Thursday, May 31, 2012

Kaptur a 'no' vote on banning sex-selection abortions

Rep. Marcy Kaptur joined fellow House Democrats to vote against a bill that would ban sex-selection abortions.

In order for H.R. 3541 to pass, it needed a two-thirds majority. Democrats voted overwhelmingly against the legislation after President Barack Obama and Planned Parenthood came out in opposition. The final vote was 246-168 with 17 not voting. Rep. Bob Latta voted for the measure.

Republicans voted for the bill 226-7. Democrats opposed banning sex-selection abortions by a vote of 161-20.

Kaptur told Roll Call that she thought the bill was superfluous:

Rep. Marcy Kaptur, for instance, said she thinks the bill is superfluous, as the Hyde Amendment already bans the use of certain federal funds for abortions.

“I found it unnecessary,” the Ohio Democrat said. “The Hyde Amendment is the governing law of the land, and it is sufficient ... The government shouldn’t make decisions for any family regardless of what that decision is and it shouldn’t be involved in funding it unless the life of the mother is at stake, rape or incest.”

Now if she would just be consistent on those two positions - not voting in favor of "superfluous" bills and "that government shouldn't make decisions for any family," we'd be getting somewhere.

Yet she voted in favor of federal funding for a Tea Pot Museum - how much more superfluous can you get?

And she voted in favor of Obamacare which is the biggest government intrusion on individual decision-making in decades!

Sadly, she'd rather claim a 'principle' (that she doesn't adhere to otherwise) than do the right thing by voting in favor of this bill, superfluous or not.

But on top of her failed logic, she's actually wrong. The Hyde Amendment only bans the use of certain federal funds for abortions. This bill never even addresses funding. It makes it a criminal offense to perform an abortion that is sought based upon the sex of the child, among other things.

Here is the summary of the legislation, as introduced:

Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass Prenatal Nondiscrimination Act of 2011 - Imposes criminal penalties on anyone who knowingly or knowingly attempts to: (1) perform an abortion knowing that the abortion is sought based on the sex, gender, color or race of the child, or the race of a parent; (2) use force or the threat of force to intentionally injure or intimidate any person for the purpose of coercing a sex-selection or race-selection abortion; (3) solicit or accept funds for the performance of such an abortion; or (4) transport a woman into the United States or across a state line for the purpose of obtaining such an abortion.

Authorizes civil actions, for verifiable money damages for injuries and punitive damages, by: (1) fathers, or maternal grandparents if the mother is an unemancipated minor, of unborn children who are the subject of an abortion performed or attempted through any of the above violations; and (2) women upon whom an abortion has been performed or attempted with a knowing or attempted use of force or threat of force to intentionally injure or intimidate any person for the purpose of coercing a sex-selection or race-selection abortion.

Authorizes, to prevent an abortion provider from performing or attempting further abortions in violation of this Act, injunctive relief to be obtained by the women upon whom such an abortion is performed or attempted, spouses or parents of a woman upon whom such an abortion is performed, or the Attorney General (DOJ).

Deems a violation of this Act to be prohibited discrimination under title VI (Federally Assisted Programs) of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. (Violators of title VI lose federal funding.)

Requires a medical or mental health professional to report known or suspected violations to law enforcement authorities. Imposes criminal penalties for a failure to so report.

Prohibits a woman having such an abortion from being prosecuted or held civilly liable.

Excludes from the definition of "abortion" actions taken to terminate a pregnancy if the intent is to save the life or preserve the health of the unborn child, remove a dead unborn child caused by spontaneous abortion, or remove an ectopic pregnancy.

What could be more plain? And how could she get the purpose of the bill so wrong?

Supposedly pro-life, Kaptur says it's "unnecessary." In light of this

and this:

how can she possible say the legislation is "unnecessary"?????

Kaptur is not a stupid person. I believe she just needed an excuse to vote with her party and she decided to hide behind a non-existent connection to the Hyde Amendment while, at the same time, didn't mind being hypocritical about government not making decisions for us.

Just remember this in November.

More First Solar layoffs?

Just two weeks after telling Congress the company was "financially strong," First Solar announced it was going to lay off half the 240 workers at its Antelope Valley Solar Ranch One (AVSR1) power plant near Los Angeles. They have a facility in Perrysburg.

The Washington Free Beacon has the story:

A politically connected, taxpayer-funded solar firm announced a massive round of furloughs on Friday, just weeks after its chairman told Congress his company was “financially strong.”

First Solar, an Arizona-based solar panel manufacturer that received more than $3 billion in federal loan guarantees under President Obama, has furloughed half of the 240-person workforce at its Antelope Valley Solar Ranch One (AVSR1) power plant near Los Angeles.


The announcement comes two weeks after First Solar chairman Michael Ahearn told members of the House Oversight committee that the company “remains financially strong and well positioned to execute through the current market environment.”

Ahearn’s testimony was supplemented by a presentation that included testimony from a number of First Solar employees, including Javier Pomposo and Zachary Christensen from the AVSR1 plant.


It is not known whether Pomposo and Christensen were among the 120 employees furloughed.


Congressional investigators have raised questions as to whether the Obama administration cut corners in an effort to funnel taxpayer dollars to First Solar. The company has close ties to Democratic leadership and the White House.

Kathleen Weiss, the head lobbyist and vice president of First Solar, has visited the White House at least 16 times to meet with Obama confidante Valerie Jarrett and other senior administration officials.

Jose Villarreal, a board member of the Center for American Progress—a left-wing think tank closely tied to the administration that has lobbied aggressively for green energy loans—sits on the board of First Solar.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Where does TPS get its levy campaign money?

I know - the first reaction would be to say "from unions."

But you'd only be partially correct.

I took a look at the 2010 campaign finance reports filed by the Committee for Schools - the TPS campaign committee dedicated to supporting passage of their levy requests - and what I found may surprise you.

Clearly, unions have an interest in the school system having additional funds, but in 2010, unions and their PACs and/or educational funds only contributed $9,000 to help pass the ballot issue.

AFSCME Ohio Council 8 gave $1,000; Ohio State UAW-CAP Council gave $6,000; IBEW Local 8 gave $500; and Toledo Federation of Teachers gave $1,500.

Suppliers and vendors, on the other hand, were the major donors.

TPS's Committee for Schools raised $34,165 from companies doing business with the school system - nearly four times as much as they got from unions.

This really shouldn't suprise anyone when you think about it, especially considering that the larger amounts came from firms involved in the school construction program and banks which house the district's funds.

Allied Toledo Architects, LLC - a consortium of local architectural and engineering firms that is the design firm for the school facilities program - contributed $5,500.

5/3 Bank gave them $4,000. In November of 2010, financial reports from TPS show that 5/3 housed six different accounts for the district totaling nearly $16 million. I suppose $4,000 was a small 'investment' for the bank to make.

Huntington Bank, which had five TPS accounts totaling over $9 million as of November 2010, made a $2,500 contribution to support the levy.

PNC Financial Services also gave $5,000. As of November 2010, they housed a TPS money market account valued at $12 million.

First Merit Bank only had one TPS account and it was worth $110,640 in November of 2010. They gave $500.

I did not review all the financial reports for 2010, so I don't know if Citibank had any TPS accounts during the year, but they did make a $2,500 contribution to the levy effort.

LGB, a Columbus firm handling construction management duties for the Build for Success Program, gave a total of $5,000.

TTL Associates made a $2,500 contribution. Squire Sanders & Dempsey PAC gave them $1,500. Border Fire Protection, Medical Mutual and Brooks Insurance each contributed $1,000. Brickler & Eckler in Columbus gave them $500.

Even their phone supplier, AT&T, got into the act with a $1,500 donation.

Other vendors who contributed included: Custom Computer Services, Holt Roofing, Pathway Solutions, Canberra Corporation, AVI Food Systems, Riley Law Firm, Shoen Incorporated (a subcontractor), Laibe Electric, Mr. Specialty, Goodnough & Company, Hank's Plumbing, Folding Equipment Company, Bayes Inc., and King Insurance.

Since I didn't read every financial report for 2010, I also do not know if Promedica was a vendor. They made a $2,000 contribution, but waited until after the levy had failed to do so.

Clearly vendors have a vested interest in seeing levies passed simply because they end up collecting some of the funds for the services they provide. This doesn't mean that the firms aren't sincere about 'supporting education.' But it does make you stop and think when companies who don't have to pay the property tax are donating funds to try and get you to pay more.

There are more interesting things in the campaign finance reports, but they will have to wait for further clarification before I post about them.

Stay tuned!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Why won't Facebook let me share this?

There was an interesting article on The Drudge Report yesterday that listed the hundreds of words to avoid using on line if you don't want to attract government attention.

Here is the link.

I tried to share this on Facebook, but it wouldn't let me. When I hit the share button on the article, my FB page would open, but it wouldn't post.

Thinking that perhaps the share button wasn't working, I went to my FB home page and tried to paste the link. The link pasted, and the pop up showed the article, but clicking the 'post' button resulted in nothing. Instead, the page refreshed without my comment or link.

One of my FB friends sent me a message and asked if I was able to post the article. The link showed up in the message, but I still could not post or share the article.

