.  I asked him what we were supposed to do and he said “Have a bake sale or a car wash.” It is comforting to know that some people never change.

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Posted: 20 April 2013 03:25 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 17 ]
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Debbie:  I am not fully confident that the SSAB actually works in the best interest of the City Taxpayers.  That is why I advocated a relook of the organization of that board.  I believe it has in the past been more an advocacy board than and advisory board.  They concentrate on getting tax dollars for the agencies and do not advocate for donations.  But again my focus is not so much of the agencies themselves but on the fact that they consume tax dollars.  I can buy into a connection with city core services as a reason to support selected agencies.  But stating that the evaluation of those agencies is more stringent than eco devo efforts sounds good, but I would not concur with that assessment.  I will continue to believe that a better course of action is outlined in the referenced paradigm shift document, which provides a comprehensive case for change. (Sorry Larry I had to use the hated word)

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Posted: 20 April 2013 03:26 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 18 ]
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Bob:  Here is my take on the Consolidation discussion at the Joint County City Meeting.

General impression (My opinion of what was said):

1.  Dave Lewis is essentially not a supporter of the concept.  He stated that his constituents were against the idea.  He suggested meeting again later in the year.
2. The Pott County Commission commented that it would not really provide any savings.
3. Karen McCullough referenced old studies and reports.  What this did was demonstrate that ten years or so of studies and discussion have produced nothing.  She also focused on legal aspects essentially conveying the message that it might be too hard.  I got the impression that Lewis, McCullough and the Pott County Commission folks would just as soon kick the can down the road and not deal with it.
4. Ron Wells and Rich Jankovich did not provide much comment.  Usha Reddi talked around the issue getting hung up on word meanings and rambled on about collaborative efforts, but without any concrete proposals.
5.  It appeared as though Bob Boyd, John Matta and I were the only three in attendance that were really interested in actually doing something about consolidation.
6. The staffs of both the County and the City did not appear to be enthused. 
7. No one believed that government consolidation could be achieved short of 10 or so years.

I think that at present all we can do is work toward combining some city and county functions.  We did agree to have Bob Boyd take the lead at the county in taking creation of a system that would put the County in charge of GIS efforts.  The city would take the lead in traffic signals city and county wide.  This is a baby step, but at least gets the ball rolling. If we can increase efficiency, save money and improve quality by consolidation of functions under one roof it is a start.  Once we get a few of those things rolling, we can move on to maybe consolidation of actual department between county and city.  The last step would then be real government consolidation.  It appears that at the end of the discussion everyone agreed to look at consolidation of functions, starting with GIS and Traffic signals – with a 90 day time frame instead of years.  If we can get these two minor things in place we can then move the discussion to consolidation of departments.  The actual idea of consolidated government seems to scare a lot of folks to the point that they do not even want to discuss the concept.  Clearly consolidated government cannot happen in a year or two.  I think a gradual transition could work and the idea of this type of change could be sold over a ten year period. Consolidate GIS and traffic light functions, then maybe consolidate Parks and Rec departments, Public Works or created a Riley County Fire Department and finally set up a transition plan to consolidated city/county government.

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Posted: 20 April 2013 03:59 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 19 ]
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Wynn’s analysis is about what would be expected….

Lewis & McCullough:  Are, or have, enjoyed the higher pay afforded to County Commissioners.  Are enjoying the political limelight.  Neither will ever support consolidation.
Wells & Jankovich:  Won’t favor consolidation.  Wells affiliation with the Home Builders Association will not want to see Manhattan’s stricter code enforcement affecting builders outside the City limits.  Jankovich is in the Chamber’s pocket.  When the Chamber says “Frog”, Manhattan city staff jump… HIGH!  If consolidation would see current City staff marginalized by a joint government agency, the Chamber could lose some clout.  Wells and Jankovich will remain quiet, hoping this discussion goes away.
Reddi:  Would expect to see lots of “rambling on without offering concrete proposals” over her term as City commissioner.
Matta, Butler, and Boyd:  Hard right conservatives who want to reduce the size of government.
Pott County:  Fear a marriage of Riley County and the City of Manhattan would end up with them losing tax revenue from the portion of Manhattan located in Pott County.  Pott reaps hugh financial benefit as Manhattan grows east.
City and County staff:  Why would any city or county employee support a project that could well eliminate their own job??

