Friday, December 16, 2011

Panto: Barron Budget "Criminal"

On Wednesday night, when Easton City Council passed yet another budget with no tax increase, they also adopted policies to prevent playing games with the fund balance. According to The Morning Call, Easton Mayor Sal Panto contrasted his own budget with the one adopted by Northampton County Council, after mindlessly listening to a Controller that they themselves censured last year.

"Panto casually contrasted his budget with Northampton County's, which is balanced on the back of its own reserves, a move he called criminal."

Barron assured Council, before its vote, that it could just dip into its fund balance and everything would be right as rain. That's exactly what former Exec. Glenn Reibman did, and the end result was double digit tax increases in 2003 and 2004, layoffs, destroyed morale and 11 unions. Why they listened to a political opportunist with no accounting or executive experience, and who they themselves have censured, is mind-boggling.

Monday Update (12:30 AM) - Mayor Sal Panto has chimed in, explaining his remarks in the comments.

45 comments:

Anonymous said...

The Junior Couny Executive has a following. Time will tell how much he was off. The double digit increases will be called "the Steve Barron Tax Increases"

Anonymous said...

Bernie, this is what some Democrats don't get, especially the Gacedale crew. This budget puts Gracedale in more jeopardy than less. While the referendum protects Gracedale from sale for five years, it does not protect it from cutbacks and layoffs.

Even some proponents of Gracedale knew that if the council didn't want to raise taxes, they could have let the increase go through by inaction. All Barron did was give the Republicans an out.

There is little chance any at- large council members will vote for a tax increase for the next year before the election and by then the cupboard will be pretty bare.

This was a very stupid move. Why county council took the advice of someone who clearly does not understand what is at stake is unbelievable. Unless they are smarter than we think.

Barron's actions are understandable, he is fishing for votes and the unions are naive enough to think he has their best interests at heart. Even if he does, he is not smart enough to figure out he has hurt more than helped them by giving this council an out on funding the budget. The action of the council in following this guy is what is amazing. Do the Republicans on county council really think he knows what he is talking about? Or did they really use him as their excuse? So when the shat hits the fan they can say the controller said it would be alright. Who knows? Even his own staff think he is a buffoon. He wants to move up the political ladder and he may well have done it on the back of Gracedale and other human Services as well as all county functions. Unbelievable.

Reality Now!

Anonymous said...

Fortunately this clown will not be running for County Executive alone in his Party. Certainly Republicans hope he does since he is damaged goods.

Ron Angle said it best, even though I dislike Rn Angle and his style of government.

Of Barron he said, "are you going to beleive this nincompoop?"

I think that sums it up pretty well.

Anonymous said...

Bernie,
Maybe take a moment to explain to some the definition and purpose for a fund balance.

Barron Von Footinmouth said...

I've had enough of Panto. I'm going to don my dress and get elected queen of that incestuous little church fair he controls. This is serious.

Anonymous said...

to be clear...you can dip into a fund balance to balance a budget. the issue always is, how much money/how many months reserves are in that reserve. NorCo's right now is just dangerously low.

Anonymous said...

Bernie, Steve's perfectly dressed for Allentown's newest and popular watering hole on Lehigh Street.

Anonymous said...

Good for Panto. He's absolutely right.

Anonymous said...

Fund balance dangerously low? Northampton County has the largest reserve of any county its size and the largest of any count except maybe Philadelphia and Allegheny. Barron is 100% right. You don't tax people when you don't need to. Bernie is I'm wrong please list the counties or municipalities with larger fund balances then NorCo? I'd be interested. Also no games with GASB like Ron liked to play. Give us the number before GASB.

Tom Foolery said...

Bernie,

My understanding is that your buddy introduced the motion to not increase taxes despite Stoffa's insistance that it would be extremely irresponsible to do so..Barron gave his opinion but it wasn't his budget nor did he have a vote on the budget..The Republicans totally controlled Council and with the exception of Peg Ferraro, they all voted for this budget without a tax increase..To place the responsibility in Barron's hands is responsibility misplaced..Stoffa can still veto this budget and hope that the new Councilmembers and a couple of the others will be responsible enough to reconsider their past decision.

Bernie O'Hare said...

