Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Live Blogging: Property Tax Townhall Mtg

7:19 Public officials here are Alan Hansen, Rep. Neuenschwander, and James Ivie...otherwise it is a full house of citizens here at the Bountiful Library.

7:21 I got started a little late, but the meeting began with a discussion of the property tax abatement applying only to this year and the recycling program being a fee, but still a cost to the citizens.

7:27 Some questions and comments from the audience...I'd like to see the rest of the presentation, but this is getting people excited.

7:28 Legislative priorities

  • Fair and equitable property valuation
  • Fair, transparent accounting for taxpayer funds
  • Fair system for tax increases
  • Fair way to fund public education
7:31 Good, Bad, and Ugly Legislation

Good. Acquisition Value. Truth in taxation on steriods. Move schools to other taxes. Transparency in government. Burden of proof on Assessor. Limitation on taxing authority.
Bad. Rolling Average. More oversigth by state tax commission. Value based on square footage. Extend 45% exemption to more than 1 acre.
Ugly. Tax Deferral. Circuit breaker increases. Tax freeze for certain people. Annual market value assessments. Longer lasting voted leeway.

7:36 To pass a tax increase greater than the cost of inflation ought to be a vote involving a double majority (not only must a majority turn up to vote, but they must have a majority in favor of the tax increase).

7:39 The co-founder of DavisParents.org, Randy Smith, is making a comment that moving schools to a sales tax might be regrettionary? (I'm not sure I heard him correctly. I'll try to clarify.)

7:43 When Bret Milburn ran for Commission he ran on cutting taxes. Cited Mitt Romney running the olympics (I'm not hearing Ron say that Milburn has not done this yet.)

7:45 Rep N. is saying that the characterization that the legislature won't cut the budget is unfair. He says to come to the health and human services committee to see the cuts.

7:49 Mr Ivie is asking if Ron is willing to raise taxes to hire 100 more assessors for the frequent assessments that is being suggested.

7:51 Comments from the peanut gallery are getting pretty heated driven, in part, by the defensive stance of the elected officials.

7:53 An argument is being made against a Prop. 13 type reform, however I'm not sure we have a bill that does this.

8:01 Tax deferral means that you don't pay til you die or sell your house. (In the meantime, everyone else is paying more because others taxes are nil.)

8:04 James Ivie is speaking, and suggests that his plan is to get all "properties equalized at the same time."-meaning that they get assessed near to same time.

Mortensen responds that Ivie is not the enemy, but that problems caused by infrequent assessments began long before Ivie was elected. Ivie has been good at his job.

8:09 Comment from Weber county citizen who says that our assessments are based on the MLS which does not include 'for sale by owner', meaning there is a 6 percent higher value placed on homes due to realtor commissions which figure into the value of the home.

8:13 A commentor suggests that to be an effective lobbyist you should be working all year long, not just when the session starts.

8:15 Mortensen: Average increase in budget has been 15% per year since Huntsman has been in office.

8:18 Comment from a citizen. The county commission only has authority over 4 out of 14 entities.

8:22 Utah's Right to Know. for salaries of public employees.

8:23 Meeting has ended.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Announcing: Property Tax "Townhall Meetings"

Citizens For Tax Fairness.org is holding two meetings on property taxes this week. Please attend one.

November 27, 2007 7:00 PM at the Bountiful City Library 725 S Main in Bountiful

November 29, 2007 7:00 PM at The American Legion 55 W. 200 S. in Bountiful.

At these meetings, we will:
  1. Learn what the legislature is planning to do on property taxes (over 20 bills have already been filed).
  2. Develop action plans for making and holding elected officials accountable if they fail to satisfactorily address the property tax issue.
  3. Develop contingency plans for a Proposition 13 type movement if the legislature does not fix the problem.
  4. Review the Davis County property tax abatement which is only for this year.
  5. Organize to attend upcoming budget hearings where the property tax decisions are really made.
  6. Develop a schedule for citizen lobbyist training.
  7. Set up e-mail lists and telephone trees in order to ensure that everyone is kept up-to-date.
  8. Establish a public relations program.
  9. Address other issues that those in attendance may have.
This is where you should make your voice heard. If you favor one, or another plan for tax reform, you should come and weigh in. For example, I'm worried about a prop 13 type plan, so I'll be advocating for something that preserves the accountability of "Truth in Taxation", with the emphasis on representative government. Nothing is set in stone at this point, so now is the time to speak up. I'll be at Tuesday nights meeting.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Are Six Figure Salaries Justified Of A Non-Profit?

