Friday, October 26, 2012

Just say NO to property tax levies - all of them!

Did you - or anyone you know - get an 85% increase in income this year?

How about a 67% increase? No?

Well, what about a paltry 45% increase?

I didn't think so. So why should public agencies?

Those are the percentage increases for three levies on the ballot November 6th.

The Toledo-Lucas County Public Library has a 2.0 mill levy and they want to renew that and add .9 mills. That's a 45% increase in income they're asking for - out of your pockets.

By the way - the Library's 2 mill levy gives them as much money as the county gets in property taxes. Got that? The library is already getting the same amount as county government and they want more - and they want this amount of funding each year for the next five years.

The Mental Health and Recovery Services board is asking for a new 1 mill levy. They already have a 1.5 mill levy so this is a second levy and it represents a 67% increase in income for them - coming from your wallet. This is a 10-year levy, so you wouldn't have a chance to modify it for a decade.

Children Services Board is the worst. They have a 1 mill levy and they want to increase it to 1.85 mills - an 85% increase. This is their second levy. They have a 1.4 mill levy that voters approved last year. Oh - and did you know they have $13,411,696 in their reserve fund???

Yep...sitting on millions and they want you to vote to give them 85% more than they're already getting from this levy. In this economy, that's shameful.

The MetroParks isn't any better. They are asking for a new .9 mill levy that would be in place for 10 years. Ten years ago, they asked for a .3 mill levy to purchase additional property. Voters gave them that levy, but many who opposed it, including me, said it would only lead to requests for even more money in the future because any new land purchased would need to be maintained and turned into parkland.

No, we were told, that wouldn't happen. They lied because here they are, asking for a new .9 mill operating levy to - you guessed it - pay for the administration of all the new land they now have.

Of course, these levies are only asking for 'pennies a day' compared to the City of Toledo and Toledo Public Schools, who want to add brand new levies to their income.

The city wants a 1 mill levy to fund Parks and Recreation, because they just don't have enough money and so all of you, who also don't have enough money, must pay more.

Remember back in the spring when council voted to install additional red-light and speed cameras? Do you also remember that the projected $320,000 revenue from those cameras was supposed to go to parks? You don't? Well, it's true.

But when council voted to put the levy on the ballot, no one even raised the point or questioned what happened to all that revenue money. No - they just want more, trying to justify a new tax on the poor and middle class as somehow being in our best interest because it will reduce youth violence, increase our quality of life and help our seniors. Oh - and it's "for the children."

Wouldn't your quality of life be better if you could actually keep the money you earn instead of being forced, by majority rule, to turn it over to government?

Besides, if the city has a $900,000 carryover and the mayor can afford to give raises totaling $295,000 a year (without counting pensions, taxes, etc...), do they really need a new levy that will be in place for a decade - or longer if the temporary 3/4% income tax is any example?

Then there is the TPS levy - a brand new 4.9 mill, 10-year levy. Where should I begin on that?

Let's start with reminding you that they already collect 64.39 mills!

I could remind you about their atrocious audit that no one in the main stream media covered. They were cited for 18 instances of material weaknesses, significant deficiencies, non-compliance and a finding for recovery.

Their management letter was even worse with citations for spending money without appropriating it and for appropriating money without first verifying they had any to appropriate. They failed to keep proper inventories not just of district property but of property purchased with grand funds. They also failed to follow their own reimbursement policies and reimbursed monies they shouldn't have - and without receipts. In fact, the management letter was so bad that it took me two blog posts to cover it! (you can see them here and here)

They could have done a performance audit before asking for more money, but they didn't. Other schools in the state (and many governmental jurisdictions) have found millions of yearly savings by doing performance audits. But not TPS. In August, they said there were pursuing it and an announcement would be made soon. However, emails to various board members asking for an update on their progress toward a performance audit have gone unanswered.

And in the midst of all of this, their school report card went down - with Pickett Elementary entering its 13th year in academic emergency. Every citizen should be outraged about Pickett!

Besides, with an $11.22 million carryover, they don't even need a levy this year. They could have removed the levy from the ballot, done the performance audit and, after implementing the recommendations, re-evaluated their financial needs and, if still necessary, asked for a levy then.

Instead, TPS wants a cushion so they don't have to cut their spending. Well, I'd like a cushion, too. Wouldn't you? Instead, you're looking at a giving TPS another $13.3 million a year for the next 10 years.

Imagination Station "is only" asking for renewal of their existing .17 mill levy. Voters rejected them three times and then their levy passed. A non-profit entity shouldn't be on the public dole, no matter how 'valuable' you think they are. They should be self-supporting - not taking money out of your pocket, preventing you from spending those dollars on your priorities.

These seven levies represent an increase of $45.3 million in taxation. All totaled, they take $54.6 million out of the pockets of residents.

And don't forget, money going to government really isn't economic growth, no matter what anyone tells you.

The worst part is that these are property taxes, which means that if you don't pay them, you can lose your home. With our high unemployment, continuing foreclosures and general economic malaise, can we really afford to tell friends, family and neighbors that they need to pay $45.3 million more???

As many Lucas County township elected officials recently asked:

“Is (any) levy so important that someone should lose their home if they cannot afford to pay it?”

None of these levies even remotely qualify.

This is not to say that they aren't good organizations doing good things. And opposition to increasing the amount of money they get doesn't mean you hate kids, hate the mentally ill, are racist, unkind, greedy, stingy, uncaring, etc... etc... etc... It just means you want them to live within their current means - just like you do.

Besides, if you really want to support the levies, there's nothing preventing you from going to the Auditor's AREIS website, looking up your own property and, under the data column, checking how much you'd pay if the levies passed and then writing a check to the organizations for that amount. Nope - nothing in the world. In fact, it's probably a better way to go.

But I bet you won't.

And that alone is another reason to vote NO on

* Issue 5 Toledo Parks and Recreation
* Issue 20 Toledo Public Schools
* Issue 21 MetroParks
* Issue 23 Library
* Issue 24 Mental Health & Recovery Services
* Issue 25 Children Services Board
* Issue 26 Imagination Station

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