Johns Creek City Council Approves CVB Request for Gateway Markers

Visitors to Johns Creek are apparently unable to recognize that this sign denotes where Johns Creek starts.

Apparently the majority on the City Council has forgotten that the Convention Visitor’s Bureau is NOT a charitable organization and their funds are dollars fleeced collected in taxes on individuals who generally have no say in the matter if they need a hotel room(none of us really have a say in the matter do we?)

City Council Treats CVB Dollars as Gift

Instead we see Council Members fawning over the “hard work” of the CVB to spend the tax dollars as if they have either earned the money themselves or that they have raised it in donations.

Adding insults to injuries were many comments made to justify shifting funds away from one project and to the Gateway Markers. Wasn’t Johns Creek supposed to “be the EXCEPTION? Instead we are working overtime to do what everyone else is doing. We are establishing and operating every aspect of government all the other cities around us have implemented. Rather than challenge ourselves and ask “Is this really necessary any longer” we continue to keep collecting the tax dollars and doling them out on projects and causes that any rational person would not claim is fundamentally boosting tourism.

Working overtime is not an understatement as this issue has been addressed for many valuable hours. Think about that. What might all the costs be so far between staff hours, emails, work session meetings, council meetings and behind the scene conversations? If time is money, we should consider how much time is allocated for these issues. Better yet we should eliminate this from being an issue in the first place. Eliminate the Hotel/Motel tax.

Johns Creek had revenues of 88.6 million dollars in 2018(source:CAFR Johns Creek).

The dollars the CVB has to spend is less than 1/3 of 1% of the annual revenues for Johns Creek and yet it has consumed so much time of the seven council members for the last 6 months.

What’s Wrong With Giving Tax Dollars to a Volunteer Group to Spend as they See Fit?

Everything of course. Taxes take money by force. As a taxpayer you have no choice. Want a hotel room in Johns Creek? You’ll pay the tax.

Ironically, we all know that tax dollars are wasted at the local, state and federal levels. Yet no one with the power to actually do something about that waste does so when they have the chance. We do now. Eliminate the Hotel/Motel tax.

I’ll be blunt. Having an “expert” decide what we are missing is Gateway Markers is a farce. It’s always puzzled me why in a City with the highly educated residents we have, we seek opinions and hire people outside of Johns Creek. Why not spend the money we collect locally and boost our own economy?

We have a manufactured “problem” that government must now fix. And rest assured, the consultant was going to find something. Somehow more than 80,000 of us live in Johns Creek and yet the issue is that some people do not know where the City Lines are located. And that is what ails us?

Who knows where Brookhaven ends and Buckhead starts at every entrance? Vinings and Smyrna? Suwanee and Duluth? Does that really drive your dining decisions? Your business decisions? Your choice of doctor?

These are “political” boundaries. They are not OUR boundaries. You cannot force people to self-identify because of your arbitrary legal boundaries.

Have you considered that during the Comprehensive Land Use Plan process, we constantly heard about the different Character Areas. Residents do not know where one ends and one begins. Yet somehow we know who we are.

Or do we? Are we mere sheep waiting for the City Government to tell us who we are and what we represent? Are you? Not me.

I’m reminded of all the drug commercials on TV. I did not even know I had a problem until I saw the commercial. Now I need to call the doctor to find out how to resolve my newfound issue. Yet before that commercial, I was perfectly content.

That’s how it works when you give “experts” lots of money to come in and tell you what you are missing. If you don’t already know, then you must not be missing it.

While the CVB has been asleep at the cash box, businesses in South Forsyth are calling themselves Johns Creek. There’s even a body shop three miles into Forsyth County calling itself a Johns Creek business(perhaps a Gateway Marker there is a good idea?)

“It’s a compliment”, Council Member Bradberry said when asked about it. And he is right.

Bradberry asked about return on investment for the three items that “CVB” wants to spend money(our tax dollars) on. They were:

  • The Wall That Heals
  • The River Corridor Greenway
  • Gateway Markers

While Bradberry did not get any answer that one could use, other Council Members saw the benefit. There was no return on investment cited other than it was something we were missing and needed.

Bradberry said “It would be great if people knew they were in Johns Creek because the streets were cleaner, the medians were beautiful and the traffic lights and intersections were such that traffic was better, and that is how you knew you were in Johns Creek- that we did it better than our neighboring cities”.

