2014-A year in review

2014YearInReview

In the spirit of of New Years Eve, I thought we should do a year in review for Shiawassee County:

Here’s my New Year’s Resolution, and I hope it’s your resolution as well:

Find intelligent, caring people who don’t need free benefits to run this county.  Talk them into running for county commission!

Happy New Year All!

John

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Let It Be Known

Let it be known that the following commissioners voted to cut the Sheriffs department budget by 1.5 million dollars eliminating your police protection:

commissioners

As you can see three of them still remain in the new year.  These folks refused to give up their county benefits while deciding that we simply couldn’t afford a road patrol.

Come back to this website in November of 2016.  These commissioners will lose their benefits-not because they voted to, but because the people will vote to send them packing!

Tell them that we will remember!

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Are 6 Cops Better than None?

Here’s a question for everyone out there: Are 6 cops better than none?  As a parent I find the answer to the question to be pretty obvious, but some of our elected officials at the County don’t seem to think so.

At their 12/8 meeting the commissioners managed to find $780,000 to fund our road patrol.  This funding was then pulled back on 12/10.  There were two main reasons cited for this decision:

  1. It would be financially irresponsible to do this.
  2. The Sheriffs department couldn’t provide an adequate road patrol at these levels.

Let’s dissect these two reasons below:

Reason 1: It would be financially irresponsible to do this.

The approved budget for 2015 results in:

  • A total General Fund Profit of $100,000.  In other words the commissioners have budgeted to spend $100,000 LESS than they will make this year.
  • We are only taking $451,530 from the Delinquent Tax Revolving Fund (DTRF).  This fund Averages $765,000/year in PROFIT.  This means that the county is on track to make a profit of $313,000 from the DTRF.
  • The county is underestimating their property tax income by about $125,000, despite increases in taxable value based on increasing property values.

In other words in 2015 the county is estimated to make $538,000 in PROFIT while we go without county police protection.  Again-that’s profit and depletes no savings fund.    We have over $3 million dollars in the DTRF that we could use to fund this county without any serious impact to our financial state.  4-5 Cops could be put on the road just based on PROFIT.

Overall Conclusion: Myth Busted.  We could easily handle $780,000/year in Road Patrol funding for the next 5 years.

Reason 2: The Sheriffs department would not be able to provide an adequate road patrol at these levels.  

This is where things get interesting.  I’ve heard two reasons given for this:

-If we can’t have deputies on all shifts, why bother?  Granted this is pathetic level of coverage, but I go back to my original statement: 2 cops are better than 1, 1 cop is better than none.  When someone is trying to break into your house at 3AM you might really appreciate having that extra officer on duty.  When someone is trying to steal your child, you will appreciate it as well.  Many towns in Shiawassee county do not have deputies on all shifts, but seem to be okay with that because anything helps.

-It’s not safe for a deputy to be out there all alone.  So, let me get this straight-it’s alright for my child to be without county police protection of any kind, but it’s not safe for a deputy to be on patrol all alone?  My child hasn’t gone through years of police training, they don’t care a tazer, gun, or pepper spray.  They’re just little defenseless kids.  Ask the deputies if they would rather be unemployed, or out there alone?  I know what their answer will be.  This is nothing but an excuse, and it’s a pathetic one at that.  Does the Lennon police officer refuse to do his/her job because they are unsafe?  Nope.  How about the Alaska State Troopers?  They can literally be the only officer within 100 miles.

Websters dictionary defines Anarchy as behavior that is “not controlled by rule or law“.  The (only) nice thing about Anarchy is that you don’t have to pay taxes for it.  So, why am I paying for government and getting Anarchy?  What are my tax dollars going towards that could possibly be more important that persevering law and order in our County?

Overall Conclusion: Myth Busted

To all our elected officials in Shiawassee County who are playing games with the Safety Of Our Children-Know this: We will not vote for another millage until you are ALL UNEMPLOYED.  Do the right thing and get some cops on the road.  That is the one way to guarantee that your pensions and healthcare stay safe.

County Officials: If you were wise, you would bring this entire issue in front of the public.  If an elected official is causing the problem, call them out on it in your public meetings.  Only discuss this issue in public-no more backdoor meetings.  Politics has no place in this discussion.

