Do you approve of Margaret D. Stock as Mayor?
Posted in the Butler Forum
#1 May 28, 2012
she is not able to make the tough decisions that would cut the fire department in half. The city is drowning in paying the fire department.
#2 Jun 20, 2012
It's not her decision to make alone.
The mayor, Council, and their attorney are negotiating with the Firefighters' union. If an agreement can't be reached, it will go to binding arbitration. The arbitrator then makes the decision.
#3 Jun 20, 2012
And the taxpayer gets stuck with the bill
#4 Jun 21, 2012
Yes. We get stuck with the bill.
As I understand it, the State Legislature gave unionized public safety workers binding arbitration in exchange for denying them the ability to strike. I personally believe an effort needs to be made to have the Legislature revist this issue.
If the city had applied for and been granted Act 47 status, it would likely have a lot more leverage in the current negotiations.
At this point, it seems the only solution is to continue the status quo; go broke; and let the bankruptcy court modify the union contracts.
#5 Jun 21, 2012
That explains alot, the state politicos are involved, they are an anchor that just keeps dragging Pa down
#6 Jun 27, 2012
To suggest that the only two options for the city are ACT 47 or bankruptcy is pretty far from the truth.
#7 Jul 7, 2012
Then what is your solution to bringing our public safety costs down to a sustainable level?
The "truth" is that this city can't continue borrowing money to support the services we came to expect when there were twice as many residents and many more businesses than exist today.
#8 Jul 7, 2012
Act 47 was changed LAST YEAR by the state supreme court. It now awards the employees binding arbitration awards that it did not previously. That makes it close to useless. It is no longer an option and good thing they did not do it.
#9 Jul 15, 2012
Thank you, Get Real, I wasn't aware of that.
So it seems we are at the mercy of the public employee unions and abitrators.
#10 Jul 16, 2012
I think I can offer much better solutions than a state run program that has a 25% success rate. I had a much longer post in the ACT 47 for Butler thread, but ill repost a shorter version here:
-Eliminate healthcare for the mayor and city council members.
-Establishment of a Butler Council of Governments, which would be a purchasing cooperative through which governments would pool their buying power to purchase such items as vehicles and health insurance at a cheaper rate.
-Utilization of a hybrid or volunteer fire department. Having a full time paid fire department in a community the size of Butlers is becoming a luxury we cannot afford. There are much larger, densely populated communities that have volunteer or hybrid departments, why don't we?
-Elimination of the Parks and Streets departments. Their duties such as grass cutting, pothole patching, salting the streets, etc would be contracted out to private companies at a much cheaper rate. The advantage would be cheaper wages and benefits and you would only be paying strictly for the services you need.
-Eliminating the dispatch function of the police department to the Butler County 911 center and utilization of part timers in the police department to reduce overtime.
-Utilization of more advanced measures of budgetary control such as zero based budgeting and capital budgeting, using employee performance tracking, and long term planning.
-Stop wasting thousands on boondoggles like the Penn Theatre.
Ideally, after following these recommendations, the government that would be left would consist of about half of the employees, but still be able to meet all of the needs of the citizens at a much lower cost. The mayor and council would then be able to take their newfound budget freedom and address the drug and crime problem, continue fixing the roads, and cut taxes.
Let me be clear here: my main reason for opposing ACT 47 is that it does not work! It does not work, because, most of the communities considering the program have problems deeper than what ACT 47 can fix, and Butler is a good example of that. Butler's main problem is not its collective bargaining agreements. Butler's main problem is that tax paying residents are fleeing the city due to its crumbling infrastructure and drug and crime infestation. The residents that are left are forced to shoulder a heavier burden. Look to New Castle, Aliquippa, Braddock and the list of other communities who have tried the ACT 47 experience and failed miserably.
Another problem with ACT 47 is its lack of accountability. Several of the communities that have gone this route have been stuck in the program in excess of a decade (in some cases for over 20 years!) and are none the better for it. Also, the city gains an extra layer of bureacracy, an ACT 47 administrator, who is unelected, and wields complete control over pretty much all matters finanical. For example, city council can pass a budget, but if the ACT 47 administrator does not approve of the budget it gets tossed into the waste basket. Furthermore, the city would not be able to exit ACT 47 without the approval of the state, and ultimately there would be little incentive for the city to want out anyway, seeing as how they would get additional grants and low cost loans.
In conclusion, if all else fails, I would prefer layoffs of workers to ACT 47. Sure, you might get lower quality services if layoffs occur, but at least the government would remain in control of the elected leaders, and not in control of an unelected bureaucrat.