One or two small peanuts projects will be joint City/County ventures, appeasing the conservatives and the discussion of consolidation will quietly come to an end.

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Posted: 20 April 2013 04:38 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 20 ]
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Wynn, I think you deliberately misunderstand the role of SSAB to suit your purpose.  One hopes that people who serve on SSAB are people who support social services and believe that taxpayer support of those services is a good idea.  However, SSAB members should NOT be expected to do fundraising or advocate for fundraising.  The social service agencies should do that for themselves.

And how would you know whether or not the evaluation of those agencies is more stringent than the evaluation of an economic development application unless you’ve been involved with a site visit or been associated with an agency that has been evaluated.  I have been involved with both.  I have also been involved with the submissions of applications to the city to request economic development funding.  I can tell you with every degree of certainty that the former was more stringent than the latter.  I can also tell you that the social service agencies are expected to meet their performance requirements in ways that businesses that have received economic development funds have not been.  I can think of two examples where social service agencies were denied funding or asked to return funding because they did not do what they said they would on their applications.

The city (and city commission) needs to do a better job of ensuring there are performance requirements and clawbacks in all contracts with outside agencies.

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Posted: 20 April 2013 09:32 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 21 ]
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wynn, was there any discussion about a consolidation study by folks who don’t have a dog in the fight?  was glasscock’s oped mentioned at all?  also, did anyone bring up the idea of consolidating the rcpd under the county as was done with the health department?  seems to me that would be natural follow-on.

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Posted: 21 April 2013 10:25 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 22 ]
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Debbie:  On the SSAB issue I have made my viewpoint clear and published it in the links.  The SSAB is an advocacy board.  It likes and pushes the idea of tax support.  The culture of that board is part of the problem.  It exists to distribute tax dollars.  I have looked at the process attended meetings read the evaluations and I do not concur that the process is sound.  The board needs major adjustment/change as I indicated in my earlier documents.  The simple fact that UFM scholarships is considered as a Social Service is part of the problem.  That one agency for sure should be eliminated, it is not anywhere near something like the Crisis Center or MES.  The effort needs to be on helping the organizations do better in fund raising and limiting tax support to agencies that directly impact city core services like RCPD.  For sure I do not want to see the Emergency Shelter or the Crisis Center go under.  But,  If the Mercy Community Clinic can function without asking for tax dollars then the other agencies can also do a much better job.

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Posted: 21 April 2013 10:30 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 23 ]
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Bob:  RCPD was at the meeting. No one suggested moving it to the County as we did the health department.  I have been thinking about that process and I actually think it might be a good idea.  The tax bill for RCPD would remain the same for most of us we either pay the county or the city.  The workload of the County Commission would go up, if the Law Board was eliminated.  Or the County Commission Could continue the Law Board n some advisory capacity to help. The article that Kent wrote was not discussed.  I am sure somebody can produce a list of reasons why it should not be done, but I cannot think of too many negatives at present.  If we just flat moved it like the Health Department the City mil would go down and the county up - end result for City Residents would be the same tax bill, County residents might end up with an increase.  Not sure if this would have any impact on the Pott County side of the city.

