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Wednesday, April 08, 2009

How John Stoffa's Money Maven Has Saved Taxpayers $9.8 Million Annually

Let's say you live in a Northampton County home assessed at $100,000. Your yearly county tax bill, based on a 10.8 mil rate, would be $1,080. But if someone beside John Stoffa were county executive, that bill would be $1,215 or higher.

I know this as a result of a discussion yesterday with Stoffa's amiable Finance Director, Vic Mazziotti. A portrait of St. Thomas More, incidentally, adorns one of his walls. Patron saint of politicians and lawyers, More lost his head - literally - when he refused to go join Henry VIII's quarrel with the Catholic Church. His final words. "The king's good servant, but God's first."

"I hope it never has to go that far here," deadpans Mazziotti.

Based on his outstanding performance as Stoffa's money maven, Vic has nothing to worry about. His initiatives have saved taxpayers $9.8 million annually. That translates to 1.35 mils in lower taxes. He has no gigantic building to show for his efforts. He just saves your money. Here's a rundown.

1. Review and analysis of County's health care services resulting in a change of administrators, saving the county over $7 million per year. - This issue is largely believe to be the primary reason why John Stoffa initially decided to run for County Executive. Former Executive Glenn Reibman, who was receiving campaign contributions from the previous administrator, refused to make changes. Stoffa formed a committee, spearheaded by Mazziotti, which resulted in changes and major savings.

2. Telephone services changes have saved over $250,000 per year. - Noting that bills were "outrageously high," Mazziotti hired a consultant with a good track record, and service charges have dropped dramatically.

3. Renegotiated IT outsourcing contract, resulting in annual savings of over $800,000 per year as well as an increase in the number of onsite staff from 13 to 23 employees. - Noting a contract that had been originally executed many years ago in "different times," Mazziotti was surprised to learn that nothing forced the IT vendor to keep a designated staff available. No penalties were assessed for a failure to meet goals.

4. Replacement of the County's Payroll/HR system, resulting in a more integrated set of applications, with a number of new web based modules and a savings of over $2.5 million over a 10 year period. - This is new software, scheduled to go live on January 1, 2010.

5. Reorganized and revised Assessment Division procedures, resulting in an increase in tax revenue of over $1 million in annual revenue. - When Mazziotti first came on board, he noted that many properties, including major corporate ventures like banks, were going lengthy periods without being assessed, resulting in a loss of revenue. Vic initiated daily field reports until the backlog was eliminated.

6. Implemented remote deposit capabilities in the Revenue Division, enabling large payments to be deposited more quickly. - This prevents the county from losing a day's interest on a large deposit.

7. Implemented online credit card tax payment procedure as convenience to taxpayers. The party providing this service charges a small fee to the user, and the County receives the full amount of the tax payment. - Many taxpayers who previously would find themselves delinquent are able to make their payments. This results in no savings to the county, but is a convenience to a property owner.

8. eRecording of Deeds. This increases both efficiency and effectiveness of the office and improves service to their clients.

9. Implemented Pictometry in the GIS Division. Pictometry improves public safety by providing 911 dispatchers with oblique angle pictures of building, thereby showing doors, windows and other exit/entry points to building. - "This will not save money, but it might save lives, " explains Mazziotti who worked on this project with Director of Administration John Conklin. Let's say there's a fire in some building. A dispatcher with pictometry might be able to tell someone how to get out.

10. Establishing OPEB (Other Post Employment Benefits) Trust to reduce the required annual contribution for retiree health care by over $500,000 per year. (This is not yet completed. Awaiting the development of the trust by the Solicitors Office.) - You can fund a retiree's healthcare while the person is still employed or can adopt a PAYGO system, in which you wait until the employee retires. Funding future health care now, just like retirement pay, is actually cheaper in the long run.


Anonymous said...

After you sift through the BS, the County taxpayer pays more in Tax today then they did in 2005 before Mr. Stoffa and his minion maziotti maven came into power.

That is the bottom line and the truth.

Rich Kistler

Bernie O'Hare said...

