Monday, December 15, 2008

Konop's college conspiracy

Lucas County Commissioner Ben Konop issued the following press release last night to announce his new program to fund a college education for all Lucas County residents - and he says he can do it without raising taxes.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Konop to Outline Program for Free College Education for all Lucas County Residents...Without Raising Taxes

Common sense proposals would fund $70 million dollars worth of college scholarships for students and displaced workers


Seeking to seriously change the direction of our local economy and the future of our community--without raising any taxes--Commissioner Ben Konop will today outline an aggressive $70 million program to help guarantee all Lucas County high school graduates and displaced workers the chance to get a college education for free.

"In the 21st Century, the best way to truly get our economy moving again, and get our people back to work, is to invest in college education for all Lucas County residents," Konop said. "Through a more efficient government, we can generate a $70 million scholarship fund for Lucas County residents that would enable us to compete and win in the global economy."

Under Konop's proposal, county departments would go to a four day work week, the county would adopt energy efficiency measures and open source software, and adopt a privatized EMS ambulance service. Together, these savings would allow $4 million dollars a year to be dedicated to a bond issuance which would then fund the scholarship program. This would, based on conservative estimates, generate $70 million dollars. The recipients, college graduates and displaced workers, would only receive the scholarship funds if they agree to return to Lucas County for a period following graduation.

"We are at the critical juncture in our community's history," Konop said. "If we are really serious about putting people to work and improving the local economy long term, we have to invest, right now, in Lucas County's best asset--its people."

WHAT: Konop Outlines Program For Free College Education for County Residents

WHEN: Monday, December 15, 2008 / 12:00 p.m.

WHERE: Toledo Bar Association Luncheon / Georgio's Restaurant, 426 N. Superior / Downtown Toledo

My first question would be, as it always is, where does the county get the authority to do this sort of thing. I know that there is no provision in the Ohio Revised Code that gives a county the ability to expend tax dollars to provide a college education. But I also know that many unauthorized expenditures are made under the guise of 'economic development' which has few restrictions for how 'economic development efforts' are funded. So to claim this is somehow related to economic development in order to provide some authority for doing it would not come as a surprise.

My second question is whether or not government should provide a 'free' college education for some while taking tax dollars from others in order to do so. Why do we think people who want to go to college should be allowed to do so at no cost to themselves? You appreciate what you've earned more than you appreciate what's been given to you. And those of us who've had to pay for our own education certainly know it's possible to obtain a college education if you're willing to work and even, for some of us, go to school part-time if that's all you can afford.

But other questions also arise.

The ideas to cut expenses in the county are admirable. I'm still not sold on open-source software, but a four-day work week, energy efficiency and privatized EMS ambulance service are terrific ideas. (I must remind Comm. Konop, though, that he opposed new windows for one of the county buildings - windows which would have improved the energy efficiency of that building.)

But if you can do these things and save $4 million, why don't you do it anyway, even if you don't pay for college for everyone? And since the county is planning on laying off people as of the first of the year, why aren't we already taking such steps to save money? And if you can save $4 million a year, the county can certainly lower the taxes (sales or property) so taxpayers don't have to pay so much. I'd much rather have the county apply such savings to my tax bill so I can further my own education - rather than pay for someone else's.

The scheme would require students to "return to Lucas County" for a period of time following graduation. Does this mean they get to go to an out-of-county or out-of-state school? And are they required to return even if they don't have a job? Would they be able to collect welfare if they don't have a job upon their return to the county? Would they be required to take any job they could find, even if it wasn't related to their major?

And just how much would the oversight of such a program cost? Will there be a staff person who disburses the funds and keeps track of the graduates, where they live and whether or not they get jobs? Will that person (or persons since there would be so many people to track) also be responsible for 'directing' students into specific degrees? It might not start off with such restrictions, but you know government - would such 'direction' end up being part of the package, especially if it would ensure a viable job upon graduation? Or would there be outrage by taxpayers if students got degrees that didn't qualify them for viable employment within the county? How many job openings do we have in Lucas County for Medieval Studies majors?

I'm all in favor of the county saving money, but I don't want those savings to be spent providing someone else a benefit that I don't have access to. I'm paying taxes and I worked full-time so I could pay for my own college education, taking five years to get my degree as a result. If I, and thousands of others, can do it, it can be done - without spending my taxes to do so.

My fear is that Konop's idea will be reported, but not analyzed, as have so many of his ideas. Main stream media will cover his speech, say a few words and praise him for coming up with 'bold, fresh, new' ideas, as they've done in the past. But this idea is just more of the spread the wealth, socialism concept being promoted by so many on the left. And it means that government expands while taxing all to provide a benefit for few.

I wish Konop much success in privatizing EMS ambulance services. I think that should be done because it will save tax dollars.

I wish him success in going to a four-day work week, if mandatory functions can be performed and money can be saved while doing so. I also think everyone should work to improve the energy efficiency of their buildings, our own homes included. I hope that a cost-benefit analysis will be performed to ensure that expenditures will actually result in savings - and not just sound good and get good headlines.