Who Loses in This Years Budget? [Updated]

The 2015 detailed budget has been posted to the county website.  Click Here to View It.  I really appreciate whoever posted it!

You may also 2014 Detailed Adopted Budget.  Thanks to the County Clerk for helping out with my FOIA request.

So who are the big losers in this years budget?

  • Veterans! – but only a little.  As you will see in the two budgets above when the veterans millage passed, the county took back the $30,000 that they were contributing to veterans programs.  (Thankfully, that’s a lot less than I initially thought.)
  • The Sheriffs Department-What would have happen if the county managed to pass that 2.5 million dollar Sheriff’s millage?  They would have used the same trick as above and been 1 million dollars richer.  One commissioner told me that was the plan.  Since their plan didn’t work, I believe our commission is trying to force us to go without Road Patrol coverage until we give them what they want.  This isn’t about adequate funding.  This is about greed!

Who wins?  Well a bunch of county commissioners get to keep their healthcare, and the county ends up on track to stuffing $413,000 into their savings while our children are put at risk.

What have we learned here?  Never vote yes on another County millage againNot until our government can convince us that they are working in our best interest, and not stuffing their own piggybank.  Every commissioner who voted for this budget must go!  If someone would like to start a recall effort I will help you in every way that I can.  Just let me know…

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Actions Speak Louder Than Words [Updated 12/15]

action-louder-than-words

[12/15-Updated to reflect that the county is track to make a $413,000 profit this year.  No cops-just cash!]

Today I’m here to ask you to stop listening and start looking.  We’ve heard a lot of talk from our county commissioners lately, but at the end of the day Actions Speak Louder Than Words.

So what have we seen over the past year?

  • We’ve seen an exaggerated millage-2.5 million dollars to cover a 1.5 million dollar need.  A commissioner tells me that the reason for this was “so that other departments wouldn’t have to make cuts”.
  • We’ve seen commissioners vote to keep their pensions.
  • We’ve seen commissioners NOT release budget information to local officials, myself, and EVEN EACH OTHER.  Commissioner Schneider filed a FOIA request to see how veterans funds are being spent because he can’t get straight answers out of the commission.  They tried to publicly shame him for this at the last meeting.
  • We’ve seen commissioner Plowman refuse to answer the very simple question “What is the amount of our deficit?”
  • We’ve seen our commission decide to most likely make a $413,000 profit this year, instead of putting a few more cops on the road.
  • We’ve seen members of the public and community belittled by the commission for asking questions.
  • We’ve seen two commissioners (Holzhausen and Schneider) take a vote of NO CONFIDENCE against FINANCE  and administration chair Plowman and commission chair Bartz.  
  • We’ve seen serious discrepancies in numbers reported to the state versus numbers represented in the public.

Actions speak louder than words.  My requests for detailed budget info to be posted on the county website still have not been fulfilled.  

This is why we need to petition the state for a Preliminary Financial Review-If they won’t give us transparency then we will take it.  When we are done a comprehensive, unbiased report will be posted on the State Treasury Website for the world to see.  Once we identify the truth, we can remove those who have been untruthful.

Make your actions speak louder than words.  Help Us By:

  • Spreading the word!  Let your friends and neighbors know that the commission eliminated your road patrol due to a “deficit”.  The only problem is they either don’t know, or refuse to answer, how big that deficit is?  The safety of our children has become a political game.
  • Get a copy of our petition and start collecting signatures!

Now, let me answer a few questions that people are asking:

1. “Couldn’t this result in us getting an EFM, and all sorts of bad things happening to county employees”?  The short answer is No.  You do realize that as of right now our county is on track to MAKE around $413,000 this year.  We don’t have a deficit.  In fact, we may have a lot more money in our fund balances than the commission is letting on to.

2. “Then why are you you using the EFM law to do this?”  I’m using it for something that nobody has every used it for- To fix the transparency issue in Shiawassee County.  The state will come in and perform a complete audit, find all the money, and post their findings on the treasury website.  When it’s revealed that our County is doing just fine, those who spread “doom and gloom” will be held responsible for their actions.  When we’re done, we won’t have to recall them, they’ll resign.

And So It Begins

Today I will begin distributing the petitions for Preliminary Financial Review under PA 436 of 2012.  I have revised the language slightly based on the meeting last night.  It has become obvious that this is the only way that we will learn the truth about our budget.  Here is the Petition.

