Friday, December 02, 2011

Gridlock! Northampton County Council Fails to Pass a Budget

Bruce Gilbert and Peg Ferraro
Despite a process that began October 1, when Executive John Stoffa proposed a $331 million budget calling for a 9.3% tax increase, Northampton County Council was unable on December 1 to produce a budget. Despite at least six budget hearings and a three-hour long meeting, County Council rejected its own amended budget, in a five to four vote.

Voting against this budget was Ron Angle, Tom Dietrich, Lamont McClure, Ann McHale and Barb Thierry. The rest of Council - John Cusick, Mike Dowd, Peg Ferraro, and Bruce Gilbert - said yes to an amended budget that would have resulted in a 4.6% tax hike.

This failure is a sharp departure from last year, when then President Angle was able to produce his own budget in late October, which proposed no new taxes and was quickly adopted by Council.

It also left Angle sparring with John Cusick, the Council President who succeeded him. "It was your job to produce a budget," he complained, proposing that a new millage rate ordinance be tabled because of "our malfeasance." For his part, a visibly upset Cusick had his gripes, too. "There were some people who voted No and proposed no amendments," he said, a pointed reference to Angle, McClure and Thierry, who proposed no amendments and still voted No.

"Just one more meeting with Angle," Cusick stated in the hallway, after it was over.

Under the Home Rule Charter, if Council fails to adopt a budget by December 16, the Budget proposed by Stoffa, calling for a 9.3% tax hike, will become law.

Council will have one more chance to adopt an amended budget when it meets again on December 8, 6:30 PM, at the Courthouse.

47 comments:

Anonymous said...

"Then" council president Angle had a zero budget by dumping Gracedale. Since that went in the shitter how much would his "zero" budget be calculated to RAISE TAXES if they hadn't ammended it last month by I think it was 8 million from the slush fund. I would say that translates to 1 mill. So in essence he did not produce a "zero" budget.

Please buy our new improved larger sized box of "FUZZY MATH" now availible without pesky facts .

Anonymous said...

It is the job of the County Executive to provide a "budget" not county council. John Stoffa must sell his budget based on why he beleives in it. The problem is Stoffa doesn't have a leadership bone in his body. He also doesn't bleive in much. He just threw it out there.

The angry two year old game Angle is playing is making it clear to people why he has no place in serious issues that affect peoples lives.

Last years budget was a joke. A half-year budget for an ongoing expense based on a "possible" sale. With no tax increase it isn't very hard to "sell" a budget.

Ron Angle never tires of patting himself on the back or showing why people are tired of his games at the taxpayers expense.

Anonymous said...

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Anonymous said...

the seven dwarfs strike again.

the best line of the year. "one more meeting with angle"

Anonymous said...

What did Councilperson-elect Scott Parsons have to say at the meeting?

Anonymous said...

Only the Sane Council Members voted against Cusicks stupid amendments. Stoffa is right, we need to raise the taxes and the budget should stand, there is NO FAT in this budget and Cusick is ONLY playing with it so he looks good for hi run for county Executive. Don't fall for this bull

Mark Barker said...

How do you spell norco council?

D Y S F U C T I O N A L

Anonymous said...

The people showed in the Gracedale vote and in the last election that they are willing to increase taxes to save Gracedale. Why is Council fighting against the will of the people to raise their taxes?

Anonymous said...

Stoffa's budget is barebones..I think the best thing that could happen to this budget is for Council not to agree and then the Stoffa budget will just go into effect. Let well enough alone already..

c said...

A gridlock is politically neutral. Those who vote for Cusick's budget will look like winners as well as those who vote not to accept the budget. Politically neutral.

Bernie O'Hare said...

8:42, Actually, I agree with you. Council can hypocritically claim they voted against it, giving themselves the cover they need. But if there is no tax hike this year, next year will be far worse.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"The people showed in the Gracedale vote and in the last election that they are willing to increase taxes to save Gracedale"

That's disingenuous, as you know. The referendum question never authorized a tax hike to keep Gracedale, or the vote would have been closer. But people should have known this was likely, and we get the government we deserve.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"What did Councilperson-elect Scott Parsons have to say at the meeting?"

He was there. He was at the last one, too, and I incorrectly stated he was not. He was amiable, and said he hopes they can have more evening meetings bc some of us have to work for a living. He spoke with Ron after the meeting, too.

Bernie O'Hare said...

5:53, I like that idea and will post something.

