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Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Here We Go Again ...


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Here we go again. The Pickens School Board is claiming shortfalls. Every time you hear them talk about needing more money they say "the Chudren need it." The truth of the matter is that with the 50 mills of building construction, taxes are at an all time high.

This is not about the children.


If it was, they would cut every salary 10% and keep all needed teachers. President Obama is taking credit for saving teacher jobs. Where is he with this? Mr. Saitta does not know how the delinquent tax account works. When taxes are protested, the amount is put in the delinquent tax account - when, in fact, they are not delinquent. Foreclosures are paid directly to the county by the bank that holds the mortgage and should not go back into delinquencies. Also, the School Board used the overcollected money from the past 20 years (that was owed to the taxpayers) to retire bonds illegally. Money they possibly could have had for lean times such as this.
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As reported by The Anderson Independent:

The state’s 5% cut this year has cost Pickens County schools $1.95 million, but the worst may be yet to come, according to school officials.

Melissa Campbell, executive director of financial services, said in a report to the board that funding levels per student have declined to 1996-1997 levels, and now stand at $1.764 per student. The Pickens County school budget has declined from a peak of $104 million to $93.1 million on Monday, Campbell and Board Chairman Jim Shelton said.

Shelton warned that the district needs to brace for more serious financial problems and that staff members should not be surprised if more jobs are cut in the next fiscal year.

“So no one gets a shock, there will have to be further reduction in manpower,” Shelton said.

The board agreed to a budget amendment to make reductions of $1.95 million, with $1.4 million cut from several programs or services and $500,000 transferred from a special revenue fund into the general fund. Still, the board retains a reserve fund balance of $14.9 million, Campbell said.

Campbell said it is difficult to judge revenues now because of the economy. The district is behind this fiscal year a total of $500,000 in real estate and vehicle taxes, but that was made up by being $800,000 ahead in delinquent tax collections, she said. Board member Alex Saitta said the delinquent tax collection was a sign of the economy, with foreclosures being purchased and the taxes paid off.

Also, the board agreed to two new calendars.

When students return to the School District of Pickens County for the 2011-2012 year, they will start later than usual, Sept. 6.

The reason: The district will be opening five new schools as part of its ambitious building program. The late start will give everyone time to move into the new schools, said Julie Thompson, a Pickens County school spokeswoman.

The new schools will be Pickens High School, Liberty High School, Dacusville Elementary School, Chastain Road Elementary School and the Career and Technology Center.

The school board, meeting Monday night, approved the later opening date. The start date for 2010-2011 will be closer to the district’s normal opening, Aug. 17.

School board members also agreed to use an online program for courses that allows students who need to catch up on credits, homebound students and other special cases to get the credits they need. The program is operated by a vendor, APEX, which will offer nearly 30 courses.

The board will meet Feb. 11 to begin discussing its budget for the next fiscal year. At that time, Campbell said, she will be presenting information on recommended budget reductions, if necessary.

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Link to article:
Pickens school board chairman says staff cuts likely

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Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Notes on SC Governor Mark Sanford's Final State Of The State Address

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Picture Of Mark Sanford/Screenshot of SC ETV broadcast


Tonight, Governor Mark Sanford gave his final state of the State address.

Here are a few notes:

[PARAPHRASE] We have an environment for change because of economic difficulty. We should look at this as a positive - essentially to live within our means.

"It's my hope that we will be "for the people" in the results we produce."

In reference to unfunded Federal mandates:

"History has consistently shown how governments spend themselves into oblivion and cause real pain for the taxpayer."

He spoke of the damages that Federal stimulus money and health care proposals has done and will do.

"If you can take one pearl of wisdom from this talk, I ask that you make your voice heard concerning jobs growth and the economy."

He mentioned the tools a Governor needs:

• Electing a Governor and Lieutenant Governor on the same ticket.

• Let the voters decide whether officials should be appointed or elected.

• There can be no accountability without transparency.

"Thank you for passing the first cut to the marginal income tax in South Carolina history."

