Ponderings of a mad man?

ROBERT KEPLER

Renovo

I attended the Clinton County commissioners’ meeting on Aug. 27 about the $5 vehicle registration tax. At the meeting, everyone was given a pamphlet about how the tax would work and what the money from this tax could be used for.

Page 3 of the pamphlet was about dispelling myths and other questions about the $5 tax.

Myth No. 2 stated, “We are only doing this because three adjacent counties are doing it. Not so. Lycoming, Centre, and Union counties have this fee in place. The commissioners considered what adjacent counties were doing only because we would not want to impose the fee and then leave us at an economic disadvantage because nearby counties weren’t charging the fee and businesses would chose to relocate to avoid the fee.”

The first thing wrong with those statements are that the commissioners are admitting this tax could cause businesses to relocate to avoid the tax. So why do it? Why even think about passing it? Aren’t the commissioners concerned about economic development? There is already funding available for roads and bridges through Act 89, but no one at the county level seems to want to take the time for the application process. It’s easier to raise taxes.

Further, the commissioners are basically saying to businesses, “Too bad for you … where else can you go because everyone else is charging the same tax.” What?

Another thing wrong with those statements are the commissioners considered what adjacent counties imposed this tax because they didn’t want businesses leaving Clinton County to a county that didn’t have the tax. But since Union, Lycoming and Centre counties already impose the tax, businesses would sort of be boxed into Clinton County if they pass this tax. Sort of like “too bad for you, where else can you go because everyone else charges the same tax!”

The third thing wrong with these here statements is the commissioners fail to realize that, by not passing this tax, Clinton County would have an economic advantage over Centre, Lycoming and Union counties. Just maybe some businesses would locate here because it would be cheaper to do business! Imagine that, making it cheaper to live in Clinton County and attract businesses at the same time. Wow, these are crazy thoughts, right? Almost sounds like a conservative Republican way of thinking!

Myth No. 3 states, “Why waste your money on rail-trails. Use this money for roads and bridges. We can’t. … PennDOT monies collected are then allocated for very specific purposes. They have set aside a multi-modal fund for things such as rail-trails, railroads, public transit, bikeways, etc. This is a separate pot of money and if Clinton does not pursue grants from these funds, other counties will claim it. We have successfully obtained millions of dollars here for such purposes; money we would not have otherwise and you can’t spend it on anything other than the project(s) that qualify.”

The most disturbing part of Myth No. 3 is the quote by the commissioners, “This is a separate pot of money and if Clinton does not pursue grants from these funds other counties will claim it.” When I read this quote it made my blood boil. They call hard-earned taxpayers’ money for which they are fiscally responsible a pot of money they just found at the end of a rainbow! And then to say if they don’t spend it, other counties will!

This is what we are up against folks, commissioners spending our money on frivolous projects just so other counties can’t spend the money. The commissioners are acting like two hogs at a trough, where one will eat the food so the other one can’t have it! How many other commissioners in Pennsylvania are thinking the same way? Has it all just become a competition to see who can spend the most taxpayers’ money on as many projects you can dream up, all the while telling us this is going to be good for the people and economic development?

No wonder Pennsylvania is going bankrupt! Hundreds of grant and funding programs and every cent comes out of the taxpayers’ pockets. The commissioners are proud of the fact that they have acquired millions of dollars for Clinton County all in the name of helping us. And with their help, we now have an increase in blighted properties, homelessness, poverty, seniors in need of housing, rising crime and a drug problem.

The commissioners said Flemington Borough supports this $5 fee. And according to an article in The Express, Flemington also thinks a county with progressive leadership will help attract new residents and industry to our county.

So the progressive way of thinking is the more you tax its residents, the more economic development you will have. This is because progressives believe they can spend your money better than you can and they will help you in the process. Never worked and never will!

If spending millions of dollars of taxpayers money is good for Clinton County, then why has the population been stagnant for years? Why has Lock Haven lost 500 residents in the last seven years? Why did Clinton County just qualify for three opportunity zones because we are an economically distressed area?

Where is the growth from all this spending?

The only thing growing is our taxes!

Three municipalities support this $5 tax because they have projects that need funded. What is really sad is that, with over $3 million of Act 13 (gas fee) money being poured into county municipalities over the last five years along with Act 89 funding programs, the commissioners still don’t have the money for three municipalities.

The commissioners say they are being transparent about this $5 tax and would also be transparent about how its spent. Then let’s see the actual cost so far for the rail trail! The commissioners said that it cost $100,000 to pave one mile of municipal road. My question is, what is the estimated cost per mile for the rail trail?

You did have estimates done before you started this project, right? Or was this just another feel-good project and cost doesn’t matter?

So far, you spent $1.08 million on 860 feet of a railroad bridge for the rail trail with taxpayers money from PennDOT. In May, you approved up to $255,357 of taxpayers’ money from the county general fund. This was for engineering, fencing, fence installation and a drain pipe. You also approved an hourly rate for Pine Creek Township to lay the surface and grade it. What is this hourly rate? What is the estimated cost?

The rail trail will be 11 miles long when finished. So far, the cost per mile is $122,050, according to my math! This figure does not include the hourly rate for Pine Creek Township or the part of the trail that is already finished.

There are many miles to finish yet. The cost per mile is more than paving a municipal road! Imagine that, we are being told by the commissioners they need to tax us more because they don’t have enough money for roads and bridges, all the while spending our hard-earned money on a bike path! If there is so much interest in a bike trail, why not start a go-fund-me page and let people donate?

Where’s the fiscal responsibility? Why would the commissioners be spending taxpayers’ hard earned money on something that is not necessary, while Clinton County is a distressed community?

Does the cost of this bike trail and it’s so-called benefits to the community outweigh the damage that is being done to our county in the form of higher taxes, blighted homes, poverty, increased crime, drugs and seniors in need of housing?

I say it doesn’t!

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