Bradberry is correct. That is leadership by example. Not leadership by Gateway Markers.

Bradberry’s desires are basic government functions. Nothing is stopping this Council from doing this today. Not money. Not time. Even Mayor Bodker seemed to acknowledge we were not doing as good as we once did.

Council Member Zaprowski believes it would be nice to have a Gateway Marker to help people find his business when giving directions. Seriously? Your patients do not use Waze for navigation? Google Maps? After all, Johns Creek is a Partner City. And we do have signs announcing Johns Creek is a partner with Waze at all of our entrances.

Zaprowski gets the award for the strangest logic of the evening. He was against Gateway Markers but voting for it and for the Greenway but was voting against it.

This City Council really needs to grow up. Wasting hours and hours on this is beyond ridiculous. For example, after six months of fiscal year 2019 we have $1,000,000 more in revenues and $1,000,000 less in expenses. That’s $2,000,000 that only one Council Member asked about. Council Member Endres asked several questions while the City Manager gave brief and less than helpful generic responses. This is the same Council that could not see fit to cut property taxes despite the overwhelming evidence presented by Council Member Endres that we were actually increasing taxes.

The same City Council that will spend dozens of hours debating BS “feel-good gotta do something” projects seem to be blind to the multi-million dollar issues.

It needs to quit treating tax dollars as charitable contributions and the CVB as a benefactor. It needs to address the real issues.

Of course that is really hard work. And it is certainly more mundane. The truth is that they will spend less time debating the millage rate this summer than they have spent on Gateway Markers.

This Council would rather dream and fantasize on pie in the sky concepts rather than follow through with the major issues that are most important to the majority of residents within Johns Creek. At the last meeting they bumped the Police Chief and Public Safety for Gateway Markers. Think about that!

“Be the Exception”-how long before we get rid of that slogan and adopt a new one:

Same as Everyone Else

A government cannot define us. An artist will not define us. Gateway Markers will not define us. We do not need outsiders to come in and tell us who we are.

Government can identify us but it will never define us. The moment we let government define us is the moment we have lost who we are. We should be defining government instead.

The sooner the majority on this Council gets that concept, the better off we will all be.

And if you are waiting for the proposal from the CVB so that you can see what we are, then you are part of the problem.

This problem is NOT going away, unfortunately. Next year will have even more dollars to allocate. And as long as they get tax dollars, we will face this issue.

End the Hotel/Motel tax. It’s a minute amount of our budget. And it’s a waste of time and resources to continue to debate these issues.

If they are worth doing, then do them out of the General Budget, and be accountable.

Do that and we can be exceptional.

The very last thing we should want to see in the fall are Gateway Markers this City Council is compelled to approve because they are now to far down the road to say no.

You should have said no in the first place.

The Property Tax Model is Broken Beyond Repair

Let’s be honest. The system of collecting taxes for county, city, and school taxes is broken. And the larger the area dependent on funding from property taxes, the more broken it becomes. North Fulton County residents pay tremendously more for the same county services than South Fulton residents.  Why?

Here are three reasons it needs to be scrapped:

  1. There is no correlation between the amount of taxes you pay and the amount of “services” you receive.

A family of six living in a $500,000 home and a family of two living in a $500,000 home, pay the same property taxes if they live in the same community.  Why?  What makes us feel its fair to collect three times as much tax on a per capita basis from one family than another?  What if the family of two lives in a home worth one million?  What makes it right to collect six times as much for the very same levels of services?  Should I mention that the family of six likely creates more demand for services than the family of two as well?

When property values are high, and tax rates are high, this can have the effect of driving out empty nester residents to avoid the high levels of taxes relative to the services they receive for those tax dollars.

2.  Property values rising(and falling) should have no impact on how much tax revenue is needed to run your county, cities, and schools.

We’ve seen property values fall during recessions and rise during better times.  This should have nothing to do with how many dollars are needed to provide services in your community.  Yet we have made the tax digest the first step in the taxation process, followed by each government agency voting on the millage rate to be applied to that tax digest.  Elected officials vote far more often on how much they will tax you than you have a chance to vote on whether or not they should remain in office.