False. Aside from the 1/2 mil for open space that was promised by Stoffa when he first ran for office, there have been no tax increases.

I have given you cold, hard facts to demonstrate steps that Mazziotti, a Republican, has taken to reduce the tax burden. had those steps been ignored, you would be paying higher taxes today.

It's not flashy. Unlike most pols, Stoffa does not call news conferences to announce every fart. But he and his team have been quietly working their asses off for the taxpayers.

That's the bottom line.

Anonymous said...

Asolutely False? Wron True! Do County taxpayers pay a higher tax rate today then in 2005? Any answer other than yes is a lie.

Save your yeah buts for the voters.

Anonymous said...


How unfortunate for Allentown that city Democrats placed party over integrity when they elected Frank Concannon over Vic for city controller. Frank "controlled" nothing in his eight years in office.He did zero audits...

Scott Armstrong

Anonymous said...

And Armstrong launches a personal attack over a guy no longer in politics. Blah Blah Blah, Linus.
Save your Insanity for Allenhole.

So where are our raises? Why can't county employees get a raise, if Stoffa is saving all this money?

Anonymous said...

Hey, that Mazziotti is a Republican. Republicans are bad, you can't vote for them.

Allentown Democrat Voter

Anonymous said...

Hey no name, how is me telling the truth that Frank(a former friend)did no audits as city controller an insult?
Drop the blind allegiance to the party dribble, it is simplistic group think and counter productive to any goal of good government.

Scott Armstrong

Anonymous said...

actually Bern, while these appear to be laudable accomplishments,none of the savings are "facts" per se. they come from maziotti, and he may have a good argument to support them, but they remain arguments.

perhaps a verification by the controller's office would move them into the realm of "fact".

Anonymous said...

Stoffa raised his own pay. Now he collects social security, a county pay check a pension from Lehigh County, dosen't he ? And, he has now he has potentially increased his Northampton County pension ? A quadruple dip ? Nice.

Anonymous said...

Stoffa did NOT raise his own pay.

Anonymous said...

As a matter of fact, he is forbidden to raise his own salary - any salary increases can not take effect until the NEXT administration is sworn in.

But we wouldn't let a little thing like facts get in the way, would we.

As far as Rich Kistler's comments - in the last 4 years, the ONLY county tax increase has been 1/2 mil - which Stoffa promised when he campaigned for the job. The voters had already approved such an increase via referendum.

Stoffa kept his promise.

Reibman et al (including Council President Ann McHale, raised county taxe4s by 64%.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"So where are our raises? Why can't county employees get a raise, if Stoffa is saving all this money?"

Here's the thing. Contrary to what you seem to think, Stoffa does not work for you. He works for the taxpayers and his primary obligation is to them. Contrary to what you seem to think, the taxpayers do not share your opinion of yourself.

Stoffa cannot unilaterally raise salaries for union workers w/o an unfair labor pratice being filed. For nonunion, he commissioned a Hay Study that will ensure everyone gets a living wage. Because that study has adversely impacted long-term employees who do the best work, it is being re-evaluated.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"actually Bern, while these appear to be laudable accomplishments,none of the savings are "facts" per se."

I respectfully disagree. FACT: The Stoffa admin has switched health care admins. FACT: It has resulted in $7 MM per yuer savings. FACT: The Assessment Office procedures were revised. FACT: It has resulted in $1 MM in increased revenue annually.

And so on.

Based on these FACTS, I can make a convincing argument that Stoffa stands for fiscal accountability. In uncertain economic times, this is EXACTLY the kind of person we need in office.

Anonymous said...

The county saved money on health care because most employees are paying a $250.00 deductible on said health care. When reibman was in most County employees paid little or no deductible..So most of his "savings" are on the backs of the county employees.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Really? To save $7MM annually based on a $250 deductible, the county would have to employ 28,000 people. It does not.

