|Council Increases Taxes Again
In a clear repudiation of taxpayer sentiment, County Council kept
the entire reassessment windfall for itself and added a $308,000 Road
Fee tax increase for a total increase of $781,645 to the budget passed
on 27 June 2011.
The County increased
property taxes by $1,343,786 in FY 2011 ended 30 June 2011. This
increase was not spent during FY2011t, but was added to the Fund Balance
at the end of the year. Over the two years Council has increased
property taxes $1,817,431 or 9.4% and rhe Road Tax by $308,999, or 33%.
The total tax increasse over two years is $2,125,431.
On 27 June taxpayers provided County Council with a petition containing
mpre than 700 signatures, some 200 people at the Council meeting and
dozens of speakers asking for No New Taxes, meaning the same tax
revenue in FY 2012 as in FY 2011. Council responded by rejecting
the budget passed on 26 September and passing a
budget that failed to honor requests from the Sheriff, the Fire Service
and USCL, and also refused support to several charitable organizations
that had depended on Council financing. That budget passed
contained a $152,617 increase from FY 2010. Requests by taxpayers that
the needs of the Sheriff, the Fire Service and USCL be included in the
budget and funded by expense reductions on other areas were ignored.
A three week delay and news from the assessor and auditor that
reassessment would provide a $600,000 windfall emboldened Council
to decrease tax rates by a trivial (0.5%) amount while keeping the
lions share of the windfall for itself. County Council is passing the whole thing off as a tax decrease.
We are hoping that taxpayers understand that tax decreases do not
result in additional revenue for the County. This is more smoke and
A taxpayer proposal that the reassessment windfall be returned to
taxpayers via a 2.5 mil property tax rate decrease, the needs of the
Sheriff, the Fire Service and USCL be funded via reductions in the
highly inflated expense budget (up $1.3 million from last year)
The $308,000 to be generated
by the increased Road Fee imposed by County Council is very unlikely to
result in any additional work on roads. The County road maintenance
operation has been funded at about $2,000,000 for several years. This
money comes from the previous ($15) Road fee ($900,000) and the county
General Find ($1,100,000). This is about the amount that the department
has the equipment and manpower to spend. An additional $308,000 is very
unlikely to result in any additional road work.
This entire budget process has been a political smoke screen designed to let
Council incumbents run without raising taxes next year.
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|Council Adopts Redistricting Map| County Council has adopted its original redistricting map
in the first of three readings of the required ordinance. This map
places all of Sun City into the southern panhandle (Van Wyck) district.
This district would be represented by current Councilman Larry
McCullough, a Sun City resident, who has already kicked off his
campaign for the seat in the 2012 election. The northern (Indian Land)
panhandle district will need to elect a new Council representative.
Brian Carnes of Indian Land has already kicked off his campaign for
Implications for the VanWyck area and
Andrew Jackson State Park are severe. Mr. McCullough is currently
pushing a complete revision to the zoning code and development
ordinance with the intention of applying the changes to this area and
the entire area around Rte. 521 in his new district. No resident of the
rural area is included in the process of preparing and applying the new
zoning despite decades of work by rural residents in making AJ State
Park (and the Deputy Roy Hardin Park and other areas) what they are
today. More to the point, if Mr. McCullough is re-elected, no resident
of the rural area will have a voice in County Council, which has
traditionally been willing to rezone on a case by case basis, resulting
in the patchwork situation that is causing so many problems in Indian
Land. County Council is currently trying to blame the situation in
Indian Land on the zoning law and the planning department. In fact, the
blame rests entirely on County Council and its willingness to change
the zoning law one acre at a time, to override the recommendations of
the Planning Department and the Planning Board and a complete
unwillingness to consider the long term consequences of its
New 911 System
For many months a committee has been meeting with little
publicity to consider a new, consolidated 911 system for Lancaster
County. This system sounds fantastic, and is being sold as fantastic by
the consultant, L.R. Kimble, hired by the County to assist the
committee with its investigations. The material submitted last May
consists of an Executive Summary, a Final Report and a Powerpoint Presentation.