Conspiracy? A strange quirk relating to a UK newspaper? An article that Facebook has blocked? I don't know, but I think it very odd that we could not share this article on Facebook.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Quote of the Day - Memorial Day

Thank You

"We pause this day in America to remember our fallen heroes, the men and women who answered the call of freedom and paid the ultimate sacrifice. Let us remember and thank them for the nights they slept freezing in a tent or sweating in the desert, for the lonely days they spent fighting boredom and missing loved ones, for the hours they spent sick in pain from battle and without someone holding their hand other than their fellow soldiers, for the moments of sheer fright in the heat of battle, for the wounds suffered fighting evil, for the endless days in hospitals undergoing painful surgeries, for the precious occasions missed at home with family and friends. For all of these sacrifices, we need to thank them on behalf of millions of Americans who are so grateful. We truly appreciate their dedication to duty. ... May their legacy be honored for generations to come, may the tears shed over their coffins fertilize the fields of patriotism in our nation. The new generations to come must be built on strength, duty, honor and country, willing and able to follow in their Warrior footsteps when duty calls to defend America. May their blood not have been shed in vain. May we prove worthy of their sacrifice." ~ Maj. Gen. Paul Vallely U.S. Army (Ret.)

Friday, May 25, 2012

Memorial Day 2012

(This post will stay up through Monday.)

Memorial Day is a day set side for the nation to honor and thank those who gave their lives for our Freedom.

Though one lone day is certainly not enough...

Let us never forget that our freedom is not free - that it was bought and paid for by those who went before. May we always remember the brave men and women who sacrificed their all for us and our way of life.

UPDATED: Hackers hit Ohio Voter Integrity Project website

Got word late last night that the server for the Ohio Voter Integrity Project had been hacked.

I've not provided a clickable link because you can't access the website right now, but the address is

If you receive a warning message when accessing the site, do not go forward with your search. The warning is from Google and they have blacklisted our site for your and our protection.

When the warning is removed, that means the site is off of the blacklist and is safe to use again.

They do not know if this attack was directed at them, one of the other Tea Party related websites they host (which have also been affected), or a random hack job.

Their web administrator is working on the problem and hopes to have it resolved soon.

UPDATE - via email:

The server, while hosting several conservative websites, also hosts several commercial websites. We looked into the situation and are very comfortable that this was not a targeted attack, but just one of the many thousand random malware attacks that occur daily. It was a total PITA, but nothing more. While having the political sites down for a few days is very annoying, it is nothing when compared to the small business owners who were losing income by the hour.

Everything has been corrected and all sites are back up; the good news is the firewall worked and none of the sites were infected.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

RightOnLine 2012

Las Vegas, here we come!

RightOnLine is back in Las Vegas after a trip to Minneapolis in 2011.

Right On Line is sponsored by Americans for Prosperity, the premier grassroots conservative activist organization in the country. It's an educational and informational conference geared to bloggers, social media gurus and online activists - and anyone else who wants to network and learn better tactics and strategy for advancing conservative, free-market principles.

I'm grateful to have received a scholarship to attend and will be live-blogging the events and activities, including speeches by Scott Rasmussen, Michelle Malkin, Ann McElhinney and Guy Benson - and a bevvy of terrific break-out sessions targeted toward "Grassroots Activism in an Online World," "Public Policy & Messaging" and "Citizen Journalism & Investigative Reporting."

Here's a look back at 2011 and a hint of what you can expect this year.

RightOnLine is June 15-16. You can register here.

Twitter: @rightonline and #RO12

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Supreme Court rules on Smoking Ban challenge

The Ohio Supreme Court has issued a 7-0 decision on a challenge to Ohio's Smoking Ban filed by Zeno's Victorian Village.

From the ruling:

R.C. Chapter 3734—Smoke Free Workplace Act—Legislation requiring proprietors of public places of employment to prevent smoking on premises is valid exercise of state’s police power—State’s enforcement of legislation against property owners does not constitute regulatory taking without just compensation.

The Justices unanimously affirmed a finding by the Tenth District Court of Appeals' that Zeno's Victorian Village should have exhausted their administrative appeals on the issue, so the matter was not properly before the court.

In the opinion, Justice Judith Ann Lanzinger wrote:

"Because appellants failed to request an administrative hearing for eight of their violations and because they failed to prosecute the two administrative appeals they did request, appellants did not raise any constitutional challenge regarding any of its ten violations. Therefore, appellants failed to exhaust their administrative remedies, and this constitutional issue is not properly before the court."

Toledo City Council Meeting - March 22, 2012

Notes from Sherry:

In attendance: Councilmen Waniewski, Martinez, McNamara, Collins, Ludeman, Craig, Steel, Sarantou, Copeland, Riley, Councilwoman Hicks-Hudson, Deputy Mayor Herwat.

Item 246 - Appointments – Board of Community Relations – confirmed – all voting yes.
3-year terms: Sister Virginia Welsh (Faith-based-reappointment), Elbert Collier (Labor-reappointment), Michele Martinez (Education), Gaye Martin (Community), Michael Alexander (Labor), Laura Harrison (Labor)
1-year term: Major Smith III (youth)

Item 247 – Appointments – Toledo Youth Commission – passed – all voting yes.
3-year terms: Steven W. McDonald (Business), Maurine E. Dougherty (Community), Samuel Robinson Jr. (Community), Mackenzie Kambizi (Faith-based), Guadalupe Love (Business), Alicia Smith (Community), Kendra J. Kec (Community)

Item 196 – Establish and enforce Berkey Fixed Rate for existing water consumers in the Village of Berkey – passed – all voting yes.

Item 224 – Designate intersection of Erie and Jefferson as Joseph Wicks Way – Tabled.

Item 228 – Sale of Hyde Park (341 W. Central) to Lucas Cty Land Reutiliz Corp for split to adjacent owners, $600 – passed – all voting yes.

Item 240 – Contracting authority for Purchasing for goods, materials & services during 2012 with 1 year renewal – passed – all voting yes.

Item 248 – Landbanking Sale – 11 sites to NHS for Cherry St. Legacy Plan, $1,650 – passed – all voting yes.

Item 249 – Landbanking Sale – 3428 Glenwood to LCLRC for Jeep Federal Credit Union, $150 – passed – all voting yes.

Item 250 – Consent to ODOT for $50M rehabilitation of Anthony Wayne (High Level) Bridge, April '13 – Nov. '15 - passed – all voting yes.

Item 251 – Expenditure for repainting historical truss over Washington St. Bridge serving Owens Corning, $125,000 CIP – passed – all voting yes.

Item 252 – Appropriation for purchase of 3 tire service trucks & large wrecker for Fleet Ops, $570,000 Capital Replacement – passed – all voting yes.

Item 253 – Extend lease at Ohio Building (420 Madison Ave.) for DPU, 10 years 2012 – 2022, Utility Fund

Collins – question – Administration to contract with Mr. Ball - rate payers are paying for this – Cruthers was supposed to supply matrix – Ohio Building versus Government Center, G.C. can handle the operation – matrix never appeared – Ohio Building, $13.90 per sq. ft – 1st Reading – failure to plan is not an emergency – information we need for cost effectiveness for 15 years, provide Council with documentation.

Herwat – question reveals that there is no room for DU in Government Center.

Martinez – don't know if this would be held in month to month.

D. Welch – it would cost more.

Sarantou – What were the rental rates?
D. Welch - $18.75, $18.29 per sq ft – Downtown.
Sarantou – cost of moving.
D. Welch – we would have to re-direct fiber optics from Ohio Building, call ICT for phones – would need an outside source, $2,000 per phone – price per sq ft raised $1, 90 cents towards parking.
Sarantou – cost a lot to move, has been there for 15 years – no other location, considering the cost of moving and rent. Has there been any maintenance issues?
D. Welch – any issue was taken care of right away.

McNamara – cast (re-iterates what has been said before).

Ludeman – Customer friendly was the key - Mr. Welch has answered our question.

Steel – Why didn't this come to us two weeks ago?
Welch – ran out of time.

Collins – sq ft is not the same as 2010, 10 years, $8M expense – should be in this building – tell someone on a fixed income that their water expense is going up - not going to support this.

Copeland – wants to save money – Government Center can't handle the traffic. (hard to understand-SZ)
D. Welch – there would be 100 extra employees.

Passed – Collins- no, rest yes.

Item 254 – Renew agreement with Mannik & Smith for engineering oversight of TWI project, 3 years, $235,000 per year Sewer Replacement – passed – all voting yes.

Item 255 – Appropriation/re-appropriation for 2012 Water Main Replacement Program, $1,631,669 Water Bond Replacement – passed – all voting yes.

Item 256 – Street Lighting – E. Pearl St. from Elm St. to Chestnut St. - passed – all voting yes.

Item 257 – Expenditure for purchase of 2 bucket trucks for Water Reclamation, $200,000 Sewer Imp Fund – passed – all voting yes.

Item 258 – Accept State grant for Traffic Construction Zone Enforcement Program for Police, overtime, $49,637 – passed – all voting yes.

Item 259 – Contribution to Toledo-Lucas County Victim-Witness Assistance Program for 2012, $40,000 LETF – passed – all voting yes.

Item 260 – Resolution – Vacate alley at Monroe St. and Auburn St. - adopted – all voting yes.

Item 261 – Zone change at 714-724 S. Byrne Rd. (Approved 4 – 0) – passed – all voting yes.