"$260 million dollars have stayed in the hands of taxpayers."


"Thank you for passing workers compensation reform."

"Thank you for passing the small business health care bill."


Sanford mentioned his work on reform of the Department of Motor Vevicles (DMV).

(This IS something Sanford deserves great praise for.)


"Wait times at the DMV has gone from 66 minutes to 16 minutes."

He discussed progress on school choice in South Carolina.

He discussed the importance of the State's balanced budget requirement.

He discussed the State employee health care savings plan and how it's saved the State millions.

Representative Harry Ott (House Minority Leader) delivered the response speech afterward.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Meet The Candidates: Neal Collins

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Tonight, at our monthly meeting, Conservatives Of The Upstate welcomed Neal Collins.

Neal is running for Gresham Barrett's Third Congressional District House Of Representatives seat.



Neal introduced himself.

- He is a worker's comp attorney in Greenville SC.
- He was born in Easley SC.

• He is a graduate of Furman and the University of South Carolina School of Law.

• Neal mentioned that his platform is based on three R's:

Responsibility: He stated that he wanted to instill more personal responsibility rather than government dependance.

Recovery: He stated that two factors to recovery are linked: education & employment.

Reform: He said he believes a public official should have the political courage to not only discuss reform, but to offer his or her plan of reform.

Neil said, "I ask myself when making a decision, 'What role should personal responsibility play?'"

He stated, "I want to be a voice for fiscal sanity."

He says that, for his campaign, instead of spending 3 to 4 hours asking for donations, he's spending 3 to 4 hours going door to door knocking.

He says he does not believe in elected judges.

When asked what he sees for the future as far as industry and jobs in South Carolina, Neal replied:

"We need to protect small business." He also mentioned deregulation and the importance of education.

When asked if he would be interested in a SC State Legislature position if he were not moved forward in the primary?

"My drive is to better the community. If I can make an impact, I will consider it."

Meeting tonight

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Our monthly meeting will be at the Blue Ridge Bible Church at 769 Belle Shoals Road.  


We will have Mr. Collins , a candidate for our Congressional seat.  

We will discuss the meetings  with our Delegation(state), and with Lindsay  Graham.  

Notes On The Town Hall Meeting With Lindsey Graham In Clemson 1/12/10

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A number of members from Conservatives Of The Upstate attended the town hall meeting with Senator Lindsey Graham this past Tuesday January 12, 2010 in Clemson.

Lindsey Graham is our Federal Congressional Senator in Washington D.C. for the state of South Carolina.

Graham graduated from Daniel High School in Central.

He has a home in Seneca.

(Jim DeMint is the other Senator representing the lower part of SC)


His website is here:

http://lgraham.senate.gov/public/

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Before the event:

For some reason the event wasn't very well publicized in the news.

Many conservatives were outside with signs - protesting Cap & Trade.



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One person was removed after standing up and yelling about civil war if mandatory health care is passed. He had on a bright yellow shirt labelled "EXTREMIST".

Issues discussed:

• Fair or flat tax and the importance of a Republican presidential candidate to make this a #1 issue in 2012.

• Healthcare reform

• Tort reform / specifically legislating for a loser pays system

• Terrorism / terrorists being tried in military courts

• Immigration issues / Graham mentioned his very scary support of biometric social security cards
(A repeal & restatement of "U.S. citizen" in Amendment 14, Section 1, Sentence 1 of the Constitution would ease many immigration issues)


• A big focus/nearly 30 minutes - discussing energy policy and getting away from foreign oil dependency

The staging of this "town hall meeting" was hard to judge ... a lot of the event seemed planned rather than spontaneous ... while Lindsey Graham answered questions from all the current pot of issues ... he does know this area well and seemed to call on people he knew - purposely calling on a few weirdos to make it seem like some issues are brought up by whackos.

We are thankful to Senator Graham for having the courage and stamina to stand up for an hour and a half and then spend an additional 30 minutes discussing a few issues with people who stayed afterwards.

