Monday, July 25, 2011

Voters Shortchanged by McClure Refusal to Attend Committee Meetings

On Wednesday, Northampton County Executive John Stoffa laid out $20,140,000 for capital improvement projects needed at Gracedale, the County-owned nursing home. The most pressing of these is a new or upgraded sewer line and grease interceptor. It was first installed in the late '50s, and was last upgraded in '71, seven years before Northampton County even had a County Exec.
In 2001, under Executive Glenn Reibman, the County entered into an agreement with Nazareth Borough Municipal Authority (NBMA) under which it (1) promised to stop using its existing sewer pump, which was deemed "inadequate;" and (2) pledged to have a new upgrade within the next three years.

Right now, the County is facing a $1,000 per day fine from the NBMA for failing to do a damn thing since that 2001 agreement. Stoffa had engineers on hand to present Council with four options, all of which are expensive. He hopes to fund it with energy savings generated by switching from oil to gas at the nursing home.

Unfortunately, there are 54 other capital improvements needed at Gracedale, too, meaning that a bond is all bit a certainty.

At Thursday's Council meeting, Lamont McClure introduced a motion to take the money needed for $13 million worth of projects out of the fund balance, which failed 7 to 2. The only Council member willing to join McClure was Ann McHale.

In 2010, McClure failed to attend a single Council Committee meeting. His absence has continued this year, too. Had McClure attended June's finance committee meeting and listened to LarsonAllen, the County's independent auditor, he'd know that there's only $16 million in the County's general fund undesignated balance, which represents 18% (or two months) of general fund expenditures. McClure's motion would leave the County with just $3 million to pay the bills, a recklessly low sum.

Instead of providing Stoffa with a little guidance about Gracedale, McClure chose to pander to the voters with a motion he knew would fail. When Ron Angle noted McClure's abysmal attendance record, he had no shame. "You keep going to Committee meetings, and I'll keep coming up with solutions," he snarked.

But that was no solution. It was instead a fiscally irresponsible maneuver, made solely for the purpose of getting a few votes. He was elected to represent his district, and can't do that if he's not there.

43 comments:

Anonymous said...

With over a $60 million dollar taxpayer funded slush fund. Mr. NcClure once again called Angle/Stoffa's bluff. Stoffa said he had "immediate" needs at Gracedale. McClure said here is the money. Stoffa caught flat footed, suddenly retreated and said they were things that should be done sooner or later.

I agree with Mr.McClure. Since committee meetings are just for show and the Stoffa Administration throws out unverified statements and Angle and the rubber stamp council just nod their little heads, it is good to have a real world representative.

Mr. McClure will keep coming up with solutions to problems and Mr. Angle can keep going to pretend committee meetings.

Most accurate and pertinent line of 2011. Of course next to Stoffa wishing the Gracedale petitioners good luck.

Darcy

Anonymous said...

How Can Mike Veon and Brett Cott be in jail when a State Trooper on State Time using State Equipment and order by the Governor to go to Court and transport a Private Citizen who happens to be the wife of one of his Secretaries that was arrested for DUI?

Where is the media on this violation, where is the double phones the Governor wears, and making State Troopers do Double Duty on State Time for the benefit of a Private Citizen that broke the Law??

This is exactly what Attorney General Corbett investigated and declared illegal, but he breaks the same laws he claims he investigated and enforced???

This action alone using State Police to pick up a Private Citizen Shows favorable treatment that average Citizens are refused and clearly provides bias and special treatment before the Courts and Laws of the Commonwealth does it not???

Will someone provide us with an example whereby State Police on State Time pick up DUI Charged Defendants at a Court Of law and drive them home????

Someone needs to file a complaint with Dauphin County District Attorney that he must investigate if filed and ask why not if he refuses?????

Someone must file a Complaint to the Attorney General calling for an Investigation of Governor Tom Corbett??????

It is clear Tom Corbett has broken the same laws he accused others of breaking and yet no Newspaper or Investigator has followed this violation of Habay Case???????

