That's what an exasperated Northampton County Council Prez Ron Angle told Executive John Stoffa at one point during a November 4 budget hearing. But when the smoke cleared at the end of 3 1/2 hours, seven Council members voted to support Angle and Stoffa's controversial no-tax-increase $290 million budget. Lamont McClure voted No and Ann McHale was absent. It's the first time since Home Rule that a County financial plan was adopted this early.
It's a budget that assumes the sale of Gracedale, the County nursing home, at some point next year. Only the first six months of operating expenses are funded.
It's also a budget that makes deep cuts in County personnel. It eliminates sixty vacant positions, as well as five positions that are occupied. County administrators told Council that no one will be laid off.
This bare bones budget also freezes wages being paid to professional part time employees, who are mostly lawyers. Council member John Cusick said, "It's tough for me to give payraises when seniors have seen no increases for two years." But a small raise (a net 1%) went to the County's nonunion workforce.
Council member Peg Ferraro, a Republican, cautioned her colleagues against cutting too deeply. "I know it's the most unpopular thing in the world to say, but we can't keep scaling back," she said. She voted for the budget, "with regret."
Lamont McClure, the sole Council member to vote against the no-tax-increase budget, claimed Gracedale is actually a "winning proposition" that has made money. He condemned "skulduggery" in the anticipated sale. But Council member Tom Dietrich claimed McClure was "sugar coating" the facts, noting Gracedale would cost the County $6 million in operating costs next year, to say nothing of the capitol improvements needed for an aging building.
By a 5-3 vote, Council voted against an Angle-led effort to eliminate the Director of Court Services, a cabinet level position held by Archie Disidore. Frustrated, Angle asked, "Where are we gong to get the money for this?"
"Gracedale," answered Cusick, drawing angry jeers from some nursing home advocates in the audience.
One County program preserved in an otherwise lean budget is the County's open space program. Throughout the year, up to $2 million will be spent for farmland preservation.
After the budget was adopted, Tom Dietrich proposed a 0.1 mill tax reduction, suggesting they dip into the reserve.
"Why not a 2 mill tax decrease? Why not 3?" scoffed Angle, who held his head in his hands as Dietrich argued for a small reduction. Dietrich's proposal failed 6-2, with only McClure joining him.
At the end of this meeting, Angle drew attention to the Gracedale debate, and noted that nursing home proponents have vilified and demonized him as the source of their troubles. He then produced a letter resigning as President and told Council he will step down if that is their wish. Angle's six Republican colleagues rejected his letter. Democrat McClure raised his hand to say something, but a satisfied Angle called for adjournment.
Want more? You can see excellent accounts in The Express Times and Morning Call.