According to the Kimble material, the system will use GIS (Geographic
Information Systems) data rather than GPS (Global Positioning System)
data to direct emergency crews to geographic features (i.e.,
individual homes) as opposed to positions on a map, thus
potentially reducing response times and potentially saving lives
in some situations.
This all sounds good. The
system will cost millions of dollars to set up and additional millions
to staff and maintain if implemented according to the Kimble
recommendations. L.R. Kimble, having just completed a lucrative
consulting contract, can be counted on to shout from the rooftops
about saving lives while generating another, even more lucrative,
consulting contract to implement the system.
What's the fly in all this sweet smelling ointment? Well, there are at
least two. One is that it is in serious need of a manpower analysis.
One of the temptations in first responder staffing is to have people
sitting around waiting for emergencies to happen in the hope of
reducing response times. Particularly in places like Lancaster County,
where there are not very many emergencies and there is a lot of
territory to cover, this leads to first responders who spend a lot of
time playing cards and watching TV waiting for something to happen.
There is only so much training, paperwork, etc. that needs doing
This is not a desirable situation.
and much larger fly in this ointment is the fact that the technical
specifications for doing the system do not exist. The system is being
marketed as "upgrade ready." This is all well and good, but there is no
way to be sure that a system is "upgrade ready" when the nature of the required upgrade has not been decided.
The risk is that you end up throwing your expensive equipment away and
buying something else when the standards are finally approved. Those of
you who bought eight track audio equipment or Betamax video equipment
have some idea of what happens.
Job Fair The
Lancaster County Economic Development Corporation is sponsoring a job
fair on 1 October 2011 from 10 AM to 7 PM at the Lancaster County Adult
Education Campus, 610 E. Meeting St., Lancaster. This is the old Barr
St. High School Building. Applications are being taken for 500 call
center jobs and jobs in several other fields as well. Transportation to
and from the job fair will be provided for Lancaster County residents. Click here for a brochure and registration information.
Potential participants should be aware that many of the
jobs to be presented at this job fair will not be filled for several
months. There will be some jobs to be filled in the next few weeks and
every person who registers, whether on line or in person will be
entered into a Lancaster County Economic Development Corporation
database so that contact can be made if jobs open up in the future.
J.R. Wilt for County Council?
Eight months of covering County Council in detail have made me think
that it is time for changes in the makeup of County Council.
Certainly I am not comfortable with Larry McCullough's decision
to place Sun City in the Van Wyck District in the southern area of the
Panhandle and to assume the Council seat for that area rather than
remain in the urban area of Indian Land. I have no personal problem
with Larry, but I do not think that he is the person to take charge of
development in the southern area of the Panhandle, as he clearly
intends to do.
Conventional political wisdom says that incumbents are impossible to
beat without a "smoking gun" as long as they can run asserting
that taxes will not increase in the election year. Conventional
wisdom has it that the "smoking gun" must be recent, i.e., something
that will stir voters to action in the election year. Conventional
wisdom says that voters have very short memories, that events
that would stir voters to action in an election year do not affect
elections if they occurred in a prior year.
these standards the present Council incumbents are unbeatable. Voters
will have forgotten or forgiven the landfill near disaster, which
required close to a year of deliberately misleading, often unethical
and probably illegal effort that would have brought a sanitary landfill
to Lancaster County Presto-Change-O. Only last minute heavy
intervention by citizens prevented this disaster, and the only Council
explanation has been "Sorry, we were misinformed." Voters will also
have forgotten or forgiven two years of large tax increases because
taxes will not go up in the election year.
Conventional political wisdom also has it that voters do not see risk
in advance and will not respond to risk unless it is real and
immediate, and they believe that the incumbent will not be able to
respond. Conventional wisdom has it that the urban voters in Sun City
all vote and that the rural voters do not.
Conventional wisdom has it that the key to a long political life is to
promise whatever you need to in an election year, do what you want
until the next election year and make sure that taxes do not increase
and nothing serious happens in the next election year.
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Thanks for listening.