Wednesday, October 31, 2007
by Marshall Thompson
“The County finances are so robust that it could potentially cause some problems. State law requires that a county’s general fund must not exceed 20% of revenue at any time. Dan Olsen, the county comptroller said that in 2006 the general fund was at 16.4% ($37.4 million in surplus) of the revenue, and in 2007 it is estimated at 19% ($43.5 million in surplus). The tentative budget projects 19% ($37.6 million in surplus) again in 2008. In property taxes that is; $18.2 million in ’06, $19.2 million* in ’07, and $19.9 million* in ’08 (* estimated)".
Dan goes on to report, “If property values climb beyond the County’s expectation, money will need to be switched from the general fund to another account, such as capital projects. If we ever got to that point, we’d put the money into capital improvements and roads. Or we may purchase some equipment that we’ve been holding off on.” Olsen said, “There’s never an end to the list of projects.” (Machman’s insert: we can find to spend all your property taxes on...)
It’s their (your) money,” Olsen said. “If they (you) don’t like the way it’s being spent, they (you) need to show up and let us know.”
I like ole Dan. He says it like it is. And he is spot on. You can get a copy of the tentative budget (for 2008) from the Weber County Website, we can and should show up on 6 December at the Weber County Chambers for a public hearing, where we can express our opinions and ask questions.
Something about: (Click to read more)
Monday, October 29, 2007
Sunday, October 28, 2007
Nobody likes the idea of raising taxes -- least of all those who are being taxed.
But, as we see things, it wouldn't make any more sense to reject a proposed tax increase without assessing the reasons for opposition than it would to approve without a justification for doing so.
ALL OF US IN THE OGDEN VALLEY HAVE A UNIQUE OPPORTUNITY TO SEND A STRONG MESSAGE TO OUR COUNTY COMMISSIONERS BY TURNING OUT IN MASS AND VOTING AGAINST THIS NEW TAX THAT IS SUPPORTED BY THE COUNTY COMMISSIONERS AND WILL DO VIRTUALLY NOTHING FOR OUR VALLEY.
OK let us examine the reasons to reject the latest proposed tax increase:
1. The latest property tax increase averaging 11.6% for the entire State is simply beyond understanding or justification. Weber County is the highest taxed in the State already.
2. Legislators and Assessors and Commissioners are still in their defensive crouch defending the status quo.
3. They see no need to change “the system” supported by the editorial staffs of major news papers which proclaim, “The System is Not Broken”. Fortunately for us, the Standard Examiner is not one of those papers. They generally tell it like it is and we appreciate that very much.
4. But on this issue the Standard Examiner editorial staff is just wrong (however well meaning).
5. The following has already been done to us:
2007 General Session SB 223, the State sales and use tax rate was set at 4.65%.
The basic transit rate was increased to .3 %.
The municipal highway tax rate was also increased to .3%.
We already pay a “County Option” tax of .25% passed in about ''00 for corridor preservation and/or commuter rail/transit. And a second mass transit tax along with...
A RAMP tax of .1% (interestingly called Botanical, Cultural, Zoo Tax (County).
And effective 1 January 2008 the combined state and local sales and use tax on food and food ingredients will be 3% (1.75% State, 1% local Option, and .25% County Option.
(Source Office of Legislative Research and General Counsel, Oct. 15 2007)
6. What we already are paying for transit/transportation in addition to the above:
Motor Fuel Tax $255 Million.
Special Fuel Tax $111.2 Million.
Motor Vehicle Registration Fees (Taxes) $34.3 Million
Special “earmarked” funds are not included in the above.(Lord only knows..)
(based upon Oct. forecasts from state economists, the actual FY 2008 ending in June of this year will exceed the February 2007 forecast by $136 to $179 Million dollars.)
**Sales tax restricted revenue for Transportation Projects and Public Transit Systems Tax Highway were up 41.5% and 164.7%, respectively.
(Source Utah State Tax Commission Revenue Summary, Economic And Statistical Unit, Oct 15, 2007)
7. The Feds already chipped in another $500 million for transit lines.
8. We have already paid for Front runner commuter rail in Weber County.
9. State B&C road funds are already made available from the State to the County for these East West feeder roads.
10. Yet another .25% increase in sales tax would also be the third separate transportation sales tax in Weber County and it follows on the heels of an increase in vehicle registration fees dedicated to transportation.
11. Since July we are already paying yet an extra $10 per each vehicle for corridor preservation and transportation.
We seem to have both the UTA and UDOT working as a one two punch to get more and more out of us already over taxed citizens. Is this some sort of race between UTA, UEA and UDOT to see who can exhort the most funds from us taxpayers?