Tom Foolery said...

To not have a tax hike this year would be just ignorant..Plain ignorant...You would put the county in a precarious position. Aside from Gracedale, the State continues to reduce funding for Human Services essentially forcing the County to increase their taxes. Governor Corbett's plan worked exceedingly well. He cuts education and Human Services which forces up local property taxes..The irate citizens then blame the local taxing bodies and Corbett gets away from all the responsibility for his pathetic actions scott free...He'll rant on next election about how he never raised state income taxes. True..He instead just forces up everyone's local property taxes. And he gets away with it...

Bernie O'Hare said...

Tom, We agree. People overwhelmingly voted for open space, a half mill of taxes. They voted overwhelmingly to keep Gracedale, which is approximately another half mill (slightly more). Now Stoffa did his best to minimize costs, especially with that innovative GESA, which has saved taxpayers anther mill of taxes. He also dipped into the fund balance, taking it precariously low,below what Council itself has decided is appropraite. Doing that, he still projects 1 9.3% tax hike. If people want open space, and they do, then they have to pay for it. If people want Gracedale, and they do, then they have to pay for it. Stoffa did his best to keep the pain as minimal as possible. The amendment proposed by Cusick, which reduced open space funding, actually defies the people's will. I understand his reasoning and that this is only temporary, but be;ieve it sets te wrong precedent.

Anonymous said...

Can't wait for January so that the cc meetings can begin to be productive again. Hopefully ul learn to b civil too Bo, as u have discovered hate is defeated by love, and light will always expose what lurks in the dark. Angle has been exposed.

Bernie O'Hare said...

I agree light exposes what hides in the dark, and you have been increasingly exposed as a vengeful, hateful person who erroneously thinks all your problems will be solved be eliminating the Evil Ron Angle. You have increasingly made yourself irrelevant, and have allied yourself with racists like the Wicked Witch in your hate-engineerd campaign against Angle and Stoffa. The persons who increasingly have been exposed are Gracedale Goons like you. Now go scurry back under your rock.

Anonymous said...

Bernie -

Regarding your comments about Corbett's education cuts, I'm a bit confused as to why the state should be collecting taxes for local education just in order to dole it back to school districts.

Money from the state and federal governments has enabled local superintendants and school boards to spend well beyond what their communities can afford. The result, little to no accountability and busted budgets when the intergovernmental gravy train slows down.

Last time I checked, kids are going to Allentown, Bethlehem, Salisbury, East Penn and other local schools - not to Pennsylvania State Elementary School (or something of the sort).

We should keep the funding - and the related taxes - at the proper level of government. That's part of being fiscally responsible.

Anonymous said...

I beleive this would be the first time in Northampton County history that a county council used this cowardly back door approach to raising taxes.

I realize that Lehigh County has done it a few times but over there they are pussies.

These guys are distinguishing themselves as the worst county council in the history of the county. Add to that the worst controller and you have a set.

Anonymous said...

IIIIIIIIIIIIIIIII Angle was "alledged" to have a budget, where is it?

Anonymous said...

That is being saved for the "grand finale".

Bernie O'Hare said...

Angle could produce a no-tax increase budget. He would do it the way he did it last year. He recommended that Cusick sit down with Hammond at the beginning of this budget process, instead of going thru lengthy budget hearings that are really nothing more than dog-and-pony shows.

Angle was stripped of leadership at the beginning of the year. He was tossed out by voters. This budget is for next year. I do not feel that he should prepare next year's budget because voters and his fellow Council members have decided they want to move in another direction.

So now you will get the government you deserve.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"I'm a bit confused as to why the state should be collecting taxes for local education just in order to dole it back to school districts."

Because the state Constitution requires it.

Anonymous said...

Pretty slimy move...they know they support a tax increase but they will pin it all on Stoffa. I guess with Angle, goes anyone with any spine on Council.

Anonymous said...

"Angle could produce a no-tax increase budget. He would do it the way he did it last year"

2 points

One he didn't produce a zero budget last year.

And two if your comment is true this means either he lied that Gracedale would result in a 18% tax increase or you are lying and he could nor produce a no tax increase budget.

Me, I think you both are full of it.

Anonymous said...

"Angle could produce a no-tax increase budget."

He has nothing. Because if he did...

