At its agenda meeting tomorrow evening, the Clarke County Board of Education is slated to amend its 2007-08 budget yet again, this time to the tune of $426,013 (see pages 83-84 of the slow-loading PDF).
This is the third set of such amendments. By my calculations, the District’s budget for 2007-08 comes to $119,049,247; the original budget proposed last spring was $117,649,506, by the time it was adopted the budget rose to $118,290,754, plus amendments in October of $214,780, plus amendments in November of $117,700, plus amendments in May of $426,013. Thus, from the time the budget was originally proposed until it actually ends, it will have grown by $1.4 million. Remember that is not from one budget year to the next, but within the same budget.
Also, items 1 and 2 under New Business concern the adoption of a tentative budget and millage rate for the District’s FY 2008-09 budget. Even though those items appear on the HTML version of the meeting’s agenda, the PDF contains no information on either the budget or the millage rate (though the latter is already at the constitutional limit of 20 mills and is in all likelihood going to stay there).
Wednesday, April 30, 2008
At its agenda meeting tomorrow evening, the Clarke County Board of Education is slated to amend its 2007-08 budget yet again, this time to the tune of $426,013 (see pages 83-84 of the slow-loading PDF).
Posted by James at 4:17 PM
The proposed FY 2009 budget for the Unified Government of Athens-Clarke County is out – and is it a doozey. The “General Fund” operating budget jumps from $99,394,287 to $104,930,930 (a 5.57% increase), its operating budget for “All Funds” goes from $151,359,253 to $162,275,600 (a 7.21% increase), and the “Capital” portion of the budget skyrockets from $61,648,200 to $229,566,100 (a 272.38% increase).
Altogether, the proposed budget represents an increase of $178,834,247 (83.96%) over that of the current fiscal year. See pages A-5 and A-6 of the FY 2008 budget and pages A-3, A-4, and B-1 of the proposed FY 2009 budget (they are large PDFs, so expect a delay).
Also in the budget mix are 19 new personnel positions (see page B-1 of the proposed FY 2009 budget). This is important because, back during the campaign to get Clarke County voters to approve city-county unification, the sales pitch was that the overall personnel level would decrease over time through attrition. Needless to say, that has not happened – instead, the Unified Government relies on maintaining an arbitrary ratio of personnel to 1000 of population, which naturally allows the size of government to continually grow.
And . . . again in FY 2009, even if one factors out the capital budget, the Unified Government is going to be spending about a million dollars per month more just on operations.
And . . . the property tax millage rate is going up, just as I predicted last June (see page A-1 of the proposed FY 2009 budget).
And . . . property tax assessments continue to go up, even though the real estate market remains flat or even declines (see here and here).
Now I’m just waiting for the other shoe to drop when the Clarke County School District makes its proposed budget public (insofar that it does, that is).
Posted by James at 12:48 PM
Monday, April 28, 2008
As time is getting short in the annual budget adoption process mandated for local governments, I’ve been keeping my eyes open for any information concerning the FY 2009 budgets for either the Unified Government of Athens-Clarke County or the Clarke County School District
This public notice appeared in today’s Banner-Herald, noting that the Mayor's recommended budget should be available tomorrow. The powers that be down at City Hall claim that they have already cut $1.8 million from the FY 2009 budget. I’d bet you dollars to donuts, though, that the supposed “cut” is, in reality, merely a reduction in a requested increase and not an actual reduction in spending - but we shall see.
To date, I have been able to find absolutely nothing in the Banner-Herald or on the Clarke County School District’s web site about its upcoming budget – and time is getting perilously short for the public hearings process prescribed by state law – not that the CCSD can be counted on to observe the legalities.
For what it is worth, the TOA family received a property tax reassessment notice over the weekend. While it was not the double (or triple – and yes, that has happened twice) digit increases the Unified Government has tried to foist off on us in the past, given the reality of the real estate market these days, I don’t see how any increase is justified. Other than the ever-increasing spending by the local bureaucracies, that is.
In other Unified Government news, the folks down at City Hall are seeking applicants for a variety of authorities, boards and commissions. The deadline for applications is Friday, 16 May. See here for details.