UNCLE! I give…..and give and give and give.
But what am I getting here in Huntsville? We already pay for our own roads, potholes, chip, crack and seal. Besides, I like my potholes. They are the only thing that stands between me and the folks with their big boats who get in too big a hurry as they begin to see Pineview and water.
The Standard Examiner OPED piece continues with Mach man's comments in bold italics...if you have the time to read it. It is too long and I know it. Sorry bout that.
That's where the voters of Davis, Weber and southern Box Elder counties find themselves: On the Nov. 6 ballot, they will be asked to vote yes or no on Opinion Question No. 1. It asks whether or not their counties/communities should be allowed to impose an additional quarter-cent "sales and use tax for corridor preservation, congestion mitigation, or to expand capacity for regionally significant transportation facilities."
We realize that homeowners and business owners -- this newspaper included -- are suffering from what we've termed "tax fatigue." Property taxes have been climbing due to increased valuations, various taxing entities bumping up their tax rates, etc. It would therefore be tempting to vote against Opinion Question No. 1 just because you're fed up.
We sympathize, but feel that Opinion Question No. 1 is one of those measures that, though distasteful right now, will produce significant benefits far into the future for transportation and public transit throughout the Top of Utah.
In Brigham City, Willard and Perry, the extra money will be used to hurry along commuter rail from Brigham to Pleasant View. In south Davis County, Bountiful would like to see a TRAX line or streetcars.
But not all the money will be used for public transit. A quarter of the money, by law, will be designated for corridor preservation. We already have and are paying for corridor preservation. That is what the .25% tax or $8 Million a year forever is already paying for. And now an additional $10 a year forever vehicle registration fee ($1.5 Million). That's vital, since we all can see how fast the ground is being developed around us -- and some of that property will be needed for roads and transit lines in the decades to come. Agree but for heaven’s sake yet another .25% (total $18+ million a year forever?!) Machman understands a marriage that is forever but a tax? What is the end date of the 2000 County Option transit tax? What is the ending date for the one you are suggesting we vote for now? Answer; There simply is not one. Why would ANYONE in their right mind vote for such a tax? Why would any of us agree to give away our hard earned income to bureaucrats who have abused us so and continue to be held unaccountable? Just makes no sense at all to me.
Obviously, all that costs money. If Opinion Question No. 1 passes, it'll mean an extra $8.66 per month for the average family, or $104 per year. Folks this is the definition of “Incrementalism”, and a perfect example of how it has already sold us down the river too many times. Reject this reasoning for the sake of your children and grandchildren. Make public officials accountable and hold them to account for sane budgets. PLEASE!
But consider this, too: For our economy to continue to chug along at a healthy pace, the Top of Utah needs to attract and retain good businesses that will provide jobs, goods and services for our residents. If you ask the Brigham Area, Davis and Ogden-Weber chambers of commerce to list the top three criteria for companies looking to relocate, they'll tell you: 1) available work force, 2) transportation infrastructure and 3) quality of education. If we don't do all we can do to improve our transportation and transit, we're hurting our prospects for long-term economic success.
Sure they will say that. So what is new? My point is we have already sacrificed through excessive taxation and yet they continue with an unrelenting array of give us more. There will always be this hue and cry for more. And we must just say no. Time out. Foul. You Chamber of Commerce businesspeople, UDOT and UTA bureaucrats give us specifics not generalities and vague notions. You give us clear and indisputable facts, not projections of growth traditionally embellished and exaggerated. You Chambers of Commerce old farts who are business people, who want as much as they can get to reduce their own overheads and increase profits, stop sending out “feather merchants” to lobby and in the process steal more tax money. What is it going to take? Robin Hood to stop the Sheriff of Nottingham?
Finally, we approve of the way the projects funded by this tax increase will be prioritized. Box Elder's already targeted its priority: rail. But in Davis and Weber, where commuter rail will open for business next year, local governments and the Wasatch Front Regional Council will huddle to fund the projects that are most critical. How about huddling around the money we have and are already paying for these “projects” and keep your greedy hands out of our bank accounts.
We don't like the idea of a tax increase, either, but we urge a yes vote on Opinion Question No. 1. I understand why you would have to say that but….No thanks boss. Respectfully, “That dawg don’t hunt.” Minor Machman
Friday, October 26, 2007
Crooks, 'We are coming after you'
Local, state and federal agencies form one of the first task forces in the U.S. to battle con artists
By Pamela Manson
The Salt Lake Tribune
Article Last Updated: 10/25/2007 11:56:02 PM MDT
Con artists who have made Utah a hot spot for mortgage fraud are the target of a crackdown.
