Archive for the ‘Schools’ Category
May 12, 2015
More Money Sources For Government
The question on my mind during these budget days for the City, County and the School System is where can we go to find more money other than just cutting expenses and raising property taxes on homeowners and businesses that are already paying their full mandated share. I am not against cutting unnecessary public expenses and there are plenty examples I could point out. (Excessive sick days and vacations, line of duty disability approval at the City, dumb capital projects, etc). But let me point out two major questions that I have concerning pilots (payment in lieu of taxes).
???? When a Pilot expires does the named property actually pay the full tax load that was abated (reduced) for the following years after the expiration date ????
???? Why are pilots given for abated personalty taxes for some companies but not others? What is the policy on personalty taxes ????
I have attached a pilot file from 2007 when Bob Patterson was trustee. Part of that file shows pilots with expiration dates (pages 71 to 109). I have been asking Reid Dulberger (EDGE-Economic Development Growth Engine) for some time to show a report on those pilots that have expired and to show the pre-expiration abated tax and the post expiration tax actually paid. He has done nothing. This is not easy to do and remember that this report by the Trustee is only for County taxes and if the property is in the City, there is a similar but somewhat lesser amount owed the City. As an example I checked just recently on Hershey at 975 Kansas St. I found that their abated real estate tax was $294,065.74 and was due to expire on 12/19/2009. I looked at what they paid in 2011 and it was about $72,000. But then I looked at their personalty tax and they paid a very large tax even during the period of their real estate tax abatement. Then I look at other abated taxes in the 2014 Lenoir report and there are companies listed with personalty tax abatements. What are personalty taxes? Personalty taxes are levied on business furnishings and equipment that you report to the Shelby County Assessor each year. My question is what is the policy concerning real estate tax abatements and personalty tax abatements? Why do some get an abatement and some do not? What is the policy difference concerning real estate taxes and personalty tax abatement?
The public needs to know if when a pilot expires does the property pay the full abatement tax or do they get some kind of reduction or get a further extension of the deadline or do they just leave town? There needs to be an audit of the before and after numbers of the Pilot expiration subject and let the public see the numbers.
December 16, 2014
There has been a lot of discussion back and forth about approving this project and its impact on our economy and education funding. I have been doing some research on this matter and it is quite confusing. I would like to point out the most important points.
- The use of a TDZ is proposed because it is supposed to be risk free. The proponents claim that the tax payers are not at risk and the risk is all on the bond purchasers. That is not true because if the incremental sales tax increases are not sufficient to cover the principle and interest, then the taxpayers are the backup less the ad valorem (property tax) tax base. My point here is that if these bonds issued for the Fairgrounds TDZ are the same as those for the downtown TDZ zone and if the incremental tax revenue is not sufficient to cover the required bond payments, then all city revenue other than the Ad Valorem Tax (basically property taxes) will be called on to make up the difference. It is not risk free. If you look at the City of Memphis 2013 general fund budget you will see that ad valorem taxes are about 40% of the revenue. The rest presumably would be subject to the bond insurance.
- There is a question about the effect on education funding of a TDZ zone. According to the Tennessee Department of Education, half of the 2.25% portion local option sales tax must be appropriated to education.
- Another important point is that each year a new base will be set for the TDZ zone at the level it grew or declined to the year before. The increase in sales taxes will be measured from this new last year level. Only this increase less the education portion will be available to pay the bonds.
- There is a lot of push back in the proposed size of the proposed fairgrounds TDZ zone. The proponents of the fairgrounds project want to include Cooper Young and Overton Square because these areas are successful areas and the proponents of Fairgrounds want to take advantage of their success to finance the Fairgrounds. They are afraid that it cannot stand on its own merits. See the attached map of the proposed zone area.
- Finally there is a possible increase in the 7% portion of the sales tax in the TDZ. This portion will go first to pay off the bonds. If there is any left over after paying off the debt, it will go to the local government for education and other purposes. The problem with including Cooper/Young and Overton Square is that their success will be used to finance the Fairgrounds risky venture.
This is another real estate venture done by the government rather than development professionals with taxpayers taking the risk rather than private investors.
November 13, 2014
My brother and I ran a manufacturing business for some 40 years here in Memphis (Saino Manufacturing Company) and then we sold the business and retired and continued in my field of fire protection as a consultant. Then in 2004 I turned to local government interests and the issue of Transparency In Government.
I found that this was not only a national problem but also a state and local problem. Many politicians feel that they do not want the public to know the details of their motives and actions and therefore they make it purposely difficult to get the information. Look below at part of the Tennessee Open Records Law.
(2)(A) All state, county and municipal records shall, at all times during business hours, which for public hospitals shall be during the business hours of their administrative offices, be open for personal inspection by any citizen of this state, and those in charge of the records shall not refuse such right of inspection to any citizen, unless otherwise provided by state law.
Locally I have been refused access to the City of Memphis offices and old Memphis City School offices during business hours with the excuse that I do not have an appointment with a particular person. When I then tried to get an appointment with the person that I wanted to see, my phone calls and emails were not answered. This, according to the Tennessee State open records official, is a violation of state law.
