The Klamath County Budget Committee is getting plenty of feedback with regard to Meals on Wheels and the Senior Center. The committee is not struggling with the validity or need for the Meals on Wheels program. The issue, given the local stagnant economy and declining county revenue, is whether it would be fiscally prudent to fund these programs at current levels.
Public commentary is mixed but there is a sense that as long as the program passes the “compassion” threshold, then it should be funded.
One perspective supposedly has “compassion” and the other doesn’t. Long-term fiscal responsibility appears to show a cold-hearted mathematical meanness rather than a real heart-felt compassion for the public good.
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The Following Guest Commentary was run in the Herald and News
Wednesday, May 1, 2013
Fixing funding allocation is the solution for schools
Without addressing the real issue, more school bond measures will be required
For the past several years there has been more than $100,000,000 ($100 million) available, annually, for City and County Schools. So, why doesn’t the district have enough money to fix a toilet, leaky faucet, or broken window?
Welcome to the world of wasted money and looney legislators.
In truth, the City and County School districts have been receiving, and will receive, between $100,000,000 and $110,000,000 a year, or more (not less). This amounts to over $1,000,000,000 ($1 billion) in a ten year period.
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A couple of weeks ago, I spoke about the $31.5M School Bond Measure at the Republican Central Committee. Before that, I spoke at Klamath Homebuilders Builders Association, Klamath County Association of Realtors and the Chamber of Commerce.
First, as a member of the Klamath County Board of Commissioners, my purpose is to encourage open dialog and debate regarding issues concerning Klamath County. Second, in this commentary I am not speaking for the commissioners, but rather, I am speaking as an individual. Third, as a pro-education advocate, I have several reasons for airing opposition to the current government model for allocating tax dollars to our education community.
In several of my presentations I received over-whelming support for my fundamental claim – that the “public education system” is broken. People would tell me, “I completely agree with you...”. However, that statement was occasionally followed with, “But, I feel we should support our kids...”
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(You might consider this article as “Clearing the Air - Part 5.” Find previous articles here...)
On Tuesday, August 21, 2012,
“The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality had two public hearing sessions regarding its proposal to adopt rules as part of an attainment plan that will bring the Klamath Falls area into compliance with National Ambient Air Quality Standards for fine particulate, or PM2.5, by the federal deadline of December 2014.”
All agencies drafting implementation procedures, or regulations, that will be published in the Federal Register must allow a public comment period before their plan can be approved.
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In Clearing the Air - Part 3, I ended with the question, "How come this stuff never gets reported?"
I'm wondering, "Are these issues getting fair time? Is there too much information? Or, could there be reporting bias."
I know claims of media bias are not new. Journalists can alleviate bias claims through the simple art of objective reporting (giving equal time to differing viewpoints). This type of reporting would be considered “fair and balanced.”
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Last week, in Clearing the Air - Part 2, I touched on the biased and exaggerated data that is being used by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) despite Federal requirements to the contrary. Specifically, the Federal Data Quality Act (DQA) was legislation put in place by Congress to ensure that federal agencies use and disseminate accurate information.
The DQA requires the EPA to issue and follow information quality guidelines that ensure the quality, utility, objectivity and integrity of the information that they disseminate. Additionally, the EPA must provide mechanisms for affected persons to correct invalid, inaccurate, and specious information.
The agency must also present the information in the proper context and identify the source along with the supporting data or models so that the public can assess for itself whether there may be some reason to question the objectivity of the sources.
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Last week, in Clearing the Air - Part 1, I introduced Klamath County’s clean air quality dilemma. I call it a dilemma, because the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has drawn an arbitrary line in the sand and apparently, that line cannot be modified, reformed, corrected, or crossed. Klamath County must maintain the PM2.5 standard for not exceeding 35 micrograms of particulate matter per cubic meter of air volume during every 24 hour (daily) period.
It is not good enough to try, compliance is a requirement.
