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Entries in Social Justice (3)

Saturday
Jul022011

BIG Government's appetite for Fossil Fuels!

VetTheGov just returned from a trip to Australia and was dumbfounded by the hypocrisy of its government regarding pollution and energy consumption. Australia is definitely the poster child for how a government controls pollution from its businesses, citizens, and visitors, right? Think again! Be on the lookout as the United States is watching Australia closely so they can bring forth their Cap & Tax scheme soon!

VetTheGov read an interesting article while in Australia regarding the governments Do as I Say not as I Do energy policy and consumption. When your government becomes the leading employer, largest asset owner, and dictator of all policy, they can't help but be the leading energy user. What's interesting to note is that the environmental justice groups are beginning to focus their attention on government. Surely a move the government was hoping to deflect with all the renewable energy programs implemented on the backs of the taxpayers. Australia lead the way with wind energy but look at all the hassles they now face such as noise pollution! Note: When walking around all the larger cities in Australia it was difficult to avoid all the second hand smoke. It appears Australians love tobacco and the government is enjoying the tax benefit! Also take note of the heavy handed fist used by the government to curb social behavior! If this is the case for tobacco then why aren't they using the same tactic to combat AIDS???

Industry specific areas of Australia seem to have different standards placed upon them. For instance, VetTheGov passed a sugar mill complex and couldn't help but notice two large smoke stacks spewing dirty pollution from them. See picture below! This is a $1.75 Billion dollar industry for Australia and no doubt the government is looking for new revenue streams from this industry. No Worries is a favorite saying in Australia and the government uses this to their benefit as you will see by the coming Carbon Tax soon to pass in the next couple of weeks.

Bringing this full circle back to the States and locally in Colorado, our government is consuming so much energy that the fight against the energy producers will intensify. In case you need more evidence of the energy used by government here is a great breakdown of the Department of Defense daily dose! Quick breakdown for those not reading the link: 2009 consumption of delivered 932 Trillion Btu's cost $13.3 Billion; emitted 73 Million tons of CO2; Use 360,000 barrels of oil daily.

For an idea of local energy government expenses, Mesa County spent $236,544.87 in energy and fuel related expenses in April 2011 alone. If you multiply over an annual basis this equals over $2.8 Million in energy cost! This total does not include all other related expenses such as air travel and travel reimbursements. VetTheGov must point out cost for the social justice program GVT which had cost of fuel and service fees from local tax dollars in April alone of $148,714.08. The City of Grand Junction uses somewhere in the neighborhood of $3.5 Million annually! If we add in all the school district and State government energy expenditures you can you see how quickly the need for Fossil Fuels arise for our government. 

So the question of the moment once again is the government concerned with your usage of energy more than they are concerned with their own usage? VetTheGov believes government wants you to curb your very small appetite for energy because they need more than you! Remember the next time you hear a story on energy, it should directly relate back to our government's use rather than yours! 

Sunday
Mar272011

Mesa County 2011 Budget at first glance.

VetTheGov has reviewed the Mesa County 2011 adopted budget found on mesacounty.us website.  VetTheGov found some interesting trends of where your tax dollars are funneled and how they are appropriated. 

Beginning with the Landfill/Solid Waste department which for years was the talk of the town for actual good government business, has now become a negative on the balance sheet.  If you look at the this departments budget statement here you will notice that eventually all good government programs end up losing at some point.  The Solid Waste department will charge $3,875,000.00 for services with total expenditures for the program of $4,625,342.00 for a loss of ($750,342.00).  The positives for this catagory are required personnel which has stayed at Seven Full Time Equivalents (FTE's) and some nice cash reserves.

Animal Services department is budgeted for $912,871.00 with charges for services of $501,100.00 for another loss of ($411,771.00).  The animal services manager annual salary based on monthly gross wages is $111,345.72.  The department also has an animal services director which is paid $72,894.96 annually.  The remaining portion divided up for 13 other positions and operating expenses.  Who would of thought the dog catching business paid so well?  Average response time 28.2 minutes for priority calls.

Here is where it gets interesting!  The Human Services and Health Fund department's employ 306.58 FTE's out of Mesa County's 965.58 FTE's total.  Combined budgets total $28,203,268.00 in which a large portion of their revenue comes from Federal government grants.  The Human Services department has 220.83 FTE's with total appropriations of $21,927,203.00.  From this 21.9 million, $16,963,706.00 goes to salaries, benefits, and operating costs.  Only $4,908,165.00 makes it to actual clients.  See Human Services budget here.  There is no charge for services to clients.  The average Director gross salary is $87,515.00.

The Health Fund department has 85.75 FTE's and is appropriated $6,348,686.00 from the County.  They bill for services $848,465.00.  $6,276,165.00 of the budget is consumed by salaries, benefits, and operating expenses.  This department has around 35 nurses averaging over $60,000.00 in annual salaries.  The Medical Officer makes $147,671.40 gross annually.  Between the Human Services and Health Fund departments 28.2 million dollar budgets they only bill $848,465.00 for services rendered which is a 27.3 million dollar loser and where the County government becomes a welfare county.  See Health Fund budget here.