Posted by James at 2:50 PM
Thursday, April 24, 2008
Okay gang, here is definitive information for the upcoming debate between Paul Broun and Barry Fleming, straight from the UGA College Republicans.
The debate will take place at 2:00 p.m. on Saturday, 03 May, at the Dean Rusk Center on UGA's North Campus (in the Larry Walker Room on the 4th Floor). A reception will follow
Panelists for the debate are Mary Kay Mitchell of WUGA radio and Walter C. Jones of Morris News Service.
Sayeth the UGACRs:
Please join the University of Georgia Chapter of the College Republicans for the first debate between Congressman Paul Broun and Representative Barry Fleming. It will be an exciting event designed to help voters get to know the candidates better. The 90 Minute debate will include questions from the panelists, from members of the College Republican, and from the audience. The University of Georgia College Republicans will host a reception at the conclusion of the event. Seating is first come first served. The doors will open at 1:45. Please plan to park in the North Campus Parking Deck.
If you have any questions, contact Josh Findlay at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more details, visit the UGACR web site at www.ugarepublicans.com.
Posted by James at 8:44 AM
Wednesday, April 23, 2008
Sphere: Related Content
State Senator Bill Cowsert of the 46th District will hold a reelection campaign kickoff bar-b-que at the Oconee County Civic Center, located at 2661 Hog Mountain Road in Watkinsville, from 5:30 p.m. until 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, 29 April.
The host committee consists of Lt. Governor Casey Cagle, Secretary of State Karen Handel, and State Senate officers Eric Johnson (president pro tem), Tommie Williams (majority leader), Mitch Seabaugh (majority whip), and Dan Moody (Republican Caucus chair).
RSVP to Melissa Crowe by phone at (706) 543-2710 or by email at email@example.com.
Posted by James at 1:00 PM
Tuesday, April 22, 2008
The UGA College Republicans' debate between 10th District incumbent Congressman Paul Broun and his GOP primary challenger, State Representative Barry Fleming, is slated for 2:00 p.m. on Saturday, 03 May in the Dean Rusk Center on UGA’s North Campus.Sphere: Related Content
Posted by James at 9:20 AM
Sunday, April 20, 2008
The 2008 convention was held on Saturday, 19 April. In addition to the usual politicking, the agenda included three guests of honor: Secretary of State Karen Handel, Congressman Paul Broun, and State Representative Barry Fleming. As one would expect, all three delivered what in effect were campaign speeches.
Secretary Handel led off by detailing the turnaround and increased efficiency in her office since she took charge of the department’s bureaucracy. She should cruise to reelection without much difficulty.
Paul Broun gave a synopsis of his brief time in Washington, including the bills he has introduced, explanations of the votes he has cast, and his ratings by various conservative interest groups. He noted that he was an “originalist” insofar as constitutional matters are concerned and that he subjected every bill on which he voted to his “four way” test. All in all, just what one would expect from a newbie congressman.
Barry Fleming’s performance is harder to categorize. I think that he may well be a more polished speaker than Broun, but then Fleming has been in office longer and has been part of the state GOP establishment for years. And therein lies the problem. Many of the Party rank and file are not enamored of the hierarchy these days, at either the national or state levels.
In other circumstances, Fleming may be an attractive Republican candidate for congress. In these circumstances, however, he is the challenger – and his strategy appears to be to tear down the incumbent. He is trying to do so by outflanking Broun to the right. Fleming’s attempt to tar Broun as soft on abortion and illegal drugs is laughably disingenuous. When he made such charges, as when he said that Broun voted “to make marijuana more available,” audible muttering rippled through the room. This does not bode well for Mr. Fleming. (Yes, I am supporting Broun, but my observation is valid nonetheless.)
10th District GOP Chairman Dave Barbee also spoke, giving a heartfelt eulogy for his good friend, the late Charlie Norwood. He also, and in unequivocal terms, urged the Republicans under the Gold Dome next session to “cut taxes and go home.” I heartily agree.
Of course, the business of the convention concerned the election of three delegates to the Republican National Convention, to be held this coming September. One of our own, local attorney Regina Quick (who also serves as Clarke County Republican Committee treasurer), was selected to represent the 10th District in St. Paul.