8:39, or should I say Lamont,

NC had a healthy fund balance and that is why it has a good bond rating. It won't have that much longer and will finish next year in deficit, thanks to Barron. Gilbert had Barron concede that the 60 million fund balance is actually only $20 million, and that will be wiped out next year. The County adopted a budget in which it will spend more than it is expected to receive, and that's very dangerous. You and Barron have what you wanted, and now we will all find out the hard way just howfull of shit you are.

Tom Foolery,

The only reason Council declined to increase the millage rate is because Barron came there and assured them no tax increase was needed. I have never seen a Controller give policy advice like this, bt Barron is a political opportunist. I'll agree that the R-controlled Council should have said No, but the engineers of this kooky scheme were Barron and McClure.

Amge did offer to try to produce a zero-increase budget, but (1) wanted a week and (2) would have produced a balanced budget, i.e one in which spending does not exceed revenue, which is the budget that Barron says is just fine.

So just as happened under Reibman, the County is now headed to years of double digit tax increases and layoffs. Be sure to thank Barron vn Footinmouth.

It is, as Panto stated, criminal.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"Maybe take a moment to explain to some the definition and purpose for a fund balance."

Actually, I explained it in this op-ed.

Barron endorses Reibman and Callahan "rob Peter to pay Paul"
budgeting. The reality is that only about $16 of the $60 million fund balance is available, and that will be chewed up next year.

Anonymous said...

Bernie, I think the Republicans are the smartest guys in the room. They were looking for an out on not voting for a tax increase. Enter the controller. He gave them the perfect excuse to say no. When things get bad they can always say they had a Democratic County Controller advising them it was OK not to raise taxes.


There is no doubt he did this to puff himself up politically but I have to agree with Panto, to pass a budget that appropriates more expenses than revenues is not a normal occurrence in local governmental budgets.

Despite his seeing himself as the new Don Cunningham, Mr. Barron continues to display both his poor knowledge of local government and lack of common sense.

His political pandering is some of the worse in recent years.

Tom Foolery said...

It's not fair to put this all on Barron's back..Stoffa had all of his financial advisors there and they gave Council a different take.
It was council's ball to run with and they took it off the cliff..Stoffa has the right to veto the budget if he's not pleased with the outcome, no? Maybe, in the meatime he can talk sense to some of his right wing friends on the Republican side of Council..While we are on the subject of political aspirations here, Sal's name has also been mentioned as a County executive candidate..Although I didn't see the supposed direct attack on Barron, my guess would be that would be political also..Why else would you attack someone in your own party on a subject that doesn't really impact Easton's budget. If Sal didn't have all of that Casino money that the County let him steal from under them, he wouldn't have balanced his budget either..

Anonymous said...

Pleasae, Barron Von Pantelonus is not even a gnat on Sals backside. Sal could run for any office in the Lehigh Valley including congress and win. We just hope he stays in Easton

Anonymous said...

is there a version of this fund cited by an indepentent auditor?

Bernie O'Hare said...

Yes. According to the independent auditor, who appeared before a Council Committee hearing that neither McClure nor Barron attended, there is no $60 million mountain of cash.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Tom, It is eminently fair to blame BOTH Barron, who urged this solution, and the idiots on Council who supported it. It would be pointless for Stoffa to veto when he would be over-ridden.

Anonymous said...

what is the independent auditors number?

Bernie O'Hare said...

Give me a break.

Tom Foolery said...

He already knows he'd be overridden? How? The new Council will be voting on this. Unless he broke the sunshine law, he won't know for sure unless he vetos this.
All he needs is for Gilbert, Cusick, Theirry, or the other Republican to change their vote. If it is so irresponsible, are you saying he doesn't have the leadership capacity to change one vote? If he can't make that case, I'd guess he's not that sure of his figures.

Anonymous said...

Amge did offer to try to produce a zero-increase budget, but (1) wanted a week and (2) would have produced a balanced budget, i.e one in which spending does not exceed revenue, which is the budget that Barron says is just fine.