Item 262 – Amend boundary of OWE Historic District Commission to align with Grove Place Centerline (Approved 4 – 0) – passed – all voting yes.

Item 263 – Zone change at 715 Peck St. (Approved 4 – 0) – passed – all voting yes.

Item 264 – SUP for type A Family Day Care at 1920 Eastgate Rd. (Approved 4 – 0) – passed – all voting yes.

Item 265 – Zone change at 4650 N. Detroit Ave. (Approved 4 – 0) – passed – all voting yes.

Item 266 – Amend SUP to add gasoline/fuel sales to existing convenience store at 3837 Airport Hwy (Approved 5 – 0) – passed – all voting yes.

Item 267 - Waive TMC for successive application for zone change for student housing at Dorr & Westwood –

Riley - 1st Reading – 1) lack of notice 2) late submitting application. 1st Reading.

* Welch – Ohio Building – move on Monday.*

Herwat - issue with mowing grass – need new equipment.

Administration – service problem with grass – worse condition at this point – cut by District – storage sort fall, need equipment in service.

Martinez – lost a lot of equipment – lost and theft -what are you going to do ?
Ad. - coordinate badge to machine.
Martinez – vendor local?
Ad. - Fred Ott (Berkey).
Herwat – State of OH contract.

McNamara – Committee meeting on the 4th.

Ludeman – people have contacted him about the trail – 28 fewer seasonal employees (explained to him that once equipment is purchased, people will be employed).

Sarantou – looking for local vendors – they had State bids – money already budgeted.

Hicks-Hudson – balance left?
Ad. - $112, 000
Hicks-Hudson – Will this take away from the expenditures?
Ad. - no.
Hicks-Hudson – Plan driven by complaints?
Ad. - yes – goes over plan, foreclosures and abandon property done last.
Hicks-Hudson – this should be looked at by Economic Development – we need to get local companies on the list.

Collins – goes over the bids – fixed price.

Riley – when do you expect to do District 1?
Ad.- we plan to do District 1 & 4 first, as soon as Monday.
Riley – what streets are to be done?
Ad. - look at the worst and coordinate, see what has to be done.

Waniewski – we just raised the water rates on Berkey, lets give them some business – you have a plan.

Sarantou – you want private contractors to help out.
Ad. - yes, help get some of this wacked down.
Sarantou – purchase local vendors – review procedure – might cost a little bit more at first, but cheaper in the long run (pays taxes in City etc.)

Item 268 – Re-appropriation for purchase of trucks, vehicles, mowers & trailers for NBA Program, $253,250 CIP – passed – all voting yes.

Item 269 – Expenditure for purchasing of mowers & trailers for NBA Program, $48,978 Nuisance Abatement Trust – passed – all voting yes.

Last Call:

Ludeman – Have a safe Memorial Day weekend – thanks to the Vets.

Riley – Information for TPS signs – to purchase. Herwat – answer shortly.

Sarantou – Daughter received her Masters at Lourdes – thanks to Dr. Bob. Have a safe Memorial Day weekend – thanks to the Vets.

Steel – Clean streets initiative – Sylvania St. is being rebuilt – how is it being used in this case?

Waniewski – Thanks the Administration about taking care of the tree.

Collins – Attorney that handled the Turner case – good job. Remember, freedom isn't free.

Craig – Mark Volt - “You are here Toledo” - explored Down Town – launch party at Ballentine.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Ohio Supreme Court Justice Evelyn Lundberg Stratton to retire

Gongwer is reporting that Ohio Supreme Court Justice Evelyn Stratton has announced her resignation effective at the end of the year.

Ohio Supreme Court Justice Evelyn Lundberg Stratton has announced her resignation effective at the end of December, ending a 16-year run on the court.

Justice Stratton, who has led some of the court's efforts on mental health and veteran issues, said in her resignation letter that "the demands of the job limit my ability to work on these important criminal justice issues more fully."

"These criminal justice issues occupy a place of growing importance in my life and I have decided to dedicate myself to them even more so, not only here in Ohio but also on a national level," she said.

The justice was appointed to the high court in 1996 by former Gov. George V. Voinovich, and subsequently elected to three six-year terms. Her current term ran through Jan. 1, 2015.

Gov. John Kasich will have the opportunity to appoint her successor.

Why does the GSA pay millions for space it isn't using?

The Washington Examiner has a great story about another GSA spending spree.

You probably remember the news about how the agency blew $800,000 at an employee conference in Las Vegas. Well, the Examiner reports, they're "also paying millions every month to rent property that almost nobody in the government uses."

There is a map associated with the story and it lists two locations in the area. Curiousity got the better of me so I went to the GSA website and downloaded the March 2012 lease inventory report. I'm not happy with what I found - and you shouldn't be either.

There are 14 properties listed for Lucas County and none of them have an occupancy rate above 12%. But they're costing $3,771,630.90 a year to rent!

In Perrysburg, they lease a building at 1900 W. South Boundary for $42,678.09 per year and it had an occupancy rate of 8.2%.

Just in case there were timing issues of occupants coming and going, I checked the same properties for December 2011. The Perrysburg location had the same occupancy rate then - 8.2%. The rates for the Lucas County properties was also the same as in March.

One 922 square foot office at 420 Madison had an occupancy rate of .7% - only 2.5 days per year - at a cost of $24,961 per year. That's a pretty steep price to pay for an office that only has someone in it less than three days.

Couldn't one of their other 13 locations accommodate whoever needs to use that office for that short amount of time and save taxpayers $25,000??? This definitely qualifies for 'stuck-on-stupid' designation.

In fact, the GSA rents five offices at that same location for a total cost of $1,041,573.77. The combined occupancy rate for those spaces is 32.8%. Perhaps a single office would suffice for all the needs, rather than five. I can't imagine that they couldn't arrange schedules to ensure there was enough room on whatever day the space was needed.

Interestingly, the lease on the 922 sq. ft. space expired in November 2011 - and was renewed until March 8, 2012! This certainly begs the question of WHY!

They're also leasing several spaces at 433 N. Summit St.

One 16,669 sq. ft. space, costing $285,252.41 per year, is only occupied 6.3% of the time - and the lease doesn't expire until July 31, 2020.

Another 8,702 sq. ft. space that costs $224,788.30 per year is only occupied 3.43% of the time - and that lease is good to August 31, 2021.

Also, doesn't it seem a bit strange to you that a 8,702 sq. ft. space costs nearly as much as a 16,669 sq. ft. space? They're both 100% office space according to the GSA report, so why does an office that has only 52% of the space cost 78% of the price?

The smaller office is $25.87/sq. ft. while the larger one is $17.11/sq. ft. Perhaps there is a discount for taking a larger office, but would that account for nearly a 1/3 difference? Not being in the office real estate business, I don't know, but as a taxpayer, I certainly question it.

The bottom line is that this is atrocious.

What kind of person looks at the dismal occupancy rates of existing office space and then decides that a new office lease is needed?

What this indicates is that the federal government is so large and cumbersome that even the simple process of leasing office space for various entities has gotten completely out of control. Perhaps we need a law (though I shudder at the thought of the unintended consequences) that says no agency or federal entity can rent or lease any space in any city while there is existing space already available in another agency's location. That would certainly make more sense than funding each agency's individual office needs and ending up with 14 various offices all with less than 15% occupancy each.

And if this the Toledo experience, imagine the waste that is present when you combine the rest of the nation.

Obviously there is significant room for improvement in the management of office space. The only thing is - I doubt the federal government can handle it.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Ohio Watchdog roundup

As I've previously shared with you, I am writing for Ohio I'm doing both news and commentary, along with others in the state. I hope you'll make it part of your daily reading.

In case you've missed them, here are some of my recent news posts:

Ohio Liberty Council asks AG to investigate Occupy Group

Fast-tracking Asian Carp study won't make much difference

Ohio House votes to up movie tax credits

Study: Ohio's licensing regulations stifle business

Ohio county auditor calls for property tax amnesty

No smoking in movies, state AGs demand

Ohio's new DNA law expands database

Citizens win in Ohio Supreme Court over Stark County tax levy vote

And here are the recent commentaries:

Government wants in my nose

Sherrod Brown, gay marriage and the 17th Amendment

What I learned at Ohio's citizen watchdog training

Ohio lawmakers save drivers from our own stupidity

Smile for the scrap metal dealer

Point Place Days 2012

Every year the Point Place Business Association and local organizations in Point Place put together Point Place Days - a month of fun activities in the Point Place area.

For anyone who isn't familiar with Point Place, it is the area bounded, roughly, by Manhattan Avenue, Suder Avenue/I-75, the Ohio-Michigan State line and Maumee Bay/Lake Erie. It includes a large portion of Washington Township. The main drags are Summit Street, Ottawa River Road, Suder Avenue, Shoreland Avenue and Edgewater Drive.

Below is the calendar of events - more information about each event is available on the PPBA web site under the calendar tab.

