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Thursday, May 26, 2011

MSD Proposing Rate Increases to Fund $1 Billion Capital Construction Program

We encourage all interested citizens to join us in opposing MSD's latest plan to remove a billion dollars from our pockets to lavishly reward union construction firms and public-sector employee unions with big raises and hikes in medical and pension benefits. MSD is 100% controlled by organized labor and their close political collaborators. The MCTA will host a public forum on this issue in the near future. This fight is worth having!

Wastewater rates for district set to increase for fiscal '12.

May 25, 2011 - Staff report

Metropolitan St. Louis Sewer District officials are proposing an increase in wastewater rates over the next four years to fund a roughly $1 billion capital construction program and other costs.

Customers owning a single-family home would pay an average of $32.37 per month for wastewater services beginning July 1, 2012, according to the proposal. That rate would increase to $36.71 per month in fiscal 2014, $41.56 per month in fiscal 2015 and $47.05 per month in fiscal 2016.

Commercial customers would be placed on a five-tier compliance charge system based on the number of inspections and compliance samples.

A typical monthly commercial wastewater bill would increase to $292.50 in fiscal 2013, $326.55 in fiscal 2014, $368.05 in fiscal 2015 and $409.80 in fiscal 2016.

MSD already has scheduled a wastewater-rate increase for fiscal 2012.

On July 1, the average single-family's monthly wastewater bill will increase to $28.73 from $27.56. Commercial customers will pay an average of $254.80 per month in fiscal 2012 — up from $244.25.

Those increases will be the last in a series of rate increases voters approved in April 2008.

Besides the roughly $1 billion wastewater Capital Improvement and Replacement Plan, or CIRP, the newly proposed rate increase would fund $634 million in total operating costs over the next four years and $359 million in total debt service.

MSD hopes to issue $945 million in bonds and use $171 million in cash to finance the CIRP.

Voters would have to approve the bond issue and may consider the measure in the April 2012 election.

Without the bond issue, MSD will be left to fund the entire CIRP with cash, which officials said would cause the average single-family wastewater rate to increase to $73.35 per month in fiscal 2013 — a 255-percent increase over the rate of $28.73 per month that will take effect July 1.

The rate proposal, which would apply solely to the wastewater rate, is driven by a need to bring district infrastructure into compliance with state and federal regulations, an increased use of debt, loss of customer base, declining water usage and unfavorable economic conditions, according to MSD officials.

The district has been negotiating with the Environmental Protection Agency on a settlement to a lawsuit filed in June 2007 regarding raw sewage overflowing into area rivers, creeks and streams.

In addition, MSD projects a 16-percent decrease in billed water usage through fiscal 2016 due to increased water conservation and pre-treatment, as well as the loss of such significant commercial customers as the Chrysler plants in Fenton and Northwest Plaza in St. Ann.

The district also projects a 2-percent decrease in accounts billed by fiscal 2016 from 2006 levels.

District staff presented the proposal May 10 to the MSD Rate Commission, which includes representatives from 15 area organizations, such as the Regional Chamber & Growth Association and the St. Louis County Municipal League.

The commission has up to 165 days to review the proposal and to make a recommendation to the district's Board of Trustees.

It is expected to conduct public hearings over the next several months to gather public input.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Union Attempting to Recast Itself as Philanthropic Group

Local 1889 a political entity, not a philanthropic endeavor.

May 18, 2011 - Leaders of Mehlville Local 1889 of the International Association of Fire Fighters desperately want the public to believe the union is a philanthropic organization that has the best interests of the community at heart.

But that just ain't so. Local 1889 is a political entity whose goal is obtaining control over taxpayers' dollars.

Until the April 2005 election for the Mehlville Fire Protection District Board of Directors, Local 1889 leadership was very successful in achieving that goal. In fact, we'd be hard pressed to recall an election to that point in which a union-endorsed candidate did not prevail.

A favorite tactic of Local 1889 leaders was to announce their endorsement of a candidate before filing opened in an effort to discourage anyone else from filing. More often than not, no one else filed and the union-endorsed candidate was seated on the board without an election even being conducted.

Perhaps the apex of Local 1889's control came in late 1999 when the Board of Directors approved a three-year memorandum of understanding with the union that provided increases in employee salaries ranging from 15.48 percent to 19.15 percent over the life of the agreement — not to mention other lavish benefits. We opined at the time that the board had given away the store and were roundly criticized for that opinion. As it turned out, however, the agreement almost bankrupted the district.

