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Nazareth, Pa., United States

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Northampton County Council: The Real Reason for the 9.3% Tax Hike

Northampton County Council's first budget hearing got off to a raucous start late Monday. Ron Angle started things off with a jeremaid listing the county's financial woes: $10.7 million in debt service; $3.6 million for parks and environmentally sensitive land; $6.4 million in pension contributions; a bi-county health department; a community corrections facility; a $13 million swaption bill; and new union contracts. "We're buying a second home at the shore while we're nine months behind on our mortgage."

But Angle just as adamantly claimed there's very little room to cut. Instead of talking about "paper clips" and "toilet paper" or invading the fund balance, he suggested the county look into cost-savings measures like selling Gracedale, the county's nursing home.

He was on a roll, making good points, but went on for nearly ten minutes without coming up for air. His colleagues, facing a lengthy agenda, were getting a little impatient.

Then, when Council faced the very first item on its agenda - a $50 thousand cut to LVPC - Angle proposed it be fully restored. This drove Lamont McClure and Charles Dertinger absolutely nUtZ. Dertinger turned beet red while McClure's hair stood up. Knowing he got to them, Angle began tweaking their noses, and this august budget hearing rapidly deteriorating into one of those donnybrooks I like so much. Council Prez Ann Mchale was soon shrieking like a banshee herself, unable to control anyone.

In the meantime, Steve Barron and I were secretly following the Yankees, who were up 1-0.

Angle: "Why don't you be quiet Charlie? He's a big boy, you don't have to hold his hand. Why don't you burp him?"

Dertinger: "As it turns out, I have the floor. Try acting your age. ... It is inappropriate for someone who's never voted for a budget to carry on."

McHale: "If people wouldn't overrule my way of shouting, ... childish, absolutely childish."

Then, just as suddenly, it ended. Now I don't know why. Was it the moderating influence of Jerry Seyfried, who cautioned everyone against grandstanding? Was it Morning Call columnist Bill White, who seems to have a morbid fascination with 2 1/2 hour budget hearings? Was it because the Angels had mysteriously tied up the game?

McClure, in a thinly disguised slap at Exec John Stoffa, proposed eliminating the funding for Deputy Director of Administration Tom Harp. That would save a whopping $47 thousand. Wow! McHale and Angle proposed reducing their "contingency" fund, aka the slush fund, from $250 thousand to $100 thousand.

Angle then asked Stoffa about the 12% increase in the Executive's office, and he explained it was the result of his salary increase next year. "How about if I lay myself off?"

At the end of the meeting, Jerry Seyfried apologized to everyone, taking responsibility for Ron's outburst. "I thought I had holy water to sprinkle on him."

Is it any wonder we face a 9.3% tax hike?

37 comments:

Anonymous said...

Bernie,
We think you keep this blog just to post wild pictures. Where do you get this stuff? Great Fun.

Anonymous said...

D-Y-S-F-U-N-C-T-I-O-N-A-L is how you spell County Council.

Anonymous said...

Why can't we show the courage to make systemic cuts that will prevent this from happening in the future?

The argument that that cuts will not save us next year is a perfect example. Start cutting anyway to prepare for the future - beyond next year.

New county executive. Same old irresponsible, VERY short-sighted fiscal leadership.

We ARE buying a second house at the shore at a time when we can't pay our first mortgage.

Stoffa's attack on economically stressed taxpayers is unconscionable. He really needs to get in touch with his constituents and try to understand what's going on out here. People are hurting. Jobs have been lost. Stoffa wants more taxes.

What's the difference between this incompetent and the last one? Just give us Reibman back. At least we knew we were going to get screwed ahead of time.

Anonymous said...

I think it is a courageous budget on Stoffa's part and a necessary one. By reducing funding to just about everything our wonderful State legislators have almost forced local counties and municipaities to raise taxes. Stoffa is just trying to keep our county in tact. Just wait..The state used Stimulus money to pay a billion dollars towards the DPW budget. That means for the next few years, following this year, their budget is going to have a major deficit. That means major cuts in Human Services or huge tax increases. The state will expect the Counties to pick more up. Then what? County council infighting has gone on forever. It has little to do with the tax increase..

Anonymous said...

Per Angle, sell Gracedale, great idea for someone who will never have to face the possibility of ending their days there, for profit means cutting the supplies and services in place, God Bless Wayne, he is probably rolling over at this suggestion.

Anonymous said...

How soon people forget. Reibman's $110 Million Dollar Bond issue created all the problems.

Anonymous said...

"Reibman's $110 Million Dollar Bond issue created all the problems"

yeah, one only need to take a look at the wasteland of downtown bethlehem to realize what a train-wreck that bond was...

Anonymous said...

This generation, having been raised by the so-called greatest generation, is one that has rarely, if ever, been told, "no." We're the greatest generation of whiny babies. We demand do-overs and timeouts and refuse to be held responsible for our actions.

Tough shit for the next generation(s).

People better get used to living with less. The federal deficit has been increased ten-fold and national debt quadrupled in the past eight months. As the shit rolls down hill, states and counties better reprioritize and start telling people, "no."

This will require the abandonment of Santa Claus political campaigns with cardboard checks and fancy lucheons. The tax, tax, tax solution will eventually collapse on itself. And we'll look back and wonder why we were so short-sighted.

Anonymous said...
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Bernie O'Hare said...

"Per Angle, sell Gracedale, great idea for someone who will never have to face the possibility of ending their days there, for profit"

Most people can end their days at any of a number of for profit nursing homes. Gracedale is a costly white elephant and it is time to dump it. That alone would forestall a tax increase for several years.

Bernie O'Hare said...

I welcome your thoughts and love to argue. Feel free to disagree. But remember, commenting is a privilege, not a right. I will delete personal attacks or off-topic remarks.

