Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Luzerne County Budget

The good news is there is no new borrowing. The bad news is just about everything else.

This year's plan comes in with about $2 million less spending than last year. To get there Commissioner Chair Maryanne Petrilla wants to close Moon Lake Park and the ball fields at the Forty Fort Airport plus all employees are to take 12 furlough days without pay. Commissioner Steve Urban wants 24 furlough days. That will be problematic because it needs agreement from the unions and the row officers. One of the problems with our present form of government is the row officers are not accountable to anyone which hopefully be rectified by the new county charter that will be written by the Government Study Commission. I have to disagree with the Blogfather, I think the unions will cooperate to save as many jobs as they can. The problems we face today are not the fault of the unions but the past administration of the Bond Brothers.

The biggest hole in the budget is the more than doubling of debt service from $9.5 million this year to $21.7 million in 2010. Every budget that Greg Skrepenak and Todd Vonderheid with the help of Sam Diaz put together refinanced existing debt and had unrealistic revenues.

Chief of Budget and Finance Tom Pribula has told the commissioners the county should not borrow any money next year. Pribula said Skrepenak wants "another Diaz budget with unfunded debt."

"Your eyes would come out your head if you realized the ridiculous, fictitious revenues that were in this county that never came to fruition, which has put us in this spot."

Profile in courage Commissioner Greg Skrepenak doesn't want to eliminate any county jobs and will not support a tax increase.

I've been bitching about the creative accounting (lies) in the Luzerne County budget process as long as I've been blogging.

From 2007

Another work of fiction

With all the outrage over the Debit Card scandal the fact that the latest Luzerne County budget doesn't add up has been overlooked. This year's plan has an eerie resemblance to last year's nonsense with even more invented revenues. Last year the budget called for $4 million from land sales that never happened and this year the figure is $6.3 million. Last year the county was supposed to get $3 million from beefed-up tax collections and they inflate that to $14 million from collection of unpaid property taxes for 2008.

The number that jumps out at you in the end is a 18.5% increase in property taxes. Steve Urban did the responsible thing and voted for the budget to move the process forward but he is not happy about it.

"I'm going to vote to put the budget on the table, but I'm going to tell you right now, I'm not going to vote on this tax increase," Urban said. "And I'll vote to shut this place down on Dec. 30, if we don't have a budget that makes sense to me and we don't have the spending cuts that I believe are necessary to move this county forward."

I doubt that the tax increase will be that big but in the end there will be a tax increase. I realize that taxes are the price we pay for civilization but I want to be assured that my tax money is being spent for things that are absolutely necessary. There have always been rumors of no show jobs and documented cases of outright theft in the Luzerne County courthouse that makes me reluctant to support a tax increase. I'm coming around to Big Dan and the Yonk's idea of just blowing up the place and starting over.


Stephen Albert said...

"Profile in courage Commissioner Greg Skrepenak doesn't want to eliminate any county jobs and will not support a tax increase."

Got to hand it to Greg Skrepenak...he never fails to live down to peoples lowest expectations.

Anonymous said...

Maybe it's time to refuse to pay the tax increase, and instead set up an "Ethics and Effectiveness Escrow" account for Luzerne County tax payers. Tax dollars would go only to (a)county officials who sign a pledge of ethics that mandates immediate termination if violated, and (b)county services that can prove their effectivenss.

Business as usual cannot continue.

Big Dan said...

Voodoo economics.

Anonymous said...

no just voodoo

PoorRichard said...

There is a basic fact in preparing a budget that many government bodies don't seem to get. When they prepare a budget, the sale of an asset should NEVER be used as a funding source. They don't seem to understand that using the sale of an asset to pay reoccurring debt only sets the stage for a larger deficit the following year. More than once, I've preached at Commissioner's meetings that proceeds from the sale of assets should be used to reduce the county's debt. The only other acceptable use of sale proceeds would be to acquire a new county asset and that does not seem to be currently in the works. This procedure of using sale proceeds as a source of revenue is a major mistake in government budgets.

Andy T said...

At the same time Petrilla is lobbying to cut Court positions, Muroski, et. al. vote to retain Dan Pillets as a senior law clerk after his sugar Daddy Peter Paul Olzewski leaves office.

Pillets makes almost $65K per year with full time benefits yet manages to find (county) time to serve as a Divorce Master ($250 per case) and as a Mediator ($125 for about 40 minutes work, also on county time).

On just about any given day you can find Pillets at the Prothonotary's office with his hand out looking for Mediation or Divorce cases. He racks up on average another $1000-1250 a week in fees while on County time.

Dana said...

Our esteemed host wrote:

The good news is there is no new borrowing. The bad news is just about everything else.

This year's plan comes in with about $2 million less spending than last year.

Sounds to me like good news, not bad.

Anonymous said...

ahhhhhhhhhh the no show jobs, certainly not rumor, when will they get those guys?

Anonymous said...

how come the courts never want to give up any of their own? lets face it, they make the most and do the least, thanks to ciavarella and conahan. shouldn't they clean those people out already? And tell me how conahans staff was allowed to stay on. do we really need more corruption for top dollar?

Anonymous said...

Pillets, good point! Some of you people continue that old story of over staffing and no show jobs. Get off your dead ass and bring a solid example to the table. Otherwise, stop the old lady BS and be constructive. I've about had it with complainers who do nothing but complain.

Anonymous said...

So the wannabe Constitionalist are still yelling accountability for Row Officers. What don't you get that Row Officers are no different than the Commissioners, Senators, Representatives or local officials? These are all elected officials and none of them are responsible to anyone other than the voters. But then again, you people want to improve government by having the some individual or group of individuals appoint these positions. So now what we have is appointments vs elections. Oh yeah, that's real voter control. You know nothing do gooders should just find a cause and volunteer your time to some worthy cause and stop trying to screw up government by the people. What you refuse to get is that people just don't care. 70% don't vote and those who do elected a crack pot and a mechanic to run county government. Please, don't fix anything else. You people have done more than enough.
Thomas Jefferson

Anonymous said...

Can anyone in the Recorder of Deeds office identify the current deputy. I hear he shows up, maybe, if we are lucky 4 hours a week and still takes home a check with bennies for a full weeks pay. C'mon O'brien give up the spot and save some of the budget money needed for someone who wants to work. How much did you pay off Steve Corbett to get off your back about your Deputy Mark (NO SHOW) Carey. Gee Maybe I can reach him at his office tomorrow. Anyone heard of Honest Services Fraud?