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Math Skills Deteriorate as the Circus Turns Uglier

The December 6 LST council meeting was an amazing display of how the controlling interests of the council are so dramatically lacking in math skills and how, because of that, they continue to pass along bogus information to township residents.  Where to begin?

Steel Club Phase III

How about with the discussion about the approval of the Steel Club Phase III?  In his pimping for the final Land Development Plan, Banonis let fly some whoppers.  Of course, he does this with no printed materials so it’s impossible to catch him in real time.  You have to go back and either watch the video or wait for the meeting minutes to come out to realize how much you’ve been lied to.

But here we go.

“He [Banonis] also looked at the taxes and they [the Steel Club] currently pay taxes to the Township in the amount of $147,000.00 and with the added property value from 159 total homes that are in LST, which will be an added property value of $100 million to $125 million.  That’s a pretty substantial increase in overall value to the Township.  That tax revenue translates into roughly $3.0 million to $3.75 million of tax revenue to the Township based upon those residences when constructed.  Again, that is a substantial amount of the Township’s budget, probably represents about a third of what the Township currently receives in taxable revenue.”1

Uh, no.  Not even close.

In order for 159 homes to have a property value of $100 million, that would mean they would each have to be worth an average of $628,931.  Okay, apparently Spirk thinks that’s the level at which he’s going to sell these townhouses.  However, at a millage rate of 3.64 (the new rate that was stupidly passed at this meeting – more on that later), that would deliver an additional $364,000 in real estate taxes – not $3 million. Someone missed a decimal place.  Does anyone bother to check the math on this crap that spews out of Banonis’ mouth?

If you want to check this a different way, consider that Banonis says that the Steel Club currently pays $147,000 in taxes. And suddenly 159 new homes are going to increase the tax base more than 20 times?  The current assessed value of ALL the taxable real estate in the Township as shown in the 2024 budget is $458,133,800 which is calculated to deliver $1,675,800 in real estate taxes which represents both General Fund taxes and Fire Tax assessments.  And just 159 more homes is going to add an additional $3 million in taxes?  In your dreams.

Not only that, but his $3 million tax number would mean those 159 homes would produce almost 1½ times the amount of money as the fees from the landfill each year.  If that’s the case, then by all means build the houses and close the landfill!

Reducing Real Estate Millage

Once again, just like in November, we were presented with the spiel about how we have SO much in reserve that we really need to be giving money back to our taxpayers so we need to reduce the millage, which is the rate used to determine how much real estate tax you owe.  In November, Yerger and Inglis, in a rare display of independent thought, actually voted down Banonis’ idea of cutting the real estate tax in more than half, which would have gone quite a long way toward eating up those reserves.  

But Banonis was back this time to take another stab at the tax cutting idea and Yerger and Inglis were apparently cowed into submission to support a reduction.  Unfortunately, time had grown short and there were limits on how much of a change could be made in the already-advertised 2024 budget without having to re-advertise it.  The limit, according to mansplainer extraordinaire Lincoln Treadwell, was that “after the budget has been advertised you cannot increase any item in the budget by any major category by more than 25% or the entire budget, being your total budget number by 10% without re-advertising.”  If that makes no sense to you, that is verbatim what the Council minutes say.  Treadwell continued, “LST has its own administrative code that talks about the budget but if you were going to change the budget, increase the budget in any way by one of those percentages, the best practice would either be to keep it below those percentages or to readvertise the budget.”2

There then followed a completely indecipherable discussion about whether that meant they could decrease the millage by .75 and would that mean it would be 3.64 or 3.65.  They ended up passing one resolution #64-2023 which reduced the millage to 3.65 for the final adoption of the budget.  And then they passed a resolution #65-2023 which fixed the General-Purpose Tax Levy at 3.64 mills.  Which means, I believe, that based on the Council minutes, they passed a budget and a tax levy that are not balanced with each other.  Councilwoman-elect Victoria Opthof-Cordaro went on record as identifying this as a potential violation of the Sunshine Act since the two didn’t match up.  