The savings were effected bc Blue Cross has better financial arrangements with hospitals than Colonial. The county is self-insured, which means it pays the cost and these health care administrators process the payments. Blue Cross works out better deals than Colonial. That's the reason. It has very little to do w/ deductibles. Incidentally, those deductibles started w/ Reibman right around the time he was laying off people and raising taxes 64%.

gsmith said...


Thank you for informing us about the tax savings. i appreciate finding out good news about public servants, most of whom do their best most of the time.

Anonymous said...

No, fact! Employees pay more for theeir healthcare today than under Reibman.

Fact! The County taxpayer pays more County taxes today than before Stoffa was elected.

Facts! We will let the voters decide when a tax increase isn't a tax increase.

Fact! Ken Mohr,Stoffa buddy from Lehigh County and campaign contributor has a secret contract just under the required amount to inform County Council. What he does, no one knows, as he apparently performs no function that isn't already done by Gordon Heller, Parks Director.

Fact! Tom Harp, old Stoffa buddy, fills a position Stoffa said was unnecessary. He publishes a newsletter.

Facts! Facts! Facts!

Did you work for Dick Cheney?

Anonymous said...

All of this fiscal responsibility talk might make some forget that upon his re-election another tax gobbling bond is coming. Remember, we almost got $186,000 parking spaces not too long ago.

How do you know when a politician is stretching the truth concerning fiscal responsibility during an election campaign? Easy. His or her lips are moving.

If Stoffa is re-elected, we'll see a spending spree like the county has won the showcase on Price Is Right.

If McHale wins, it will likely be worse.

It's lesser of two evils time again.

Bernie O'Hare said...

1) The deductibles started under Reibman. Sorry.

2) When Stoffa ran for office, one of his platforms was a half mil tax for open space. He kept that promise and the county has a pay as you go open space program despite Dertinger's opposition. There have been no other tax increases. McHale voted to raise taxes 64% over 2 years.

3) I've already acknowledged Mohr is doing work at Weaversville for the county. He did contribute to Stoffa's first campaign and is not doing so now.

4) I have a phone message lasting nearly 5 minutres to tell me all the things Tom Harp does. He is a hard worker and I will be doing a separate post to detail that.

In 3 years, Stoffa's team found ways to save nearly $10 MM per year. It's very impressive and people need to know that.

DemoThug said...

Anon 10:52

Just like the irresponsible spending of the past 4 years, right?

I'll buy you dinner for 4 at any choice of Lehigh Valley restaurant if that turns out to be the case...

Wanna bet? Define your terms..



Anonymous said...

So what's wrong with Ken Mohr and Tom Harp?

They are both bright, effective individuals - with significant accomplishments and no dirt.

Anonymous said...

"I respectfully disagree. FACT: The Stoffa admin has switched health care admins. FACT: It has resulted in $7 MM per yuer savings. FACT: The Assessment Office procedures were revised. FACT: It has resulted in $1 MM in increased revenue annually."

au contraire, my roof-diving friend. they are assertions. numbers can be manipulated to say almost anything.

the reibman administration produced many numbers that you refused to accept at face value.

numbers such as these, particularly in an election cycle, are only "facts" when they've been verifed by a neutral third party.

Anonymous said...

If what Mr. Mazziotti says is true the County should have returned a 1mill taxcut to the taxpayers. I will cut him extreme slack and say why not put my money where your mouth is and give a .5 mill taxcut.

It won't happen because the other poster got it right, this is the juggleing of dollars that can make a Ford look like a Lincoln. Governemnets do it all the time.

Anonymous said...

Yes, But that engineering contract is going to cost us millions!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Stoffa and Steve are wrong on this one. Picking a firm without hourly rates and righting the RFP so it caters to one firm. Shame on them both.

Anonymous said...

sorry writing.

Anonymous said...