May 31-June 2:

Point Place Community Garage Sale - various times & locations throughout the Point/Shoreland area

June 2:

9-3 Food, Crafts, Rummage Sale - Friendship Center

9-3 Garden Club Plant Sale - The Crimping Tree

10-3 Placers Car & Truck Show - Friendship Center

10 a.m. Dress Your Pet Contest

10:30 a.m. Decorate Your Bike Contest - Messiah Lutheran

11 a.m. Chicken BBQ - American Legion #110

Noon 22nd Annual Parade - along Summit Street

2-5 Free Bike Inspection and Repair - CrossPoint Church

June 3:

7-3 Walleye Tournament - Spot & Spam's

June 5:

6:30 p.m. Canoe & Kayak outing - Howard Pinkley Landing

June 7:

6-8 p.m. Placers Car Show - Toledo Speedway

6 p.m. Mills Trophy Race Party - Toledo Yacht Club

June 9:

9 a.m. Cullen Park Clean-up - Cullen Park

11 a.m. Lighthouse Clean-up - Lighthouse on Summit Street

all day Kroger Kid's Day - Kroger on Suder

June 10:

11 a.m. Outdoor Service at Lighthouse - Lighthouse on Summit Street

June 12:

6:30 p.m. Canoe & Kayak outing - Howard Pinkley Landing

6:30 p.m. Pie & Cake Contest - Friendship Center

June 14:

6 p.m. Flag Day - Flag Sales & Repair

6 p.m. Placers Car Show - Toledo Speedway

June 15:

4-8 Chicken & Ribs BBQ - Cullen Park

5 p.m. Games for Kids - Cullen Park

6-8 Canoe Race - Cullen Park

June 16:

9 a.m. Walk for Mustard Seed - Cullen Park

1-2:30 Kids' Jam Music Class - CrossPoint Church

June 19:

6:30 p.m. Canoe & Kayak outing - Howard Pinkley Landing

7 p.m. Outdoor Music Concert - Point Place Branch Library

June 20:

6 p.m. Parade Winners Awards - Friendship Center

June 21:

6 p.m. Placers Car Show - Toledo Speedway

June 23: 9 p.m.

Lantern Walk - Cullen Park to Lighthouse

June 26: 6:30 p.m.

Canoe/Kayak, safe boating - Howard Pinkley Landing

June 27:

6:30 p.m. Visions of Cullen Park meeting - CrossPoint Church

June 30:

Washington Township Summerfest - Shoreland Park

10 p.m. Fireworks by the Washington Township Fire Department - launched from Fred C. Young Bridge (Summit Street over the Ottawa River)

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Of student loans, fact-checking, personal responsibility and perspective

On Friday, The Blade had an editorial bemoaning the cost of a college education.

They wrote:

This week, the New York Times made Ohio the poster child for the nation's student-debt dilemma. At Ohio Northern University, a small, Methodist-affiliated private university in Ada, students graduate with an average debt of $48,886.

Apparently, they don't bother to fact-check such data, as Tom Blumer, writing at, did:

Of ONU, the Times writes: “Here at Ohio Northern, recent graduates with bachelor’s degrees are among the most indebted of any college in the country.”

It just so happens that yours truly has a relative who is attending ONU. That relative was quite offended at what Martin and Lehren wrote, reacting as follows to the “among the most indebted” claim:

“ONU has come under fire by many groups because our students graduate with more debt that most other colleges. They do not take into account that about 30 (percent) of our students are in pharmacy school which requires that you go 6 years (they get a Doctorate of Pharmacy Degree) at $40,000/year in tuition. And about 15% of our students are engineers. About a third of them ‘co-op’ where they basically intern for a whole year instead of doing classwork. This co-oping forces them to go 5 years total and thus incur another year of debt. These stats are not taken into account when ‘lists of worst colleges for debt’ are compiled.”

All other things being equal, of course a school at which almost half of its students attend for five years or more is going to have higher-than-average student loan debt. Martin and Lehren didn’t mention that mitigating factor, and should have.

So instead of reporting the truth and defending our state and it's colleges from smear tactics, our local paper jumps on the bandwagon and uses dubious statistics as a reason to bemoan 'poor college graduates who are too dumb to realize that when they borrow money it has to be paid back.'

Don't get me wrong, I'm not disagreeing with the fact that colleges and universities have plenty of room to cut costs and make a college education more affordable. Clearly there are costs, programs and even degrees that are not necessary - or are unproductive - and could be eliminated.

And yes, there are probably some parents who can save more for their chidren's education, but who don't. (Though why it is a 'given' in today's world that a parent must pay for a child's college education is beyond me. This is a relatively new trend.)

The editorial may be right when it says, "Too often, college marketers underplay debt and overplay career opportunities to fill classrooms."

The Blade is right when it says, "Public universities should focus on their original mission: to educate the state's young people, prepare them for careers in the modern world,..." though I disagree with the last part of that sentence, "...and equip them to be effective citizens." I don't believe it is the role of the 'state' or state colleges to teach people how to be effective citizens.

But there is a big disconnect in all these editorials, commentaries and news stories about student debt: personal responsibility and perspective.

Are we really graduating kids out of high school who do not understand the concept of loans and debt? Though now that I think it about, that may indeed be the case.

Do they really have parents who can't explain what incurring all the debt will mean upon graduation? Again, now that I think about it....

Too often, students borrow money they don't need. Rather than live at home, they choose to live in a dorm and borrow money for housing and food. Many choose to be a 'full-time student' without working to offset costs. Too often, parents encourage that approach. And too often, loaned money is used for things unrelated to the actual college education. Students often brag about how their spring break was paid for with their college loan money.

These are irresponsible behaviors and decisions - and they unnecessarily inflate the amount of debt a student has upon graduation.

Yes, I had student loans when I attended college. But I attended part-time for two years because I couldn't afford to pay for more classes. I also worked full-time and lived at home so I wouldn't have to borrow too much money.

And when bills like a car repair (for my very old, very used Ford Pinto station wagon), car insurance, books and tuition fees all fell in the same month, my parents, who were in a position to do so, did help me. But they didn't just give me the money - they loaned it to me, keeping a running tab. I was required to pay 'something' toward that debt every paycheck - even if it was only $5. Having that experience while in school certainly taught me about incurring debt and paying it off - and I was much better prepared than some are today for my college loan obligations after graduation.

We fail our children when we don't teach them such personal responsibility.

We also fail when editorials and commentaries and news stories along with politicians and parents continue to treat these adults like children by bemoaning the 'huge debt' that they now have and expect - one way or another - for that debt to just go away.

The Blade editorial says:

"Sixty percent of OSU undergraduates borrow to pay for college. On average, they owe $24,840.
Today, more than two-thirds of graduates get a loan-repayment book with their diploma. On average, new graduates owe $23,000."

According to FinAid, the federal college loan programs have a minimum monthly payment ($50 for Stafford Loans, $40 for Perkins Loans and $50 for PLUS Loans), though you can pay more to save interest costs. The loans also have graduated repayment plans (start off with lower payments and they get higher as your income increases) and repayment plans that are contingent upon your income.

So why is having such debt and being responsible for paying it off such a huge problem?

And here's something rarely mentioned in all the stories: a large portion of the debt is actually owed by the parents. PLUS loans are made to the parents - not the student. As FinAid explains (using 2007-08 data - emphasis added):

Among graduating 4-year undergraduate students who applied for federal student aid, 86.3% borrowed to pay for their education and the average cumulative debt was $24,651. (For just federal student loan debt, excluding PLUS Loans, the figures are 61.6% and $17,878.) Average cumulative debt increased by 5.6% or $1,139 a year since 2003-04. When one includes PLUS loans in the total, 66.0% of 4-year undergraduate students graduated with some debt in 2007-08, and the average cumulative debt incurred was $27,803. (About two in fifteen (13.5%) of parents borrow PLUS loans for their children's college education, with a cumulative PLUS loan debt of $23,298.)

Get that? Students only had an average debt of $17,878. It was the loans to the parents that increase the debt totals, yet have you ever heard it broken out that way?

Even if the college student doesn't understand the consequences of debt, certainly the parents should.

Additionally, there's a comparison to other debt that is lacking.

This article in, says that the average price of a new car in 2012 is $30,303. Autoblog reports that the average selling price of a new car in March 2012 was $30,748.

Both of these are higher than the average college debt that most students have, yet we think nothing of a new college graduate getting a car loan to pay for a new car.

How is it that we can be so callous about new car loans yet so outraged over less when it just happens to be college loan debt?

So let's put things in perspective:

* College and university costs have gone up and these entities could and should lower their costs by streamlining operations and eliminating programs/degrees that are unnecessary or unproductive. Not every college needs to offer everything to everybody.

* Government has contributed to the problem by taking over the college loan industry and offering more money as a result of rising tuition. This leads to both inefficiencies and burdensome rules (what does a government bureaucracy actually do well?) as well as to a vicious cycle of escalating costs and loans. Tuition goes up and government loans more money; more money is loaned thus colleges raise their tuition; repeat regularly.

* Students and parents have either been stupid, inattentive or willfully negligent in understanding the loan obligations and their own personal responsibility in the transaction.

* Actual student debt isn't anywhere near the size of the debt that the parents have assumed.

* Even with student and parent debt combined, it's less than the cost of a new car - and considerably less than the $40,000 car the politicians are pushing.

* The minimum payments on the loans are either $40 or $50, certainly not equal to the payment on a new - or even a used - car.

Given these facts, what is the crisis?

Isn't a college education more valuable, in the long run, than a new car? It certainly lasts longer.

