The Van Wyck News
7 Number 7
||A Voice for Freedom||17 May 2015|
FY 16 County BudgetThe Administrator Approved FY 2015 - 16 Lancaster County Budget comes before County Council on Monday, 18 May for first reading. The County did not see fit to provide a clean copy of the budget itself for this occasion, but what appears in the Agenda Package for the Council meeting can be viewed here.
Many of the serious deficiencies noted in the 22 April issue of the Van Wyck News have been improved, although none have been fixed.
The Solicitor and Public Defender have one additional attorney each in the 18 May version of the budget and the Sheriff has four additional patrol deputies, leaving him short more than 8 over two years.
The E-911 program has two additional call takers, rather than the six that are required to fully staff the program. The Emergency Medical Services program has a $3/hr raise for paramedics and several hundred thousand dollars added to the overtime budget. This will put a patch on the problem of too few paramedics due to low salaries, but is far short of the six additional staff and additional funds to permit going to a 24/72 duty cycle from 24/48.
The Voter Registration Department has had its part time help funds restored and should now be able to pay precinct workers in the 2016 Primary Elections and rework some overlarge precincts.
The Stormwater Project has been funded at $60k for consultants, modified from hiring a full time civil engineer to fulfill a long time dream of the County administration. The project is still not being taken seriously.
The employee compensation matter has been improved slightly by taking some money from Fund Balance and using it to give low end employees a Christmas bonus. The fundamental inequity remains of providing 25 managers making more than $50k with an average of 6% raises while expecting lower paid employees to make do with 0.5% raises plus a small bonus.
It should be noted that for the third year in a row, the Sheriff has been denied the deputies he feels that he needs to provide the County with adequate police protection. The County is making a big deal out of the fact that they are picking up the salaried of two deputies who were previously paid using grant funds. These are not additions to the force, which even with the additions from this year will still be at least 20% under planned strength.
The plain fact of the matter is that the County does not do a good job of financial planning. Core governmental services such as road maintenance and police protection are being cut back while the public is being led down a path that says everything is rosy and we should consider spending $20MM on a new sports complex for the Recreation Department. The crunch is already here and it is being painted over with rosy paint so that the public will not notice it until too late.
Sheriff's IL ProposedThe Sheriff is proposing to create a Special Purpose Tax District for Law Enforcement in Indian Land. A $75 per rooftop annual fee in the areas served by the Pleasant Valley and Indian Land Fire Districts would allow the Sheriff to create a police force assigned permanently to this area in addition to the officers that serve the area from the county-wide force. The additional manpower would provide reduced response time in the Indian Land area as well as services, such as traffic control and accident investigation, not provided in other areas of the County.
Special Tax District
The mechanics of creating such a Special Tax District involve 15% of the registered voters residing in the area of the proposed Special Tax District signing a petition in favor of the proposal, followed by an affirmative vote by the voters living in the area in a special election. Given the affirmative vote, County Council would create the Special Tax District as a County Department reporting to the Sheriff. The Law Enforcement Special Tax District will not have its own Board as the Special Purpose Fire District does.
If the Special Purpose Law Enforcement Tax District is created, the $75 per rooftop fee will appear on property tax bills in the same way that the fee for the Fire District does now. The money will begin to flow in the following January when property tax bills are paid. As the money flows in the new officers can be hired and trained and the new Indian Land police force should become functional within a few months. With this step, Indian Land will have taken the second step toward becoming a city by creating its own police force to go with its existing Fire Department, funding each through a Special Tax District outside the property tax.
It should be noted that the original proposal was that the County is funding law enforcement and the Criminal Justice System at a suitable basic level for the County, and Indian Land would fund services not provided in other areas of the county, such as traffic enforcement, accident investigation and reduced response time. This is no longer the case. The County is funding law enforcement at levels significantly below what the sheriff feels are reasonable minimums and what he has built his state and nationally accredited department around.This reduced funding for law enforcement has been going on for three years and is unlikely to change soon. Indian Land is being asked to provide funding to get law enforcement funding back up to the minimum, not to provide extra service.
Zoning MoratoriumLancaster County is currently paying the Catawba Region Council of Governments $80k to rewrite its zoning ordinance (the UDO) to go with the new Comprehensive Plan, which was rewritten last year and adopted on 8 December 2014. The Planning Department has proposed a nine month moratorium on zoning changes in the Panhandle portion of the County to permit orderly installation of the new code without the distraction of numerous changes using the old code at the same time. The moratorium is restricted to the northern Panhandle because that is where the big majority of requested changes are located. The text of the proposal may be found here.
This item appeared first on the agenda for the 11 May Council meeting and Mr. McCullough requested that it be removed from the agenda because it had not yet been heard by the Infrastructure and Regulation (I & R) Committee. Council agreed and the item was removed from the 11 May Council agenda.
This item was heard by the I & R Committee at its meeting on 12 May. Mr. McCullough, who sits on the I & R Committee, objected to the moratorium in general, to the fact that it had not yet been heard by the Planning Commission and to the fact that Mr. Harper, who does not sit on the I & R Committee, was not present to offer an opinion.
The item will appear on the 18 May Council meeting agenda, where Mr. McCullough expects to move for it to be stricken, and will be be heard by the Planning Commission at its meeting on 19 May, where it is expected to pass.
The confusion was caused by County Council moving its regular meeting on 25 May, which is Memorial Day, to 18 May.
The Moratorium is a necessity for the orderly implementation of the new UDO, and it will be more effective if effective sooner rather than later.
Think!It should be clear that the County is rapidly outstripping its property sax funding source and cutting back on governmental services rather than giving up popular spending programs. As an example, in the coming budget year the Sheriff is having a serious manpower shortage go unaddressed, but the County is very willing to consider a $20MM sports complex in Lancaster in a bond issue to go on the ballot in November 2016. No thought is being given as to where the Sheriff's Deputies will come from that will be required to provide security at the new sports complex, or where the tax money will come from to pay off the bonds. THINK! The County's present business model does not work. The revenue coming in from the County's present activities is not sufficient to sustain the present level of spending activity. Either the County will have to find new sources of revenue (new taxes) or cut back on its spending.