Let’s add to that the huge infrastructure we now have in place at the Tax Assessor’s office to track every piece of property, every structure, and every improvement you make to your home, all in the effort to make sure every $ of real estate(real or imagined) is taxed.

Why on earth should you owe the government more dollars because you decided to finish your basement or add a deck?

The perverseness of this likely discourages residents from making improvements to their properties.

How much time and energy is used by the Tax Assessor’s office to gather all of this information?  How accurate is it?  Is it worth it?  Who is really benefitting?

3.  How many hours of effort will the Public spend appealing these assessments?

If 1/4 of the households in Johns Creek appeal, that could be as high as 7,000 homes.  Spend five hours on this process, and cumulatively we will have spent 35,000 hours fighting our high assessments.

Instead, why don’t we take a moment and consider a different system?  We do not tax each resident within an HOA a variable amount do we?  It’s a flat rate per household.  While not necessarily the same on a per capita basis, it is a fairer system than taxing each household based upon the value of their property.

What would a fixed property tax collected per residence look like?  First, it would treat all of us as equally as possible.

We would not need an army of government employees tracking our properties, needing to know everything about the inside and outside of our homes.

We would never have to appeal property taxes in the future.

Our governments would be accountable to us directly for the rate of taxation we face, and there would be no finger-pointing as to who is to blame.

The current system of taxation has more expensive property owners subsidizing the less expensive property owners.  In a society where wealth redistribution is frowned upon by most of us, it is curious to me why we are so willing to allow tax redistribution with property taxes, where the level of services received are so far removed from what the property owner pays in taxes.

Johns Creek could lead the way to a better model of taxation for its residents.  It’s time we slay the beast that taxation based on property values has become.   Taxation should not be unfair or onerous.

It’s time for a change.  Contact your locally elected officials and tell them you want a different system.  Tell them you want a better, more equitable system.

On the Cusp of a Recession, Washington Fiddles

Can’t blame Trump the impending recession.  But he took the bait and credit for the “trump rally” when he should have kept a more realistic tone.  He already had won the presidency.  But the media and the left will make sure he owns it.

There are many hard decisions that must be made. Repeal Obamacare, lower taxes, reduce regulations. Curtail the EPA.  Not any one piece of legislation can cure what ails us.

The US is like a patient that has been given a prescription for every little ailment. Some politician complained and a “prescription” was written into law.  And now all the “solutions” are interacting to make the patient sick. Continue reading

Picking Winners and Losers: How Our State Government Functions (Georgia Musical Investment Act)

Georgia’s State government is pretty much like every other government.  They love the idea of picking winners and losers.    Whether or not your business or sector is a winner or a loser is going to depend on a lot of things, but it will not depend on being equal under the law.


 

HB 155
Georgia Musical Investment Act

A BILL to be entitled an Act to amend Article 2 of Chapter 7 of Title 48 of the Official Code of Georgia Annotated, relating to the imposition, rate, and computation of and exemptions from state income taxes, so as to create an income tax credit for certain expenditures by a production company related to certain state certified musical or theatrical productions or recorded musical performances; to provide for rules and regulations and an application process related to such income tax credit; to provide for certain conditions and limitations; to provide for definitions; to provide a short title; to provide for related matters; to repeal conflicting laws; and for other purposes.

We apparently need to offer tax credits to production companies to the tune of 15% for Production Companies to come to the State of Georgia.  And if they locate into one of the 100 poorest counties, they could get an additional 10% credit.

And while the tax credit is limited to $5 million the first year, it will expand to $15 million by year three.

If Georgia politicians want a better business environment, then why do they not lower taxes for ALL Georgia businesses?  What game are we playing here?

Is the music industry in crisis?  Is there a reason that they need additional support from the State of Georgia?  Frankly, it doesn’t matter.

When government picks winners, they also pick losers.  Government should not be in that job.

Supply and demand should pic winners and losers.  And under the law, it should not matter if you have started a Music business or a Automotive Repair Shop.  Each should be treated equally.

It’s no wonder the American Public looks at government with disdain.  So much time and energy is spent attempting to engineer outcomes when they should only be administering the framework, and not determining outcomes.

By the way, it passed 157-11 in the Georgia House.  Now it goes before the Senate.  Let’s hope they have a little more common sense.

