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Nazareth, Pa., United States

Friday, April 04, 2008

Don't Count on Any Tax Rebate in Northampton County

At last night's Northampton County Council meeting, members Lamont McClure and Charles Dertinger introduced an ordinance granting a 10% rebate on all real estate taxes paid this year. They claim the county has at least $60 million lying around, doing nothing, so that money should naturally go back to the taxpayers.

How Republican of them!

Someone anonymously sent me this note:

"The county administration is using the excessive reserve as a SLUSH fund for pet projects. Council members Dertinger and McClure are correct in asking that a portion of the reserve be returned to the taxpayers. This administration increased the size of county gov't to a point where a 20-25% tax increase will be necessary to cover cost."

Forks resident Ken Nagy made those same points last night.

But is there really an excessive, $60 million, cash reserve? That's the $60 million question.

The ordinance has been forwarded to Ron Angle's Finance Committee for review on Monday. According to Angle, "The reality is that there is at best a $2 million surplus." I'll have a full report after Angle's committee brings in the fiscal experts. But I suspect this McClure-Dertinger proposal is just cynical grandstanding on a measure they know will fail.

Instead of thinking about good government, they're writing their next campaign ads.


A.J. Cordi said...

I'd like to hear what Mayor Stoffa thinks about this ;-)

Bernie O'Hare said...

Boy, am I surprised he skipped a speech by Sam Bennett with visuals and everything for a government meeting.

Stoffa won't have to veto this measure bc I don't thinmk there are five votes for this purely political stunt.

There is no $60MM surplus, and on Monday night, I'll have it from the bean counters.

A.J. Cordi said...

If there is/was a surplus that large, they would have some splaining to do!

Anonymous said...

Over $60 Million cash surplus. Playing the books inflating montly costs to $22 million(questionable) also not necessary.
$12 million of the cash reserve to balance budget. Angle used to scream at Reibman for that.
A tax rebate is is order. It won't happen because majority of County Council fear Angle and Stoffa, and their favorable Press.
Still a great idea by at least two people looking out for the taxpayer

Anonymous said...

angle should have some splainin' to do...isn't dertinger making the same argument angle made against reibman?

Bernie O'Hare said...

No Angle had the exact opposite problem. He criticized Reibman for spending the seed corn (unrestricted reserve) every year until the county eneded up with back to back tax increases close to 70%. He believes the county needs two months of expenses in the till. But we'll see on Monday.

Anonymous said...

Any pressure to give back to NorCo taxpayers that which has been confiscated as a result of poor financial management is welcome. There is no harm, no foul in applying regular pressure to give taxpayers a break.

NorCo government's mismanagement has created an adversarial relationship with taxpayers who just "want to get theirs" because they know the politicians also "want to get theirs."

Stoffa didn't cause this, but he shouldn't be surprised by it either. Hell, the two knuckleheads calling for the tax break are two of the rocket scientists who've created the current environment.

As for ever counting on a tax rebate from NorCo? Bawhahahahahahaha. The way this one-party county has historically wasted with impunity? Now that's funny.

If you think we'll ever see county tax relief, I have an old stone tavern that pretends it's a museum to sell you. I'll even throw in a nearby bridge.

Anonymous said...

I predict it will pass and Stoffa will be under tremendous pressure to sign it.

Anonymous said...

The entire Norco council doesn't know EXACTLY what the surplus is. That's frightening. And sad.

Anonymous said...

Wait isn't a tax rebate a good thing? How do you know this is political grandstanding Mr. O'Hare?

Anonymous said...

The rebate will pass, and John will sign it.

Anonymous said...

It should pass this is no different than Angles rants on Reibman. The money is the money, surplus, reserve, seedcorn or HOGWASH.
The games of the Angles and Stoffas will be tested with this plan to give back to taxpayers what is rightfully theirs.
If Stoofa signs it he may not be able to fund his'secret' projects.

Anonymous said...