#11 Jul 18, 2012
I agree with you 100% on elimnating medical coverage for Council members and the Mayor. A $2,500/year part time job with full medical coverage (or 80% reimbursement, if coverage is declined) is unheard of outside government. Bump the annual salary up some and eliminate the coverage. That at least makes it a fixed, rather than escalating, cost. Had I received a few more votes last fall, this would already have been on the agenda. The savings wouldn't mean much in the grand scheme of things, but it would show the taxpayers that Council is serious about saving every penny it can. Save enough pennies and you have a dollar. Save enough dollars and the city doesn't need to borrow $300,000 to "balance" it's budget.
Doesn't a Butler County Council of Governments already exist? I'm fairly certain that the city participate, at least on a small scale.
I have been preaching for years that this city can no longer support a full time Fire Dept. There are problems (which I won't go into here) with suddenly transitioning to an all volunteer department. In my opinion, a composite full time/paid responder system, transistioning over time to an all volunteer department is the way to go.
Contracting out the Parks Dept. services is a very good idea. One of us should discuss this with Lisa Guard.
My biggetst complaint with the Streets Dept. is the lack of PREVENTIVE maintenance. Instead of sealing cracks as they form, they let them become potholes, and let the streets deteriorate until they need to be completely resurfaced. Pure unadulerated idiocy! I have addressed this issue with Council several times in the past and intend to do so again on the 26th...this time by comparing the city's section of my street (recently resurfaced) with the section that's in the township (not in need of resurfacing).
I would have agreed with you about the dispatch/desk sergeant positon before a personal experience last year. Now I'm not so sure. But what about merging the township and city departments? I rarely hear that discussed even though it would save much more than eliminating the desk sergeant position.
Long term planning and budgeting has been a foreign concept to past Councils. Other than Joe Bratkovich, during his time as budget director, the only "long term planning" seems to have been "If we make it look good, it will be good".
I wasn't aware that the city had invested money in the Penn Theater other than the loss of property tax revenue. Yeah, grants and other forms of government "assistance" are just as costly, but the city's involvment isn't much more than shuffling paperwork.
In addition to Zero Based Budgeting, the budget needs to be balanced without borrowing unless a long term "return on investment" is expected.
This brings me to Act 47. The items discussed above could resolve at least some of the city's financial problems and/or lower the tax burden on its residents and businesses. Most of what you and I believe needs to be done is obvious...and has been for many years. So what hasn't it happened? It's never going to happen unless someone (either a state appointed overseer or the residents) FORCES council to act and then stands watch to make sure there's no backsliding.
I'm rethinking my stance on Act 47. And very few of the city's voters care enough to bother voting. Maybe the only way out is to let the city go bankrupt?
#12 Jul 21, 2012
A Butler County Council of Governments to my knowledge does not exist. In fact, Jeff Smith, who was running for county commissioner last year was pushing that idea. This was in the Butler Eagle prior to the last election:
"He doesn't believe the county would need to increase employees' health care contributions if it joined the COG Care program, a partnership with UPMC.
Smith spearheaded the creation of the program, which enables COG members such as municipalities and school districts to save money with an automatic 3 percent to 4 percent reduction.
He said the county, which is eligible to participate, could reset the benefits package with guaranteed rates. "
I understand your point about the fire department, and the truth is, any changes made to the fire department will have to be by transition, and it might take a decade to get to the end result. I would advocate getting the process started as quickly as possible because the longer they wait, the longer it will take to achieve savings. I ultimately think that they should look at having perhaps a handfull of full time paid firefighters, to be supplemented by part timers and paid volunteers.
My main point about the streets and parks department is this: go to the citys website and look at the budget for streets and parks wages. The total salaries paid to streets and parks workers is $378,000 for a total of 9 employees (that doesn't include overtime or benefits). That is an average of $42,000 a year. Given the current financial situation can the city really afford to pay workers $42,000 a year to cut grass or drive a salt truck? Contract workers would make a lot less and you wouldn't be paying for their benefits either. I also agree with you about caring for the streets. Why spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on resurfacing if they are going to need paved again in five years?
As far as the police department goes I think that the council should be open minded but cautious. Crime is a big deterrent to people and businesses moving into the city and you want to be sure that whatever cuts you do make will not spiral crime out of control. Moving the dispatch up to the Butler County 911 center seems to be one way of saving money without compromising services.
My opinion of Councilman Bratkovich is mostly negative, as I feel that he had several years on council to try to deal with these issues and never did. I also think his ideas, such as ACT 47, are ill conceived. I will give this to his credit though: he was the only council member during this debate who seemed to have any ideas about how to try to tackle this problem.