1. He would produce it 'saving the day' and paving the way for his comeback.

2. He would carry out the job he was tasked with when the voters voted for him in 2007. To work hard for them till 2012.

3. He would have something good to toss in the faces of the remaining republicans he claims 'back stabbed' him.

So he won't do #1, gave up doing #2, and cries so much he is failing at #3.

1+2+3 equals in angle's world, nothing.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Anon 5:54,

1) Maybe in your dimension, there was a tax hike last year, but here on Planet Earth, Angle produced a zero tax increase budget.

2) He certainly did say that Gracedale would result in an 18% tax hike, and it would have but for the innovative GESA that Stoffa managed to conjure. Without that, Stoffa himself stated the tax hike would have been as high as 30%.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Anon 5:57,

1) He has been rejected by both Council and by the people, so it's time for some of your bright lights to step forward and save the day.

2) Angle has continued to work hard, but next year's budget is for the county government next year Given the election result, it's time for some of your bright lights to step forward.

3) Angle has nothing to prove to them, and is looking forward to returning to private life. He'll leave it to you to be petty and vindictive.

Anonymous said...

1) Maybe in your dimension, there was a tax hike last year, but here on Planet Earth, Angle produced a zero tax increase budget.



Rebuttal: Failed, It was for 6 months pending the firing of all Gracedale employees. The council voted to finish the year 6-2 to fund the Gracedale deficit and other monies for 8 million plus additional dollars that Ron failed to envision. That would have resulted in a tax increase if the money was not taken form the slush fund.

2) He certainly did say that Gracedale would result in an 18% tax hike, and it would have but for the innovative GESA that Stoffa managed to conjure. Without that, Stoffa himself stated the tax hike would have been as high as 30%.

Rebuttal: That still leaves a projected 7 million cash infussion to Gracedale next year. Where is that coming from. And how would he circumvent it without a county favorable union giveback contract in place.

Conjur? Stoffa you Angle and the elves in the trees knew of that info all throughout and withheld the information from the public in an effort to make the sale.

You can't have it both ways.

He would have had to raise taxes with anything he concocted, and blame it solely on Gracedale.

Saying nothing with a tacit response in the form of a grin like the Cheshire Cat as if he has the answers (but you don't want Ron) so you don't get them is pathetic and transparent.

I think I'll be quite happy, thank you, with the government I deserve.

Anonymous said...

While it makes me ill To say it, I will not fault Angle on this. He is just being Ron Angle. Anyone who is surprised or shocked by his behavior never really knew Ron Angle.

The perosn who is really lazy is John Stoffa. Last yeat he offers his gooofy budget of choices, hands it to county council and punches out for the rest of the year.

This year John Stoffa once again outdoes John Stoffa. He offers a budget that has had no real work in it.


So if Angle clims a zero tax increase is doable, that means either John Stoffa is intentionally putting in a false inflated budget. Or, he is too incompetent to know how to do it and should publically call on Ron Angle to help him on behalf of the taxpayers.

While I do not buy Bernies excuses for Ron Angle's 'FU' to the public, I am more angry with John Stoffa who has a few years left to work. People at the courthouse realize Stoffa has been phoning it in for some time now but either do your damn job or resign.

The entire affair is disgusting and a lesson in bad, very bad government.

Anonymous said...

Bern,
Please stop calling it "an innovative gesa". It was a smart move and he should get credit for doing it. But they have been around since at least 98. Reibman did one, allentown did one, LVIA is doing one, Bethlehem is about to do a second one, and lehigh county did two or three. It's not like John figured out how to split the freakin' atom.

Anonymous said...

So what. There is a tax increase and the people of the County will deal with it. Move on. Nothing to see here folks. This type of issue happens all over the country at the local level and guess what, nothing ever changes. Again... so what.

Anonymous said...

HOORAY for Mr Cusick's statement...I think most of Northampton County will be glad when Bozo the Clown, aka Ron Angle is no longer a part of these meetings. We will be able to watch business conducted in a professional, orderly manner without a clown always looking to steal the show. Mr Cusick has done a fine job in his position as president, it's just that Ron ANgle always has to have a side bar going. As for Stoffa he is just taking up space!!! Curious how he conducts himself now that Ron is gone and don't forget Barb thierry, aka Miss Bobblehead, who is she going to take the lead from now???!!! She can't even think that far ahead.
Adios to those who lost the election>>>The people have spoken!!!

Anonymous said...

Stoffa is the best County Executive we ever had.

Anonymous said...