The next day, Township Manager Mark Hudson sent around an email clarifying that the Township Real Estate Tax would be reduced to 3.64 mills and a new accompanying budget. Better late than never.

Now let me explain how this should have been done.  If they wanted to consider a reduction in tax millage, they should have requested Finance Director Gorman to put together a definitive budget with the proposed tax decrease AND the accompanying increase in the transfer required from reserve funds so that there would be time to review and analyze the effect of this kind of reduction.  That’s what should have been circulated as an attachment to the agenda.  However, the agenda gave NO HINT that a tax decrease was being considered.  The agenda item said, “Resolution #64-2023 – Final Adoption of the 2024 Proposed Budget.” And from the ensuing discussion at the meeting, Gorman was almost as blindsided as those in the audience.  Transparency at its finest.

Which brings me to two important points.

  1.  You have to pass a balanced budget.  If you want to reduce the real estate revenue, then you have to find a balancing source of revenue either by reducing an equal amount of expenses or, as this Council has loved to do, just transferring more money from the reserves (i.e. township savings).  So in addition to the $1.5 million in reserve transfers that were already included in the proposed 2024 budget to cover such items as the Easton Road ballfield, this new budget required an additional $336,700 be transferred from the Fund Balance to make up the missing revenue.  That number was not discussed in any detail as to the prudence of doing that.
  • The Proposed 2024 Budget was the budget that was put together at the direction of those who were controlling the township council over the last 2 years.  They told Gorman what they wanted.  They made sure it was in there, including another round of bonuses for all the employees.  The budget that was advertised was THEIR budget.  It did not include a tax reduction.  That’s the budget that they ran on.  And that’s the budget that Carocci went out of his way to pat themselves on the back for getting done before the election so that the voters could see what they were voting for.  So the budget was advertised in time to be voted on at the November 15 meeting.

And then along came the election on November 7 – which they lost.  And suddenly, at both the November 15 and the December 6 meetings there is this big push to reduce taxes.  Where was that in their original budget?  Nobody made them put together and advertise that earlier budget if they thought a tax reduction was in order.  And if they did, why didn’t they a) do it and b) campaign on it?  Because they never dreamed they would lose control. 

So now it’s time to put the screws to the incoming Council.  Not only have they raced to sign contracts for as much cost as they can find to junk up the budget (like the “accessories” for the ball field they’ll be pushing at the Dec. 6 meeting) but they’ve simultaneously reduced the tax revenues.  Why?

Two very obvious reasons:  1) so that when the new Council opens the budget in January and restores the tax rate to its previous level they can say, “see, we said they’d raise taxes” and 2) so that it will be harder to forego the blood money from the dump by continuing to fight the expansion.  That last point makes it pretty clear who they really report to.  There is no concern for the desires of the township residents who made their position clear in the past election.  This is all about serving the masters in Texas.

I will be making this point repeatedly over the next four years so that no one forgets who has caused whatever financial challenges the township might face.  You see, not only did they lose control of Council for this round, but they’ve lost it for the next round also since there will only be 2 empty seats in 2025.  The new council will have four years to right all the damage that these Bozos have wreaked and they can’t deal with that.

But Wait, There’s More Bad Math

Let’s start with Banonis again.  In discussion of the dump’s latest Preliminary Land Development and Lot Consolidation Plan we get this.  “Mr. Banonis said he’ll go first.  What he would point out is that tonight they heard from a total of 16 residents in opposition to this preliminary land development and lot consolidation application plan.  If the total township population is 11,000 or 12,000 people, let’s just say it’s 11,500 people, [editor’s note: it’s not. It’s 11,094 according to the 2020 census], that means the other 11,486 or 11,484 people, 11,484 people either don’t care about this or support it or couldn’t be here for some reason; and … what those 16 people represent is a total of 0.1% of the entire Township population so the other 99.9% either support this, don’t care or couldn’t be there for some reason.”3

But before long in the meeting, when discussing the number of responses that had been received on the township website about election concerns, Banonis responded to Manager Hudson’s report that there were 26 (!) responses of which some were “inappropriate,” that he’s “happy to see there’s 26 people, although all of them may not be very solid responses … and people have concerns about what took place.”  As a result of this overwhelming response, he wants all these survey results sent to the Elections Board Solicitor and the District Attorney for whatever handling the District Attorney sees fit on these issues.