Voters in April 2005 ousted two Local 1889-endorsed candidates and elected reformers Aaron Hilmer and Bonnie Stegman to the Board of Directors. In the ensuing years, Local 1889's image has taken a beating in the court of public opinion.

Heck, even Local 1889 leaders were cognizant of the poor public perception of their organization as they ran a stealth campaign in an effort to elect Michael Klund to the Board of Directors in April's election.

Local 1889 ended up contributing roughly $78,500 to two committees supporting Klund's unsuccessful candidacy. That's a nice chunk of change.

Add that to how much the union spent on its unsuccessful candidates in the 2007 and 2009 fire board elections and that amount totals roughly $131,700.

In an effort to rehabilitate Local 1889's image with the public, union leaders have attempted to recast their organization as a philanthropic one, doing good works for the community.

Days after the New Year's Eve tornado struck Sunset Hills, Local 1889 President Nick Fahs and crew coughed up a paltry $1,000 for the Sunset Hills Tornado Assistance Fund — after calling practically every media outlet in town and showing up at City Hall with a huge cardboard blowup of the check. That same day, a Sunset Hills resident contributed $10,000 to the fund, but did so anonymously.

Certainly Local 1889 should be recognized for the charitable contributions it has made over the years, but the union is not and will never be a philanthropic organization. That's not the reason it exists.

Given the amount of money Local 1889 has spent on lawsuits and unsuccessful candidates over the past few years, we wonder how much money is left in its coffers. Our guess is not much. That said, we wouldn't be surprised if its days as a local are numbered and it's forced to merge with another firefighters' union, perhaps Local 2665.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Individual Income in RTW States is Growing at a Faster Rate Than Forced-Unionism States

May 16, 2011 2:43 PM

A new report from South Carolina Republican Sen. Jim DeMint's office shows that right-to-work states, or states which prohibit forced unionization and dues payments, are economically outperforming states without the worker protection.

According to DeMint’s study, right-to-work states enjoy more new residents, more new businesses, more new jobs, and faster income growth.

The study shows that more Americans are moving to right-to-work states, causing states that force unionization to lose seats in Congress.

From 2000-2010, forced-union states lost 9 seats while right-to-work states gained 9. The increase in population and new businesses (right-to-work states had 46 percent more private business growth) has also resulted in a greater increase in employment and income in right-to-work states.

“From 1993-2009, private sector employment increased 37.9% in RTW [right-to-work] states (15.8 million jobs) compared to 19.6% (14.5 million jobs) in forced-unionism states,” the report reads. “Individual income in RTW states is growing at a faster rate than forced-unionism states. From 1993-2010 real per capita personal income grew 39.5% in RTW states compared to 35.7% in forced-unionism states.”

Twenty-two states currently have right-to-work protections: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nebraska, Nevada, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, and Wyoming.

Reacting to the National Labor Relations Board’s decision to block Boeing from opening a plant in South Carolina because of its right-to-work status, Sen. DeMint has introduced legislation, with Republican Sens. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, to provide right-to-work states protection from such outside intervention.

Currently, 11 percent of Americans are unionized.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Tea Party Heads to School

The below article reminds us of our newly installed Mehlville school board members Rich Franz and Mark Stoner. The American people are at last discovering that the public sector unions representing teachers, firefighters and other governmental employees are robbing the taxpayers. Franz and Stoner are on the front line of the coming battle to beat back the greed of the privileged class of unionized bureaucrats. We citizens must reclaim our local governments from the total control of Big Labor.

Activists Fight Property-Tax Increases in Bid to Curb Education Spending

YORK, Pa.—Trying to plug a $3.8 million budget gap, the York Suburban School District, in the rolling hills of southern Pennsylvania, is seeking to raise property taxes by 1.4%.

No way, says Nick Pandelidis, founder of the York Suburban Citizens for Responsible Government, a tea-party offshoot, of the plan that would boost the tax on a median-priced home of $157,685 by $44 a year to $3,225.

"No more property-tax increases!" the 52-year-old orthopedic surgeon implored as the group met recently at a local hospital's community room. "If you don't starve the system, you won't make it change."

Fresh from victories on the national stage last year, many local tea-party activist groups took their passion for limited government and less spending back to their hometowns, and to showdowns with teacher unions over pay in some cases. Now, amid school-board elections and local budgeting, they are starting to see results—and resistance.

In its budget proposal for the 2011-12 fiscal year, the York district has already axed noontime buses for half-day kindergarten kids, halved money for teaching supplies and raised the fees for driver education to $300 per student from $50.