Local, state and federal agencies have formed one of the nation's first comprehensive task forces to battle them, Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. and U.S. Attorney Brett Tolman announced Thursday.
"We are coming after you," Tolman said at a news conference. "We're not going to let people get away with this type of behavior."
The 2007 Mortgage Asset Research Institute's Ninth Periodic Report to the MBA ranks Utah as fifth in the nation for mortgage fraud after Florida, California, Michigan and Georgia. The FBI ranked Utah in the Top 10 of mortgage fraud states in 2006.
Huntsman noted that there has been a "checkerboard of jurisdictions and investigations" in the state. By combining the resources of different agencies, the task force hopes to close gaps and ensure that no one gets away with a scam, he said.
"Our firepower as a state has been enhanced many-fold," the governor said.
Members of the task force will be divided into teams that investigate and prosecute all participants in a suspected fraud. Criminal charges could be brought in either state or federal court. Some of the common schemes involve straw buyers, illegal property flipping, identity theft or inflated appraisals.
Agencies participating in the mortgage fraud task force include:
The U.S. Attorney's Office,
Utah Attorney General's Office,
the FBI, Utah Insurance Fraud Division,
the IRS, the Draper Police Department,
the Utah Department of Commerce, U.S. Housing and Urban Development Office of Inspector General,
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement,
the Utah Department of Insurance,
the U.S. Postal Inspection Service,
the state Department of Public Safety,
the Utah Division of Securities and the Salt Lake, and the Davis,
Utah and Washington county attorneys' offices.
Minor Machman has asked for a contact within the task force. Wonder where the Weber County Attorney office is on this list? Something about Weber County and the Huntsville area? Hmmm? Men of conscience...men of action, think I'll call the County Attorney. Maybe we all should call? 1-801-399-8377 is the number for all you "men (and women) of conscience (action)".
Wednesday, October 24, 2007
Ronald Mortensen of CitizensForTaxFairness.org has been asked to give a presentation at this forum. If you want a ride give me (D-Bell) a call at 745-1419.
It has been fascinating to listen to fellow journalists or politicians anytime someone dares bring up news or newspaper "blogs" such as this one or asked a valid question of a political candidate. You can see them physically stiffen, and then they speak with anger.
"I NEVER read the blogs!" says one Morning News reporter. "That's the stupidest thing the paper has ever done."
A few blocks away, in a conversation with a Tribune reporter regarding a controversial current topic, I asked, "But have your read what your readers are saying about that?""No!" she blurts. "No reporter pays any attention to those."
"A political candidate says indignantly 'I don't reply to anonymous people who don't have the courage to include their own name.', and waddles away from controversy self satisfied and self assured.
Why the emotional reactions? The answer goes back 500 years. Ever since the first printing press was put to work, the publishers owned a true mass medium. According to Marshall McLuhan, a mass medium is one which produces the maximum message and the minimum feedback.
So it was with Guttenberg; so it used to be with newspapers and TV stations.
In the past, only occasional letters to the editor have been published that rebutted a journalist’s or a politician's view of reality. Now, newspapers, broadcasters, politicians and candidates alike have virtually given the public access to the largest press in the world – the Internet. And, it’s on the publisher’s or political candidate's own website, no less.
And that’s what is leaving my journalistic and political friends so uneasy. Now readers and viewers can publicly question, criticize, debate, correct, and castigate journalists and politicians. What’s more, the critiques appear attached directly to the reporter’s, politician's or a political candidate's work (or lack thereof.).
That’s a very uncomfortable experience for someone who has made a living sheltered by the man who buys his ink by the barrel, or "poly", Greek for many, much, excessive..."Tic" bloodsucking mites.
But are the news blogs of any use? In their early days in Utah there was a great deal of abuse of the space given to news consumers. Bloggers love their anonymity, and they abused it to name-call and falsify. I think, however, there is a sea change in the morass of opinions flowing out of the hot topics of the day. The differences of opinion seem to be more on point, and though diametrically opposed, arguments have become more logical and less vitriolic.
So what do reporters and politicians have to fear? Only the points of view that they were not aware of or opinions that contradict their own biases.
After all, doesn’t this new public discussion forum provide what the Supreme Court called a “free and robust debate?” It is simply part of the "democratic principles" our Country is based on.
Hey Councilman Stevenson! Are you listening? Answer the questions please. I identified myself clearly enough. Why did you vote against a resolution of support, while saying you supported us and our efforts to reform property taxation?
