Aug
25

A whole new world

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Well, Becca had her first day of Kindergarten today. She was totally and completely adorable!!! I’ll post a pic later, but she was grinning from ear to ear. I, however, was all emotional and cried like a baby. I was just so proud of her!! She hung out with the big kids and climbed right up onto that school bus with no problem. I can’t believe that we’re starting the whole REAL school deal. And Chloe starts preschool next week. She’s been there for a summer program, so I’m not really so worried about her.

I got a response from our buddy Dan Onorato. It was basically a canned response, with a little bit of personalization at the beginning. And it wasn’t from him, but from an assistant. It was basically a bit commercial for Dan, stating all of his fantabulous statistics and what a swell guy he is. In fact, I’ll copy and past it for ya, just in case you want to read it.

August 25, 2008
Dear Ms. Downey:
Thank you for your email. County Executive Onorato asked that I respond on his behalf.
Allegheny County is required by federal and state law to provide a $30-million local funding match to Port Authority each year. The revenues from the drink tax and car rental fee are dedicated for this local match. Without the drink tax and car rental fee, the County would have to increase property taxes by $30 million in order to meet its legal funding obligation to Port Authority. Four leaders of F.A.C.T., the group promoting the repeal of the drink tax, testified before County Council that they would prefer a raise in property taxes. The County Executive is strongly opposed to raising property taxes to fund mass transit.
Allegheny County is not authorized to collect any tax that it wants. The County can only collect taxes that are authorized by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. At this time, the Commonwealth only allows Allegheny County to collect the property tax, drink tax and rental car fee.
Please be assured the County Executive has been creative – cutting spending and increasing government efficiencies. During his first four years in office, Mr. Onorato has reduced expenditures and streamlined government by removing 626 employees from the County payroll, and Port Authority reduced its workforce by 375 employees earlier this year. That is a total reduction of 1,000 public employees in four years, which saves taxpayers approximately $50 million annually.
County Executive Onorato was also the primary advocate of row office reform, and come January 1, 2008, we will have successfully reduced the number of row offices from 10 to four, which will save taxpayers at least $1 million annually.
The County Executive has also embraced opportunities to consolidate government functions and eliminate duplicated services to improve efficiency and save taxpayers money. In a two-year period, the Onorato administration reduced the number of 9-1-1 call centers in Allegheny County from five to one, which saves $3 million annually. The City of Pittsburgh’s fingerprinting operation was collapsed into the County’s, and the Pittsburgh Municipal Court was merged with the County court system.
The County and City signed a joint telecommunications agreement that will result in $4.5 million in savings over the next three years, and the County has also taken over purchasing for the City, which improves the efficiency of purchasing operations and results in significant savings for taxpayers. Finally, the County and City have formed an energy purchasing consortium that is open to the region’s hospitals, school districts, colleges, universities, municipal authorities, non-profit organizations and private businesses. This consortium has the potential to be largest cost-saving public/private partnership in the history of Western Pennsylvania.
In addition to these savings, County Executive Onorato cut taxes his first year in office, and he has successfully held the line on property taxes every year since then. Allegheny County has not seen a property tax increase in six years, while all of the counties around us have. During this same period, Armstrong County taxes have increased 35 percent, Beaver County has raised taxes by 19 percent, Butler County taxes are up 12 percent, Washington County has increased taxes by 24 percent, and Westmoreland County taxes have gone up 24 percent. Mr. Onorato’s decision to implement a base year assessment system has also brought stability back to Allegheny County’s real estate market and put an end to back-door tax increases.
Thank you again for contacting our office. We appreciate your input and we wish you success with your business.
Sincerely, Megan Dardanell
Office of the County Executive

All I have to say is blah, blah, blah. I chatted with some of the people from FACT (they’re fighting the drink tax), and they opened my eyes to a few things. I had always wondered why the larger chain restaurants weren’t really doing anything to fight the drink tax. She told me that a lot of the chains get money FROM Allegheny County just for opening their doors (she mentioned the Cheesecake Factory), and they get some big ol’ tax breaks. What do the little restaurant and bar owners get? Diddily Squat.

She also mentioned how they are really concentrating efforts throughout the state in campaigning against the drink tax. Their thought was that we would Never, Never, Never, Ever want Dan Onorato do become governor (and that’s church!). Because if he were to become Governor, that drink tax would almost definitely be state wide.

Anyway, she opened my eyes to a lot of stuff. I haven’t officially responded to the letter yet. But I will. When I get some more energy. All that girlie-emotional-PMS-weeping from this morning has made me tired!

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