Gateway Markers, The CVB, Volunteers and Tax Payers: What a Waste of Money

Everything that is wrong with Government can be seen in this Process

One has to look no further than the debate on Gateway Markers and the desire of some Council Members to give the “volunteers” what they want when it comes to spending taxpayer monies to understand what is wrong with government.

“They gave it great consideration and they came back with the same recommendation and added further data to it, so to me it’s supporting the people we ask to work on a volunteer basis for the city.” -Council Member Steve Broadbent

What about the actual taxpayers Council Member Broadbent? The ones that are forced to work for government? Have you considered what it takes to actually earn the monies you are suggesting being spent on “Gateway Markers”?

A total of $508,900 was collected in fiscal year 2018 by the Hotel/Motel tax. Council Members forget that this money had to be earned before it could be collected and then spent by volunteers on frivolous endeavors through the Convention Visitors Bureau(CVB).

IT IS NOT FREE MONEY

At 7% that represents revenues of 7.27 million dollars in hotel/motel sales to collect.

If you divide the $508,900 by an average hourly wage of $25 per hour, that equals 20,356 hours of labor. This is not volunteer labor, but effectively forced labor to support these endeavors such as painted pedestrian tunnels(A cultural attraction according to the CVB), gateway markers and kiosks in hotels that effectively do the same thing as Yelp and Google(only worse-you cannot carry it with you).

While the entire amount proposed to be spent on Gateway Markers is much less, the issue is the same.

Assume we spent $50,000 on Gateway Markers, that would represent 2,000 hours of labor at a minimum. Let’s weigh that against the time of “volunteers” in making these decisions.

Certainly the bar should be much higher on how this money should be spent other than “volunteers worked hard.” Certainly the money should be spent in a way that shows a real return on the investment by the taxpayers that paid it, even more so than the volunteers that offered to spend it?

If Council Member Broadbent and others feel that being a volunteer qualifies you to spend taxpayer money(and this is what we are talking about), then I would like to volunteer to decide how to spend some of the budget surpluses generated by this City each and every year.

And I would bring you a list of proposals AND return on investments that are specific and quantifiable, not pie in the sky “we should do it because some marketing people said so”.

What should concern you the tax payer is that if they are this frivolous with tax payer dollars on this issue what keeps them from being frivolous with spending on other issues?

The answer is they spend frivolously very often, rarely demanding a real return on investment for taxpayers(have you seen the lights along Kimball Bridge). Instead, it’s about optics. It’s about feeling good. It’s not about real returns.

Council Member Zaprowski wants to pursue the Gateway Markers now. He seeks it so much that he is willing to push aside a greenway along the river which would benefit all residents. Would residents benefit from Gateway Markers? Of course not. A greenway? Absolutely.

Just look at the activity in Roswell along the river or in Sandy Springs along the river. Is there any question that it attracts people and provides health benefits to boot? How can someone even question which would be best for Johns Creek in the long term?

The residents of Johns Creek have given this Council what it sought in past elections: A Parks Bond and a TSPLOST Tax. More and more money. Before you ever do this again, you need to ask yourself if you can trust them with millions if they are willing to waste thousands.

Residents have made it clear we want to get traffic moving. Yet we have spent more time on this issue and seen more passion from Broadbent and Zaprowski on Gateway Markers than we have seen on getting traffic moving. It took months and months to get the traffic signals back on the agenda. And somehow the CVB and Gateway Markers are so important, this Council seems to have to address the issues again and again until the CVB gets what they want. Is this Council here just to give the CVB what they want?

I challenge this Council to demand a real return on investment on these tax dollars. Do not simply go along to appease the CVB. If that was what was intended, then the CVB would NOT need Council approval to spend these funds.

I ask each of you the following questions:

  • How much do you expect business to be boosted by a Gateway Marker in Johns Creek?
  • How are you going to measure this return on investment?
  • Which of you has chosen to do business in a city because of a Gateway Marker?
  • Which of you does not know when you enter or leave the City of Johns Creek?

Isn’t it time we quit spending money just because we have it? And since we cannot really spend it on something worthwhile, we will just spend it just to spend it.

I’ll be blunt. The hotel motel tax should be eliminated. The CVB should be disbanded. This City Council needs to work on the REAL Issues.

We do not need outsiders to come in and define us. We do not need Gateway Markers to “reflect” who we are.

We know who we are. Unfortunately, this City Council seems hellbent on redefining who we are. Maybe it’s this City Council does not like who we are. Or maybe this Council does not know who we are. They certainly seem out of sync with the majority within Johns Creek.

More importantly, they seem unwilling to say NO to bad ideas.

If we are going to put up a Gateway Marker, I’d suggest Dollars flowing into a paper shredder and pennies coming out of the bottom.

Wasting taxpayer money is no way to run a City. And rewarding “volunteers” for bad decisions should never happen.

Johns Creek Residents Should NOT Vote This Fall…

Residents of Johns Creek should not vote in this upcoming election if they are not familiar with the candidates, the major issues in Johns Creek and are basing their decisions on such variables as :

  1. You are not familiar with the issues we are facing such as potential widening of our roads to overcome the ineffective traffic light system we have today
  2. You are unfamiliar with the negative impact higher density housing has on our roads, schools, and property values
  3. You are basing your decision on the endorsement of an elected official, who just wants to avoid having someone challenge them on issues before the City Council
  4. You saw more signs for the candidate that you are going to vote for so you believe that is a sign of more support for that candidate(Signs for candidates are placed on the roads by the candidates and their crews-Signs in neighborhoods actually show you who your neighbors support but you still need to educate yourself!!!)
  5. You read their mailers to your home and they seem like a nice person

Residents of Johns Creek should vote IF:

  1. They have done their own research into the candidates
  2. They have watched the debates, forums, City Council Meetings and Work Sessions and see how these candidates actually think and function
  3. They understand that Johns Creek is at a crossroads.  Do we become Buckhead or stay Johns Creek.