Click here if you’re interested in collecting signatures.  This doesn’t have to mean sitting out in the cold.  It just means getting the signatures of your close friends in family this holiday season.  We only need 1213 signatures total.

I’ll leave everyone with the email that I sent to Sheriff Braidwood this morning:

Goodmorning Sheriff Braidwood,

Though I had to leave before the final vote, I’m reading that the county decided to approve the 2015 budget which included 1.5 million dollars in cuts to your department.  (And not much to anyone elses.)
In a nutshell, the new budget is crap.  It prioritizes infrastructure and everything else over the safety of our children.  It rolls out a welcome mat to criminals.  It allows the county government to add ~$200,000 more to their DTRF savings.  It was funny that commissioner Plowman would not answer the question regarding the true deficit number.
I hope that I represented your boys (and girls) well last night.  It’s my belief that nobody in the county works harder than they do.
I also enjoyed how the commission attempted to pin the blame on you for cutting the Road Patrol.  What else, exactly, were you supposed to cut?  It’s sad when our children become a bargaining chip in a money game.
On 12/10, two of the commissioners called for and made a “no confidence” vote for Finance and Administration Committee Chairman John Plowman.  Like me, they to have no faith how this budget is being handled and the level of transparency that is being providing for everyone involved..
Today I will move forward with the process of distributing the Preliminary Financial Review petitions.  This is my way of expressing that “no confidence” vote.  You may see a few floating around your department.  I would encourage you to allow them to be freely distributed and signed.
Thank you for all that you do to try and keep our children safe.  Please express my condolences to all the great deputies in Shiawassee county who will be without a job on January 1st.
Much more soon!

The Budget Hearing [Updated]

I managed to get both ABC12, and WEYI25 to the budget hearing-click on the links to see their stories.  Here were the highlights-the meeting started with open discussion of the budget:

  • The commissioners took a beating for not cutting their pensions and healthcare during this trying financial time.  They made no comment.
  • When asked about their failure to be transparent throughout this process, they stated that they were extremely transparent, and that they would be happy to share any of this data.  I pointed out that I had requested our budget data around 10 days ago and copied the entire commission on the message and have yet to receive a response.  They had no response.
  • During discussion they stated that it was irresponsible to take money from the fund balance.  On this point, I am somewhat willing to agree.
  • The claimed that too much bad data is going around and that we should all attend the meetings so we know “the truth”.  I stated that their meetings are during the work day so that doesn’t work well for most of us.  I was basically told that they are too busy attending other local meetings at night.
  • During discussion they were extremely concerned with taking too much out the the Delinquent Tax Revolving Fund because the balance must stay positive at all times.  I corrected them and told them that many other counties do not have positive balances at all times in these accounts and are doing just fine.  I also pointed out that this fund averages $765,000 per year in profit and has a present balance of about $8 million dollars.  They had no response.
  • I asked them about this:

4Million

-vs-

GF Balance

Notice the total fund balance in Shiawassee county Citizens Guide, a report that is sent to the state by our County each year-It’s 4.8 million dollars.  The second is one that the county uses for budgeting purposes-it’s 1.4 million dollars.  So where exactly did that 3.4 million dollars go?  Are there multiple fund balance accounts that we don’t know about?  The commissioners answer-no. 

Overall it appears that Schneider and Holzhausen may be on our side.  Call these guys and tell them to keep fighting for us.  This from an earlier argus-press article:

One county commissioner’s request for a vote of no confidence against Chairman Jeff Bartz and Finance and Administration Committee Chairman John Plowman was turned down with little discussion during Wednesday’s committee of the whole meeting.

“This is something that has been brought to my attention many times by people in the public, and they’re not happy with the board of commissioners,” Commissioner Les Schneider said Wednesday. “I move that because of a recent offense within the board of commissioners, I ask for a vote of no confidence for the board of commissioners and finance chairs. The reasons are their direct involvement with the situations involving the county administrator and the county budgets.”

The motion was supported by Commissioner Gary Holzhausen, but received no discussion from others.