D-Bell, aka Minor Machman
Sunday, October 21, 2007
Beginning tomorrow you are asked to vote on a quarter cent tax hike. Sounds innocent enough. Family of four impacted only $8-9 a month. The Weber County mayors, commissioners, and chambers of commerce in all three Counties teamed up into the Northern Utah Transportation Alliance to run a campaign for the sales tax increase.
Question: Where were all these people while our property taxes are being increased five (5) to fifty-seven (57) times the inflation rate of 2.67%? Yet they have the unmitigated gall to push for even more taxes from us. And a tax which has no end date? Think of it…a forever tax!
I am getting wake up phone calls asking so what is next? What can we do D-Bell? To find out what we can do, click here...
Thursday, October 18, 2007
We (our coalition) decided to make a list of legislation we considered Dead on Arrival (DOA).
And I must say of all legislators/presenters only three stood out for offering reasonable "systemic" corrections to the taxation scheme "disease" yet none offered immediate solutions or fixes to "sticker shock or price tags".
Our Representative Gage Froerer was one: Click here to read Gage's proposals.....
Monday, October 15, 2007
Sunday, October 14, 2007
Yes I have. Al beit, what must be considered an overview, given only a couple of minutes with which to speak (re 19 Sept). Co Chair Rep. John Dougall asked for and was given a copy of my overview speech.
These comments are directed not at you personally Senator, as I honor your openness and willingness to listen. They are intended for all legislators. And describe some thoughts and/or positions to consider. Again, I am available to sit and discuss them and more with anyone "so long as I am not trying to teach a pig to sing..." I encourage everyone to comment where they disagree or have better ideas. I will post this on the state wide blog with that in mind. "Democratic principles" demand it of us all.
Click Here for the details:
Thursday, October 11, 2007
A letter to the Ogden Valley news from Richard Sorensen - Huntsville
During the August 15 tax revolt meeting (a.k.a. “Ogden Valley Tea Party”) at Snowcrest, we witnessed an angry and incensed crowd. A crowd that was willing to do whatever it took to get their taxes fixed. Two short months have passed and it appears that apathy may be setting in.
Hopefully we bombarded the assessor’s office with appeals, as that seems to be the only short term, albeit temporary, fix. What started as a Huntsville issue, quickly spread through the Valley and has grown wings statewide. The counties claim they are following state law, and the lawmakers say that if counties don’t resolve the problem, then they will take care of it. An endless circle that will not break if we don’t take action - or force action.
Having recently sat through two special meetings of the legislature on the subject, a recurring theme has been mentioned while seeking solutions: “The system is not broken.”
To the contrary, The system is TOTALLY and COMPLETELY broken! Click here for more...
Tuesday, October 9, 2007
Presentation Oct 8, 2007, to Utah Association of Counties
I have been working with tax data on individual residences in Bountiful and 6 other counties. Some of it has been researched back over 30 years. I have discovered interesting facts;
(1) If you plot the increasing value of the residence by using the government cost of living adjustment (COLA) each year you will achieve a value that closely equals the actual current value of the residence.
(2) The calculated value tracks an average of the widely varying assessed value.
(3) The tax required tracks the COLA (no surprise).
(4) The required tax does not seem to be related to the assessed value.
(5) In no case did the initial cost of the residence appear to be used for the initial determination of the fair market value.
The current law seems to make it difficult for the assessors to do their work.
It is proposed that the fair market value be arrived at by using the initial cost adjusted by the COLA.
It is also suggested that the entities that spend the tax be brought to the table and be placed on DIET COLA. Click here to read the rest of the post
Monday, October 8, 2007
Just returned from 8 Oct. meeting at Davis County Conference Center...very posh with drinks and breakfast finger foods supplied.
Same basic format as the 19 Sept meeting, except it was so well hidden from public view few if any heard about it. I tried for several days searching the Davis County Commission, Davis County Clipper, and State Calenders to confirm an earlier report of the meeting. But about 20 of us did in fact sleuth it out from much earlier reports and attended.
By the time all the commissioners, assessors, auditors, and legislators got through rehashing the same old information and commiserating over their property tax and political dilemmas, there was only about fifteen minutes left for public commentary.
Mr. Bert Hulet (a senior), from Bountiful rose and spoke for our cause stating interesting statistics he had gleaned from data available on-line. Bert wants what I want with a reassessment rate fixed at the Cost of Living Index.
Ron Mortensen also rose and spoke eloquently for our cause. (Paraphrasing Ron)..."Our current property tax system is like examining the entrails of a sheep. Where scientifically possible it is unlikely to yield accurate results."