When did the Pennsylvania State Police become Private Chauffeurs on state money using state resources and equipment on state pay, for Governor’s special people????????

Anonymous said...

Dear 4:26,

Do you think you just might be a little off topic here? What the fuck are you talking about?

Anonymous said...

Isn't the contingency fund used for an emergency? Can't you use this fund to pay for the sewage line at the end of the fiscal year, thereby being fiscally responsible? What happens if you don't use this fund? Does it roll over to the following year? I don't understand this villification against McClure on the use of this fund, when this is an emergency.

Zorn said...

norco dems - the laughing stock of the valley

Anonymous said...

We have a 60 M$ slush fund? is this true Bernie?

Anonymous said...

Zorn,

And your contribution to this conversation is...? I understand your inability to intelligibly contribute to the discussion at hand, thus the snark. Save it for your schoolyard antics.

I don't like that McClure does not attend committee meetings, however, I prefer ideas, even if voted down, than snarks from the peanut gallery that don't have ideas of their own.

Anonymous said...

Seems the most irresponsible thing in the this article is the County Executive and Council not taking care of the damned sewer pump years ago. They are so worried about raising taxes that the infrastructure is falling to pieces.

Anonymous said...

McClure returned fire, jabbing Angle for supporting a Gracedale sale. "You keep going to meetings and I'll solve problems."

Mcall, July 23, 2011

Bernie O'Hare said...

"With over a $60 million dollar taxpayer funded slush fund. Mr. NcClure once again called Angle/Stoffa's bluff."

This myth was debunked by the County's independent auditor. Repeating a lie does not make it true.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"Isn't the contingency fund used for an emergency?"

No. Lately, it is being used for the pet projects of Council members, and there is by no means enough money in it to fund these upgrades. I think that right now, it's down around $40k.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"We have a 60 M$ slush fund? is this true Bernie?"

Completely untrue, as per the independent auditor. McClure would not know that bc he failed to attend the Committee meeting in which the auditors discussed their findings.

But this is the argument McClure will use as an excuse to refuse to endorse a tax hike to take care of Gracedale. It's irresponsible and McClure knows it is irresponsible. It's what I'd expect from someone who has such little record for the County that he fails to attend the meetings he was elected to attend.

Anonymous said...

McLure knows that the Gracedale employees and other union employees that support him are ignorant of how government and the real world in general) works and will believe any idiocy he says. He's only interested in keeping his post on Council, not in improving anything for the County, its people, or doing his job, which explains repeated absences and his innane comments to the press about financial solutions for Gracedale.

Anonymous said...

No tax increase under any circumstances in this economy. Keeping open Gracedale is a very broad directive. Cut the place to five beds and call it open. Get rid of all those expensive employees and/or slash their compensation.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Stoffa will do his best to turn Gracedale around, but government just is not as good as the private sector in this field. It might end up exactly as you warn.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"Seems the most irresponsible thing in the this article is the County Executive and Council not taking care of the damned sewer pump years ago. They are so worried about raising taxes that the infrastructure is falling to pieces."

This was one of the arguments for sale. County government will always have competing demands. Gracedale wlll need things, but so will the jail and the courthouse and this or that bridge. For years, and when Gracedale was profitable, it was ignored. This was not out of malice but is just the way it works.

Council passed a resolution demanding a separate account for Gracedale money, but it might be too late.

Anonymous said...

Bernie,

As the old saying goes, you are entitled to your own opinions, but not your own facts.

What the Auditor found, and this is actually in the Auditors(Larson Allen) report, is that at the end of 2010, the fund balance of the County of Northampton was $92.9 million. $30.8 million was "reserved." Which means that by law, there are only certain items that money may be spent on. As an aside, it is significant that we have that much "reserved" money that has not been utilized. However, I digress. The total unreserved, undesignated fund balance for 2011 is $62.1 million.

Interestingly, in its annual audit Laron Allen only noted the unreserved and undesignated number of $62.1 million. So, those are the published numbers of our outside auditors. There is no other public information with respect to the outside audit of the county that may be relied upon for analysis.