Even in today's economy, do we really think that not being able to pay $50 a month toward your college loan is a dilemma that needs government involvement and action? Granted, $50 is probably not even enough to cover the interest, but I wouldn't expect that the $50 is all a student or parent would ever pay per month over the life of the loan. Certainly, as a student's income rises, they'd increase that amount, eventually paying off the debt.

This is only a crisis if you believe the hyperbole being pushed by politicians who want to offer a "solution," the 'lapdog' media willing to push the political agenda and whiny students who've not yet learned to be responsible for their own spending.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Snow plow art for National Public Works Week

I've spent the last several days sharing information with you about the deplorable state of accounting at Toledo Public Schools in light of their decision to request a new 6.9 mill levy - and a permanent one at that.

And I must admit that reviewing their most recent audit and the management letter that accompanied it (Part 1, Part 2), gave me a headache. So here is something from the City of Toledo that's a bit more on the lighter side:

City hosts open house in honor of National Public Works Week

Features up close look at equipment, snow plow art by local schools

The City of Toledo’s Department of Public Service will host an open house from noon to 3 p.m. on Saturday, May 19 to kick off National Public Works week. Citizens will be welcomed at the Division of Streets Bridges and Harbor at 1189 W. Central Ave.

The event will feature eight snow plows decorated by students from Toledo area schools. Entries were submitted by Kids 2 Treasure preschool; Birmingham Elementary School; East Broadway Elementary in partnership with Adelante; McKinley Elementary School; Spring Elementary School in partnership with the YMCA; St. Pius School; Scott High School, and St. Francis School. The snow plow art will be recognized at 2 p.m. as part of the closing program for the event. Pictures of the submitted snow plow art can also be viewed on the city’s Facebook page.

In addition to the student art, residents will have the opportunity to see up close the heavy equipment used by the division as they perform their daily duties around the city and talk to staff about the services the department provides to residents, how services are funded and how calls for service are fielded and assigned. The event is free and residents are encouraged to come learn more about how their tax dollars are put to work.

The Department of Public Service includes the divisions of Fleet Services and Facility Operations; Parks, Forestry and Recreation; Solid Waste; Streets, Bridges and Harbor, and Transportation. The department provides many of the core services necessary for city operations and response to citizen needs.


Thursday, May 17, 2012

Troubling TPS management letter Part 2

Toledo Public Schools wants a new 6.9 mill levy - a permanent one.

Since they're asking for more money, I thought I'd see how they're spending the money they already have. Their audit was troubling, with 18 citations of non-compliance, significant deficiencies and material weakness, including a finding for recovery.

But the management letter, which provides details of issues along with recommendations on items not required by law to be included in the audit, was even more disturbing. Yesterday, I detailed the first half of the issues noted in the management letter and here are the highlights of what the audit found about TPS:

* they spent money without first appropriating it;
* they appropriated money without first verifying they had it available to be appropriated;
* they got reimbursed for more school meals than they were eligible for
* they didn't check the state list for ineligible vendors
* they didn't keep good inventories not just of the district property but of property purchased through specific grant programs

Today we'll take a look at the second half of the letter, beginning with transfers the district makes between funds.

• Transfers were posted independently of Transfers out, resulting in transfers in not matching transfers out; transfers in and out not being made on the same date; transfers in being posted as receipts; receipts being posted as transfers in; and transfers being posted to the wrong account.
• Transfers within the same fund were presented as Interfund Transfers
• Transfers were posted as revenues and expenditures.
• There is no review of transfers posted to ensure that transfers are properly posted and balance.

In case you're not good at accounting, this is the equivalent of you transferring $100 from a savings account to a checking account but recording $90 going into the checkbook.

It's the equivalent of you doing the transfer all on one day, but recording your savings withdrawal on Monday and your deposit into your checking on Tuesday. It's the same as you recording the amount going into the checkbook as a straight deposit and not noting that it was money from the savings account.

It's as if you recorded the deposit in your child's account rather than in your own checking account. And then, you take your paycheck, deposit it to your checking account and record it as a transfer from your savings.

Furthermore, you never balanced your accounts. And you did these things several times throughout the year.

As you can imagine, you'd have a mess on your hands. You'd have no idea how much money you had in any of your accounts, where the money came from or where it went. You'd probably be able to figure it out, but it would take a long time - and maybe the involvement of someone else to help you.

That's what the auditors found and noted in the management letter. This is how TPS is handling your tax dollars.

But that's not even the worst of it. The management letter noted nine transfers between eight different funds that occured without board approval. The amount of the unauthorized transfers: $1,444,747.

Then we get to employee reimbursements.

TPS does have a policy and a form detailing that reimbursements will be made from itemized receipts and won't cover such prohibited items as gratuity, alcohol and tax. Apparently the policy isn't being followed, as the audit found:

• Reimbursements were made for taxes;
• Gratuities were reimbursed;
• Meals were reimbursed based upon a bill, not a receipt;
• Meals unsupported by itemized receipts were reimbursed; and,
• Mileage was reimbursed but there was no documentation that specified the dates and location of travel.

The letter does not detail the amounts, or whether or not anything reimbursed over and above the policy was returned to the district.

The auditors also found a significant (not defined) number of invoices that were not paid on time and/or included past-due amounts. They wrote (emphasis added):

District management is responsible for ensuring that payments are made to all vendors in a timely manner. Late fees indicate an inefficient accounting operation and/or lack of management oversight. Failure to timely pay bills could result in late fees and fines, which are not for a proper public purpose, being incurred by the District.

It does detail if any late fees or fines were paid - and how much they might total if there were.

Whenever you have humans, you have mistakes. When it comes to accounting and accounting software systems, it is expected that you will have "adjusting entries." The auditors obviously found a larger than expected number of such adjustments because they made this recommendation:

There were a significant number of correcting entries posted to the District's system during the year. Adjusting entries indicate an inefficient accounting operation and/or lack of management oversight.

Excessive correcting entries being posted could result in misappropriation of District assets or fraud.

The District should implement policies to assure entries are posted correctly the first time to reduce the number of adjusting entries posted to the system.

The next recommendation is about the Child Nutrition Program. As this is cited in the audit and earlier in the management letter, it is apparent TPS is having significant issues with managing this program.

The audit discovered that 3% of the students tested did not have an application for the program on file. As the letter explains, "Failure to have an approved application on file could result in ineligible students being served free or reduced meals."

This next item boggles my mind.

Apparently, TPS is missing withholding forms for employees. You're certainly familiar with those forms - they're the ones you have to fill out and sign that tell your employer how many exemptions you want to claim and whether or not you want additional funds taken out in taxes. The forms also tell the employer where you live so that the proper local tax is computed and withheld.

But TPS wasn't just missing the payroll tax forms, they were missing employee completed forms for the retirement system as well. If I were a TPS employee, I'd ask to see my personnel file and make sure my withholding forms weren't just in there, but accurate, too.

The next item on the management letter is a bit more difficult to understand.

For one of the federal programs dealing with the education of children with disabilities, a specific report is required to be completed. The report is needed to verify that the district is properly following the rules for spending the funds. The auditors

...were unable to obtain supporting documentation for some of the data within the report, and the district does not perform calculations to assure compliance with the level of effort requirements.

When testing the 15 percent Earmarking requirement for early intervening services, the district was unable to provide adequate support to identify the District was in compliance with the 15 percent requirement.

These conditions provide for possible federal program non-compliance.

What you need to understand from this recommendation is that TPS doesn't have all the documentation and doesn't perform the necessary calculations so they can ensure that this required report is properly completed.

TPS gets monthly foundation settlement distributions.

These distributions from the state are adjusted based upon reductions in revenue and expenses. The auditors found TPS was "...inconsistent in posting revenue reductions and expenses. The inconsistency in the method of posting the adjustments could result in an over/understatement of revenues and expenses."

TPS is required to document accrued wages.

These are wages earned but not yet paid at the time the balance sheet is computed. In 25% of the items tested, the auditors found that the accrued wages were not properly calculated for $14,123 out of the $99,620 tested. They were told they need to correct this "to avoid inflating accrued wage liability."

In 2010, TPS eliminated their self-insurance department and moved those responsibilities to the payroll department. In 2011, they added a new accounting software system that did not include payroll. Since the payroll doesn't automatically populate the accounting program, they have to make entries in the system to include the payroll and self-insurance information. The auditor noted discrepancies in the entries being made, adding that the amounts were not material.

However, the did find a problem with the dental insurance account:

Although the self insurance fund in total was funded adequately to pay for premiums and benefits paid, the funding provided to the dental insurance receipt account were inadequate to pay for dental related expenditures;

They also couldn't find any supervisory personnel responsible for monitoring these entries and ensuring they were accurately and timely recorded.

The management letter cites a problem with access to the computer system, noting that 44% of the new users tested did not have the required form authorizing their access. They note that the forms documenting their addition to the system were signed by the DBA, but the initial form authorizing the access was missing.

Also, they note that many users in the payroll system had access to screens and functions that were not necessary for doing their jobs. Users also had access to the command line (usually reserved for supervisors or system administrators). Users in the financial computer system also had access above what is necessary for their job duties.

The District should review the access structure at the application level. Changes should be made to ensure user access on the system mirrors the physical segregation of duties of the job position. User access should be restricted to only the functions necessary for performance of day to day job responsibilities. If additional access is required for special projects or situations, access should be temporarily authorized for the duration of the project and then removed. Documentation should be kept to explain access controls that are in place.