With public opinion heavily slated against the BSA's practice of giving high salaries to its executives, I might be facing an inevitable flame war for what I'm about to say. And no, I'm not playing devils advocate.

There are legitimate reasons that the BSA could have for being generous in there compensation packages. My reasons follow, in part.

First, let me acknowledge that the initial sticker-shock that most people felt when confronted with a $214,000 salary is justified. As a point of comparison, the Deseret News cites Dick Cheney's salary to be only $1,700 more. This data point alone should be enough to give pause to anyone that has contributed funds to "Friends of Scouting". However, it should not be the factor that decides whether we will donate. WP has given many reasons that he will not contribute that are legitimate, but are open to debate. For it is his opinion on the efficacy of the organization that has been expressed. For example, he feels that the Roundtable events offered in his area are sub-par. This point does speak as to whether BSA executives are worth their pay. If the program is unsuccessful, then the larger paycheck is not justified. If, however, we like the "fruits" of the scouting program, then we might want to contribute to "Friends of Scouting".

The second point is that non-profit organizations must compete with the rest of corporate America for the same labor pool. There is not some mystical Shangri-la of independently wealthy, and fully qualified executives that are lining up to serve for lesser compensation. People that have put themselves into the workforce expect to be paid for their work. Of course, there are exceptions, but we shouldn't plan for rare cases. I would expect the BSA to compensate their employees on par with similar organizations, of a similar size, within the state. If the highest paid BSA executives got lesser pay than other organizations would provide for the same work, then I would expect that the BSA would adjust the compensation to match.

Third, if it is true that these executives are working 60-80 hours per week, then it should be expected that they will be compensated for their extra time and effort. Folks that are willing to work extra hours are, in a sense, the exception to the rule. If true, it speaks a great deal about the caliber of the people that are attracted to scouting as a career choice.

Lastly, I expect that the BSA could have immunized themselves against these criticisms were they to divest these employee's of some of their responsibilities and authority. They could have divided a six-figure income six ways among six people, but the end result might not have been as effective. I think the BSA has benefited by having a flat organization in Utah where participation in scouting is so high among the youth.

I contributed to FOS this year. Not only in donating my time to collect offerings, but in monetary form. I can't say for certain whether I will contribute next year. I suppose I will evaluate the program on its merits and decide whether the BSA has proven capable of producing what I expect of them. It may not have been stated so succinctly elsewhere, but it is my feeling that the purpose of the Boy Scouts of America is to produce godly young men who will become leaders in this country. So, if I can see that leadership to be a product of what the BSA does next year, then I will pay what I can to this organization.

Other bloggers also weighing in on this issue follow.

Utah Conservative
The Life I am Choosing...
Reach Upward

This has been reported first in the Deseret News, followed by the Salt Lake Tribune.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Let The Real Debate Begin

I seem to feel a new vitality for blogging that has been somewhat missing of late. Not because I won anything in last nights vote, but precisely because I lost.

Now that vouchers have expired, I can finally get some serious answers from folks who support education. That includes people from both camps that supported, or opposed vouchers. Sure the rhetoric won't completely vanish, but those who are sincere will re-emerge into the political light and, hopefully, start hammering out some real solutions. I think there are a lot of serious folks who retreated from the heated debate these last few months, that will now open up some good discussions.

RAP Rant

Joshua thought it so important that I get straightened out on my views that he posted this rant to my post about the RAP tax. (It appeared twice, so I deleted the superfluous one) I'll let it stand on its own without comment from me.

"If you are that anti-tax why then do we pay our public officials with tax dollars? Public officials that you support. Why do we have any community services at all? Are you opposed to parks? Youth Sports and other community sponsered events? Should we do away with road maitenance or the fire and police departments? No no no, I am sure you consider those "needs". Basic civil services right? Well I am being taxed for them, yet I have never had NEED of the fire department, nor the police. I own a 4 wheel drive vehicle so I really don't care if the roads are bad. Why don't the private individuals who want those services pay for it and leave my money alone. I have no kids so i have no NEED for public education anymore yet they steal my money and tax my property to pay for it. HOW DARE THEY?! Those tax and spend liberals! The fact of the matter is this, we are taxed, where that tax money goes is a whole other question. Personally I would much rather see bright a new beacon of culture and sophistication grace my county then yet another strip mall, or another subdivision. Working in the real estate field I am stunned every day how much government assitance is given to "private sector" projects. For once it would be nice to see a project that is solely for the people have a chance to get up off the ground.