Another gentlemen senior rose and asked if there were any among the illustrious group present who were willing to purchase his assessed "$900,000" property for the $200,000 he had been asking for it for the past year or so? None offered and the Davis Co. Assessor asked if it was under appeal and seemed to offer assistance.
Admittedly irrelevant...Ivie (Davis County Assessor) as it turns out, also flew F-4Js and Bs as a Marine Corps RIO (Radar Intercept Operator or backseater) in VMFA 333. I was an exchange USAF pilot to the USMC who flew with the same unit (MAW II LANT) in a different Squadron, VMFA 312, also out of Beaufort MCAS, South Carolina at about the same time. We enjoyed each others company for a time after wards.
I rose with less than a minute to speak. I said extemporaneously:
"I need you all to clear your minds for a second. I need you to open them (your minds) to something new. (Pause for 5 secs) Got it? Now I want you the get this.... Click here to read the rest of Machman's comments to the Legislators, Commissioners and Assessors...
Thursday, October 4, 2007
Greetings "Wing men (and ladies of course),
Raleigh was the only "grownup" who ever questioned my integrity back in the day. Working for college expenses I drove a Gulf Oil delivery truck in the summer of '63. After delivering 500 gallons "Good Gulf" to his business (Blankenship Ready Mix Concrete) I entered his office with the bill. He mumbled something and walked past taking a 10' long inched stick from the corner. He measured the underground tank and checked his inches to gallons sheet as I watched. Insulted anyone, let along our corner neighbor, would do something like this and still only 17, I asked bravely, "Sir, why did you check me?"
His answer was profound and has hardened like cement all these years, "Customary among friends, necessary among thieves and politicians." It was his own way of saying "Trust but verify."
On 19 Sept., after speaking to about twenty legislators from both the House and Senate, I approached Co Chair John Dougall, Rep. and gave him his requested copy of our speech. I also presented him with our petitions from both the Ogden Valley and Huntsville Town. I explained the significance the numbers of signatures were in relation to the actual permanent residents and asked that all read the specific comments. He agreed, so I added I would appreciate him looking into whether my specific request that the Tax Commission audit Weber County Commissioners and Assessor which had been made to Representative Froerer a month previously had been in fact done. He said he would check, "To make certain the word got through" and agreed an audit was in order.
Following up with Representative Froerer:
----- Original Message -----
To: Gage Froerer
Sent: Sunday, September 30, 2007 7:21 PM
Representative "Gage" Froerer,
Did the Utah State Tax Commission ever audit the Weber County Assessor's? The Commissioners? I asked that you call them back on August 11 or so as I recall. Did anyone actually read the Utah State Laws on Truth in Taxation? Specifically:
From "Utah Property Tax" off the Internet....posted several places:
"Because "Truth in Taxation" is revenue-based, a hearing may still be required if an entity's tax rate remains unchanged or even declines. For example, if property values increase 10 percent as the result of reappraisal, but a taxing entity does not lower its rate proportionately, it must advertise and hold a "Truth in Taxation" hearing. The (TNT) hearing is required because the increase in value is not considered new growth.
Many taxing entities (and I believe Weber County is one of them) continue to be confused by this concept and attempt to compare the previous year's tax rate with the current year's proposed rate to determine if a tax increase will occur. Under a revenue-driven system, changes in rates are irrelevant."
Weber County had apparently a 100 million dollar budget in 2006, and now has a 126 million dollar budget for 2007.
Isn't that a 26% increase?
Didn't Davis County have to hold TNT public hearings in Farmington because they increased their budget?
Why is Weber County always the highest taxed County in Utah (see attachment one)? Why can Weber County seemingly just disregard the intent if not the letter of the law?
What does the State Tax Commission have to say about this?
Where are the results of the audit?
Can you get them and send me a copy?
Representative Froerer response:
Mon, 1 Oct 2007 12:26:48 -0600
Thanks for your email. I thought that I had sent you the data from the State Tax Commission but I will send you the data they have supplied to me. I have asked for more detailed information regarding WC from the State Tax commission and as of last week they were working on the information that I have requested.
Regarding WC being the highest tax county in the State. I have also asked that question of the State Tax Commission and am anxious to hear what they have to say as they compare our county with other counties in the State.
President Reagan. once said the Soviet President Gorbechov at Reykjavík (Iceland): "Trust but verify".
I recently met a man who has a son who is an auditor with the Utah State Tax Commission. He agreed to check with his son to see "if the word had ever gotten through".
"When there are people who will suffer and perhaps actually go hungry or even die in a cold dark place, due to over zealous taxation policy or law, it is time we demand changes." It is again time to "trust but verify" and a time to act.
"Wing men for Property Tax Reform