But, if the county saves money by doing any of these things, it needs to reduce the amount it collects from all of us - not conspire to find new ways to spend those dollars. Give the savings back to the people who paid for it in the first place - and let us decide how to spend those dollars. We may further our own education, start a new business that provides jobs for those hoped-for graduates, spend the money within Lucas County generating more sales tax income for the county, or even save it for our retirement.

We are better at spending our money than government ever can, or will, be.

10 comments:

Maggie Thurber said...

SOLOMON SAMI AZAR - your comment about your experience with UFOs is completely unrelated to the post and, as such, will not be included...sorry, but those are the rules.

Antipelagian said...

Sounds like Konop is trying to do the "Kalamazoo Promise" thing, except do it with public dollars.

Ideally, that would draw people to Lucas county...and perhaps grow the economy...or, it will draw people that are not able to produce and become a further drag on our system. If people are not encouraging their children to do well in school and get scholarships, then what sorts of families will this be attracting?

Speaking as a college grad, the problem with our economy in Toledo isn't a *lack* of college educated workers, it's a shrinking industrial field. Are we going to magically populate our boarded up buildings with college grads?

DeeDee Liedel said...

Maggie - Konop's numbers simply do not make sense, and I'll just focus on privitizing EMS (something that should be looked at but was ignored in the County's move to bill for Life Squad).

Sylvania Township is paid $657,000 a year to man 1 Life Squad unit. There are 10 units total, coming up to $6.5 million. If these are eliminated and private ambulances are relied upon, why is the savings not $6.5 million, instead of some number under $4 million (since the total proposal would save only $4 million).

Mad Jack said...

I just love this stuff. Every time I read the phrase "common sense" I tend to flinch and start looking for the loophole. I can't remember a plan ever being proposed where the phrase "common sense" was included in both the description, the press release and evidenced in the plan. Mr. Konop states that "the best way to truly get our economy moving again, and get our people back to work, is to invest in college education", which isn't true. Stop and think for a minute, although I know it must be painful. The college education you're talking about is not going to turn unemployable workers into residents holding down full time jobs, which is what is needed. It isn't going to miraculously bring industry into Lucas County.

From the article, "Under Konop's proposal, county departments would go to a four day work week, the county would adopt energy efficiency measures and open source software, and adopt a privatized EMS ambulance service." I have a few questions:

How does a four day work week cut costs?
Name the three most significant energy efficient measures that the county is going to adopt in terms of cost savings.
Why isn't the county already using open source software?
What do you mean, specifically, about adopting a privatized EMS ambulance service?
If the idea of funding college educations fails, does that mean that Lucas county will not adopt these cost saving measures that you've discovered?

Saving four million dollars a year appeals to me. The idea of somehow turning four million into seventy million is more than a little difficult to believe. Using the seventy million to pay for a college education supposedly for anyone who has graduated from high school and who wants a college education is, well, not so good. If nothing else a large portion of the money will get hijacked for other purposes, kind of like what happened to the Ohio turnpike that is supposed to be a free way.

If the article is to be believed, Ben Konop wants to cut governmental spending without cutting services, which is laudable, but is part of Mr. Konop's job. Ben has found a way to cut four million a year, which is excellent. Good job, Ben! And I'm serious as a heart attack when I write that.

Now, since you can save that kind of money, why not just pass it on back to the poor taxpayers?

Mad Jack said...

Maggie:
If you or Ben have ever been kidnapped by a UFO, I'd really like to know about it.

Maggie Thurber said...

DeeDee - great question, but then, Konop's numbers rarely add up...

Maggie Thurber said...

MadJack - the $4 million becomes $70 million in bonds - it works like this: how much bond money can we afford if we have $4 million per year to spend on interest and principle payments? Somewhere around $70 million.

So the county would go into debt to issue those bonds - in addition to all the other bonds they already have, based upon a yearly savings of $4 million. Of course, such 'savings' are not permanent, nor are they guaranteed to last the 30 or so years which is the term of most bonds...

Maggie Thurber said...

And, MadJack, I'm not aware of ever having been kidnapped by a UFO and if I were, I wouldn't be telling it here, but trying to somehow make a buck out of the experience. LOL!

Tim Higgins said...

Maggie,

Once again we get one of Young Ben's Wimpy Ideas (I will gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today).

On top of my outrage that it should become the County's responsibility to college educate young people, there is additional anger that there are ways for the county to save TAXPAYER money that are not immediately being executed by our elected officials.

As for the concept of these students being forced to return to Lucas County after graduation, my congratulations to Ben for turning residency in the county into community service.

skeeter1107 said...

If Ben can save $4 million, then do so. It will come in real handy with the cost overruns that have and will continue to occur with the new arena project.

As far as the free college idea goes, it's better than his art loan program. But once again, Ben like many other politicians miss the point when it comes to jobs. It's about less taxes and less regulation.

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