Oh, and anyone who is TRULY a fan of Shakespeare wants it forced on everyone. It goes with the territory. Reading a couple of sonets and seeing plays doesn't create a Shakespearian Dramturge. However his is always the first name to be pulled to try and make oneself sound cultured. The Bard worship doesn't impress anyone into thinking you really are "pro-arts". And thats okay, you don't have to be. The world is full because of all types in it.

You have a group of people in this area who want to do something great, who want to share their gifts with all around. They need a proper place to do it in. You wouldn't ask the firemen to try and do what they do with out trucks and a station. We obviously don't ask our mayor and city council to operate out of the basement of the mayors home. This group wants to give back to their community the best way they know how, they have tried for years to figure out on how to do it alone, and have gotten about half way there. All they are asking is for everyone to pitch in 1 penny for every 1 dollar you are going to spend fo eight years. That is less then the change you will lose in your sofa or in cleaning out your car. 1 penny at a time to build a place that ALL residents would be proud to have in their community. It is sad when we can't muster up even that amount of generosity of spirit to affect change for good in our communities because of fear-mongers, decrying "legalized plunder" and "tax and spend liberals". I would have you know on an interesting side note that the people who are highest up in this group are FAR FAR from liberal democrates. They are as ultra-conservitive republican as I have ever met. They just happen to be able to see the world for what it is and not what they want it to be."

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Election Results:2007

It looks like participating cities got their RAP tax. My picks for NSL won. The sales tax increase was a big NO!

Of interest in Bountiful; Scott Myers came in first for the city council followed by Beth Holbrook, who recently ran for a lege seat, and John (Marc) Knight.

For complete election results see KSL.com

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Vote 2007: My Dance Card

I'll be voting for Shanna Schaefermeyer for NSL Mayor. Ron Gordon, Stan Porter, and Brian Horrocks for city council. I'll support Scott Briggs if he can win without my vote. He hasn't proven to me that he can do more than sign a pledge not to raise taxes.

I'm clearly voting for vouchers, and if they fail I want ideas on how to prepare for this states education challenges to come from those that opposed vouchers. And, you can't say spend more money. That isn't a serious answer.

I'd vote against the R.A.P if I had to, but NSL has opted out. (One reason to vote no is that it is only really an A. tax to pay for Arts. Like batteries, Recreation and Parks are not included.) I'm voting against the sales tax increase, because it doesn't help my town at all.

If Not Vouchers, Then What?

Faced with the prospect of a defeat of vouchers at the polls next Tuesday, I ask the question. If not vouchers, then what?

Vouchers were implemented by a majority of the legislature, and signed by a Governor who say that vouchers will help public schools. If we take them at their word--and we must unless they have proven themselves untrustworthy on this point, then we should examine the future of public education without vouchers.

Even without the implementation of vouchers, the numbers of entrants into public schools will grow exponentially. The Utah Taxpayer Association estimates that by 2015, we will have 150,000 more students enrolled in public schools than presently.

Voucher opponents accept these numbers, although they would otherwise burn the Taxpayer Association heads at the stake for opposing them on vouchers.

Accepting the legislative fiscal analysts worst guess to be true, and only 12,000 students leave public schools with a voucher. Assuming that they take the maximum possible voucher dollar of $3,000, the general fund will have $36,000,000 subtracted from it. Utahn's for public schools say we spend $5,397 per student (lower than the estimate of $7,500). Using that number, Public Schools will have $5,397 per student in left their coffers because schools keep the money per student for five years. This comes to $64,764,000 dollars more available for public education to use per year for five years. That's 64 million that was already going to be spent on education for an investment of 36 million that would not have been spent on education.

Of course, of the 2% of students that we think may take advantage of vouchers, how many get the full $3,000? Not 100%, so my 36 million figure is somewhere between 0 and 6 million dollars higher than what will be required.

The question implicit in this is could we spend 36 million more dollars on education and get as much? Doubtful, because the savings for public schools is less when students stay in the program than if they leave, or never show up at all.

What will we do about 150,000 more students in seven years without vouchers?

We may have to find out if vouchers fail next Tuesday.