This year’s convention was held in Mahler Auditorium at the Georgia Center for Continuing Education on the UGA campus in Athens. It is a nice facility and we experienced no problems with the registration process, the computer/projection system, or the food service. However, the venue itself prompts a couple of observations. Directly across from the doors of Mahler Auditorium, on the exterior wall of Masters Hall, currently hangs political artwork consisting of a Mexican flag superimposed on a United States flag, along with stylized portraits of such illustrious figures as Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez. I did not take the time to identify the several others on display, but assume they were a collection of similar leftwing Latin thugs. I was not particularly concerned about the art but, on the other hand, it does speak volumes about the academy these days. The other thing is purely prosaic. After the convention, those assembled had box lunches, I assume catered by the Georgia Center. There were no receptacles for recycling the aluminum cans, plastic bottles, or boxes used for the lunches in evidence (at least none that I saw). Given the emphasis on recycling these days, that struck me as extremely odd - especially for a public university campus.
Posted by James at 10:18 PM
Friday, April 18, 2008
Volunteers for Paul Broun’s reelection campaign will be going door-to-door every Saturday from now until the Republican primary in mid July. Those interested in lending a hand are welcome to meet at Broun's Athens campaign headquarters, located at 2425 West Broad Street, at 9:00 a.m. For details or to volunteer, call Jordan Chinouth at (706) 369-9039 or (706) 410-4913.
Also, Dr. Broun will hold a “Town Hall” legislative update in conjunction with the UGA College Republicans at 7:00 p.m. on Monday, 21 April. The meeting will take place in Room 247 of the Student Learning Center.
Finally, don’t forget that the UGACR’s are sponsoring a debate between Broun and GOP primary challenger Barry Fleming on Saturday 03 May. Details will be forthcoming as they become available.
Posted by James at 4:57 PM
Thursday, April 17, 2008
Neither of these is earth-shattering, but a couple of bills in which I have a particular interest made it through the General Assembly and are awaiting the Governor’s signature.
The first concerns limiting the permissible dates for special elections held “to present a question to the voters.” Given my experience with contesting the Clarke County School District’s plan to hold its SPLOST 3 referendum as a special election back in 2006, an indefensible process that would have incurred considerable expense to open up all 24 of the county’s precincts and print absentee ballots for a low-turnout election with but a single item on the ballot, I wrote on my campaign web site:
. . . HB 1306, also introduced in the 2006 session of the General Assembly, was designed to limit the number of dates available for SPLOST referenda in any given year. Though I had nothing to do with this legislation, I am in full support of it as a means of curbing such practices in the future. Again, though a substitute version of the Bill was favorably reported out of the House Governmental Affairs Committee, the full House did not act on the Bill by “crossover day.” Hopefully, this legislation will also be resurrected in the next session of the General Assembly.
That is precisely what happened. HB 296 would add a subsection (c)(2) to O.C.G.A 21-2-540. That proposed subsection reads as follows:
Notwithstanding any other provision of law to the contrary, a special election to present a question to the voters shall be held only on one of the following dates which is at least 29 days after the date of the call for the special election:
(A) In odd-numbered years, any such special election shall only be held on the third Tuesday in March or on the Tuesday after the first Monday in November; and
(B) In even-numbered years, any such special election shall only be held on:
(i) The date of and in conjunction with the presidential preference primary if one is held that year;
(ii) The date of the general primary; or
(iii) The Tuesday after the first Monday in November.
The Senate’s substitute version of the bill passed that body by a vote of 51-2 (with 1 not voting and 2 excused); the House agreed to the Senate substitute by a vote of 162-6 (with 7 not voting and 5 excused). The measure is slated to go into effect in 2010.
The second concerns HB 1054, the “Children and Family Services Strengthening Act,” on which I previously commented. From a legislative standpoint, this bill is much more complicated that the one above, in that it would rearrange several aspects of the state’s child welfare bureaucracy into a Governor’s Office of Children and Families. Involving O.G.G.A. Titles 15, 19, 35, and 49, this proposed reorganization includes the Child Advocate for the Protection of Children, the Child Fatality Review Panel, the Children’s Trust Fund Commission, and the Children and Youth Coordinating Council.
The Senate’s substitute version of the bill passed that body by a vote of 50-0 (with 1 not voting and 5 excused); the House agreed to the Senate substitute by a vote of 135-26 (with 10 not voting and 9 excused).