We could continue the old debate. I could posit that the entire $62 million remains available for Council to utilize as is necessary for the general welfare of the county. I cound note that under GASB 54 Council at any time may desginate part of all of the $62 million for anything that Council would wish to desigate it to or for within the General Fund. I might also point out, that as Council failed to make the designations during the 2011 budgeting process that there has been no designation of the $62 million. We know that is legally significant, as we now have a ruling for the Court of Common Pleas that if it isn't in the Budget, it didn't happen. Therefore, technically, and this is pursuant to the GASB 54 resolution that Council passed as well, the entire $62 million is available. But, I will concede the old argument, as time is of the essence for Gracedale.

Lamont

Anonymous said...

No tax increase under any circumstances in this economy. Keeping open Gracedale is a very broad directive. Cut the place to five beds and call it open. Get rid of all those expensive employees and/or slash their compensation.

Because what we need in this economy is more unemployment and the loss of quality jobs, dagnabbit!

Anonymous said...

Bernie,

Below find the designations of the "Unserved Fund Balance" from the County's Financial Statements. The information can be found on the County website at page 69.

GASB Statement No. 54, Fund Balance Reporting and Governmental Fund Type Definitions
County Council enacted Ordinance No. 526, effective December 19, 2010. The Ordinance contains the
necessary provisions of Government Accounting Standards Board’s (GASB) Statement No. 54 - Fund Balance
Reporting and Governmental Fund Type Definitions. This will result in a change to the government-wide
financial statements and note disclosures as of January 1, 2011. The General Fund’s fund balance would be
presented under GASB Statement No. 54 as follows:
12/31/2010
Committed to:
Future obligations (swaption) $ 14,065,951
Financial stablization 25,000,000
Assigned to:
Subsequent years budget 7,096,656
Unassigned 15,978,742
Total fund balances $ 62,141,349

Lamont

Anonymous said...

This was one of the arguments for sale. County government will always have competing demands. Gracedale wlll need things, but so will the jail and the courthouse and this or that bridge. For years, and when Gracedale was profitable, it was ignored. This was not out of malice but is just the way it works.

Council passed a resolution demanding a separate account for Gracedale money, but it might be too late.


They could have simply raised taxes to take care of our obligations. But they'd rather let things decay then face losing an election.

Anonymous said...

Bernie,

With respect to the arguments you routinely make about the fund balance, there are couple of necessary points to make. The first is that you consistently refer to the need to meet "unexpected" expenses. Were you aware that in 2010 the Administration in the Budget that was passed predicted that we would need to access $14.5 million of the fund balance to balance the budget ? Actually, for 2010, the County budget finished $352,854.00 in the black and required no fund balance to balance the budget. Therefore, you can anticipate that most of the $7.1 million assigned to "subsequent years budget" will not be needed. Additionally, the whole point of the $25 million(which is approximately $4 million too much) in the "stabilization fund" is to have money set aside for "unexpected expenses." So, that concern of yours that the County will be caught flat is more than adequately provided for and with redundancy to boot.

As I've said, I don't want to have the old argument. Keep the $14 million for satisfying the swap as well as the $25 million in stabilization funding. Additionally, don't touch the $7.1 million for the "subsequent" years budget. Eventhough, there is probably an additional $12 million dollars here that could be used. I won't touch it.

Just merely look to the "Unassigned" portion of the fund balance. The County Administration has identified $13.3 million in capital projects at Gracedale that it says are "High Priority." My plan is simply to transfer that money from the unassigned portion of the fund balance to fix what the Administration says is broken. These types of projects are exactly what the "Unassigned" portion of the fund balance is for in this context. Afterall, what is a fund balance ? It is more tax revenue taken in, than is necessary to run the government. As I said at the meeting, this is a plan that addresses immediate capital concerns at Gracedale without a tax increase or the necessity to borrow the money.

Lamont

Anonymous said...

If McClure isn't attending meetings, I'm hoping he's attending the gym. I need help.

Always,

Mr. McClure's Council Chambers meeting chair

Bernie O'Hare said...