Last but not the least is the Criminal Justice divisions which consist of the Sheriff's Office, District Attorney's Office, and Criminal Services departments.  Total budget of $31,257,277.00 and 347.50 FTE's out of Mesa County's 965.58 FTE's.  Total revenues into these departments budgeted at $7,648,031.00.  Cost of Criminal Justice/Public Safety services to local taxpayers $23,609,246.00.  Highlights of these agencies are as follows: Pre-Trial services to save over 122 detention beds compared to 114 detention beds in 2010;  Summit View Treatment Services 59% success rate for inpatient treatment down from 75% in 2009; average 388 daily inmates; 77 DUI arrests in 2010 down from 212 in 2009; 67 felony arrest in 2010 down from 188 in 2009; 7.2 minute response time for priority 1 calls in 2010 down from 8.0 minute response time in 2009; 9.5 minute response time for priority 2 calls in 2010 down from 13.2 minute response time in 2009; Citizen complaints in 2010 43 up from 26 in 2009; no information related to court cases from DA's office; Partner's reported 25,496 hours of community service and $134,625.00 in restitution paid.

Overall 67% of Mesa County's employees work in Human Services, Health Fund, and Criminal Justice departments.  VetTheGov sees a trend in regards to a workforce in Mesa County dedicated to pursuing a Social Justice agenda.

Read entire Mesa County budget highlights here.

Here are the 2010 annual salaries for Mesa County excluding the approximate 25% additional benefit package.

Kudos to the current County Commissioner's who proved a 10% across the board cut in the budget is possible.  Maybe our State and Federal governments could use this as a model proving it can be done now with little pain. 

Couple of interesting questions arise when we look at budgets and appropriations come to mind.  Do you feel you are getting your money's worth from the government?  Do you see any way for the government to get away from being a welfare redistribution model? If so, How? Do politicians handle your tax dollars wisely or are their hands tied to the social justice and fairness doctrines established years ago?

Stay tuned as VetTheGov will taker a closer look at the how our government redistributes our tax dollars!

Tuesday
Nov302010

Mesa County Grand Valley Transit exposed! Part 1

What does it cost to run well over 25 public buses in the Grand Valley? After spending many days going through multiple government website financial information, VetTheGov has discovered a large amount of local, state, and federal tax dollars being spent on a losing proposition for the community.

Under the TIP (Transportation Improvement Program) Mesa County receives Federal and State grants for the Grand Valley Transit (GVT) public bus system. From 2008-2010 the local tax payers have spent $5,191,932.00 for the GVT. For the 2011 budget alone the local taxpayers are on the hook for $2,582,500.00 and then the program receives another $5,760,000.00 from State and Federal grants.  See all funding numbers here! 

Click here for 2010 transportation funded grants.  Here is the County's justification study! The social justice/social equity/environmental justice found on pages II-3 and II-4 bring up many interesting questions in regards to fiscal responsibility to tax payers. In reading further in the justification study you will find it is derived from an original study used for the U.S. Forest Service and is now used for local transportation impacts. They use what is called the ripple effect. We will try and explain this process in layman's terms. 

Let's take your personal vehicle that you use for work and personal use and add the government ripple effect plan of how it impacts the local community. Hypothetical scenario will use a 25,000.00 vehicle and an annual salary of 55,000.00. This one vehicle and worker using the ripple effect now becomes responsible for every job and salaries at their work, the car manufacturer, the car dealership, the local gas stations, insurance companies, and everywhere they spend their 55,000.00 earnings and yes even their taxes for local, state, and federal employees and agencies. The return on every dollar they spend is off the charts. This is how the government we elect redistributes your tax dollars and tries to justify using the ripple effect.

Here is the link to the Federal Transit Administration which explains the grant programs being used by Mesa County. This site is where you will find what these individual FTA grants are used for and how the Federal government tentacles reach into local neighborhoods. As noted in the funding numbers the following grants are being funded in Mesa County: FTA 5307, 5309, 5311, 5316, and 5317.

In the latest GJSentinel.com article on the GVT it states they hope to reach ridership of 980,000 by the end of the year. This breaks down to 3192 daily riders since they do not operate on six holidays and Sundays.  If we use current $1.00 per rider per day this equates to $980,000.00 in potential revenue.  If we use 2011 projected budget amounts of $8,342,500.00 less $980,000.00 we have a loss of $7,362,500.00. It is hard to imagine any private sector business could keep their doors open with these types of loses. In reading the GJSentinel article the Sheriff's office has assigned deputies to ride the buses. Could this be where the school resource officers were reassigned after budget cuts. This is another example of being stuck with a government service that effects budgets in other areas of greater concern. In this case you see the bus system is of greater importance than safety in our schools.

In breaking down the spending in more detail, VettheGov located the last spending report from Mesa County's website. In line items 185170 and 185165 you will see the monthly expense from the County's General Fund for drivers and fuel for the GVT program totaling $174,770.93. This excludes any administrative or maintenance cost. GVT subcontracts the bus drivers from a huge multi-billion dollar company called First Transit locally but the main company Firstgroup is headquartered in the UK which bought out Laidlaw.

In reading through an onboard study located on Regional Transportation planning office website, the following reason was the highest score, "Passengers were asked the most important reason they ride the bus. As shown in Figure II-6, the top reasons for riding the bus are passengers who do not drive (46 percent) and passengers whose families do not have cars (1percent reported that the bus is a convenient way to travel)." Out of the 394 surveyed 110 were 18 or younger while 12 were over the age of 65. Over half of the riders earned under $15,000.00 annually.  

So here is an idea! Of the 7.3 million in loses, we could purchase vans for each government agency such as work release and hire a driver to transport these individuals wherever they needed to go and save tons of money doing so.

In regards to getting individuals to work, why isn't the burden on the employer? What happens when the grant funding stops? Why doesn't the government tell us why they keep these losing programs?