Posted by James at 1:26 PM
Monday, April 14, 2008
Let’s get the week started off with a bang. This post began life as a brief “Impertinent Observations” entry, but it kept getting longer as I took the opportunity to vent on a variety of topics.
Starting at the local level, consider the recent Community Block Development Grant fiasco. By a vote of 6-4, the Commission pulled the rug out from under the East Athens Development Corporation and the Hancock Corridor Development Corporation to the tune of $285,000. I find myself ambivalent about this – not because the two organizations have been de-funded, but by the manner in which the “redirection” of funds took place. Like others, I certainly think that both EADC and HCDC have grown far too dependent on CBDG funds and, from what I can gather, internal reform of either organization is needed in the worst possible way. I likewise agree with the philosophy adopted by the Commission a while back concerning how CBDG funds are distributed from year to year. Be that as it may, however, like still others, I am concerned that the abrupt cancellation of CBDG funds may signal the death knell for a couple of organizations that, at least ostensibly, have worked for years to alleviate the plight of those in Athens’ lower income neighborhoods. Regardless, the CBDG mess prompts observations on my part concerning process, race, and bureaucracy.
Much has been made of the process, or the conspicuous lack thereof, involved in redirecting CBDG funds away from EADC and HCDC, specifically as to the abrupt and unanticipated nature of the proposal introduced on the floor the evening of the vote. And just where have these critics been for the past several years? The Commission has developed a habit of rushing various measures through with little or no advance warning. We have had a series of development moratoria enacted at either special called sessions, held on nights on which votes would not normally have been taken, or at regular voting sessions at which the agenda item in question was added on the afternoon before the day of the vote. Either way, the votes intentionally were taken before opposition could mobilize or to block specific, otherwise legal actions about to be taken by private property owners. Also, on the night of the infamous stream buffer vote, the Commission took about 45 seconds to make permanent the supposedly “temporary” one-size-fits-all restrictions on the basis of an unanticipated motion (from the public’s point of view at least) from the floor; the agenda item concerning the three-tiered proposal worked out over the course of a year by the Stormwater Advisory Committee was not even discussed or brought up for a vote. That the Commission might redirect CBDG funds “on the fly” should have come to the surprise of absolutely no one.
As to race, I understand the claim that the Unified Government is not attuned to the wants and needs of the local minority community – not that I necessarily agree with it (obligatory caveat - let me be explicit that I am not even remotely charging anyone with racism – as one of the few outspoken Republicans in this town, I know all too well how such charges are thrown around without justification). Coming on the heels of the denial of the rezoning request for the Boys Club/Girls Club, the denial of the rezoning request for ACTION, Inc., and the breaking of the promise not to expand the landfill, all of which disproportionately affect African-American residents, hanging EADC and HCDC out to dry with no notice fits into the template rather well. I just hope that the next time they go to the polls, minority Athenians will reconsider their (near) unquestioned allegiance to the Democratic Party, as the Commission that approved all of these things is composed exclusively of Democrats.
And yes, I know that are those elections are nonpartisan now. I actively campaigned for that (and was likened to the Klan for so doing), remember? Still, the reality is that the local Left will immediately scour campaign finance reports and the voting histories of anyone rumored to be running for the Commission so as to reveal any latent GOP sympathies with which to tar them.
Regarding bureaucracy as the answer to social problems, I wrote this on my campaign web site back in 2006 concerning the Partners for a Prosperous Athens, which has since evolved into OneAthens:
While wishing the Partnership well and eagerly awaiting its recommendations, I do so with a healthy skepticism. If the task force produces innovative proposals designed to empower the individual and curtail dependency, I will welcome them. If, on the other hand, the task force merely repackages the same failed big government approaches of the past that have institutionalized poverty and created intergenerational cycles of dependency, I will not.
From my perspective, thus far OneAthens has produced the same type of paternalistic, big-government, grant-dependent proposals that appear to be designed to accommodate the plight of the poor, not substantively alter it. This approach has not worked in the past, so I do not have any expectation that it will work this time. My fear, then and now, is that OneAthens will simply prove itself to be a conglomeration of formerly smaller bureaucracies, subject to the same ineffective fate as EADC and HCDC. Naturally, others will disagree (and how).
