Saturday, November 5, 2011

The 2012 proposed City of Racine Budget

These things I have presented are only a start, but they could save millions.   I am not going to be repetitive by bringing up all the savings ideas I have mentioned in the past, such as a highly paid and un-needed City Administrator, a Triumvirate at the top of DPW where we only need one person.    The good old boy system is alive and well in the City of Racine and it resides at the highest level of the bureaucracy.    How many millions are wasted up in that stratosphere?

All in all there is a lot of money to be saved for the taxpayers.    The only question is who will do it and when will it get done.   Since the 1970 census, we have lost 16,000 residents as a result of current practices.

It’s time to re-tool, re-organize and get those 16,000 people back.

Closing Humble Park

Closing the Humble Park Community Center may be a good idea, but I doubt it.   I attended a John Bryan Community center several years ago and there were a lot of good people attending that meeting, from that neighborhood, that were willing to run that center on a voluntary basis.   And except for a mayor and city employees that had a vested interest in keeping paid staff at that center, we may very well have been able to run that center for about 1/10th of what it costs us now.

We pay score keepers at Community Center events? Little League, RASA, Pop Warner Football.   You won’t find paid scorekeepers.   A lot of the entry level sports leagues are run by volunteers.   Some of the higher up activities, like the LightHouse Run use volunteers.

We actually make money on the senior Center up on Gould street.   And that is the Center that has the longest history of attacks for this council to get them to move out so that we can start spending taxpayer money on that Center again to keep it operational

Sewer Lateral Fees — Up Again

Sewer lateral fees: the infamous “bait and switch” scheme sold to us by former DPW head Rick Jones as a sort of insurance plan to protect homeowners from the big hit of a five figure sewer lateral repair bill.

This scheme was never about the homeowner. That was only the bait. It has always been about increasing fees and taxes on property owners to get more money into the DPW coffers.

At least our new “customer oriented” DPW chief, Mark Yalen, dropped the homeowner protection gig. And I thank him for relieving us of that deceptive claim.

I realize that many of you genuflectingly trust the DPW staff assessment of the condition of our sewer system. I attribute that to your lack of concern for taxpayers and your lack of knowledge of sewer systems.

When Mark Yalen proclaimed the EPA threat, that did it for me. I don’t trust the evaluation of someone who would use such a scare tactic. I want a second opinion. You get second opinions when you get advised of a serious medical, legal or financial condition, don’t you? Just because you, yourself, don’t understand the condition does not mean you should consider the advice of Mr. Yalen as infallible. It isn’t. It needs to be checked. And I advise you use a group like the Racine Taxpayers Association in finding that second opinion. Otherwise that second opinion will most certainly be one with a vested interest in proclaiming another “worst case scenario.”

Hey, TAXI!!!

The Belle Urban System brought in $1.5 million in fares this year. That is a very good. But that's not what kept this show on the road. In addition to those fares, the BUS absorbed

$1.1 million tax levy from Racine property owners
$2.4 million federal operating assistance
$1.8 million state operating assistance,

Including the $700K the WI Coach Line chips in that totals up to

$6.0 million in additional subsidies to keep those near empty buses running around our streets.

The actual total costs to run the buses is closer to $9 million (page 194 of the 2012 City budget document.)

Buses are made for long distance travel or travel with high volume of passengers. Neither of which qualifies for the City of Racine transportation.

According to BUS CEO, Al Stanek, there are only 2 or 3 passengers, on the average, riding the bus at any one time.

It is about time to hail a taxi.

Note: If we mandate a fully retrofitted $20 to 30K taxicab with meter and light on the top and a license to operate that cab (cost: $150K Milwaukee to $600K New York), then forget it.

But if anyone with a cell phone and car that passes a reasonable safety test can give people rides, then we can do it with little or no taxpayer subsidy. But we may need some help from the private sector. See this article for some ideas.

Clearing the snow in less than two hours

A lot of money can be saved on snow plowing.   But those savings will never materialize until two things are done:

1. Learn to plow the left side of the street.
2. Get someone competent to organize the plowing on a street by street basis.

I believe that within two hours of the cessation of the fall of snow, you can have all the streets cleared if you

1. Organize it properly and
2. Do not plow the side of the streets on which the cars are properly parked.


1. It will save you a lot of money,
2. Make it easier to negotiate the streets during and after the fall, and
3. Make it easier to dig cars out of the parking side of the street.

Miles of City Streets: 261
Speed of snow plows: About 10 miles and hour
Trucks with plows: 40. (We should be able to find 40 trucks with plows in the City)
Passes to clear snow to one side: 2 (once down the middle and once down the “no parking” side.   The trucks should probably plow in pairs.)

Calculation: (261/10/40)x2 = 1.31 or 1 Hour and 19 minutes to clear all city streets.

During snow emergencies you start earlier and warn every one to get to the odd or even side of the street according to alternate side parking rules.

Holiday week garbage collection confusion

Eliminating the weekend, overtime charges for holiday week garbage collection is probably a good idea.   It is one of those cost savings things that the city Council makes when it wants to make sure the taxpayers feel the sting.   Why cut an upper level bureaucrat, like the City Administrator, when no one but his friends would care?

It is unreasonable for unions to be charging time and a half for working Saturdays.   I don’t know of anyone in the private sector who gets paid extra just because they are working on a Saturday.   And I think the unions are ready to talk and maybe concede that issue.   In which case this holiday week scheme would not be necessary.

Only the most avid of the government program followers is going to be able to figure out those holiday week garbage pickup schemes.   Just about each holiday week has it own unique schedule.

Health Care Costs continue to be a (hidden) Problem

In 2005 the Racine Taxpayers Association, lead by then president Jayne Siler, had observed is that over the prior years, government had not been growing so much as it had been just getting more expensive.   Then County Executive Bill McReynolds indicated to the Association that the culprit was Health Care Costs.   The Taxpayers Association then did a series of studies on health care costs of the local taxing entities: Gateway, The City of Racine, the county and Racine Unified revealing the exorbitant government plans.   But that is as far as it went.   Nothing was ever done about these costs until this year when Scott Walker at least got government employees contributing to the extravaganza.

Since those studies, Health Savings Accounts have come upon the scene.   They have proven effective.   With salaries and fringes constituting 76% of the General Fund Budget, there may be room to save millions of dollars just in Health care costs.

It is time to investigate these plans and put them into use for government employees.

Doubling up the tax payments rejected by aldermen

Taxpayers got a break from the aldermen on the property tax payment plan.   The proposal by the administration was to change from four payments to two payments.   Under the proposed change the first payment would have been a double payment and would have been due January 31st.   The second payment would have been due July 31st.

According to City records, under the current system, 9.6% of the taxpayers do not make that first payment in time and end up paying a 1% per month interest charge and a .5% monthly penalty charge, not only on that first payment, but on all the rest of the unpaid taxes for that year.

Demanding the double payment would most certainly have increased that 9.6% who could not make the January 31st payment in time.   The result would have been an increase in delinquency interest and penalty payment, which would take even more money out of the private sector and put it into the government coffers.

And that would not have been good for our local economy.