 

It’s a Privilege to Do Business in Georgia(and So You Must Pay)

Yes, indeed, it is a privilege to do business in Georgia.  I am not speaking from the eyes of the business owner who is grateful of where he has chosen to open his business.  Instead I am speaking of how government views you and your business enterprise.

And as it is such a privilege, the State of Georgia taxes you for that privilege.

Senate Bill 133 brought that to my attention as they are attempting to remove this tax for businesses of a certain size.  It will still be a privilege to have a business, for that language will not be removed, but some businesses will be exempt.

http://www.legis.ga.gov/Legislation/en-US/display/20172018/SB/133?utm_source=Copy+of+Eyes+and+Ears+-+GaPundit+for+Feb+27%2C+2017&utm_campaign=GaPundit+Todd+Rehm+Georgia+Politics+04202015&utm_medium=email

Continue reading

The Federal Reserve Bank: Pumping Fuel onto the Bonfire of Inflation

We are in very uncertain times.  And they are becoming more uncertain.  The Federal Reserve Bank(FRB) just raised interest rates .25% and has stated it is their objective to raise rates perhaps 3 times in 2017, in an effort to effectively curb inflation.

And while that may seem to make sense based on the way both the FRB has worked in the past, and what we have been told about inflation and how it works, these actions, perversely, are going to have the opposite effect this time around.  Should I be correct, then the raising rates will actually fuel inflation, which will force more rate hikes, and then even more inflation. Continue reading

Johns Creek: It’s In Your Best Interest to Stop TSPLOST

The vote Johns Creek residents will take on the TSPLOST 0.75% tax is critical to understand.

Voters are being presented with the opportunity to raise the taxes on themselves, which will effectively increase the spending and size of the Johns Creek City government by 29.7%.  That is not insignificant. Continue reading

Are Our High Quality Schools Sustainable With High Density Housing?

There is another problem with High Density housing that you will not hear any politicians speak about in public.  I am not a politicians, and so I will.

The health of your schools is threatened with higher density housing.  Why?  Because a townhouse that sells for $300,000 will pay 1/2 the school taxes that a house that sells for $600,000 will.  If  both homes have two kids in school, the impact is significant. Throw an apartment complex into the equations and the fiscal impact on schools becomes even  more significant.

It costs $13,433 per student per year to educate children in Fulton County.  No small amount.  Property taxes are essential to school funding(especially those property taxes coming from people with no children in school).

Assuming 12 years of education per student, that totals  $161,196, quite a large sum.

For our example, we will consider an apartment, a townhome, and a single family home.

Based on my calculations from the number of units at some of our most valuable apartment complexes here in Johns Creek, an apartment unit is valued round 110,000 for tax purposes.

Apartment Townhome House
Value $110,000.00 $325,000.00 $500,000.00
School Taxes $1,284.05 $2,918.30 $4,961.11
Cost per Student 13433 13433 13433
% Covered 9.56% 21.72% 36.93%

(The above taxes are from the 2016 tax rates, and assume homestead exemptions have been applied for on the Townhome and house.)

As you can see, apartment dwellers and Townhome dwellers pay far less towards the education of a student than does a homeowner who lives in a more expensive property.

The math makes it clear.  If you continue to add more and more students who are in households contributing less to the cost of education, either property taxes will need to rise significantly or the cost of the education will need to drop sharply, reducing the quality of that education.

And none of this would even be possible today at these tax rates were it not for households with no children contributing to the system even though they have no children in school

Which leads us to this question:  How smart is it for communities to continue adding high density housing, which puts the same strain on school financing economics when you know that they are going to contribute substantially less to those very same schools?

 

Worsening Economic Conditions: Where’s the Growth?

Today’s GDP report paints a bleak picture.  GDP for the first quarter was revised down to 0.8%.  The second quarter of 2016 came out at 1.2%, and will likely be revised lower.

Here is what they also released, but are not talking about:

Corporate profits before and after taxes have also been revised back to the first quarter of 2013.  And it is bleak.

Remember that businesses do not go into business just to sell you goods and services.  They do so to sell you goods and services to generate profits.

Would you trudge off to work every day to earn less than you did last year? And less than you did two years ago?  Or would you make some changes? Continue reading