The only thing I remember is Ron saying he wouldn't produce a budget.
Can you produce a source other than "maybe" private conversations in which he made this statement?
Be careful if it was a private conversation I'll file a RTK because it would be in violation of Sunshine laws.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Tom, He had until 12/14 to veto on an Ordinance that passed by an 8-1 vote. At that point, his budget would be law unless Council came in and overrides the veto w/in 1 day. They would have to act right away, and would, via special meeting. The same people who voted 8-1 would not be too happy about the gamesmanship.

So Stoffa would start the new year with a Council who is pissed and 4 members who are unknowns.

If it were me, I would have vetoed anyway, but I am a prick and Stoffa is not.

He exercises his own kind of leadership, but if you want to pin this on him, knock yourself out. He asked for a tax hike, stated what happened is irresponsible and decided against a veto bc it would be pointless. But go ahead and blame him for Barron's idiocy.

Bernie O'Hare said...

1:25, Maybe if you paid attention during meetings, instead of passing notes accusing other Council members of bribery, or talking to your pals, you'd realize that Angle made this offer during an open meeting and was ignored by his colleagues.

Anonymous said...

so what is the independent auditors number?

Tom Foolery said...

I wasn't blaming Stoffa..I just said he had the veto option..I agree that the increase should have passed and that it was not responsible for Council to pass a budget with an increase in spending without a tax hike to pay for it..That being said, it was their job..They choose to use Barron's figures instead of Stoffa's figures..Why would they do that if they had confidence in Stoffa's numbers?? If they decided to vote as they did because they had confidence in Barron's numbers, again, that is on them..Barron had no vote..

Bernie O'Hare said...

I agree completely that this is ultimately Council's error. But Barron is the person who marched in there and told them to do it, in a routine that he and McClure had worked out in advance. So I blame both Council AND Barron.

Sal Panto, Jr. said...

Please allow me to explain my comment. These are difficult times, no one disputes that. But for government to balance a budget in the worst recession since the the Great Depression by arbitrarily raising revenues without placing expenditures under a microscope is ludicrous. Every expenditure should have been reviewed buy the council to see where cuts could be made. If they can honestly say that there is no excess spending then they needed to look at programs that needed to be cut or eliminated. Anyone can go into office and just raise taxes. The challenge is to provide the best services possible within existing revenues.

My comment about criminal however had nothing to do with the fund balance or Mr. Barron. My comment was based on the newspaper article that stated that the County Council approved a tax rate that did not provide enough revenue to balance the expenditure side of the budget. That is against the laws of the Commonwealth that states that all county and local municipalites shall approve a BALANCED budget. I did not see anywhere in the budget that said they were balancing the deficit by designating more for the fund balance.

In this country only the Federal government can approve a deficit budget and look where that has taken us. Deficit budgets, spending more than our revenues, is the cause of all of our problems on the federal level. Shouldn't we learn a lesson from the feds and not do it on the local level?

Everyday, our administration makes tough decisions about spending. Everyday some priority gets bumped because of a new priority arises.

And, if the fund balance has a healthy balance the council needs to realize that if they balance this year's budget with a "one-time" allocation from the fund balance where does that money come from for the 2013 budget. Passing debt on to future taxpayers has to stop. And debt comes in all forms not just bond issues -- unfunded pension benefits, post retirement benefits, etc.

The new Council needs to use their 30 days they have to re-open the budget and provide a sound fiscal foundation for the 2012 budget. The task may be arduous, and you may not be popular but not doing anyting will cause you and the county (us taxpayers) a lot more in 2013.

As for Anon 5:54 I am so tired of your remarks and your cowardly hiding behind ANON that I invite you to meet me in person and speak mano e mano. Your personal characterizations are rediculous and shows either your ignorance or lack of the facts. I am available anytime.

gruntled said...

Sal, thanks for the educational post. You've done well with the city's budget (at least my extra EIT is being used well).
Do we really have a prayer that the new county council can inject logic and common sense into the budget?
And forget about Barron von 5:54 ever responding. There are WAY too many idiots commenting here.

brenda said...

mm tic tacs anyone?

Bernie O'Hare said...

mezzacappa, you're so stupid you just outed yourself.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Sal, Thanks very much for your explanation. I'LL convert it as a separate blog. And congrats on another no-tax increase budget.

Sal Panto, Jr. said...

