Friday, June 08, 2007

Decline & Taxes

They say there's only two things that are certain, death and taxes. This edition looks at the slow decline of a city and rise of taxes. A few months ago one of our regular readers, an individual who goes by the name of “Moderate Man” wrote a terrific article on the need for taxing districts. He followed up with another compelling article a short little while later. Well, Moderate Man is back, and this time he’s talking about the decline of the Louisville’s population and businesses. I thought it was an article you’d enjoy reading and commenting about.

I also received a “public service” advertisement from community activist and real estate broker, Paul Holliger. Paul has been active for years in Louisville’s Southend as a public watchdog. Another experienced community activist in the Southend is Ray Pierce. Ray has been more than just a watchdog; he’s been a bulldog when it comes to MSD. Paul and Ray have teamed up over a recent proposal by MSD to raise our rates. There’s an open meeting to public on Monday, June 11th to discuss the rate hike. If you’re concerned about your water bill, I urge you to read Mr. Holliger’s notice and attend the meeting at the Government Center on Dixie Highway on Monday, June 11th starting at 6:00 PM. After you’ve done so, come back to Another Opinion and let everyone know what you think!

Finally, as before, the perquisite disclaimer: The opinions expressed in these two articles are solely those of their respective authors and not necessarily those of the Another Opinion and/or its editor. So without further adieu, enjoy!

Where Have The People Gone?

Metro Louisville has lots of needs for a 227 year old town, the 16th largest in the country. It takes money and people to fulfill those needs, keep the citizens here to raise families, grow old and enjoy a good quality of life. According to the census, from 1970-2000 the Jefferson County population has decreased .2% from 695,055 in 1970 to 693,604 by 2000. By 2005 it grew to 699,827. That’s a net increase of only .7% in over a quarter of a century. Where have the people gone? Why are they not moving here? Why are citizens moving away? There are lots of reasons and explanations. Aging population, conversion from manufacturing base to service industries, busing, labor disputes, no right to work status, Fortune 500 headquarters lost, tax rates, political duplication, education, etc. The voters took a gamble with merger to try to break out of the population stagnation. It wouldn’t do for Lexington to have the largest population in the state. Louisville’s pride was on the line. It remains to be seen just how successful merger will become. It may take 50 years to find out. After decades of under funding roads, infrastructure, education, parks, etc., the voters now have full elected representation. But not the money needed to make up for the lack of capitalization of those deferred items. Metro Louisville now has to think outside the box to attract and keep citizens. They have to be exciting and different. And I’m not talking about casino gaming. Sure that money is nice, but if State government wants to balance its books, it needs to do it the old fashion way. Cut spending and raise taxes. No, I’m talking more about the perception of being a “hot” city destination with a quality of life unsurpassed anywhere else. It’s kind of like build it and they will come philosophy. Some ideas that come to mind are: a pro basketball team and arena, grand prix auto racing on the downtown streets, huge signature metal sculpture like the St. Louis arch or the New York Statue of Liberty, 3 new bridges over the Ohio River (includes the 2 under planning), a water taxi to Southern Indiana, dedicated taxing districts for the library, parks and arts, a true international airport, light rail, horse races on Main Street, more Fortune 500 headquarter relocations, Golden Gloves tournaments, a Submarine docked on the Ohio for museum tours, modern Hydroelectric city owned power plants, the largest factory outlet mall in America, all city vehicles electric powered, fully fund surveillance cameras throughout the city for anti crime uses, passenger train service to Chicago Il., factory plant public tours of General Electric and Ford plant. I’m sure you can add a few ideas, but you get the point. Our politicians are counting on their old “successful” methods for greatly increasing the population of Metro Louisville. There might not be enough citizens left to vote them out of office if they fail.

MSD Rate Increase

MSD RATE INCREASE proposed
PUBLIC MEETING
SOUTHWEST GOVERNMENT CENTER
Dixie Highway
Louisville, KY
Monday JUNE 11, 2007
6 - 8 PM


MSD director Bud Schardein will be leading this meeting, and he makes it very, very clear that he wants to RAISE YOUR RATES by over 65% over 4 years!