There were other issues with the computer system (emphasis added):

Standard security controls require the confirmation of a user accounts to confirm accounts still need the access that is granted.

Confirmation documentation could not be found during the audit period (Mainframe). Thousands of accounts haven't been accessed in over 6 months (Active Directory) and three accounts that have elevated privileges were active but no longer employed by the district.

The following conditions existed related to logical security at the departments reviewed at the District:

• Passwords weren't required to meet the districts minimum password length parameters for several accounts. (Mainframe)
• Password history is not kept so users can re-use old passwords. (Active Directory)
• A lock-out parameter has not been set. (Active Directory)
• Several accounts are not forced to change their password. (Active Directory)

TPS also does not have a disaster recovery program.

The need for proper computer access forms, the problem with access above the level needed to perform job duties and the need for a disaster recovery program were also included in the 2010 management letter. So this makes two audits in a row that TPS has been told to correct these problems.

The management letter ends with this sentence:

We intend this report for the information and use of the Board of Education, audit committee, and management.

However, it is a public record and I believe the information about the problems with the way TPS handles its financials is critical for the public to know in order to hold our elected school board members accountable not just for the education of our children but also for the management of our money - especially when they want more from us.

Quote of the Day - slippery slope

"There is no 'slippery slope' toward loss of liberty, only a long staircase where each step down must first be tolerated by the American people and their leaders." ~ Alan K. Simpson

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Proposed Toledo recreation levy should pay for shooting ranges

While looking up some other things, I came across this information on the Buckeye Firearms Association web page:

According to a 2010 study by the National Sporting Goods Association, 44.5 million people over the age of seven regularly participate in the shooting sports (including target shooting, hunting, and muzzleloading).

This makes shooting sports more popular than the vast majority of common sports activities, including bicycle riding, bowling, jogging, fishing, basketball, soccer, and tennis. In fact, the shooting sports are twice as popular as golf (21.9 million), over three times as popular as baseball (12.5 million), and nearly 5 times as popular as football (9.3 million).

This got me thinking about the proposed Recreation Levy being promoted by Council members Lindsay Webb and Steven Steel. They want to put a 1 Mill levy on the ballot in November to pay for recreation programs only.

Now, I'm not in favor of new taxes - in fact, I'm opposed to many old taxes as well. But I learned something at the Citizen Watchdog Training I attended this past weekend: sometimes, you can't prevent certain things from happening - but that doesn't mean that demands for 'equal access' won't have an overall impact.

The lesson being taught on this subject was actually regarding school levy issues. We routinely hear about how schools send home their pro-levy propaganda with students in their take-home packets. Attempts to stop such nefarious practices aren't usually successful. However, if you insist that your anti-levy information should also be sent home in the packets, you'll either succeed in getting both sides of the issue told - or you'll have standing for a lawsuit over equal access. Either way, you win. And, in many cases, schools have stopped the practice so they won't have to share both sides.

Put all this together and you have what I think is a really great idea: Insist that any recreation levy provide shooting ranges for citizens.

Think about it. There are already plenty of baseball diamonds, bike paths, football fields, basketball courts, tennis courts, fishing accesses, etc... inside the city limits and a significant number of them are in public parks and maintained by the city.

But there aren't any shooting ranges - at least, not in Toledo according to a Google search.

Sure, there's Cleland's ... in Swanton.

And there's Toledo Trap & Skeet which, despite it's name, is in Berkey.

There's an Institute of Firearms Training in Sylvania, but it doesn't have a web site, so I'm not sure whether or not it has a shooting range. There's Bullet Stop Inc out in Graytown and the Erie Shooting Club in - gasp! - Michigan.

But nothing in Toledo - and certainly nothing in an area where the underserved are located.

Seriously - we're opening pools in various parts of the city because we don't think kids should have to travel further than they can walk by themselves to get to one. Do you really want kids traveling to Graytown or Michigan just so they can enjoy their sport of shooting?

Oh, the inhumanity!

So maybe all of us should show up at any meeting where the proposed recreation levy is going to be discussed or promoted. Let's insist that our wants are just as important as anyone else's and insist that any levy monies collected meet our desire for free, accessible, close shooting ranges where we and especially our kids can enjoy and perfect our shooting skills.

After all, it's for the children!

TPS management letter more troubling than audit report

Toledo Public Schools is seeking a new 6.9 mill levy - a permanent levy that will be on your property taxes forever.

Yesterday, I shared with you the troubling findings from TPS's most recent financial audit. There were 18 different citations for non-compliance, material deficiencies and significant deficiencies ranging from failing to verify student eligibility for school lunches to overpayment of severance that was ordered to be recovered.

Audits contain a lot of good information detailing how well - or poorly - the school is doing with our tax dollars. But I've always found that the management letter accompanying the audit contains the best information. Management letters are public records, but are not included with the audit on the State Auditor website. So I asked for, and received, the management letter that was sent along with the 2011 audit for TPS.

As the letter explains:

These comments reflect matters that do not require inclusion in the reports Government Auditing Standards or Office of Management and Budget Circular A-133 require. Nevertheless, these comments represent matters for which we believe improvements in compliance or internal controls or operational efficiencies might be achieved. Due to the limited nature of our audit, we have not fully assessed the cost-benefit relationship of implementing these recommendations.

The letter starts with personnel files and their management, detailing the requirements of the Ohio Revised Code.

The District does not have a formal policy or established controls in place, which are consistent with the aforementioned requirements. Lack of a formal policy and established controls over the storage, use and distribution of personal information, could result in lost, stolen and/or compromised personal information. We recommend the District establish a formal policy and system of controls over the storage, use and distribution of personal information, consistent with Ohio Revised Code.

It could be that, as part of the audit, they found there wasn't a policy and controls so they're recommending the district implement such. Or, it could mean that they found personnel information had been used or distributed in a manner inconsistent with the ORC. The only way to determine which of these was the cause of the recommendation would be to ask a board member or the superintendent and count on them to be as forthcoming as to answer the question. If, though, it was an inappropriate use of the information, there could be legal ramifications.

I would suggest the following questions:

* Since the management letter for the last audit mentions creating a formal policy and establishing controls over the storage, use and distribution of personnel information, I would like to know if there have been any incidences when personnel information was used, distributed or accessed in ways that are inconsistent with the Ohio Revised Code.

* If so, when did this happen, what files were accessed and what was the inappropriate use?

* If so, were employees notified of the incident?

* Have there been any disciplinary actions, counselling or re-training of employees who have access to the personnel files and, if so, what was the purpose of such?

The letter recommends TPS list the reason for going into executive session in the minutes. Despite the fact that all public officials are required to participate in training and they should know this, it appears they've not been following the law - and that in approving the minutes of their prior meetings, they failed to realize the reason for their executive sessions was not being recorded. Who, exactly, was making the motion to go into executive session and why didn't that person care enough to verify that their motion, including the reason, was recorded properly in the minutes?

I guess it's a good thing that Ohio's mandatory public records and open meetings law training is taking place at TPS in June.

In the audit, TPS was cited for not checking the federal Excluded Parties List System before awarding contracts to be sure that contracts and purchase orders weren't going to people on the list (Finding 2011-013). This was a material weakness because it could result in a loss of federal funds. Evidently, they don't check the state database, either.

Ohio Revised Code 9.24 prohibits using any state funds for any contract with a person or entity who has a finding for recovery in Ohio still outstanding. To help entities comply with the law, Ohio created a database (in 2004!) listing all individuals with findings. TPS didn't do this, so the management letter recommends they start doing it - and keep a record to show that they have checked the list prior to awarding contracts.

The Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) imposes standards for financial management systems. One section requires entities that receive federal monies to quickly disburse them - usually within 30 days. The management letter states:

When determining that funds are being expended within the period of time for which they were requested, we found that system reports were not always available to support the data reported in the Project Cash Request.

The District did not establish procedures to minimize the time between the receipt and disbursement of IDEA Part B Special Education Funds, resulting in two of the seven Project Cash Requests tested not being spent down within a reasonable time frame, generally 30 days.

Again, the potential consequence is loss of federal funds.

Ohio law says that no entity can expend funds unless they are first appropriated. These seems to make sense to most people, but apparently is being overlooked at TPS.

The audit showed that TPS spent $7,923 out of their general fund that hadn't been appropriated by the board. A small amount, you might think, that could be attributed to a paperwork snafu.

But they also spent $48,101 out of the School Facilities Maintenance Fund without first appropriating it. Again, perhaps just a paperwork issue.

But when they spent $1,824,800 out of the Permanent Fund without appropriating it, you've got a problem with spending without board action.

The recommendation in this case is obvious: implement procedures to be sure you're not breaking Ohio law.

TPS doesn't just have to be sure that money isn't spent without being appropriated, they also have to be sure that their appropriations don't exceed the amount available. The management letter states:

Ohio Rev. Code, Section 5705.39, requires that total appropriations from each fund shall not exceed the total estimated resources and that no appropriation measure is effective until the county auditor files a certificate that the total appropriations from each fund do not exceed the total official estimate or amended official estimate.

The District’s appropriations have exceeded total available for appropriations for the Adult Education Fund by $518,647, the Auxiliary Service Fund by $378,266, and the Title I Fund by $2,832,809.