Thanks Bernie. Our fiscal strength is due to our staff, council members and employees. All are helping to make Easton more fiscally sound.

Bernie O'Hare said...

I think it might have a little something to do with the man on top, too.

Tom Foolery said...

Sal is right. Council could open up the budget but that's a lot to ask the new council. They'll Just have to watch expenditures closely during the year. My guess is that everyone is overreacting and the county's fund balance will be fine next year..

Bernie O'Hare said...

Tom, That's the problem. It's a "guess." We have an acting FA Director who has been the Budget Administrator and has been working for the County for 30 years. He knows municipal finance. Barron does not.

Anonymous said...

As I read Mayor Panto's explanation, it still would appear he feels this action was a mistake. I don't think he is throwing rocks at Barron or the County Council but his comments indicate he may see things differently than they do.

There are those that think the fund balance is more than sufficient. However, there are many people who understand county budgets that question whether Mr. Barron or the County council really understand the future ramifications of what they have done.

Mr. Barron solved no problem or gave no real answer, he merely gave county council a reason to avoid the inevitable for now.

His approach, supported by a Republican County Council was the old lets spend now we have money and we will worry about the bill tomorrow. A very old time liberal Democratic view.

I agree with Sal, I feel Mr. Barron would be much happier in Washington DC than in local government. He just doesn't seem to get it. But than again he may just be pandering for union support.

Rick Kistler

c said...

We are fortunate in Northampton County, we have good services and for the most part I feel as though we get a pretty good bang for our buck tax wise. Like a local municipality or city, I imagine the county relies on state revenue to a degree for some essential services, and for things like fuel, paving materials etc. The state is going to be cutting back, this will have a trickle down effect. The county, I imagine will be forced to deal with declining cash flow from the state. They still don't know what these numbers will be. Also factor in the recent tax collection structural changes that the people voted to approve. So while the county will receive the usual tax revenue...it is uncertain how smoothly the process will go this year and there may be delays.
From what I understand, programs have been cut and the county is attempting to be as fiscally responsible as possible. A small tax increase now would prevent a much larger tax increase later....we need to maintain our infrastructure. I think the budget proposed by John Stoffa called for an increase of 5 dollars per month to the average household...or a dollar and a quarter per week. In my opinion, that is both responsible and realistic. As a taxpayer, I applaud Peg Ferraro's courage on this issue.
Mr. Panto, keep up the good work in Easton.

Bernie O'Hare said...

I have deleted a number of anonymous comments posted in response to the Mayor. If he is good enough to come on this blog and explain something he says, you should be good enough to identify yourself when you criticize him. And when he complains about an anonymous attack, you do not respond by telling him to stop wining but identify yourself. Anything short of that is poor manners and frankly, cowardice.

Sal Panto, Jr. said...

Thanks Bernie but the good news is that these cowards are a very small percentage of our county residents. The vast majority are good people who express their opinions in a manner that does not make them threatening or in a way that agitates the receiver of their constructive criticism. I believe we have made Easton government a lot more tramsparent and we always look for ways to make it even more open and more inclusive of all facets of our city.

I chuckle when I read their comments because as I said they are cowards and act cowardly becasue either they don't want to be confused by the facts or they are just ignorant of the facts and would rather live in their made up little world.

Bernie, have a wonderful holiday season, best wishes for a healthy and safe New Year.

Anonymous said...

Who pays the indepenent auditor's fee? How much cash did he say there was in the fund balance?

Bernie O'Hare said...

The independent auditor is hired by Council, following the RFP process. His independent audit is online. He explained his findings at a committee hearing attended by neither McClure nor Barron.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Barron is right and you know it. Why do you persist in denying what the top fiscal expert in the county says. Mr. Barron has studied the accounts and has found errors on the accounting done by Mr. Hammond and Mr. Stoffa. Instead of attacking Mr, Barron you should be thanking him for preventing a tax increase.

If Stoffa were smart he would ask Mr. Barron to be his fiscal affairs director.

Pete

Anonymous said...

Barron was at the meeting... Watch the video... Angle acknowledges Barron is there and then says he wishes that McClure was there the hear the report from Larson Allen.

Bernie O'Hare said...

I stand corrected on that point.