Just to illustrate how important transparency in government is, look at the recent revelation of the creation of the Affordable Care Act. MIT Professor Jonathan Gruber, the Obamacare architect, said in 2013 that a lack of transparency and the stupidity of the American voter helped get the law through Congress. See the “too stupid” video clip. http://dailycaller.com/2014/11/11/yet-another-video-emerges-of-obamacare-architect-calling-americans-stupid-video/
It is time for all local governmental and educational entities to open all their legally open records in an easily accessible manner to the public that pays all the bills for these services. As a high official at the Shelby County Government Offices (the best of all local governmental agencies) told me on a recent phone call “We work for you, Mr. Saino, and the public”. What a great attitude.
September 18, 2014
There Are Promises And Then There Are Promises
Promises are only as good as the character of the promiser and laws to back up the promise. The City of Memphis made promises in the past about pension benefits and also about retiree health care benefits. The pension benefits were backed up by law and generally could only be changed by bankruptcy (look at Detroit). However retiree health care benefits are not protected by law and are subject to change by the governing body.
Recently certain publications have pointed to Nashville as the model that Memphis should emulate. Therefore I decided to look at Nashville (Metro Davidson) and see what their numbers look like.
The first thing that struck me was that the Nashville Metropolitan Council consisted of 41 members. Our 13 is bad enough. Imagine a meeting where all 41 want to get their opinion on the record.
Then I looked at the pension and OPEB numbers. Their pension liability was funded to 84.6% as compared to 72.6% for Memphis. However their OPEB unfunded liability is $1.88 billion compared to $1.29 billion for Memphis. Therefore the state of Tennessee looked at Memphis and said that you are low on gas for the pension fund and also the OPEB fund and therefore you have to do something. However Nashville gets a pass because they can always cancel the OPEB promise in the future if they get in a pension contribution bind. Would you want 41 metro council members rather than the 26 we now have (13 City and 13 County) representing the City and County especially when the County has been doing a good job compared to the City.
Nashville is certainly vibrant and has grown whereas Memphis has been basically stagnant. However, you should be careful about claiming that the difference between Memphis and Nashville is the result of a metro government versus two separate governments in Shelby County.
July 24, 2014
There is a very important election going on. Early voting is going on. General early voting started Monday July 21st and early voting ends Saturday August 2nd. The last voting day is Thursday August 7th but only at your normal local voting site.
The ballot is huge. I have attached the ballot with my selections. I want you to make your own choices but I want you to get out and vote.
I have been working with Eve and Eddie Settles and they have done a wonderful job in researching the candidates. Be sure to go to www.backinriversity.com and read about the research they have done.
You will have to declare that you want to vote in the democrat or republican primary. This is for the Governor, United States Senate, United States House of Representatives, the Tennessee Senate, the Tennessee House of Representatives, and the State Democrat or Republican executive committee people. This party declaration will not prevent you from voting on the rest of the ballot which is open.
The final page of the ballot is interesting. It is to vote to Retain or Replace the Tennessee Supreme Court judges (3 ea.), Court of Appeals Judges (10 ea.) and Court of Criminal Appeals judges (10 ea.).
The Tennessee legislature voted recently to let the Judicial Nominating Commission to expire and in November 2014 we will vote whether to adopt a constitutional amendment for Tennessee, a system like the one set forth in the US Constitution. I believe that an 8 year term is sufficient and should be at the end of a distinguished legal career or the justice should go back to his legal practice to earn his living, not be a career justice. Therefore I support the REPLACE vote.
June 24, 2014
IMPORTANT ELECTION INFORMATION
There is a very important and complicated election coming up on August 7, 2014. (WOW, WHAT A BALLOT) (Countywide early voting starts Monday, July 21st). You will be electing the primary candidates for Tennessee Governor, one Tennessee US Senator, Two US Representatives (8th and 9th districts), Three State Senators, Thirteen State Representatives and Ten State Executive Committee members. These are primary elections and the final vote will be in November of this year.
As if that was not enough, we will also be electing the following.
9 circuit court judges, 3 chancery court judges, 2 probate court judges and 10 criminal court judges. NOTE (Chancellor Kenny Armstrong, Chancery Court Part 3, has just been appointed by Governor Haslam to the Appeals Court. Since it’s way after time for filing a qualifying petition, he either won’t be on the final ballot in August, or, if it’s too late to take him off, any votes for him or that office will be ineffective. We assume Haslam set it up this way so he gets to appoint his own choice until the next election IN 2016.)
Also (very important) we will be electing the District Attorney General, the County Mayor and 13 members of the County Commission.
Will it never end?
Then we will select the Assessor of Property and the County Trustee, the Probate Court Clerk, the County Clerk and the Register of Deeds.
I bet you thought I was finished but OH NO. You will select 15 general session court judges (1 is an environmental court judge) and the juvenile court judge. Also THE SHERIFF, THE CIRCUIT COURT CLERK, THE CRIMINAL COURT CLERK AND THE JUVENILE COURT CLERK.