Another fiasco taking shape is the tiered “conservation pricing” rate structure for water (this is one of those issues on which I am in complete agreement with Carl Jordan). The pricing structure as approved is much too arcane and appears to punish those whose water usage was already frugal. Also, the skeptic in me suspects that the pricing structure has as much to do with raising revenue as it may to do with conserving water (for years the local water/sewer service has turned a profit). Other municipalities, counties, and states that have encouraged their citizens to conserve this or that revenue-producing commodity (water, gasoline, etc.) have run right into the Law of Unintended Consequences. As usage decreases, so does the tax revenue generating by that usage. Thus, in order to make up the difference, the government increases the tax on that which it encouraged citizens to use less. Look for the same to happen here. Of course, as one who lives in the peripheral area of the county and does not have access to typical “municipal” services, for me this point is largely academic.
Finishing up the rants pertaining to local issues, to my mind the AthensFAQ folks have been playing rather fast and loose with regard to rhetoric and reason in their anti-NBAF diatribes. Thus far, the strategy has been to throw whatever arguments they can muster in opposition to bringing the NBAF facility to
As an aside, the NBAF debate has split the local progressive Left to a certain degree. On the one hand, some in the ruling establishment recognize the potential for economic growth the facility represents, which is desperately needed in our poverty-stricken burg (see above). Conversely, others on the progressive Left who are largely responsible for putting those folks in office have pulled out all of the stops to defeat the proposal. One local blog commentator attached to the ruling elite even went so far as to decry their “Republican tactics.” All that I can say to that is: “Welcome to my world.” As one who has fought against the local left-wingers on (so-called) historic preservation, the “living wage,” uniform stream buffers, rental registration and a host of other intrusive regulations and ill-advised policies, I can say from experience that they can turn to irresponsible, factually inaccurate, ad hominem attacks without much hesitation. It is just that now such arguments have been turned on the Left by the Left.
Moving up to the state level, here’s hoping that next session’s House of Representatives membership rids itself of Glenn Richardson as speaker. Various proposals advanced during the legislative session could have served as wonderful starting points for a thorough discussion of taxation and spending by those underneath the Gold Dome (while I did not embrace the GREAT tax, I am philosophically predisposed to favor consumption taxes over production taxes). Instead, we got months of backbiting and power plays, with the speaker unforgivably using his office to punish political opponents. If the GOP doesn’t want to spend another 130 years in the wilderness, its office-holders need to remember why we put them in charge and play nice with one another while pursuing the common good.
At the national level. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton are still fighting it out for the Democratic presidential nomination, to the bitter end if necessary (though I am not enamored of John McCain, I think that he is vastly preferable to either of the donkeys – but that is another matter). As Obama has won more popular votes, more state primaries and caucuses, and has more “pledged” delegates, Hillary’s only hope is in wooing the “super” delegates at the
Finally, at the “international” level, there are calls for the
There, I’m finished. Normally, I would include hypertext links so that readers could view the relevant source material, but I didn’t have the time. Besides which, readers in the
Posted by James at 2:11 PM
Tuesday, April 8, 2008
The National Taxpayers Union just released its Congressional Ratings for the 1st Session of the 110th Congress. The results for the Peach State delegation are striking:
Nathan Deal (Republican – District 9) 90%
Lynn Westmoreland (Republican – District 3) 90%
John Linder (Republican – District 7) 89%
Tom Price (Republican – District 6) 88%
Phil Gingrey (Republican – District 11) 86%
Jack Kingston (Republican – District 1) 84%
Jim Marshall (Democrat – District 8) 29%
John Barrow (Democrat – District 12) 17%
John Lewis (Democrat – District 5) 7%
Sanford Bishop (Democrat – District 2) 5%
David Scott (Democrat – District 13) 5%
Hank Johnson (Democrat – District 4) 3%
Neither Charlie Norwood nor Paul Broun (Republican – District 10) were rated, though one may easily guess were either may have fallen. The state average for the House of Representatives was 50%.
Over on the Senate side of the Capitol, Saxby Chambliss and Johnny Isakson each scored 75%, which works out to a rating of B+.
Any analytical commentary on my part would obviously be superfluous, as the numbers speak rather well for themselves. See the NTU’s press release and ratings.