District parent Sarah Reinecker told the school board she would be willing to pay more taxes. "Starving education is the last thing that makes long-term economic sense," she said.

Legions of tea partiers continue to focus on the federal budget and debt ceiling. But many are following the strategy of other rising political movements, such as the Christian Coalition in the 1990s, and seeking representation on school boards. They are flooding this spring's board elections, and creating an unusually long lineup of candidates in places like York County. Dr. Pandelidis's group is fielding five candidates in May's election and hopes to win a majority on the nine-member board.

From Lisbon, Maine, to Rockford, Ill., tea-party groups are arguing, sometimes successfully, against more property taxes, which in many communities largely go to public education. They say schools already spend too much on extras unrelated to core learning and that staffs are bloated, and they challenge the idea that smaller class size equals better instruction.

Schools are under the microscope on every issue. Members of the Maine Tea Party attended a recent town meeting on the school budget in Lisbon to protest a budget proposal that could raise property taxes to deal with a shortfall. Tea partier and district parent Thomas Barry, 51, said one local school had drafty windows, forcing the school to keep the heat too high.

"Two weeks ago, I went into the school to get report cards, and it was 90 degrees inside," he said. "I was peeling off clothes left and right."

School districts say they are already cutting deeply and need more help from taxpayers. The York Suburban district gets just 13% of its revenue from state and federal funding; the rest comes from local property taxes, and state aid could decline further under budget cuts proposed by Pennsylvania's new Republican governor, Tom Corbett.

"It's like they are saying: Cut at any cost—we don't care about the service level and how it's affected," said Dennis Younkin, finance director for the York Suburban school district.

The Peoples Tea Party of Jacksonville, Fla., beat back a proposed increase in teacher pay. After learning in February that the Clay County school board planned to raise salaries 1.5%, the group urged supporters to call school-board officials and attend the meeting where the raise was to be considered.

"A lot of people are laid off. Why would the teachers look at this and think it's OK?" said retiree Mavis Caplinger, co-founder of the Peoples Tea Party.

The board voted 4-1 against its own proposal, which had come after months of negotiations with teachers. Board chairman Frank Farrell said he worried that the budget of Florida's Republican governor, Rick Scott, which contained education cuts, would make the raises unaffordable. He said he wasn't influenced by the tea party.

"Baloney. I know it had an influence," said Clay County Superintendent Ben Wortham. He said the proposed contract contained union concessions that would have resulted in annual savings offsetting much of the pay increase.

In Rockford, Ill., on the other hand, local tea-party coordinator David Hale says the battle between Wisconsin's governor and public employees has energized teachers in Rockford, about 20 miles south of the Wisconsin border, and created an "uphill battle" for his group.

In school-board elections in early April, none of the candidates endorsed by the Rockford Tea Party won, while two of three candidates endorsed by the teachers' union did—even though the tea party's pre-election media blitz linked property taxes to teacher pay the party said was exorbitant.

"I honestly believe people don't buy that story," said Karen Bieschke, of the local teachers union. "They don't see anyone getting rich being a teacher."

In Pennsylvania, the York 9-12 Patriots has a dozen candidates running for school boards, and has formed local offshoots, such as Dr. Pandelidis's group, to monitor local budgets. Next, reversing the movement from the federal to the local level, they plan to scrutinize state and federal school spending.

At a recent meeting, York 9-12 members ticked off their list of school waste: too much technology; too many teacher aides; federally subsidized breakfasts. "Parents should feed them at home. No one pays for my children to eat," said group founder Lee Ann Burkholder, who home-schools her children.

Dr. Pandelidis argues that more spending doesn't lead to better results. While per-pupil spending has steadily risen, 11th-grade math and reading scores fell last year, he notes. District officials say that the scores don't reflect the entire student body, but that they are reviewing the 11th-grade curriculum.Dr. Pandelidis recently gave the board a petition with 500 signatures opposing any property-tax increase. The board had been weighing a 4% increase and backed down to 1.4% "because of the political climate," says Mr. Younkin, the finance director.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Labor attorney hired by MFPD board to assist with possible restructuring

Separation agreement OK'd by board with ex-deputy chief.

Executive Editor - Call Newspapers

May 11, 2011 - The Mehlville Fire Protection District Board of Directors last week voted to hire an attorney who specializes in labor and employment issues to assist with a possible restructuring of the district.

The Board of Directors voted unanimously May 2 to hire Burton Garland Jr. of Ogletree Deakins. Ogletree Deakins is one of the country's leading labor and employment law firms.