May 26, 2014, Memorial Day
Family Is Everything!
I get discouraged when I read day after day about the destruction of the basic unit of our culture, the strong family. Most of our national problems (education, poverty and crime) can be traced to the breakdown of the strong family unit.
Then on the eve of memorial day and after attending church, I ran into a high school classmate, Joe Garbuzinski and he told me the following remarkable story.
He had just returned from a graduation ceremony at the Naval Academy at Annapolis. His twin grandsons, Zachery and Alexander Johnson, had both just graduated. They grew up in Memphis and attended Christian Brothers High School. They were top students and both were state wrestling champs.
While at the Naval Academy, they attended summer training camps for Navy seals and finished in the top 5% of those classes. Now after graduating they will enter into the notoriously difficult Navy Seal training.
Joe is very proud of these wonderful grandsons and I am thrilled at their accomplishments. Joe and I both feel that the majority of this country still loves America, thinks that America is special and that there is hope to turn the culture back to freedom, individual responsibility and love of country. With young people like Zachery and Alexander, there is cause for great hope for the future of this wonderful country.
May 22, 2014
A Heartbreaking Story About Education And Opportunity!
I have known a lot of great teachers. They are very important in improving the education of our children. However politicians and heads of teacher unions do not always act like their slogan, “Put The Children First”.
Take a few minutes to watch this video. It is heartbreaking.
It tells the true story of an actual ongoing event in New York City. Here you have the new mayor of New York, Bill de Blazio, acting to close down three charter schools in Jamaica, Lower Manhatten and Harlem. It is tragic. Watch this true story about a mother of a young girl who won the lottery for Success Academy. http://www.glennbeck.com/2014/05/08/will-cain-exposes-nyc-mayor-bill-de-blasios-war-on-charter-schools-in-new-docuseries/
These parents pray for a miracle (a lucky draw from a parent lottery for limited positions in these prized schools). Watch her tell her story about winning and then her reaction to the Mayor and his plan to block three of these charter schools.
Mayor de Blazio, who is Mayor due to the full support of the NY City teachers union, is closing 3 of these great schools. Look at the contrast. The math proficiency of the school that her daughter would have to go to, if the charter school she won is closed, is 3%. Her selected charter school has a math proficiency is 82%. 105 NY City schools have a math proficiency of less than 5%. It makes me mad to see such actions. Why do they do this? They cannot stand the competition and the exposure of their education failure.
What do you think?
April 28, 2014
Does Your Child Belong To You Or To The Government?
I and some of my friends have been asking questions about Common Core. I asked the Shelby County School System for the following information.
I would like to have access to and view all data requests regarding data that the school system is collecting on the students. I would like to know if this data is requested and collected from the students directly without parental involvement or if the parents are requested to furnish this information or data and if this information is voluntary or required of the students or parents.
There answer was the following. “Your request is not granted because it is not understood.” Such arrogance.
I want to recommend that you go to www.mommabears.org and read through some of this information. This is a great organization and they are having an effect. I was immediately struck by this report. Click and read this report on what is in the library of a local school. http://www.mommabears.org/1/post/2014/03/alert-is-this-in-your-childs-library-at-school.html
I want to find out more about this from the school system but I cannot even get them to answer a request for an appointment. I will keep trying but I need feedback from readers who have children in public schools.
The federal government does not believe that your child’s education should be the responsibility of the parents. They believe they are the professionals and they know better. We need to let them know that they work for us, not the other way around.
March 10, 2014
Common Core Educational Standards-Good Or Bad?
This is a subject that I consider more important than even pension reform. This will determine the educational level of our children and grandchildren and the future of our country both economically and from a freedom standpoint.
What Common Core purports to do is set a uniform school curriculum across the country leading to uniform testing and higher standards. What it is fact will do, if fully implemented, is take local control out of the hands of local school boards and particularly out of the hands of parents.
In my 10 years of “OPEN RECORDS ADVOCACY” I have come to the opinion that the most difficult people to get open records information from is local school bureaucrats, starting with the old Memphis School System and now the new Shelby County School bureaucracy which acts much like the old City of Memphis School bureaucracy.
This coming Friday evening Mrs. Karen Lamoreaux (Arkansas) will speak from 6:30 PM to 8:30 PM at White Station Church of Christ, 2nd floor, 1106 Colonial Road. Listen to her in a short youtube video as she took apart the local school board.
Please try to be there and learn what she is doing in Arkansas and nationwide.
This is a person who knows what is going on and we need to listen to her and take local action on our own school board. I feel her frustration as it is very difficult to get through the bureaucracy and get results.
Within the last few months I asked the Shelby County School System for the following information.
“I would like to have access to and view all data requests regarding data that the school system is collecting on the students. I would like to know if this data is requested and collected from the students directly without parental involvement or if the parents are requested to furnish this information or data and if this information is voluntary or required of the students or parents.
Their answer was the following.
“Your request is not granted because it is not understood.”