Really? $3.7 million that they appropriated without first ensuring they had the funds? Maybe they *knew* they had the funds, but hadn't yet changed their revenue estimates. If that's the case, then it's sloppy bookkeeping on their part. Of course, it could be that they just weren't paying attention or they didn't have the money and had to scramble to find it when they realized what they'd done. Regardless, it doesn't inspire confidence that they're going to manage even more money efficiently, effectively or even in compliance with the law.

Service Organization Controls (SOC) Statement 1, which used to be known as the Statement of Auditing Standards, is required of various organizations provided services like health and other insurances. The management letter cites the district for failing to review these SOC 1 reports to be sure that ineligible employees are not being covered or that ineligible charges are not being paid. They recommend that TPS put into place reviews and controls sufficient identify and address incomplete or inaccurate claims payments.

Project Cash Requests (PCR) are processes by which TPS asks for and receives funds from the Ohio Department of Education (ODE). The funds are supposed to be expended in the month they are requested. Reports from TPS to ODE did not contain the required PCRs. The management letter notes that, even though the cash requests were approved by ODE with the necessary documentation, TPS still has an obligation to comply with the Cash Management Act.

Finding 2011-007 in the audit cited TPS for a lack of physical inventory since 2002, despite the board requirement that one be conducted every five years. The management letter cited issues with the equipment listings from the Title I and Special Education programs. Both lists were missing pertinent information.

Audit Finding 2011-15 cited a Material Weakness and Non-Compliance in the Child Nutrition Program because TPS wasn't keeping track of which eligible student was actually getting a free or reduced meal. The management letter goes into more details with the problems TPS is having with this program.

The District is reimbursed by the Federal government for lunch and breakfast meals served within the District. Reimbursements received from the Federal government are based upon amounts claimed to the State through monthly site claim forms. The District will only be reimbursed for meals that do not exceed the number of eligible students in a school multiplied by the monthly attendance rate of that school.

Four percent of transactions tested, the number of students eligible for free and reduced meals was less than what was actually eligible. This was the result of the District erroneously applying the attendance rate to the number of eligible students. On another occasion, the District reported 9 more children then eligible. This resulted in the District being reimbursed for more meals than eligible

They also had a problem with issuing refunds to students who pre-pay and then leave the district:

The District collects money from students for lunch and breakfast meals. Students are permitted to prepay for lunches. When a student leaves the District, the student is sometimes due a refund of money for the balance of the prepayment.

The District has not established any formalized policies and procedures to document who is responsible for determining refunds and what documentation is required to support the refund.

Failure for the District to establish policies and procedures over refunds could result in misappropriation or theft of food service monies.

We recommend the District establish policies and procedures that identify who is responsible for determining refunds and what documentation is required to support the refund. Documentation should include receipt dates and amounts, the total amount applied to meals received, and any remaining balances.

This is the first half of the 14-page letter. I'll review the rest of the management letter tomorrow.

These are the issues the auditor found with how TPS is managing our tax dollars. Remember this as board members and politicians tell you we need to give them even more money.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

TPS audit shows troubling issues

Toledo Public Schools will have a 6.9 mill levy on the ballot in November - a permanent levy, that is.

They say they need the additional money for the next school year in order to add new programs and keep existing ones. They also say the additional money, $211 per year for the owner of a house valued at $100,000, is necessary even in these tough economic times. But before we give them any more money, it's important to see how they're doing with the money they already have.

And an audit is just the place to look. More important information is contained within the management letter accompanying the audit that is sent to the school board members and superintendent. The management letters are not included on the Auditor's website like the audits are, but they are a public record.

A look at both documents is key to understanding how well - or poorly - TPS is managing our tax dollars.

On March 21, 2012, the State Auditor issued their audit report on Toledo Public Schools and notes several "material weaknesses," "significant deficiencies," "instances of non-compliance" and findings for recovery.

The Auditor definitions:

A material weakness is a deficiency, or a combination of deficiencies, in internal control such that there is a reasonable possibility that a material misstatement of the entity’s financial statements will not be prevented, or detected and timely corrected.

A significant deficiency is a deficiency or a combination of deficiencies in internal control that is less severe than a material weakness, yet important enough to merit attention by those charged with governance.

The audit also states:

"...the District did not comply with requirements regarding allowable costs, equipment and real property management, program income, eligibility, and cash management applicable to its Child Nutrition Cluster and Teacher Incentive Fund major federal programs."

TPS did provide responses to the 2011 audit. Let's look at what the audit found.

Finding 2011-001 Non-compliance

Before spending money, the TPS treasurer must certify that the money to pay the expense is available and has been lawfully appropriated before issuing a contract or order. There are a few exceptions (then-and-now and blanket certificates) that require other types of actions, but for the most part, every time TPS goes to purchase something, a treasurer has to check and sign off on the available funds.

For twelve percent of the transactions tested, certification occurred after the invoice date and no then and now certificates were utilized. For three percent of the transactions tested, certification was not obtained.

Certification is not only required by Ohio law but is a key control in the disbursement process to assure purchase commitments receive prior approval, and to help reduce the possibility of District funds being over expended or exceeding budgetary spending limitations as set by the Board.

TPS response: Compliance with this finding has been corrected with continued improvements and understanding of the new financial software.

Finding 2011-002 Recovery

TPS made an overpayment of severance for an employee in the amount of $5,565. The payment was in July of 2011. The Auditor issued a finding for recovery, which means that TPS needed to recoup the amount and return it back into their own accounts. That was done, but note the TPS response (emphasis added):

The overpayment cited in this finding took place outside the period of this audit. As stated in the finding, the overpayment has been repaid.

I don't really care when the overpayment took place - this year or last year's audit. I care that the mistake happened in the first place, though I'm glad it has been corrected. However, as the repayment occurred on February 12, 2012, it is clear that the recovery was a result of the audit and not because TPS caught the mistake on their own.

Finding 2011-003 Non-Compliance

Signed contracts for all union administrative and teaching employees are required. These contracts identify the individual as a valid employee and also state the salary to be paid. Signed contracts were missing, though the audit does not say how many. The management response was that they would "increase the rate of compliance with regard to signed contracts."

I wonder why they use the term 'increase rate of compliance.' Are they expecting that they will always have some employees without contracts? This makes no sense to me and it calls into question how they're paying those employees without contracts.

Finding 2011-004 Material Weakness

The following conditions exist over the District’s disbursements:
• Fifty percent of the invoices tested that were paid by the District did not show any sign of being reviewed and/or paid.
• The District did not maintain purchase orders signed by the Treasurer for five percent that were tested.

Ensuring that supporting documentation for expenditures is obtained, reviewed, and retained is a key control over the disbursement process. Lack of signing off invoices could result in the double payment of expenditures. Without proper documentation showing approval for purchases could result in funds being spent on purchases that are not for a proper public purpose and misappropriation of assets.

Half of invoices tested weren't reviewed and/or paid?!? While 5% doesn't seem like a large percentage of purchase orders that weren't signed, I think the actual number, considering how much purchasing TPS must do, would be rather high.

How do you end up with this kind of material weakness?

TPS's response is that this is done via an electronic receiving method which prevents duplicate payments being made. They also state that "hard and electronic copies of certified purchase orders are on file and kept for review." However, "kept for review" doesn't mean that they are, actually, reviewed, though not knowing the computer system, this could be semantics. But if it's just a matter of definitions for 'review,' why does it end up as a material weakness on the audit report?

Finding 2011-005 Material Weakness

The books are required to show receivables (money due) from grants. TPS understated (did not included) the Education Jobs Grant by $7,578,666. Also, when they appropriated funds from the grants, the appropriation amount didn't always equal the grant award "resulting in an overstatement of the receivable. This condition provides for possible inaccuracies in reporting grants receivable and misrepresentation of the financial statements."

TPS did not comment on the appropriations not matching the award in their response, but they did state that by deciding to use the Education Jobs Grant in FY12 rather than when received in FY11, they thought they had properly accounted for the change in receivables.

Finding 2011-006 Material Weakness

This finding deals with budgetary financial statements - what they show, how they are calculated and whether or not they agree with what is input into the accounting software system from what the board has approved and appropriated. They found exceptions:

* The District’s legal level of control is at the fund level. We could not determine if the Board approves estimated receipts or appropriations at a level of control greater than the fund level; • Taxes and Other estimated receipts reported on the Certificate of Estimated Resources did not always agree with the Budgetary Financial Statements for the following major funds and amounts:

* $15,594,389 difference between original budgeted receipts and Budgetary Financial Statements in the General fund
* $ 2,815,066 difference between final budgeted receipts and Budgetary Financial Statements in the General fund
* -$ 6,072,292 difference between original budgeted receipts and Budgetary Financial Statements in Debt Service
* $44,013,410 difference between original budgeted receipts and Budgetary Financial Statements in the Locally Funded Initiatve
* $47,253,350 difference between final budgeted receipts and Budgetary Financial Statements in the Locally Funded Initiative
* $15,091,005 difference between original budgeted receipts and Budgetary Financial Statements in Classroom Facilities
* $44,647,513 difference between final budgeted receipts and Budgetary Financial Statements in Classroom Facilities

The District has made the budgetary adjustments for the Locally Funded Initiative and the Classroom Facilities Fund as of February 27, 2012.