Continue reading

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.

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

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Georgia’s 6th Congressional District: Proof The House of Representatives Should Double in Size

Georgia’s 6th Congressional District is providing the nation a very clear message.  There are too few Congressional seats, and each one represents too many voters.

The resignation of Tom Price, a Republican from Georgia, and now running Health and Human Services has set off a mad scramble for his vacated seat.

And at $5250 dollars to enter the race, there were no shortage of people wanting to participate in the chase for the seat.  The winner of this race will likely have it for as long as they desire. Continue reading

The Naked Truth About (Subsidized) Wages

If you have read my work over the years, then you know that I am not a proponent of Minimum Wage.  An adult should be able to work for anyone at an agreed price.

However, a new issue has come into my view I did not realize existed until recently.

Apparently there are groups out there (think Chamber of Commerce) that works with your local governments to hold wages down by:

A)  Making sure that there is Affordable Housing in your area so their workers can live nearby

B) Making sure there is mass transit options so that low cost workers can get to the businesses that want to hirer low cost employees(A Chamber Objective for sure) Continue reading

The Trump Card: VETO

As Trump moves forward to become President of the United States(POTUS), you’d think that things were chaotic in DC.  Nothing could be further fro the truth.  Yes there are some that are getting their feathers ruffled(and that is a good thing).

If you want to see if Trump is actually draining the swamp in DC, watch just how many times he uses his Veto Power.  Because if Congress is not getting vetoed legislation sent back to them, then you will know that the Swamp is not being drained.

Yes, the Veto can be overridden.  But that takes compromise among those under the Capital Dome.  And we have not seen that sort of cooperation for decades.  Instead we have had the majority run over the minority not based on solid ideas and concepts, but on sheer force.

Trump can change that quickly and effectively.  Trump, hopefully, will not have favorite stooges under the Capital Dome.  Hopefully, he will spread out who he goes to to push forward valuable legislation.

Most importantly, Trump can Veto the thousands of Executive Orders put forth by Obama and Company, and do so quickly.  Trump, who feels precedent has no value whatsoever, will do more the first week by reversing the bad choices of Obama, than any other POTUS in modern history.

And that is a good thing.

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

What’s Undermining Residential Real Estate Values in the City of Johns Creek?

Johns Creek receives many accolades throughout the year, and 2016 has not been an exception to that trend.

For many residents, concern over ever higher densities of residential real estate developments such as apartments and town homes has been a major concern.  But the City of Johns Creek pushes ahead with ever more high density development with seemingly arbitrary lines drawn as to where the higher densities are permissible and where they are not.

Residents did not directly vote on these issues.  They only have cast votes for those that decide on these issues.  And as history has shown, there are not a plethora of voters that even bother to make their voices heard.  That, however is changing.

There is a cost to current residents as more and more of these high density developments are approved and put into place.

Let’s ask the residents of Johns Creek who were here in 2007.  Taking the data from the 2015 CAFR report (you can find it here:  http://www.johnscreekga.gov/JCGA/Media/PDF-Finance/2015-cafr.pdf ) on page 61 shows Johns Creek had a population of 70,050 and a residential tax digest (page 79) of $3,215,735,140.

A simple calculation reveals that in 2007 we had $48,727 of residential real estate per resident.

How have the residents of 2007 fared over the course of the last 8 years?  Well, not so well.  Using the population counts and the residential tax digest from the same pages mentioned above, we can see that residents of Johns Creek  have seen that number drop to $40,117 per resident, a decline of 17.67%.

Residential Property Value Per Capita
Year Residential Property Population
2007 $3,215,735,140.00 65994 $48,727.69
2015 $3,333,836,970.00 83102 $40,117.41
-17.67%
Source: Johns Creek CAFR 2015

Why are residents from years past seeing such a drop in values for their community at large over time? The drop in housing prices from the recession is behind most communities in our area and should certainly be behind us in Johns Creek.

I’ll blame that in large part to the additional higher density housing which has been added over the years and continues to be added even as we speak.

Those that move into higher density developments are those that are not buying the current real estate stock we have in Johns Creek.  Fewer buyers for that real estate naturally lowers the selling prices of the real estate.  Yes indeed, the supply and demand curve you had to learn about in high school and college is actually meaningful.

Additionally, all of this “new” higher density living is coming in at average price points below what the average homes in Johns Creek are worth.

So we have less demand lowering selling points and lower prices units pulling down the averages as well.

Also interestingly enough the amount of commercial real estate per resident is rising.

Commercial Property Value Per Capita
Year Commercial Property Value Population
2007 $691,897,960.00 65994 $10,484.26
2015 $879,818,130.00 83102 $10,587.21
0.98%
Source: Johns Creek CAFR 2015

So as residential property values fall per resident, commercial property values are rising per resident.

I doubt that has been the objective of many of the residents within our community.  Those that reside on Findley Road at City Hall are undoubtedly happy about this outcome, however.

After all, they are the ones who continue to vote and push us along this path of more commercial development and higher density housing.