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Posted: 21 April 2013 12:38 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 24 ]
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Wynn, again, you deliberately confuse the issue. It was the public that thought taxpayer support of social services was warranted and appropriate and thus SSAB was established.  Since then, SSAB has done the job required under their bylaws and clearly fundraising is NOT one of them.  It’s understandable that members of SSAB would want to defend their recommendations during the annual budget process—SSAB members, by and large, support social services and think that tax dollars support should be provided.  I would also argue that you truly don’t understand what a social service is, what it does, or how it functions in tandem with other agencies.  If you did understand, you would understand UFM’s role.  Granted, it’s a minor role, but an important role nevertheless (and a ridiculously small sum of money to be fussing about).  And as you well know, ultimately SSAB only makes recommendations to the commission—the commission can decide to not fund any agency it so chooses.  However, I think it would be disrespectful to the members of SSAB and to the process to ignore their recommendations unless of course they just totally missed the mark for some reason.  As far as helping organizations do a better job of fundraising, even if they were to do a better job, that would not necessarily eliminate the need for taxpayer support.  Many granting agencies expect to see taxpayer support as part of the match requirement.  The Flint Hills Community Clinic (it is not the “Mercy” Community Clinic) is heavily subsidized by Via Christi and, who knows, may come to SSAB some day again to ask for tax dollars.  They have done so in the past, but were not recommended for funding because at the time city tax dollar support went to the Health Department and the Health Department provided care for the indigent.  The hope was that the FHCC and the Health Department would establish a closer working relationship, but it doesn’t seem that has happened.  However, it seems that the fault there, in my view, lies with the Health Department and not the Community Clinic.

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Posted: 22 April 2013 03:54 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 25 ]
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Debbie:  We are never going to agree on this particular topic.  You are a strong advocate of almost unlimited SSAB support as evidenced by the 2% of the General Fund Petition.  I am for reduced reliance on government and advocate a combination of limited government support and increased fund raising as outlined in the Paradigm shift article. 

I am not confusing anything.  It was not the public that thought taxpayer support of social services was warranted.  The original board was set up to distribute federal dollars from the law suits against tobacco companies.  Once the money ran out, the thing should have been eliminated.  But it took on a life of its own.  I think it is a false statement to make the generalization that the public as a whole or majority support the SSAB concept.  The Special Alcohol Board is another board that should go away if the state liquor tax is revoked or changed – the city should attempt to fill any gap in that funding.

Ten agencies seem to think that the government owes them support.  The by laws of the SSAB need adjusted to include fund raising and management of the donation effort (water bill).  In addition the SSAB needs to actually follow the bylaws by providing the required priority list, which it has not done for the past two years.  UFM is not a social service and should not be funded.  Any sum of money is significant.  The small amounts add up to the 272 million dollar city debt. No agency should be encouraged to apply for funds.  Everyone should be encouraged to figure out how to be self-sufficient like the Mercy supported Flint Hills Community Clinic.  The issue here is simple – those that are concerned about support of what they define as social services need to spend less time figuring out ways to extract tax dollars (petitions, lawsuits etc) and more time in figuring out how to donate and facilitate donations.  I am still waiting for petition signatories to actually donate their own money instead of the property owner’s money. 

The SSAB is in fact advocates of tax dollar support; they are resistors to fund raising efforts and initiatives like the water bill donation effort.  They (the current board) are not a friend of the average tax payer and are not helpful in the process of balancing the budget.  They continue to perpetuate the false line that even with increased donations taxpayer support would still be needed.  That is false as only ten of the agencies in our area rely on city tax dollars.  The fact of the matter is that we are subsidizing agencies that are the least efficient at fund raising and actually rewarding them for being so inefficient.  The Crisis Center, the Emergency Shelter, Boys and Girls Club and maybe CASA can be traced to core city functions.  If we lose those services it might impact RCPD, so a case can be made for support of agencies that can be linked to core city services.  Instead of putting 300K against 10 agencies, put it against four and get a better bang for the buck – that is what priorities are all about.  UFM does not make the cut.

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Posted: 22 April 2013 04:47 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 26 ]
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Wynn, please don’t exaggerate.  Two percent (2%) does not equate to “unlimited SSAB support.”  The amount of the general fund budget allocated to social services over the past ten years has never exceeded 2%.