Addendum - John McCain received an NA rating due to a lack of applicable votes, while Barack Obama (5%) and Hillary Clinton (3%) both received a rating of F.
Posted by James at 5:02 PM
Thursday, April 3, 2008
Advocates of big government routinely claim that reductions to projected budget increases are the same thing as budget “cuts,” even as the budget in question continues to expand. Needless to say, this claim is as specious as it is pervasive – which brings me to the question of QBE funding.
For those who may not know, Georgia’s Quality Basic Education Act (QBE) dates from the 1980s. The legislation did a lot of things, but over the years most of the focus on QBE has concerned the state’s funding of public education. Specifically, QBE established an arcane and convoluted formula for determining the state’s annual contribution to local school systems. The economic downturn of a few years ago predictably resulted in a reduction of state revenue, hence “austerity reductions” were introduced into QBE funding as a cost savings measure.
To paraphrase Maus, it was here that the troubles began. That is because even though the austerity reductions have continued, the actual cuts to funding lasted for two years only. Since then, the state’s QBE funding to local school systems has grown dramatically. The political demagoguery of the issue, however, has continued apace.
As is my custom, I will use the Clarke Count School District to illustrate the point. We will assume FY 2002, the fiscal year prior to the introduction of austerity reductions, as a baseline: FTE is “full time equivalent” student, that is to say the CCSD’s number of students; QBE is the total of state QBE funds contributed to the CCSD; and Austerity Reduction is the difference between QBE earnings according to the formula mentioned above and the actual number of dollars contributed to the CCSD for each fiscal year indicated.
Austerity reduction $0
Per pupil $3949.68
Austerity reduction $1,119,072
Per pupil $3857.93
Austerity reduction $2,321,688
Per pupil $3648.92
Austerity reduction $2,719,741
Per pupil $3664.86
Austerity reduction $2,719,717
Per pupil $3828.94
Austerity reduction $1,342,765
Per pupil $4096.95
Austerity reduction $1,100,429
Per pupil $4220.79
As can be clearly seen, actual budget cuts occurred in FY 2003 and FY 2004 only. Despite the continuance of “austerity reductions,” though, QBE funding to the Clarke County School District has risen in every subsequent fiscal year in both absolute and per pupil terms. Even with austerity reductions totaling $11,323,412 over the period, the state’s QBE contributions to the Clarke County School District have increased by 15.80% (6.84% per pupil) from the FY 2002 baseline and 23.08% (15.67% per pupil) from the FY 2004 nadir. Remember this the next time someone decries state “cuts” in education funding, which will happen presently as the CCSD budget for FY 2009 begins to take shape.
Feel free to verify these figures for yourselves; with the exception of per pupil and percentage calculations, which are mine, they are all taken from the Department of Education’s Mid Term System Allotment Sheets for the CCSD spanning the period FY 2002 through FY 2008. And yes, I spoke to the DOE's Financial Review folks to make sure that I was reading them correctly.
Posted by James at 1:06 PM
Tuesday, April 1, 2008
If your live in Athens-Clarke County and want to run for elected office, here is your chance. The following information concerning qualifying fees and dates is verbatim from the local Board of Elections:
Pursuant to O.C.G.A. 21-2-131(a)(1), the following qualifying fees were set by the Athens-Clarke County Commissioners in their January 2, 2008 Regular Session meeting:
• Judge of Probate Court $2,173.02
• Clerk of Superior Court $2,173.02
• Chief Magistrate $2,173.02
• Tax Commissioner $2,173.02
• Sheriff $2,424.58
• Coroner $ 426.38
Qualifying for the office listed above will begin at 9:00 am on Monday, April 28, 2008 and end at 12:00 noon on Friday, May 2, 2008.
• Judge of State Court $3,491.74
• Commissioner of ACC $ 450.00 (Even-Numbered Districts)
• School Board Member $ 108.00 (Even-Numbered Districts)
Qualifying for the non-partisan offices listed above will begin at 9:00 a.m. on Monday, June 23, 2008 and will end at 12:00 noon on Friday, June 27, 2008. The General Primary will be held on July 15, 2008 and the General Election will be held on November 4, 2008.
Posted by James at 8:41 AM