Election season is upon us. Signs are springing up everywhere. Candidate forums have been scheduled. And before you know it, the campaign spin will begin! The misleading ads will pollute your television. Your mailbox will be filled with digitally-altered photographs. So before my opponents pay tens of thousands of dollars to PR firms to try to manipulate the truth, let’s lay out the facts about the past four years. Just the facts.
- The county’s fund balance (“savings account”) at the end of 2011 (the last year before the Republican majority) was $41.5 million. The fund balance in 2015 is $16.3 million.
- After four years of Anderson/Courtney the county has an annual operating deficit of $5.9 million in 2015.
- In 2011 Westmoreland County received no revenue from the state natural gas impact fee, as it didn’t exist. Since 2012 Westmoreland County has received $8.5 million in new revenue from the impact fee.
- Yet over those same years, funding for conservation has been cut by 25 percent. Funding for public libraries cut by 21 percent. Funding for agriculture cut by 10 percent. Funding for economic development cut 23 percent. Funding for public education (Westmoreland County Community College) has been cut 23 percent.
- Tuition at the Community College went up nearly 25 percent for the 2015-2016 term.
- I voted against the past four budgets. I have never voted to raise taxes.
- Since the Great Recession of 2008, Westmoreland County’s unemployment number has been at or below both the state and federal unemployment number. In fact prior to Anderson/Courtney, it was better than the national average by a much greater percentage than it is today.
- A bond rating adjustment is not a reward for financial management. Bond ratings are a reflection of a borrower’s capacity to pay a debt and a plethora of external market and economic factors. It is adjusted when a public entity borrows more money, which Anderson/Courtney did in 2013. It was the first time in a decade that the county took on new debt.
- Westmoreland Manor, the county’s public nursing home, was once a five-star home. It is now a two-star facility, recently downgraded as a result of a state survey this summer that found dozens of deficiencies that threatened patient safety. It used to be at or near capacity on a regular basis. Recently, the census was as low as 370.
- The county pays a private management company $516,000 to operate the Manor. The company pays an Administrator and Director of Nursing $210,000 – a margin of $306,000. The company wanted taxpayers to pay a $4,250 fine from the state for their deficiencies. (http://triblive.com/news/westmoreland/8988544-74/county-facility-fines#axzz3mOgLALAb).
- You paid about $350,000 to employees to stay home after they were wrongfully terminated. The county’s former public defender was awarded $250,000 after he was fired. (http://triblive.com/news/westmoreland/8015453-74/bertani-fired-lawsuit#axzz3mOgLALAb). You paid the county’s former Human Resources Director about $63,000, plus healthcare benefits. The HR deputy director about $12,000, plus healthcare. And the county’s former Information Systems Director $10,500.
- The former Human Resources Director was paid $95,000/year. He was replaced by a private management firm making $216,000/year.
- Republican row officers have prevented similarly costly decisions, like when the Controller and Treasurer joined me in stopping a takeover of the county’s pension fund by a much more expensive consultant. (http://triblive.com/news/westmoreland/6468352-74/gallagher-pension-county#axzz3mOgLALAb).
- The Republican Controller filed a complaint this year with the District Attorney’s office, alleging Tyler Courtney made death threats against him. http://triblive.com/news/westmoreland/8217383-74/courtney-balzer-county#axzz3mOgLALAb).
As we enter the final month of the campaign, it is important to focus on the facts. My opponents are going to say all sorts of nasty things about me – and probably, sadly, even my family. They are going to make comparisons of me to the President, the Governor and any other politician of my party that they think is unpopular. They will try to take credit for all the good work you, our business and our labor communities have done to grow our local economy. They will try to take credit for everything good – and what we’ve always known to be good – about our wonderful county.
It’s all baloney.
They will do this to try to distract you from the truth here in Westmoreland County – the truth about the budget deficit and the shrinking surplus, the truth about costly and vindictive personnel decisions, the truth about the mismanagement of your money and your county government. And they will say it over and over again – thanks to a lot of money from Harrisburg politicians and professional PR firms.
The fact is, we can’t afford four more years of this.