Chief Tim White and Mathew Hoffman, the district's legal counsel, researched attorneys and firms that specialize in labor and employment matters and recommended hiring Garland, Hilmer said.

"... I know Tim and Matt did a little research. We're looking at some possible restructuring to be done at the fire district and they wanted the board to hire a gentleman by the name of Burt Garland as a labor consultant at the price of $330 an hour,'' he said. "I think we should do that and see what he brings back.''

Hilmer told the Call that hiring an attorney who specializes in labor and employment issues is similar to what the board did in late 2005 when it was contemplating changing the district's employee pension plan. At that time, the board hired Thompson Coburn, a law firm with attorneys who specialized in pension matters.

"I know Tim is looking at some possible restructuring, some changes in some things in the district — nothing I really want to go in a lot of detail on right now,'' he said. "But it's something that we felt was at the stage where he wanted to bring in someone who is an expert in this field — no different than when we changed the pension plan. We had to bring in someone who was an expert in what they did and obviously that bore a lot of fruit.

"So that's really what this is — more of an exploratory thing right now. It's not a large commitment on the district's part, but kind of a fact-finding mission.''

In other business May 2, the board voted unanimously in closed session to:

• Approve a separation agreement with former Deputy Chief Joe Schmidt, who had been employed by the district since 1981.

Regarding the agreement, Hilmer told the Call, "It was mutually agreed on by both parties and the terms basically as part of his separation were six months' additional pay and benefits from the time that he resigned and a $10,000 education stipend along with any other benefits he'd accrued during his tenure at the fire district.''

• Approve the promotions of Kevin Reis and Tim Dempsey to the rank of deputy chief. Reis has been employed by the district since 1996 while Dempsey has been employed by Mehlville since 1992.

Klund Supporters Spend $100,000 in Failed Bid to Unseat Hilmer

Local 1889 contributes total of $78,000 to support Klund.

Staff Reporter - Call Newspapers

May 11, 2011 - Mehlville Fire Protection District Board of Directors candidate Mike Klund and his supporters spent nearly $100,000 in their unsuccessful bid to unseat Chairman Aaron Hilmer, according to post-election campaign finance reports.

Mike for Mehlville Fire — Klund's committee — and Friends of the Mehlville Fire District — a separate committee formed to support his campaign — raised $100,657.24 and spent $99,534.92 for the fire board race.

Hilmer's committee reported total contributions and expenditures of $14,030.38.

The MFPD board chairman narrowly defeated Klund in the April 5 election, capturing nearly 49 percent of the vote to win a second, six-year term.

Klund received 7,205 votes — 47.5 percent — and Hilmer received 7,418 votes — 48.9 percent.

Campaign committee reports detailing financial activity through April 30 were due last week.

Klund's committee reported $26,335 in total contributions and $26,432.68 in total expenditures, with $2.32 on-hand.

The committee reported $130 in new contributions from persons giving $100 or less. It paid $10,064.92 to Show Me Victories for marketing material and printing, $1,345 to Call Newspapers for advertising and $1,000 to Regional Growth Consultants in Kansas City for ad design.

Friends of the Mehlville Fire District reported total contributions of $74,322.24 and total expenditures of $73,102.24 in expenditures.

The committee reported $2,502.24 in new contributions and $4,206.01 in new expenses. It received $2,502.24 after the election from Mehlville Firefighters Local 1889 of the International Association of Fire Fighters.

The committee paid $2,021.50 to Stinson Morrison and Hecker for an ethics attorney; $1,100 to the Sports Pub in Oakville for a post-election party; and $1,000 to campaign manager Ed Rhode for consulting.

In a quarterly report filed April 14 detailing its financial activity through March 31, the committee reported $4,720 in contributions and $2,312.74 in expenditures.

The group reported receiving $3,000 from Local 1889; $500 from Pattonville firefighters; a $1,150 in-kind contribution from Pelican Printing and $70 in other in-kind contributions.

The committee paid $1,369.70 to Pelican Printing for printing and postage; $639.27 to Trio Graphics for signs; and $303.77 to Peace Printing for envelopes.

Local 1889 contributed a total of $78,502.24 to both committees. In addition, the national IAFF office contributed $14,700 to Klund's committee.

Hilmer's committee received $3,000 from Dean Eggerding of Fenton; $500 from Hilvin Investment Corp. and $160 from people giving $100 or less.

The committee paid $4,029 to Call Newspapers for advertising; $1,077.13 to City Graphics for mailers; and $179.26 to Hilmer for victory party refreshments.