Hyperbolic Bernie Usually said...

"Most people can end their days at any of a number of for profit nursing homes. Gracedale is a costly white elephant and it is time to dump it. That alone would forestall a tax increase for several years."


You clearly hate old, poor people.

Anonymous said...

Wayne was nice guy who had no sense of fiscal responsibility. Gracedale is his "nice" and costly legacy. He had a big heart and a small understanding of how much things cost.

Anonymous said...

Angle's a Republican and we wouldn't all be in this mess if it weren't for the idiots that voted for Bush twice. He should remember that.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"You clearly hate old, poor people."

Nah, I hate everybody.

Gracedale is a toilet down which we flush money. It has outlived its usefulness. There are numerous for profit nursing homes who will gladly accept anyone bc of Medicare. We are no longer supplying something that people can't get somewhere else. I'd end this cash drain.

If gracedale provided a service not readily available elsewhere, i'd understand why we should keep it. But the only argument in favor of it is sentimentality.

Anonymous said...

"...we wouldn't all be in this mess if it weren't for the idiots that voted for Bush twice..."

I know this is OT Bernie but jeez that comment is ridiculous. Buddy, the Ds had just as big a hand in this as the Rs. It is one gigantic clusterbleep.

The Banker

Bernie O'Hare said...

When people try to inject partisan politics into local government, they end up destroying it.

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

Then let your voice be heard. Call your rep. Go to County Council meetings. Make a big stink. It does you no good here.

Bernie O'Hare said...

As the person whose comment was just deleted acknowledges, this is my blog. I have a simple rule. No personal attacks. If you can't follow that and stay on topic, expect to be deleted.

I no longet think the county belomgs in the nursing home business. If someone wants to state I am wrong, the comment will be welcome, but if it is intermixed with personal attacks, it will be deleted.

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

I suppose it is more noble to eliminate a marginally comfortable existence for the elderly poor, many of whom paid county real estate taxes at some point in their lives, so we can keep up the morale of county employees and supply them with their more than marginally comfortable pensions and healthcare in THEIR old age.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Your error os to assume that selling Gracedale will eliminate amarginally confortable existence for the elderly poor. I do not believe that. If I am persuaded that is the case, I'd change my thinking. Right now, I believe there are numerous facilities that do what gracedale does, and some of them may even do it better. Gracedale is already experiencing a loss of residents. It's time to sell.

The Village Idoti said...

Bernie,

I don't think that will ever happen. There are A LOT of employees that work at Gracedale and live in the county. I think something like selling off Gracedale would stimulate them to vote or at the least complain.

I worked there for a several months as the barber for all the male residents.

I was shocked at how many employees are needed just to keep that place going. Most are union and most make peanuts.

You have the maintenance and specialists (HVAC and etc.), custodians, laundry, dietians and food service, shipping and receiving (for the supplies), people that move the food back and forth to the kitchen, people that move the residents back and forth to the appointments and offices in the facility, nurses, nurses aides, nurse trainers, all the people put in place for health checks and balances (and they are needed!), recreation, Chaplain, secretaries, the guy who runs the morgue, beauticians and barber, case workers, administration, and my buddies - Kenny and Dale. And probably more that I overlooked.

I understand your point. I realize that a for-profit facility could provide the same quality of care or better, but those are a lot (or the potential of a lot) of registered voters. What do you do with them?

Peace, ~~Alex

Bernie O'Hare said...

Alex, The County must ask what is the right thing to do, without regard to political consequences, and then do it.

The Village Idoti said...

I see your point.

I guess I was looking at the underlying problem of how do these people feed their families when they can't find work.

Unfortunately, that part of it (unless there are UEC claims) do not factor into the bigger picture of running the county.

Peace, ~~Alex

Anonymous said...
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Bernie O'Hare said...

I will continue to delete anonymous comments that contain personal attacks. You claim that Gracedale is absolutely essential. What services does gracedale provide that can't be found elsewhere? Name one poor, elderly who would be denied housing in another similar facility in the county. I am interested in facts, niot personal attacks. Once you can manage that, your comment wilstand.

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

Since when is this blog for the employees? This blog is just to talk and air out opinions. Maybe it is informative. But if you want something for the employees, create your own blog. Or better yet, go to the meetings. Go vote. Go complain. But take your garbage elsewhere.

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...
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Buddy Jesus said...

Screw the elderly and infirm, mama wants an inground pool! No more taxes!

lighthouse said...

Perhaps I am in an overly cynical mood this evening when it comes to things political, and note that I am NOT trying to making any allegations by pointing the below out, as I think it is purely coincidental...however, it is ironic that Mr. Atiyeh could be a potential beneficiary of the County farming out both its prisoners and its seniors.

Bernie O'Hare said...

That's certainly true, but Northampton County is far from deciding to sell Gracedale. Merely suggesting it resulted in a number of personal attacks, which I was in no mood for tonight. But I maintain we need to do what is in the best interests of the county. If that means unloading Gracedale, we should do it. If it turns out that the elderly will be disadvantaged, I'd want to keep it.

Anonymous said...

There are very important reasons to keep Gracedale. There is nothing to stop a private home from excluding the poor elderly population. As of today many privates take medicade seniors but some don't.

Remeber in the not too long past most private homes would dump medicaid patients.

There is an excellent study showing the trend towards that practice again. Once sold it will be too late for the poor and elderly.

Stoffa nad Angle have always wanted to do this but it is a mistake. Ask people knowledgable about the topic not these guys.

Anonymous said...

No new positons approved anywhere in the county.

No accepting the massive pay rasies the electeds voted for themselves.

No cabinet or other APPOINTED person gets a raise.

Only the state required match be spent in Human Services.

Can't be anymore clear and polite than taht ohare.