Tuesday, October 16, 2012
Carlton County Budget Politics (Article from the Moose Lake Gazette)
[Comments by Marvin Pirila added in bold; all underlining and bold text are emphasis used by Mr. Pirila]
Substantial levy increase in county
September 20, 2012 | Volume 117, Issue No. 38
"You can't keep taxing property owners more and more … a three percent increase should be enough," said Carlton County Board Chair Ted Pihlman at the regular Carlton County Board meeting on September 11 at the Transportation Building with all commissioners present. The county board went on record with a vote of 3-2, Pihlman and Brenner voting no, to set a preliminary levy with a 6.3 percent increase for the new budget year. [Guess who is in the election cycle? That's right, Mr. Pihlman and Mr. Brenner. All politics. They have to do what they can to protect their $24,000 annual salary.]
The Budget Committee had come back with a proposed budget with a 6.6 percent levy increase. Commissioner Pihlman as acting chairman sits on that committee. Outside of the slow economic growth in the area, the county budget has faced pressure from ballooning corrections and probation costs. Human Services expenditures and staff needs have risen only slightly — well within the less than three percent inflation rate. [During the worst recession since the Great Depression, did Carlton County residents need a costly new building for Human Services?]
Both Human Services and the Highway Department roughly have the same budget in real dollars. Both benefit from federal and state dollars, special grants and program funding, the gasoline tax for road and bridge projects, and the list of funding sources can go on at length. The local levy that comes from property tax levies brings in 6.3 million dollars for Health and Human Services and 2.7 million dollars for the Highway Department, a notable difference.
"I've been knocking on doors during this election season," commented commissioner Dick Brenner, "and at the door older residents give me stories about their unaffordable property tax bills that would curl your hair. Three percent is enough for an increase in the levy." [It isn't just the older residents that are tired of the endless increases in property taxes when they see continual wasted monies from the county. The latest report on employees stealing time, borrowing equipment, and the endless fingerpointing doesn't offer much credibility to those entrusted to spend our tax money wisely.]
Paul Gassert, county auditor and treasurer, turned several heads at the meeting when he said, "You tell me what you want done … I can make a four, three, or zero increase in the budget if you want. I need a direction. You are the ones that set the priorities." [The frustration exemplifies the lack of leadership from our county board.]
To arrive at the 6.3 percent levy proposal, $60,000 or .3 percent was dropped from the proposed levy. The Carlton County Domestic Abuse program had been promised that $60,000 funding package to compliment $90,000, perhaps $95,000, in state funding which was lost for the coming fiscal year. The future of the program is in doubt. [Who promised taxpayer money for $60,000? The Carlton County Domestic Abuse program itself wastes endless court time with meritless cases.]
Reaction to the possible end of the Carlton County Domestic Abuse program was swift. Retired director of the Volunteer Attorney Program, Patty Murto, responded, "The Carlton County Domestic Abuse program has been the safety net of last resort for hundreds and hundreds of families over the years. [And wrongfully attacks the innocent people through numerous false accusations.] A strong voice and legal avenues for women in need of support and safety is in jeopardy. [The truth is finally out. They proclaim to represent men and women equally, but how many men have they represented. A couple maybe. The Order for Protections (OFP's) they seek are often nothing more than weapons used by unscrupulous women in divorce proceedings and nothing more. When the court rules for an OFP, they generally make it against one (the man) and not both, thus allowing the woman to continually bait and torment the man.] Other funding must be found. We need to keep our endangered family members safe and free from victimization."
"I was on the county board for several years," continued Murto, "and funding issues arose for short periods of time where the county stepped in to ensure a program's survival until new funding sources were found. Ending such a program puts literally scores of families in jeopardy — this cannot happen. I don't know what the board was thinking to even consider such a move." [This organization is a non-profit with funding from many sources and should never have been funded with a penny of taxpayer money. Their dismal record speaks for itself. If this state and county kept real records of their actions, you would see how much havoc this program unnecessary costs the taxpayer.]
In other business, Community Development received approval for a loan/grant administrator and an office support specialist. These are two full-time positions. Community Development has currently eight load and grant programs to administer.
"Are these positions funded?" asked commissioner Brenner. [Again, would Mr. Brenner be interested if he wasn't up for re-election? I doubt it, he generally just goes with the flow. Time for new blood in the County Board.]
"These are budget neutral positions," responded Pat Oman, Carlton County Executive Director of the Economic Development Commission. "Funding for administration is covered when the money is applied for. No dollars come from the property tax levy."