The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA


January 26, 2014

Readers' Forum 1-26 | City leaning harder on financial crutch

JOHNSTOWN — Johnstown City Council adopted the city’s budget on Dec. 30, which included the same old dependency on Act 47 earned income tax, aka the commuter tax.

Council was quick to announce that the tax will provide for two additional police officers, a codes position and funding for pension obligations.

The city’s continued reliance on the commuter tax revenues will, at some future date, bite the taxpayers where the sun doesn’t shine. None of the current elected or appointed city officials were involved when the federal government on September 1987 ended revenue sharing, of which Johnstown had been receiving approximately $1 million.

Until that time, the fire and police departments were each manned by approximately 56 positions. The loss of these funds resulted in police and fire staffing being reduced to approximately 44 positions each.

Fortunately, most of the reductions were covered by retirements, but the manpower was never able to reach those levels in years since.

This same scenario is now in the making through the reliance on commuter tax money, which remains a Johnstown fiscal crutch subject to approval by the state Department of Community and Economic Development. In 2006 and 2007, it refused to give such approval.

When will council face the reality that the city can no longer continue to spend more than the taxpayers can pay? The breaking point, if not yet here, is closer than council realizes or will admit to.

And keep in mind that council has flushed, or is in the process of flushing, most of us with its sewer fiasco.

Jack Williams


County fixated on unproven ideas

I feel compelled to respond to Martin Yahner’s Readers’ Forum letter on Jan 13, “Commissioners deserve our thanks.”

Let’s first address zero-base budgeting. This approach has caused the commissioners to borrow another $5 million to pay off the previous $10 million that they could not pay because of poor money management and programs like the foreign trade zone that Yahner spoke of that Richland Township hasn’t approved or even been approached about.

This will result in the county adding another $1 million in interest and loan documentation fees. If you fall short of paying the original $10 million tax loan, grabbing $5 million more doesn’t seem like sound financial practice to me.

County records show that more than $250,000 has been spent or budgeted for the foreign trade zone, which has produced zero jobs and not one ounce of wine.

Unproven ideas using taxpayers’ monies is what causes the county to fall short of paying or meeting its debt obligation.

Or consider the closing of a senior center in Nanty Glo to cut costs, then a year later hand out $7,500 to one individual to oversee other senior centers. It is another example by the county of cutting services to people who need it and then handing the money out for useless information.

The commissioners’ responsibility is to provide services to taxpayers that need them, not to create jobs. Leave that to the private sector. When government creates jobs, taxes go up right along with their debt.

David Gehlman


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