They also found seven other conditions ranging from board approval for estimated resources, to reserve amounts not matching, to missing documentation, to appropriations resolutions failing to agree with budget documents.

These conditions provide for inaccurate presentation of the Budgetary Financial Statements, lack of appropriate approvals for budgets and amendments to the budget, and inability of management to appropriately monitor the budget.

TPS notes that two of the issues raised in this audit were done in the past and not included as a finding in prior audits. They made corrections where the estimated resources did not agree and changed procedures for the upcoming fiscal year.

Finding 2011-007 Significant Deficiency

This finding deals with fixed/capital assets.

We have identified the following:

• The District has not performed a physical inventory since June, 2002, exceeding the five year Board policy requirement;
• The District does not use Capital Asset software to maintain and update additions, deletions, and depreciation. Capital Assets are currently maintained and updated by the use of spreadsheets;
• The assets reported on the spreadsheets do not always have an assigned asset tag number, and do not always have an adequate description to enable location and observation of the asset, and the equipment assets in school buildings are not always tagged and not always traceable to the capital asset spreadsheets;
• Disposal forms are nonexistent and supporting documentation for the deletion of assets from the asset spreadsheets were incomplete, and buildings that have been demolished still have values reported on the asset spreadsheets;
• Depreciation expenses for the new building additions were overstated by $214,094.

TPS's response was that the overstated depreciation was "immaterial" but they have issued an RFP and will be contracting for an inventory. They plan on using the inventory feature in their accounting software.

So they haven't done an inventory in 10 years?!? Their response doesn't say so when do you think they issued the RFP for an inventory - before or after the significant deficiency was noted by the auditors?

Finding 2011-008 Significant Deficiency

This finding documents how changes to the computer systems are not made with the proper controls. They note that a request form for making changes was implemented following the prior audit, but was not being used. They make recommendations on what the form should contain and they recommend that all changes to programs take place in a test environment and be approved before being moved into the actual program.

TPS says they will "will review procedures to document program changes."

Finding 2011-009 Significant Deficiency

The District accrues wages and benefits to recognize work performed prior to June 30, 2011 but unpaid at that time. The District also compensates its employees for vacation and sick leave balances at the time of separation. The following was noted in regards to these accruals:

• State Fiscal Stabilization fund wages were accrued in the General fund instead of the State Fiscal Stabilization fund. Entries were made to properly classify these accrued wages;
• The District accrued wages for some employees twice. Entries were made to eliminate the duplication.
• The District accrued severance payments related to actual and estimated sick leave payouts. The entire amounts of these accruals were posted to the Noninstructional expense line item. Instead, these accruals should have been charged to each employees function (i.e. instructional, support services, and noninstructional expenses);
• The District accrued severance payments to some employees twice. Entries were made to eliminate the duplication;
• Ten month employees were paid out annually for their vacation leave balances. No accrual was made to accrue the payouts;
• The District only accrued cabinet employee's vacation leave balances subject to payout for amounts due within one year. Entries to accrue severance payments to employees known to be retiring at June 30, 2011 were made; and,
• The District has not established policies and procedures that identify how accrued wages, benefits, and compensated absences will be accrued.

Failure to properly accrue wages, benefits, and compensated absences payable could result in the District misstating its liabilities.

So they accrued things twice, posted items to the wrong expense line, posted them to the wrong account, didn't have any policies and procedures for how to calculate the accruals. Their response:

Toledo Public Schools will review the process used for accrual of wages and compensated absences for future years.

Well, what else are they going to say?

Finding 2011-010 Questioned Cost/Noncompliance/Material Weakness

This finding relates to Federal grants and payrolls.

The District charged Federal grant programs for payroll and benefits expenditures that were either unsupported by personnel activity reports required or did not match activities documented on personnel activity reports provided.

The total amount questioned is $6,928,045. Yes, nearly $7 million dollars! So they're going to "work to improve employee filing of Time and Effort" so they can properly document their charges.

Finding 2011-011 Noncompliance Citation/Material Weakness

The District did not maintain the required federal equipment listing, physical inventories and related reconciliation to equipment records have not been performed, control systems to safeguard equipment have not be established, and disposal procedures have not been established. These conditions provide for possible misappropriations of assets purchased with federal funding, and the possibility of jeopardizing future federal funding.

Apparently, it's not just their own equipment they fail to keep track of. Fortunately, they will "will establish and maintain equipment records" from now on.

Finding 2011-012 Noncompliance Citation/Material Weakness

TPS has a Teacher Incentive Fund and they noted the following in their review of the cash management of the fund:

• The District does not have policies or procedures in place to ensure compliance with grant cash management requirements;
• The District is required to complete and submit project cash requests to the Ohio Department of Education to draw down grant funds. The District did not submit the required project cash requests to draw down grant funds; and,
• The District is required to complete and submit a final expenditure report to the Ohio Department of Education to identify total grant expenditures. The District did not submit the required report.

The audit notes that failure to have policies and procedures resulted in the non-compliance finding for TPS. TPS said that appeals created the delay submitting the project cash requests and that they intend to be on-time and in compliance in the future.

Finding 2011-013 Material Weakness

The audit says TPS does not have internal controls to ensure compliance with Suspension and Debarment requirements for contracts and subawards. They cannot use companies and individuals who are on the Excluded Parties List System (EPLS) maintained by the General Services Administration (GSA). If TPS uses a someone on the list, it could result in the loss of federal funding. They state they will check the list from now on.

Finding 2011-014 Material Weakness

TPS is required to make certain reports to the Ohio Department of Education. Final Expenditure Reports for various projects must include documentation verifying the expenditures. The audit showed the documents didn't agree with the final report for one project (emphasis added):

The supporting documentation provided was $1,145,249 greater than the amounts reported in the Final Expenditure Report. The district re-visited and provided revised supporting documentation that was $220,953 greater than the Final Expenditure Report. The District concluded that the Final Expenditure Report filed and approved by Ohio Department of Education was incorrect and would need to be re-filed.

TPS hopes their new financial accounting software will solve the problem in the future.

Finding 2011-015 Noncompliance Citation/Material Weakness (don't worry, we're almost through!)

Under the Child Nutrition Program, certain records must be maintained, including the number of free, reduced price and paid lunches and breakfasts served to eligible children. Obviously, there must be documentation as to the eligibility of the children as well.

Cash register receipts were used to document the numbers, but they don't identify which children were served. As a result, the auditors could not verify that eligible children were participating in the program and, they further note, this deficiency "may result in misappropriation or theft of assets if a cashier identifies a child in the cash register as free or reduced, when the child in fact paid."

TPS agreed that each student receiving free or reduced benefits should be identified and documented and they will review their procedures.

Finding 2011-016 Material Weakness

Federal grants come with a lot of paperwork requirements, especially when it comes to payroll. Employees being paid fully or partially with grant monies need to document their time on the grant activity. That time should then be reported on the grant with the appropriately calculated compensation. The audit found several problems sufficient to be designated a material weakness:

• Employees working on multiple activities or cost objectives did not always complete time and effort forms (i.e. monthly personnel activity reports);
• Personnel activity as documented by employees on time and effort forms did not always match amounts charged to grants;
• Subs and employees separated from employment did not document personnel activity during the fiscal year;
• Time and effort forms provided to employees for completion include language that identifies the budgeted time each employee must support (i.e. time and effort forms do not necessarily reflect actual time spent on an activity); and,
• There is no reconciliation of budgeted personnel activity to actual activity documented by time and effort forms; as such, no adjustments were made to payroll amounts posted to federal grants to reflect actual work performed.

Their response: Toledo Public Schools will make an effort to reduce the number of split funded employees. Additionally, we will review and update our Time and Effort documentation process as necessary.

Finding 2011-017 Material Weakness

The audit found that there were no formal policies and procedures in the management of the Child Nutrition Program to ensure that all expenditures met the requirement for being both an allowable activity and an allowable cost. They found that 82% of the expenditures they tested were not approved by the program director as an allowable activity. They also found "no evidence any of the transactions selected for testing were reviewed and approved as to allowable cost."

TPS stated that all purchase requests are reviewed prior to contracting and that they would review their procedures.

My concern would be that just because you approve the purchase request doesn't mean the actual supplied items still comply. Changes are often made and reviewing invoices prior to payment is probably a good step to add.

Finding 2011-018 Material Weakness

The Child Nutrition Program seems to have a lot of issues:

The District collects money from students for breakfast meals, lunch meals, and ala cart items. Students may pay daily for meals, may pay in advance for multiple meals, or may charge all or part of a meal to be paid in the future. The District has not implemented controls over program income to ensure the correct rates are charged to students related to the food service program. For 60 percent of transactions tested, the District did not maintain written support to identify what products were sold and the amount collected for each item. As such, it was impossible to determine students were charged the correct rate in accordance with the pricing list. Failure to document products sold and receipts collected could result in theft of District assets or charging students incorrectly for products.

Again, TPS's response is that they will review procedures. They also note that they will have a new system in place in high schools in FY12.

The audit then lists a corrective action plan, including completion dates and individuals responsible for implementation for findings 2011-010 through 2011-018.

I think that's enough for today. I'll cover the Management Letter tomorrow.

Think about these things as you consider their request for more money.
Google Analytics Alternative