Tobacco settlement funds have absolutely nothing to do with SSAB.  SSAB was established well before the lawsuits against the tobacco companies.  Our community has received funding as a result of the tobacco settlement via the Health Department.  Those funds were used by the Health Department for tobacco prevention and cessation programs and for the childcare programs which function out of the Family & Child Resource Center.

More than 20-years ago our community decided that tax payer support of social services was the right thing to do—it was our moral contract with the community.

Again, I am glad that no one else on the commission supports your narrow view about the role of SSAB and what it should and shouldn’t do.  UFM does indeed provide a social service regardless of whether you think it does or not.

I am confident that many petition signers already donate their own money to support social services; they just don’t do it through the silly water bill program.  In addition, I imagine that many who signed the petition don’t have the financial resources so that they can donate.  Remember, Riley County has one of the highest poverty rates in the state—we have many people in need in our community.

As a taxpayer I am happy to see my tax dollars support social services.  And clearly, enough of the voters thought the same this election because they didn’t buy into the rhetoric being served up by Mr. K who supported candidates who thought the city’s financial house was in crisis when in fact it is not.

 

 

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Posted: 22 April 2013 06:16 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 27 ]
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Again all I can say is that I totally disagree with the idea of 2% of the general fund to SSAB – it is unlimited as the general fund will continue to grow.  I also do not see the theft of tax dollars to agencies that you support to be any sort of moral contract.  Those folks that do not have the financial means to donate also do not have the financial means to pay the taxes.  The logic is flawed. 

The handful of people that vote in the city elections do of course make a difference.  3000 folks can basically allocate the money of the remaining 53,000, that is true, but does not make it correct in my mind.  When it comes to city elections we have a very apathetic population – that was true in both this election and the last election.  It takes three votes to control the debt and three votes to spin it out of control.  Time will tell, but I think the mix of the five current commissioners will result in some increase but at least not the sky rocket that would have taken place had you been elected. 

A 272 million dollar debt for a city this size is a problem.  The property tax bills are a problem.  Folks will figure that out if the current commission goes on a spending spree instead of striving for the flat mil levy.  The whining will start as soon as the tax bills are handed out.  My view on the debt is the same as it was two years ago when I ran for the commission – my only motivation was the debt and tax bills.  The debt is higher now than it was in 2011.  I have not been able to stop the train, but slowed it some.  Maybe we have some hope with the ½ cent sales tax for debt reduction, if it is used correctly.  But some may just view it as more dollars to spend.

The old commission was composed much like the present one.  They passed a mil levy increase last year on a 3-2 vote.  With a little work they can in fact make us more like California, but it will not be a unanimous vote.  I am glad you are pleased with your taxes.  I am sure the candidates you supported will do their best to increase the amount you pay. 

By the way the “silly water bill program” is a good measure of what people do and do not do.  Just by calling it silly you reflect the attitude of the Social Services Advocacy Board – taxes first - donations do not count.  If everyone was donating as you imply through other means, then tax dollars would not be needed or could be reduced.  The data indicates that those folks that push for social service support are in fact advocates of higher taxes- make somebody else pay.  They are not advocates of donations.  I am going to continue to ask that SSAB contributions from the standpoint of tax support be prioritized to a smaller select group of agencies – UFM not included on the list. 

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Posted: 22 April 2013 06:29 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 28 ]
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Wynn Butler - 22 April 2013 03:54 PM

Debbie:  We are never going to agree on this particular topic.  You are a strong advocate of almost unlimited SSAB support as evidenced by the 2% of the General Fund Petition.

We already went over the figures, Wynn. It’s patently ridiculous to say anyone is asking for “almost unlimited” support. You’re quibbling over such a small amount in comparison to all the funds you helped hand over to businesses that it’s obvious you’re arguing only on the principle of the matter.