This additional SW Meeting was scheduled at the request of Councilman DOUG HAWKINS,
who believes that the Southwest area was not given proper notice by MSD in April.

MSD contracted with the Courier-Journal to create an 8 page full color insert in the Sunday newspaper on April 29, 2007. In that insert the PUBLIC MEETING SCHEDULE was printed. The first meeting shown scheduled was on TUES April 24, 2007 at the Southwest Government Center. That FIRST MSD meeting was HELD 6 days before the public-at-large was notified through the Courier-Journal insert! As you can see, MSD failed to inform the Southwest community in a timely fashion.

A total of 4 persons (who were not MSD employees or contractors) showed up at that April 24 meeting, with an additional 2 persons from Councilman Doug Hawkins office in attendance.

MSD is NOT a city agency.
MSD is NOT controlled nor regulated by the Metro Council.
MSD does NOT answer to the Mayor.
MSD is NOT regulated by the Kentucky Public Service Commission.
MSD does NOT have to get anyone's approval to raise your rates 7% per year.
MSD answers ONLY to its own Board of Directors (who are all appointed by the metro mayor).
MSD currently has $2.7 BILLION in debt service (debt service is similar to a mortgage) (see note 2 below).
And MSD, under Bud Schardein, wants to add as much as $1.6 BILLION to that debt service/mortgage.
MSD pays $1.07 in interest for every $1.00 it borrows, which means it takes $2.07 to repay $1.00.
MSD repays TWICE as much as it borrows!So we, the ratepayers, actually receive only HALF as much in actual benefits as MSD announces.

And if that's not enough ...

MSD's drainage service area covers only about 67% of Jefferson County:
this means that only about 67% of the land might ... might be paying the MSD Drainage Fee/Tax.
MSD also does NOT provide sewer service to about 30% of the land in Jefferson County.
All of this means that MSD is collecting their fees from only a portion of Jefferson County residents.
Some Jefferson County residents DO NOT PAY MSD anything at all!
ONLY those who NOW PAY MSD FEES are the ones that will be FORCED to pay for all this MSD debt, both current and PROPOSED.

MSD has spent less than $123 million on drainage projects COUNTY-WIDE under a program called Project DRI. The Southwest has received only a modest part of that amount. (http://www.louisvilleky.gov/Mayor/News/2005/Project+DRI+Improving+Neighborhood+Drainage.htm)

Yet virtually ALL of this PROPOSED NEW debt will be spent within the OLD CITY LIMITS.
Virtually NONE of this PROPOSED NEW DEBT will be spent out in our areas, THE FORMER SUBURBAN COUNTY area.

PLEASE ... consider attending this ADDED meeting on Monday June 11, 2007.

Thanks.

Paul Holliger
South End Supporter &
Member of STOP I.T. (Invisible Taxes)

(STOP I.T. (formed in 2005) has been working to identify taxes being "sold" by various agencies as "fees". Since 2005. The MSD "drainage fee" is a prime example of such a hidden tax. In fact, we call that "fee" the "rain tax".

STOP I.T. has extensively studied MSD and has determined that MSD NEEDS greater oversight and accountibility. In 2007, STOP I.T. was successful in getting legislation introduced in the Ky. General Assembly to bring greater oversight and accountibility to MSD.)

(Note 1:
(http://yosemite.epa.gov/opa/admpress.nsf/b1ab9f485b098972852562e7004dc686/d099dfec771c4cc785256fee00750c86!OpenDocument)

(Note 2:
On page 37 of MSD's 2006 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report
the TOTAL DEBT SERVICE is listed. It EXCEEDS $2,700,000,000.00.
Only MSD rate payers will be forced to pay this enourmous debt. http://www.msdlouky.org/aboutmsd/pdfs/cafr2006.pdf .
So, Just how large is this number?
Louisville could build SEVEN (7) ARENAS for this amount of money!)
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