These upcoming projects will get run into the ground due to the irresponsiblity of this administration. I can tell you, as i did months ago, who that RFQ was written around. That is no different than pay to play! Here we go again. They wasted everyones time. Shame on the Stoffa administration for allowing this. The could have at least just handed it to the firm and saved these other Northampton County - Tax Paying Firms - a whole hell of alot of money. They should be embarrassed! And in case you forgot, the firm that will get the project starts with a 'D'. That's BS and you know it Bernie. I did not talk to Steve as you suggested but i will be at county council protesting this mess when i get the final word. I've gathered alot of facts over the past few months that proves the process was tainted and that favorites were played. I even heard that they allowed this firm to write the rfq for them.

Anonymous said...

...And when it's shown that the crap you've been asserting is a ball of wax, will you come on here and apologize for your reckless assertions?

I doubt it.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Anon 1:40,

I'll concede this information would be more valuable had it come from the press. There is no way you can ask the Controller to verify this bc his office is independent and is not to be used for making election year claims. But what I wrote is true. I met w/ Vic for a fairly long time and he had documentation to back every claim of savings. if anything, his estimates were conservative. He is, after all, a Republican.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Anon 10:16,

At the same time that Maziotti was shaving expenses, government was growing. Jobs that Reibman had to eliminate returned. More deputies and corrections officers had to be hired. The probation office grew.

Had nearly anyone else been in charge, you'd be looking at sdome hefty tax increases.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Anon 11:18,

You and I have had this discussion. I toldd you to talk to Steve, our public works director. You chose not to do so, but now will address council. That is your right, but I am astonished you would follow that course without first speaking directly to the administrators whose actions you think are wrong. I asked you to email me and you refused to do that, too. You'd rather come on this site anonymously and whine. I'll look forward to seeing you approach council.

Anonymous said...

If the numbers are right a tax cut is in order, I agree with the other poster. That willnot happen because these guys are smoking the books.

How much of the cash surplus that Stoffa inherited is left. With all the savings to cover these miraculous new costs, at least Mr. Stoffa didnot have to raid any of the money left to him in 2005.

Or did he? Waiting for amazing explanation as well as Stoffa plan to cure cancer while restoring a breathable atmosphere on Mars, all while building a muti-level drug rehab birdhouse.

Bernie O'Hare said...

The numbers are right. But while Mazziotti has saved money, the county has been forced to grow. I've already pointed that out. It is also important that there be an ample cash reserve in the event of unforeseen contingencies.

Anonymous said...

"Yes, But that engineering contract is going to cost us millions!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Stoffa and Steve are wrong on this one. Picking a firm without hourly rates and righting the RFP so it caters to one firm. Shame on them both."

wow. somebody seems a ittle obsessed.

Anonymous said...

I thought Vic was a member of the "Patriot Party"?

When he ran for office a few years back, yes - no?

Anonymous said...

Whatever his Party this is all smoke and mirrors. Simple question how much money was in reserve in 1?06 and how much money now?

That plus all these savings added up means it should more than pay for a huge taxcut.
Won't happen becaus eit is all a game.

Randy Kistler

Bernie O'Hare said...

Vic was a member of the Patriot party. People are disgusted by the way both parties fail to listen.

Mr. Kistler, If this is such a simple question, wwhy are you asking it? Why not instead just make your point? Between you and me, i don't trust Ann (64% tax increase) McHale to hand out any tax cuts.

The figures I provided are facts. Someone noted they would have more credibility if they came from someone who is objective, and I concede that, but they are facts. You seem to think that cutting $80M in expenses is reason for a tax decrease, but that betrays a misunderstanding of county government. As the new prison and courthouse became compete, more people had to be hired.Capital needs do not diminish. When the economy goes south, the demand on county resources gets bigger. The revenue stream slows. Things are not that simple.

But in the face of a growing county, the Stoffa team found ways to cut costs.

Anonymous said...

Vic is a clever politician. Sort of cross between Roy Cohn, Robert Moses and Michael Bloomberg.

Anonymous said...

With the $60 million Reibman gave him and the $10 million he saves a year. Even factoring in County expenses we should be expecting a nice tax retrurn.

When will we get it?

Anonymous said...

Anon 2:48, never!

BO is just playing the Stoffa song. The numbers are so much "smoke in you coffee, smoke in your coffee".