Lamont,

In the past, you have routinely referred to the $60 MM plus fund balance as a slush fund. Now that you have apparently looked at an actual balance sheet, I am heartened to see that you do recognize that there's next to nothing for fun and games.

You apparently now agree that $14 MM of that sum is needed to pay off the swaption, which comes due next year.

You apparently now also agree that we must keep $25 MM as a stabilization fund.

You also agree that the $7.1 MM needed to balance the budget should stay, and that's a good thing bc the Cty no longer has Fiscal Affairs Director Vic Mazziotti.

Suddenly, that $60 MM "slush fund" is down to a mere $14 MM. And you propose draining nearly all of that to pay for capital projects at Gracedale.

Are you out of your mind?

If we did that, we'd have NOTHING left. This is NOT the purpose of the unassigned fund balance. It is there to pay the bills at times when the revenue stream is inadequate. It is there when a new union contract calls for retroactive pay increases. It is NOT there for capital projects, and not there when I am certain that the County is going to have to dip into it to pay operating expenses at Gracedale before the year is out.

Your proposal is financially irresponsible, and I doubt any accountant would endorse it.

I do not think you are out of your mind. But I do think you were grandstanding.

I could understand a philosophical difference over Gracedale, or over the size of the fund balance. But proposing that it be emptied is irresponsible. You would know that if you attended a few more meetings. In fact, I think you know it already.

Anonymous said...

If the county wishes to rob its saving account to pay for things, my suggestion is to restore the loss of funding to the county office on aging. According to Marcus at the last meeting, there is now a waiting list for the waiver program which allows impoverished seniors the dignity of remaining at home, with the help of a home care nurse's aid.

Plowing more money into gracedale at this point makes as much sense as inviting new passengers onto the titanic.

This is why it should have been sold. No need to create hardships to seniors in their homes because a flamethrowing, union goldbrick group wanted to preserve their outrageous salary/benefit packages.

Trish

Anonymous said...

I would like someone to explain the motivation Stoffa and Angle would have to shut down Gracedale. I keep reading from critics that they are personally motivated to have it closed. What is the reason they hate Gracedale so much?

Anonymous said...

Angle has hated Gracedale for years, ask some past county officials. He has been singing that song for a long time. Stoffa probably doesn't hate Gracedale, he is just not hat good at managing things. He wants to try his new pet social engineering project, a drug rehab lounge hotel. That program will require large sums of money. Whereas Gracedale gets 90 cents back for every county dollar spent, the drug hotel will be at least 90 to 100% county dollars. Up until now Stoffa has been living off the largest cash surplus in county history that he inherited. He needs a large cash influx and ongoing county cash for his pet project.

Without raiding the slush fund that Angle wants as proof of his great work when he runs for county Executive, the only other course is for Stoffa to dump Gracedale.

It provides money up front that he can give to his pal Atiyah and ongoing money for the "treatment" staff. Remember, the state or feds will not reimburse this money so it will all be on the backs of the county taxpayer. Also, this is not a mandated service.

That in a nutshell is part of the deception that is being played out. Everyone in the courthouse is aware of it. The press won't write it because it is not a Stoffa press release, but there it is.

Your Ears in the House!

Anonymous said...

I have not seen Stoffa/Angle motivated to close down Gracedale. I have seen Stoffa/Angle motivated to control the taxpayer funded expenses in a way that will stop the gushing artery on Gracedale Avenue. They are elected to manage funds in the most efficient way possible while providing the best quality of service that they can.Of course this interferes with unions.

Selling Gracedale to a private owner would have done that, and allowed for funding of home-care services to impoverished seniors. Government should not compete with the private sector. It has nothing to do with hatred. Its just common sense.

trish

Anonymous said...

trish, brenda, bernie, whomever, you do not know that of which you speak.

Anonymous said...

Thanks LaMont. Most of us know that you are telling the truth. The Angle/Stoffa propaganda machine can't make $60 million tax dollars disappear. Your interpretation of the auditor's report is dead on. You offered a reasonable solution to Mr. Stoffa's press release inspired crying of wolf. With a solution available, he and the rest of the rubber stamp Angle/Stoffa council declined to fix what they claim is broken.