I think that everyone screaming that the county is right to give a "rebate" is forgetting how much time and money it would take for the county to actually do this--to pay for the workers to calculate and print out all the paperwork on all + 116,000 properties.............uh, in case anyone is wondering or even cares, the tax department is suffering a huge employee turnover, and they are only at half staff because the county refuses to do anything about the low pay per quantity of work situation---there would be no humanly possible way for this office to perform such a great feat, as well as keep up with the overload of work that is required of them already on a daily basis. Also, it would be a lot more cost effective, to just lower the millage rates for the next year, keeping that money in the taxpayer pockets if this so called surplus is truly there and they want to give back to the taxpayer. I don't believe that people just don't think about how much trouble and money could actually go into something like a tax rebate---for all the money the taxpayer wants back how much more of that money they have to give to the employees to implement it. Think about it.....

Bernie O'Hare said...

Your point about the cost of mailing these rebates is valid. But the notion that NC has an oscene unrestricted cash reserve is a myth. To the person who nboted it's so sad that we don't know exactly what it is, that's because its in a constant state of flux. The county is a $400 million operation, and there is a lot of pass through money.

According to GAAP, two months of expenses should be set aside, or about 15% of the budget. The county's unrestricted cash reserve right now is somewhere around $48 million, give or take a million. Monthly expenses are about $25 MM. If the fund were reduced and some of the feds or state delays in delivering pass thru money, the county has to pay itself. it can be in a world of hurt in a hurry.

So it is simply irresponsible to hand out $7 million in a tax rebate that will probably cost another million to send out.

I will wait for the finance committee, but it's pretty clear to me this is being proposed with full knowledge that it is irresponsibnle It has nothing to do with putting money in the hands of taxpayers. it is just political grandstanding.

I doubt there are five votes for it, and I can guarantee it will be vetoed if it does pass.

Anonymous said...

The monthly cost keeps going up was $20 million, then $22 now $25. I guess it is whatever Stoffa and company make it. Two months is not required as per Accting principles ,it is recommended or 10% is acceptable.
The term 'Unrestricted cash reserve' is BS.
County Council has their own Accountants, they should immediately call for an independent financial audit of the County. It is important for taxpayers to know what is the County's current fiscal situation.
The Financial Committee has no credibility as it is an extension of the Administration.
I agree with annon 10:16 make it a taxcut for 2009 and if Stoffa resists bring in the Controller to investigate.

Bernie O'Hare said...

The finance committee is a committee of NC council, not an extension of the admin. The independent audit does show the unrestricted reserve at $48 MM. That is fiscally prudent. The controller, incidentally, is an independently elected official. He is not there to do your or my bidding, but you may certaionly request his review.

Anonymous said...

The county doesn't need an excessive cash reserve. If thier credit itsn't any good, its time for the county to pack it in. The people of NC are the only reason NC government exists and we are the ones who carry the load. Since when have the officials of NC decided they are kings or gods of some kind telling the people what to do instead of vice-versa. Thank you

Anonymous said...

The people on the finance committee might as well be extensions of the Administration. They are just rubber stamps for Stoffa.

Anonymous said...

Burne, who are the xperts ? Vic Mazziotti who had zero pre-County experience in public fiance.

WTF said...

The finance committee is an extension of the administration? Are you out of your f--king mind?
That committee is made up of Angle, Cusick, Grube and McHale.

Cusick is the Republican ost likely to run against Stoffa and is generally viewed as a snake. Grube is always pissed at Stoffa. McHale has ambitions for Stoffa's job too.

Not exactly a Stoffa-friendly crew. But one the other hand, they know math and shit like that, and they'll quiickly see McClure's idea does not add up.

Anonymous said...


They know math like Syoffa knows math.

not so casual observer said...

Even if there is NO Surplus Dertbag and Mclure will try to pass the rebate (sans funding for it) and when(and if) it fails, they will use their proposal as a campaign issue.. I can see Severson's flyer now.."the ONLY caniddiates who tried to return money to the taxpayers"

That's the plan!

Anonymous said...

I like Stoffa but an against any $$$reserve fund. Even in an emergency they will get contractors to do the work, and those contractors will not get the check from the county for months afterwards. That is the way it works. County, local, state and federal govornments are a true study on how money can be wasted, stolen, and laundered through relatives, friends, payoffs and "good 'ol boys" politics. That is exactly why I am totally against any kind of expansion of government. I say privitize the whole lot. We don't need any $600 toilet seats or $50,000 private bathrooms for the NC judges in NC or anywere else in the United States of America.