Holzhausen and Schneider were the only two votes in favor of the motion.​

Most importantly, I announced the Preliminary Financial Review petition in front of the commission.  They had no response.  I’m going to make some very small changes to the wording on the petition.  If you’re interested in circulating it, click here.
UPDATE: After I left the meeting apparently a FOIA request was read aloud in front of the public and the commission.  This is not normal procedure as FOIA requests are normally between the county and the person who requested the date.  This request was different though-It was submitted by commissioner Les Schneider who was trying to get detailed budget information on how the veterans budget was being spent.  Members of our own commission can’t even get budget information.  We need to stop this insanity!

BAD NEWS!

This morning the commission decided to change their minds and vote to keep the original budget.  I wonder if this was their intent all along: simply say that they would fix the problem, then change their minds at the last minute guaranteeing minimal opposition at the budget approval meeting?

This will mean the COMPLETE ELIMINATION of our Road Patrol.

Here’s the quote from yesterdays meeting that sums it up best:

Commissioner Jeff Bartz, District 6, stated regarding to pulling money from the fund balance or delinquent tax, “This is just a band aid, people voted it down and I think we should keep our money in the bank.”

Commissioner, thanks confirming my suspicions-this has been about retaliation for a failed millage since this began. The safety of our children doesn’t matter to you. The jobs of the deputies who have work hard everyday don’t matter to you. All that matters is retaliation.

Given the almost non-existent amount of transparency that we are seeing from our commission, I will be forced to begin circulating the petition for a preliminary financial review under PA 436 of 2012.  This petition will expose the truth about our budget and finally bring transparency to Shiawassee County! 

Please PACK THE SURBECK BUILDING TODAY at 4PM.  If you can’t make it, go to here and register to circulate the petition.

Today we will make history, as the first citizens to petition the state for a preliminary financial review under PA 436 of 2012. This is the first step towards getting an EFM. Given the lack of transparency by our country government, this is the only way that we can finally answer the question: “Do we truly have a massive budget deficit that justifies cutting mandated road patrols under MCL 51.76, or are the commissioners exaggerating the situation?”

Those who are worried about an EFM being appointed need to ask themselves the following questions:

  1. Do we truly have a 2.1 million dollar deficit as the commission has stated?  I do not believe that we do.
  2. If we did have a massive deficit, would A Financial Manager be More Transparent that our current administration?  I would say without a doubt, yes. They would be required to be by law.
  3. If we did have a massive deficit, should we fix it now before it gets out of control?  I would say yes.
  4. Would an EFM immediately eliminate the commissions benefits and pensions for their part time jobs?  I would say yes.

Update: I’ve spread this updated news to the media. There will be cameras rolling during the meeting today.

Commissioners-it’s not to late to fix this. [Update-Or maybe it is.]

Welcome New Readers

If you are coming to this site after reading our editorial in the Independent on Wednesday welcome!  Just to catch you up, there have been a few changes since the Monday print deadline for the Independent, including a Victory for us.

  1. We have been on a quest to save our Road Patrol for the last 4 weeks after the county announced that they would completely eliminate it.  This violates the law, puts our children at risk, and causes a viscous cycle of crime, lower property values, and more cuts.
  2. Our plan is either to convince the commission to adequately fund our Road Patrol, or Petition the State Treasury to perform a preliminary financial review to reveal whether or not we have a true deficit.  If they find the massive deficit that the commissioners describe, a financial manager will be assigned but I do not believe this to be the case.  Read more about the plan here.
  3. Throughout this process the county commission has refused to share any budget information with local officials or myself.  The amended 2014 budget and the working 2015 detailed budget have yet to be released to the public.
  4. The plan is working-Today the county commission decided to find $780,000 to fund our road patrol.  Thank you commissioners!  Although I have to ask: If you had $780,000 to find, would you really have a 2.1 million dollar deficit?

That being said the road patrol is still taking the brunt of the county’s budget cuts, more than twice as much as any other (real) department.   Last time I checked the commissioners were still getting pensions and medical benefits for their part time elected positions.

On this site, you will find all of the documents that you need to make your own intelligent decision about our budget situation-except for the one’s that the county still isn’t sharing.  A leaked copy of the working budget can be found here, along with a proposed alternative that I think would work for all of us!

Please check it all out and email me if you have any questions.  Otherwise I look forward to meeting you at the Surbeck building on 12/11 @ 4PM!

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