The Van Wyck News

Volume 3 Number 13 A Voice for Freedom             1 October 2011
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 mirrors.
    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)  were ignored.
    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.

Feeding the Hungry
Donations to Lancaster County food programs have fallen off recently. The recession increases the number of people facing hunger and the need for food.  The Van Wyck Press is happy to transport food to the agencies serving the needy in Lancaster.  If you have food that you would like to donate and would like us to transport it for you, let me know.  
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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 this seat.
    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 decisions.

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.
    The second, 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.

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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.
    By 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.   
    Those of you who read these pages regularly know how I think and what I believe. Those who want to know about me can go to http://vanwyckpress.com and read what you find there.
    Please let me know what you think. This is going to take time and cost money if I do undertake it. If you have questions, have an opinion or are willing to help, please send me mail at jrwilt@vanwyckpress.com.
    Thanks for listening.
    Have fun.
    J.R. Wilt
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