Archive for tax
Well, there’s another court hearing regarding the drink tax today. You can read a snippet about it from the Post Gazette. In a nutshell, they (restaurant owners and a councilman – Charles McCullough) are trying to stop my most hated person, Dan Onorato, from using funds collected by the drink tax for anything other than the Port Authority. Did you know that the drink tax collected 16 million dollars more than what was needed for the Port Authority? Crazy. I’m hoping that this makes something else happen. And I wouldn’t mind it if it made Dan Onorato cry a little.
After owning the restaurant for seven months now, I have realized that there really isn’t money in this business. Don’t get me wrong, we are able to pull a salary – enough to pay our bills and the extra mortgage on the house that we got so we could buy the bar. But what’s crazy is the sheer amount of money that needs to go OUT. Our electric bill is about $2,000 a month. Gas is about the same. Payroll is crazy. Insurance? Holy crap. Liquor liability insurance is completely insane! Then there’s our health insurance! We picked some crappy tier with UPMC, and Tony has a $2500 deductible per year. I’ve been reading a lot of restaurant-owner-related-crap, and for every $1 in sales, owners are lucky to see about a nickel. That seems about right. But I really don’t think that other people realize that.
All in all, though, Tony LOVES having the restaurant. And his happiness is worth it. And we won’t be living in a van down by the river any time soon. Tony is one of the hardest working people I know, and considering the economic times, the restaurant is doing really well.
How about that for a venting session? :::takes deep breath::: I feel better now
Well, Dan Onorato and Allegheny County Council decided to lower the Allegheny County Drink Tax to 7%. Many thoughts enter my head. One is that it’s about time they lowered it. The drink tax has raised over 30 million dollars for a failing Port Authority. (Whose drivers, by the way, just got a raise.) However, the Port Authority hasn’t even gotten this money yet. Danny Onorato basically told them that they need to shape up before they get an money. What I’m wondering (and maybe somebody can answer this for me) is where is all the interest going that the county is making on those millions of dollars?
Now, as for the lowering of this asinine tax, 7% is better than 10%, but it’s still too much. And council even said that it was too much (basically). They said that it would be easier to lower it again if it was too much. Later. Probably another year. So, this is what I’ve decided. There’s really not too much I can do about the drink tax specifically (and there are plenty of other people trying damn hard to get it lowered even more). But I CAN try to get people not to vote for Dan when his term is up. Now, I understand that’s quite a while away. He’s only a year into his second term. And you know, I’m not normally one to hold a grudge. But I can take a few years to point out every time he screws up (and there will be many, I’m sure). I’ll make some anti-Dan t shirts, start talking politics and what not. It’s not exactly what I enjoy doing. But really, he’s ticked me off that much.
Oh, and to top it all off, he’s a bad tipper.
So, please send me any links you might have about Dan and his screw ups. I may start a whole new site.
OK, my rant is over. I’m going to finish out my night working here on the laptop while lying in bed. The lack of sleep compounded with the energy I spent writing the schedule, giving extra attention to a sick and boogery Chloe, and writing/printing a new drink menu means that I may work for an hour. Or less. 6:30 comes pretty damn quickly.
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!
Dear Dan Onorato and Allegheny County Council,
You don’t know me. My husband and I bought a restaurant/bar in May. You are ruining our family.
‘What?!?!?.’ you might ask. Well, let me explain a bit. We are living my husband’s dream. He has always wanted to own a bar. He and I put our time in working for others in restaurants. Once we got married, purchased our home and had our children, this was what we concentrated on…our own place. We worked hard, did our research and took a gigantic risk. Our restaurant, Downey’s House is truly a labor of love. It is a family affair. We are partners with my husband’s brother and wife. The place is comfortable, not corporate. We are straight up and law abiding. We become friends with our customers and truly love what we do. So far, no problems, right? Think again and read on.
As we were getting into the business, we saw the Allegheny County Drink Tax come into play. Now, I’m the numbers person in our operation. I didn’t let my head think about the numbers before we were actually ‘in business.’ As we opened the doors and started selling, my head had to go to the numbers. Because we opened at the very end of May, I knew the true test would be our June Drink Tax. I paid a few hundred dollars for May and placed the Drink Tax in the back of my mind.
In the mean time, our business was chugging along. It’s hard. Tony and I have two small children, Rebecca (5) and Chloe (3). We hired his sister to watch the girls three days a week so I could come to the restaurant to do the administrative work. Tony was at the restaurant a minimum of 12 hours a day. I believe that after opening on May 27th, his first day off was Father’s Day, June 15th. But Tony was happy being at the bar. He was on cloud nine.
At home, the kids missed their dad. A lot. And, quite honestly, I missed my husband. But we knew that the first year would be rough. We aren’t just owners. We are owner/operators. We were not blind to the fact that it would take a lot of work and a lot of hours. June came and went, and the day to figure out the taxes was here. After I wrote out a check for about $2,000, I just about threw up. July comes and goes. Today I sent in my check for about $3,000. Those amounts would make the normal person assume that we are having fantastic sales, and therefore rollin‘ in it. Um, not the case. But that’s not the point. I started to think about what my business could do with an extra two or three thousand dollars a month. The first thing that came to mind was not to give ourselves a raise. I thought ‘Wow, I could hire a manager to run the bar a few days a week. I would actually get some family time back!”
Would I like to see the drink tax go away? Absolutely. But even a little bit of consideration would be nice. The Drink Tax is a very large, bitter pill to swallow. It might be a little bit less bitter if it were 5%. From what I’ve read, it seems that you’ve already collected the money you needed for the Port Authority. I don’t believe it is necessary to continue to bleed the small businesses that give Allegheny County its character and individuality. It doesn’t seem to me that politicians are creative people. But I ask you, dig deep and tap into the creativity that is inside you to come up with another solution other than the Drink Tax. To say that it is the Drink Tax or Property Tax is simply absurd. Think outside the box.
And maybe I’ll get my family time back.
Wow…government should know that bar owners know how to jump thru loopholes. This is genius!!! Hey…95% of politicians are bad tippers…they deserve this!!! I love, love, love this!!! Seeing that I will be a bar owner in the near future, this just makes me happy. Damn taxes. Yes, we need to have bus service. But get the money someplace else. Here’s the link to the story from this morning’s Post Gazette