What a hypocrite!  16 residents speaking out against the landfill is immaterial but 26 responding to the election survey – some of which were admittedly wobbly – requires follow-up with the DA!

And then my favorite one of the evening – Inglis.  I almost hesitate to address this because he’ll be gone in two weeks and we won’t have to listen to this nonsense from him, but as a math minor, it really annoys me when people can’t even bother to get the numbers right.  Plus he grabbed the same faulty logic and reasoning that Banonis was spewing all evening too. 

Inglis apparently had had enough of people criticizing his toadying votes and so he took the time to lash out.  The Council minutes report that “he’s heard a lot of comments about the election and what just transpired. Do you guys realize that over 60% didn’t vote which means 60% of the people in here don’t care.  Also, he got 40% of the leftover 40% so that makes it 76% and these are round numbers and probably higher… Mr. Inglis continued, request about 78% of the people, voting people in this Township, either do not care or support what they just did.  That is true. People you cannot argue with the numbers, that’s just what he’s saying.  60% don’t care and 40% of the leftover 40% voted for him, so that’s minimum 76% either do not care or support it.  Those are the facts.”  Well, no, they are laughably NOT the facts.

Below are the correct calculations for vote percentages for the council race in the November 7 election.  But more importantly, both Inglis and Banonis draw completely unsupportable conclusions from numbers, both Inglis’ electoral numbers and Banonis’ public involvement numbers.  There is absolutely no valid information that can prove why a voter did not vote; why a resident did not speak at a meeting, or why a resident did not send in an election survey response.  Unless you conduct a scientifically valid survey of those who did not participate in whatever you’re claiming, you don’t have a clue what their motivation was for their action.  Perhaps they were sick; perhaps they were out of town; perhaps they’re completely fine with how the people who are opposing the dump expansion are representing them so they don’t feel that they have to speak at the meetings; perhaps they don’t care; perhaps they like how the township’s currently being run.  Any, all or none of these might be true.  But what is also true, is that there is NO truth in claiming that you know, for a fact, what that person’s motivation was.

So no, Inglis, 76% (which was really 72.3%) cannot be claimed to either not care or to support you. THOSE are facts.  What you babbled was bull.

However, here is an interesting fact.  A 45.59% turnout rate for LST’s council race was much higher than the county turnout rate of 33.18% this year.  So something made those additional 12.41% show up. 

And Now the Ugly

At the end of the December 6 meeting, during the Council Reports portion of the agenda, Banonis displayed what could only be considered an enormous abuse of power.  He reported on a matter of private litigation between himself and others (including Carocci) against Councilwoman-elect Opthof-Cordaro and others that was a leftover from the 2021 campaign.  The litigation is not a township matter.  The Township is not involved in it.  It has cost the Township nothing because it has nothing to do with the Township.  He presented the matter in such a way as to smear Ms. Opthof-Cordaro’s reputation.  None of the details of this private litigation matter are appropriate for discussion in a public meeting and I will not repeat them here.  Ms. Opthof-Cordaro ably responded to his smears in the non-agenda comment portions of the meeting.  What he claimed does not affect the management of the Township or Ms. Opthof-Cordaro’s ability to serve the Township.  What it does reflect is the complete lack of integrity that Banonis has demonstrated over and over again in his time on the Council.  This is someone who will take whatever opportunity is offered to him to attempt to belittle and attack those who call him out.  All he manages is to heap slime on himself.

January 2nd can’t come soon enough.

1LST Council Minutes, 6 December 23, p. 9 of 28.

2LST Council Minutes, 6 December 23, p. 21 of 28.

3LST Council Minutes, 6 December 23, p. 15 of 28.

4LST Council Minutes, 6 December 23, p. 23-24 of 28.

5LST Council Minutes, 6 December 23, p. 17 of 28.

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