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Posted: 22 April 2013 06:53 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 29 ]
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You might want to indicate the amount of money that I have personally handed over to business.  I am not a total fan of the established eco devo system, just like I am not a fan of the SSAB system.  But it is not correct to say I gave away money.  The ECO Devo system does that through the process and again takes three votes.  I have only voted on three eco devo cases, or your give away projects.  The latest was the food processing plant in Pott County - MEOFAB funds that could only be used for that purpose.  We cannot divert those to SSAB.  The other two were the fertilizer plant and CivicPlus.  On the CivisPlus deal I helped to ensure that a full tax abatement was not put in place, we still get the same amount of tax dollars as we would have if the appliance store had remained.  The current 1/2 cent sales tax has flexibility that was not present in the old tax.  We can use the funds not just for eco devo give aways as you say,  but also for infrastructure and debt relief.  I am an advocate for the debt relief and infrastructure use of the tax.  Those two uses will benefit a larger part of the population.  I would rather give the eco devo money to SSAB if that would reduce our property tax - but the funds gained through the past two taxes cannot be diverted for that purpose.  The small mount that you mention - 2% of the general fund for 2013 is $519,871 - not a small amount in my estimation as this would be about a mils worth of property tax.  A jump from the current 300K to 500K is a huge increase and something worth “quibbling over”.  The general fund amount for 2014 will be greater that 26 million so each year the 2% number results in an unlimited and never ending increase to SSAB.  That of course assumes we do not turn our budget into one of the bankrupt California Cities - in which case as the general fund goes down so would the outlay.  Maybe we could just put on the ballot either a property tax or sales tax to support SSAB at say a 1/2 million dollar level of investment, it would be interesting to see if that would pass. 

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Posted: 22 April 2013 09:30 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 30 ]
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Wynn, I don’t have problem with the fact that you disagree with 2% of the budget being allocated for social services.  I have a problem when you misrepresent the facts of the matters.  And yes, the actual dollar amount will grow as the general fund grows, but so will the demand for social services as our community continues to grow.  With the poverty rate in our community as high as it is and wages as depressed as they are it’s not surprising that we have a high demand for social services.  The people who don’t have the financial means to donate to support social services are likely NOT property owners so my logic is not flawed.

Your assertion about what would have happened regarding the debt had I been elected is without merit.  But, that’s water under the bridge and we’ll never know now, will we?  However, what we do know is that the community definitely did not want your candidate.  It could be argued that I was the moderate since I landed in the middle of the results and that the three who were elected were more liberal and that the community did indeed swing hard left.  Only time will tell.

The $272 million debt is being managed.  And if you really want to talk about property taxes, let’s talk about them.  According to public records, there has not been an increase in property taxes on your property since 2002 and over the past 16 years taxes on your property have only increased 1.52%.  Taxes on Mr. Matta’s property have decreased every year since 2009 and over the past 16 years have increased by 1.6%.  Mine, on the other hand, have increased 7% over the past six years (the length of time we have owned our current property).  So, I am not sure how you can reasonably argue that taxes are too high when your taxes have remained flat for a relatively long period of time.

If the current commission raises the mill levy and my taxes increase, so be it.  I want to live in a community that takes pride in itself and takes care of its citizens.  I’ve lived in other communities where taxpayers are not willing to make the appropriate investments and they’re not good places to live.

My calling the water bill program “silly” was meant to reflect how I view your attitude, not the attitude of SSAB.  Again, in my view and the view of many others there’s nothing wrong with tax dollars supporting social services.  And you’re right, you and I will never agree on that issue.

As to your comment to Stacia about “...maybe we could just put on the ballot either a property tax or sales tax to support SSAB at say a 1/2 million dollar level of investment,” hopefully you will be given an opportunity to put the question on the ballot if the judge rules in favor of the plaintiffs in connection with the petition lawsuit (or you can save the community $40,000 for the cost of a special election and just go ahead and enact the ordinance…).

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