The voters will soon fix many things in Northampton County. Maybe even a recall petition on Stoffa is in the wings. It is two months after the primary and John Stoffa is now saying he needs to do things. Sad state of affairs in Northampton County. Even without Stoffa hack Mazziotti twisting the books.

Doug

Anonymous said...

How about a recall Lamont petition? Oh wait, that comes in November when the absentee councilman is voted out of office.

Anonymous said...

The affairs of one small county seem very trivial now as its congressman and his gang try hard to force the nation into bankruptcy; and seniors to an early grave, which is the inevitable outcome of a slash in Medicare.

And unlike most of his R colleagues, who talk to god often and out loud on policy matters and feel bound to act on what he tells them, Charlie doesn't have anyone telling him to do it.

Grow up, Charlie, and remember who elected you.

Bill Coker said...

Name any successful government run organization or department. Everything from the post office to medicare is broke and bleeding money. All indications are that privatizing is always the better alternative.

Anonymous said...

Americans want everything and are willing to pay for nothing.

Sure, we get cheap junk made in China, but who can buy the cheap junk without a job?

We spend billions of dollars each year to keep vegitative children in the public school system who will never be able to speak, read or write

We also spend billions to keep vegitative seniors alive on tube feeds in nursing homes.

We spend billions to incarcerate illegal aliens who can be deported to their home counties.

Maybe its time to compromise on wanting everything, and paying for nothing.

Anonymous said...

Your right Bill, just look how well the American economy is doing. No jobs but the top dogs got lots of money.

How are those 401K's doing?

The only thing that even comes close to protecting average American citizens from the modern multi-nations is a representative government. You tri-cornered hat guys keep pretending it's 1800 and you can just go to a different blacksmith. Grow up. We Independents are tired of your craziness. We were angry at the Dem's and voted them out but we sure as Hell don't need a bunch of lunatics in office. Say goodbye to the House!

Anonymous said...

Whatever other faults the school system has, 7.38, there are no vegetative people in it (except maybe at asst. superintendent level and above.)

But if there were vegetative people, I'm sure those vegetative students would, when complaining about difficulties others are having with basic English, only use words they could spell.

Anonymous said...

Thank you Mr. McClure. Most voters can tell the difference between Angle's showboating and your hard work.

Anonymous said...

7:56

Go to any public school and ask for a tour of the special needs classroom which is run by a colonial intermediate unit.

You will be shown to one classroom, that has 5-7 kids on ventilators, tube feeds, paralyzed from the neck down. They are in special wheel chairs, and are accompanied by their full time private nurse, one teacher and at least 2 teacher aides. There are about 10 adults in a class with 7 kids. They receive speech, PT, OT for years on end, despite the fact that maximum potential has long been reached.

They cost each district about $250K per year, and will never be able to hold a pencil.

Anonymous said...

Don't worry, John Morganelli will fund his campaign both directly and indirectly. His do-nothing wife will continue to take a salary from Morganelli and he'll get re-elected as he will have a lot more money and name recognition.

Anonymous said...

As in the past, not only will Morganelli's staff be pressured to donate directly to Morganelli, they will be quietly pressured to attend fundraisers for McClure.

Anonymous said...

Is trish still posting about selling Gracedale where was she on May 17th. 3 to 1 to keep it so lets keep making posts about selling it and how much better the county would be with out it.


You lost get over it!

Anonymous said...

No, the ones who lost were seniors at home. No money for any of them. ANd taxpayers will lose too.Wait till you see the tax hike to pay for all of those pricey capital improvements..

The county should seek an opinion from the courts on how to pay for it, since none of this extends to the budget. Did they think we should just pull monopoly money out of a box?

Trish

Zorn said...

scum breeding dems all

Anonymous said...

We could use the $60million of taxpayer money Angle/Stoffa is sitting on. Or we can use the money Stoffa wanted to spend on his Drug Rehab Hotel with his pal Attiyah.

Brendan