The city has given money to the Penn Theater as outlined in this 06-12-2009 article in the Butler Eagle titled: "Authority aims to raise money to remake Penn"
"He said Thursday that the authority has about $100,000 from previous grants, a pledge of $100,000 from the city and $500,000 in possible tax financing district funding from Butler's Centre City project available if the authority can demonstrate the theater will generate future tax revenue to allocate toward the theater's $3 million renovation cost. "
#13 Jul 21, 2012
I believe that the ideas that I condone would conservatively save close to a million dollars a year. Wouldn't that be preferable to declaring bankruptcy or turning control of the city over to a financial czar? I agree with you that most of what needs to be done is obvious so why hasn't it been done? Well, the answer to that is mostly laziness and lack of political will. They have simply chosen the path of least resistance. Making the fire department a hybrid will require a huge effort in terms of reorganization and recruitment of volunteers. Contracting out parks and streets will require bidding for contracts and losing the ability to appoint friends and cronies to positions in those departments. Switching the police to 911 will make a lot of people upset. So in reality, declaring ACT 47 or letting the city go bankrupt is an easier solution for council. Then when the voters are upset with the outcome, city council can raise their hands and say: Don't blame us, the ACT 47 coordinator did it! Or don't blame us, the bankruptcy court did it!
#14 Jul 23, 2012
I'm enjoying this disussion. "What's your solution?" is my standard question when discussing the city's finacial problems. Some of the responses I get are very good; some are not very well thought out...to put it mildly. Yours fall under the first catagory.
I had a discussion with Rick Shontz last week.
There definitely is a Butler County Council of Governments. The city has rented a crack sealing machine and bought maetial through it for each of the past few years. Have you seen any crack sealing done on any of our streets? neither have I. The problem is that they only rent the machine for one week each spring, allowing little time to actually accomplish anything...especially if it rains for a day or two of that week. Councilman Shontz seemed recetpive to my suggestion that they rent it for longer periods in the future. He also said he'd look into the feasibility of using "tar and chips" to seal some of our streets, which by his own admission would extend their life by 5 to 7 years.
We also discussed the possibility of merging the city and township Police Depts. He's been told, but doesn't know for sure, that it would actually cost more because the township officers have a higher wage/benefit package.
As I wrote earlier, I like your idea of eliminating the Parks Dept. I've always been curious about they do during the winter, so I've been asking around. So far, all I've come up with is that they clear the snow off sidewalks at bridges/viaducts and city owned buildings and parking lots. Seems like they wouldn't have much to do during a mild winter. A good first step might be laying them off for those months. Completely eliminating the Parks and/or Streets personell positions would need to be done at the end of a union contract. Probably too late for that to happen at this time.
I think Joe Bratkovich did the best he could considering the mindset of the people he had to work with. I haven't always agreed with him, but I feel that he always did what he truly believed was in the best interest of the city.
Thanks for the info on the Penn Theater. I'll need to look into whether or not the city fulfilled its pledge or still intends to. Waste of money in my opinion.
I intend to be at the Council meetings this week. Stop in if you can. I'd like to meet in person.
#15 Jan 15, 2013
I saw mayor Stock on Fox News this morning and of her support of putting guards in schools...
I am located quite a ways from Butler, and don't know anything about the fire department, Act 47, or any other issues concerning your community. All I can say (as an "outsider") is that I applaud her support in doing what is necessary to protect the children of the community.
There are many different views on gun-control in the news today, and as an active 2nd amendment supporter, I agree with her decision.
As I said, there are many different issues concerning guns in society today, buy you should be proud to have a proactive mayor that doesn't sit idley by waiting to see what "everyone else does"...
Just my 2 cents...
#16 Jan 15, 2013
Mayor Stock has nothing to do with the school system, we have another group of tax raisers for that job
#17 Jan 15, 2013
Mayor Stock's campaign manager is a convicted Child Molester. Google Don Rasely
#18 Jan 22, 2013
no one else wants to be mayor, no one wants to represent such a disgrace we call butler pa
#19 Jan 28, 2013
Mayor Stock to seek third term in office
Butler Mayor Maggie Stock will run for re-election this year.
She and city Controller Gretchen Ehlman are the only city officials who have said they plan to run.
The terms of Councilwoman Kathy Kline and Councilman Rick Schontz Jr. also end this year, but neither has said for sure that they will seek re-election.
Schontz said,“I have not made up my mind totally, but I am leaning toward running again.”
Kline, too, is on the fence regarding running for re-election.
“I have been thinking about it, but I'm not sure,” she said.
Stock, Kline and Ehlman first took office in 2006, while Schontz began serving on council in 2010 after a successful write-in campaign.
The primary will be May 21, and the last day to register to vote in the primary is April 22.
The general election is Nov. 5.
#20 Jan 29, 2013
I'd like to see Rick Schontz run for Mayor.
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