Right, Stoffa has screwed the pooch on two budgets in a row. He has abrogated his responsibility to put together a realistic county budget, then blames county council.

John Stoffa is the most clueless county executive we have ever had.

Anonymous said...

They are all assholes who have cost taxpayers millions. All. Both parties. Exec and council. Ineffective time wasters. F them all.

Anonymous said...

He`s still the best.

Anonymous said...

Trish Mezzacappa for county executive.

Anonymous said...

We know Bernie, he is the best and so was Angle.

Anonymous said...

The kids have a saying, I think it applies to Stoffa and County Council. Epic fail!!!

Lighthouse said...

First let me get one thing out of the way, I have not always liked his style, however, I was personally quite impressed that Angle took the bull by the horns last year and was able to come up with a budget with no new taxes. That was a moment of real leadership above and beyond. His success, however, was Stoffa's failure to anyone on the outside looking in.

That said, and certainly not to defend Cusick nor the rest of Council, but your emphasis on them is only 49% fair in my eyes. Your title is to the point, that they failed "to pass a budget." However, several references are made thereafter as to their failure to "produce" a budget, and Angle's past success in "producing" a budget. To produce is "to create". That is Stoffa's job. Once they have it, they can obviously modify. Yes, you point out that he proposed a budget calling for a 9.3% tax increase... so to point, he "produced" this budget/tax increase.

Unlike a Council-Manager form of government where an elected governing body--borough, township, or county-- is ultimately and soley responsible but hires a "manager" for day to day executive functions, the NorCo Executive is an elected position with formal powers and functions. The Home Rule Charter you reference specifically states that he/she is to "prepare and submit to the County Council the projected financial plan and budget" and even has the power to "veto...items in the budget adopted by the County Council". So, I think that as an elected position with such formal powers, at minimum 51% of any budget failures should fall on him. As the day to day executive, he should best know where belt-tightening can happen. Again, I think Angle's "leadership" was above and beyond last year, but unfortunately necessary due to Executive failure. Him pointing the arrows at Cusick/Council may stem from valid bitterness, but not particularly fair.

Coucil's job, per Charter, is "to adopt the budget" (different than "producing" it) and the most important power/leverage they have is to pay (or not pay) for it "to levy taxes and to determine the... rates of taxation." Unless they appropriate wasteful monies over an Executive veto, they are more reactionary to the Executive than in "producing" anything.

I agree with you Bernie (as I frequently do), that we do not have the strongest of Councils. However, I will respectfully disagree with the preponderance of blame for the budget/tax increase being shifted off of Stoffa.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Lighthouse, Here's what I mean. Stoffa, I'll agree is the person who proposes the budget. He did. Council rejected his budget, which is their right. But they failed to produce an amended budget that would get 5 votes. As President, that is Cusick's job.

But I think you're pretty much right, too.

Anonymous said...

From what I see being a politician on any level is a thankless job. All of the criticism that is always on this blog proves it. Most people would not or could not put themselves out to take on these positions. While some do it for the power others do it because they hope to make a difference and to be a voice for others. This council lost its leaders this year. There are no forward thinkers there and some have been there for some time. They will conduct themselves pleasantly but with little to boast about. We should all be fearful for what is to come. I for one do not need to hear members go on and on getting their 2 minutes of fame. Less of that and votes to downsize government therefore spending my tax dollars wisely is what matters. Not everyone agrees with this and prefers to spend, spend and spend, but this is what makes us different and why we vote in who we vote in. Mr. Angle was disliked even hated but not for the job he did. It was personal. Even Gracedale became personal. Then there were his personal matters that did not help him. It was impossible for most to separate the 2 but few were able to. As president he managed to get the votes needed most times because they listened to his reasoning and had the good sense to agree. That was business being conducted as it should be. No one left there can make the argument with the knowledge he or Mr Dowd possessed so now the circus act really begins.

Bernie O'Hare said...

I'm afraid you are absolutely right.

Anonymous said...

The budget must be reduced to meet current revenue. We should not raise taxes we should be lowering costs. There are so many ways to do that and the exec needs to do his job. Council should have sent the budget back for a request of no tax increase ans see what the administration would produce. I find it difficult to believe that Easton can do it but the county. The judges and court system are not sacred cows. They just think they arw.

Anonymous said...

John Stoffa and Ron Angle did a great job. They could not have done better. They are the best. The rest of county council dropped the ball. So did Glenn Reibman and Bill Brackbill.