Mind you, I don’t object to any notion regarding high standards for air quality. What I do object to is the unrelenting enforcement of the regulation without any concern for extenuating circumstances, local conditions, or our community’s current economic situation.
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Today, I’d like to try and clear the air with regard to the Air Quality attainment plans being formulated by the County Commissioners. I can only speak here as an individual, but there is widespread agreement regarding the sentiments that I will present and I’ll do my best to address the real concerns that face Klamath County.
First, Klamath County residents have done a wonderful job in keeping Klamath a beautiful place to live. If you have been here for any length of time, you know that our air is cleaner now than in the past. However, the problem with this knowledge, from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Oregon Department of Environmental Quality’s (ODEQ) perspective, is that it is anecdotal not scientific. This means we’ll need to hire some scientists to tell us what we don’t know.
Now, don’t get me wrong scientific data is good, but policies based on this data can’t account for conditions outside the mandated numbers, rules, regulations, or circumstances. Additionally, because the policy focuses on only one target, it doesn’t see anything else. The City of Klamath Falls is facing this same dilemma with the so-called TMDL requirements from the same two organizations. Any single issue focus will be harmful to the extent that other issues never see the light of day.
For example, here is a graph from the annual data collected at the Peterson School Monitoring Station. I created this graph to defend Klamath County’s efforts in adhering to the EPA’s stringent requirements.
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Take a second to wander through the things that have changed in your lifetime. For myself, it includes vinyl records of all shapes, sizes and rotation speeds (78, 45, 33.3). It includes reel-to-reel tape, 4-Track, 8-Track, cassette and mini-cassette. There was a time when muscle cars were as plentiful and gorgeous as ever.
In the office, the IBM Selectric Typewriter with it’s super-cool rotational ball was the envy of everyone. The Selectric also had a unique sound, unlike the tap-tap-tap associated with the typical older model typewriters. Then, CRT screens, computers, RAM, spinning disk drives and keyboards. Not to mention all of the software that provides the instructions to these various binary micro-electronic devices.
Everything appears to be under a constant and continual process of change, or evolution.
Yet, things aren’t always evolving for the better... For example, look at the value of the US Dollar and its demise over the years:
Here are a couple of charts pulled from the Secretary of State Audit Report on Oregon’s Counties: 2012 Financial Condition Review. The objective of this report was to analyze the financial condition of county governments within the State of Oregon. I picked two counties that show similar trends, Lane and Klamath. The graphs show unfunded actuarially accrued liabilities for (UAAL) for the respective county governments.
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With respect to general political principles, I think bond measures and levies should always be avoided. These are the most common means by which local politicians or special interest districts try to increase the amount of money they get to spend, spend, and spend some more. The voters are put on the hook to pay for some seemingly good cause, but it comes at an enormous cost. The taxpayer bears the burden in two ways, first he pays the property tax bill and second the community loses untold opportunities for private economic decisions.
All government funding originates from the private sector’s wallet. When you hear a claim from President Obama or Senator Merkley regarding an economic stimulus package – remember, it all originates from your private productivity. Everyone’s individual productivity gets skimmed and then diverted into some specific arena. This exact same principle is at work here, at the local level.
Because property taxes are the basis of county and local municipal government, any special interest group, using this system, can divert economic benefit into their preferred arena. For example, in Klamath County, it only takes around 12,000 voters to force taxes upon the rest of the population. This creates an environment where the greater population loses personal economic freedom for the supposed collective benefit of the community. The question becomes one of personal liberty or collective good – the choice is yours.
Since the public is surrendering their wealth and the control of their wealth, the real question is what did the community gain?
Using school districts as an example, in Oregon, the Estimated Expenditure for Fiscal Year 2010-2011 was$12,386 per student based upon Average Daily Attendance (ADA), and $10,959 per student if we use school enrollment (ENR) figures.
With more than 3,300 students in the City School District and another 6,300 in the County School District, that’s a lot of money!
Did we get what we paid for? Take a moment to peruse the tables below...
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