The Anderson Independent has a very good summary of the meeting:

Anderson Independent coverage of January 2010 Lindsey Graham Town Hall

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Pickens County Delegation Meeting Summary


* Picture of Junius Smith delivering message about school building project

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Conservatives Of The Upstate would like to thank all of the delegates for their warm reception to the presentation of our concerns.

Brief summary of meeting:

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Gaurdian Ad litem program & Foster Care officials spoke ... thanked delegates and expressed that progress has been made.

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Junius Smith, Conservatives of the Upstate President spoke on the school building plan.

(For more information see this Greenville News article


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Philip Smith (from ATLIBERTYTOSAY.COM) spoke about his website & concerns that have been raised by Liberty residents on his website:

• Addressed a roadside memorial on HWY 178
(Delegates mentioned that this is a serious issue & does need addressing)


• Addressed Pickens County Recycling Program
(Mentioned that this lends to fraud by not accounting for home efforts, commercial pickup, & water weight differences)

(This recycling push is a new income stream/tax/fee/fine by Pickens County)


• Addressed Liberty residential dognapping issue
(Rex Rice communicated that he will investigate this issue.)


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Discussion from a retirement home director of regulations on retirement homes for sprinklers and concern that about the financial burdens this will place on retirement homes because there is a "no grandfathering clause".

(Delegates mentioned that they were aware that this applied mostly to lodging and would table and investigate the impact on retirement homes if the issue arose for discussion of the bill before a final vote.)


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Discussion of moving the Pickens County Ozone Monitoring device away from Clemson. Statements were made regarding businesses not locating here because of the poor measurement and that Clemson is not an accurate portrait of the whole of Pickens County.

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Other statements made:


"If you're gonna run as a Republican, please vote like one."

School choice - Christian values aren't being taught in schools because Christian teachers have been retiring for the last 15 years.

• Businesses don't come because there aren't eligible employees/Linked to poor school performance & dropout rate

"Whoever you borrow from you are a slave to."

• A request for "roll call voting" - ie tying votes to individual politicians so we can see how they voted

• A call for a return to State Sovereignty - refusing Federal mandates

• A brief discussion about the dangers of the Real ID & animal RFID tagging / Being unconstitutional

• Mention that Animal RFID will cost $50 per head of cattle to farmers

• Statements regarding the ACLU wanting to end the National Day Of Prayer
(See here for more details)


• Statements regarding school building projects by out of state contracts ...

"Think ... almost $400 million leaving our state."

• Discussion of there not being enough money to finish all the school building projects at once because projects will have gone over budget due to very poor planning. Mention of the need for a bypass around Daniel High to ease congestion - things like this will cause the school building project to go over budget.

• A discussion of imminent domain taking far more land than necessary for water lines in Easley

• Property taxes on second homes causing people to not build 2nd homes in Pickens & Oconee counties.

Meeting wrap up.

This was a very productive meeting with close to 80 in attendance.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Pickens County Delegation Tonight

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Area politicians will meet with constituents and have a chance to share their concerns tonight.

The meeting is scheduled to start @ 5:30PM Monday January 11, 2010 (TONIGHT) at the Fellowship Hall of Six Mile Baptist Church.

Six Mile Baptist Church
149 North Main Street
Six Mile, SC 29682

In attendance:
Senator Larry Martin
Senator Thomas Alexander
Representative Rex Rice
Representaive Phillip Owens
Representative B.R. Skelton
Representative Davey Hiott

* Click on individual names (above) to see their state website pages & biographies

The public is invited and encouraged to attend this open meeting.

President Of The Conservatives Of The Upstate, Junius Smith will speak about the lease purchase/school building program.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

January 2010 Newsletter

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What We Learned In 2009

We’ve learned that the Republican dominated South Carolina Legislature is not interested in abiding by the Constitution of this State.

Examples:

Senator Larry Martin refused Conservatives of the Upstate an appointment with Attorney General McMaster to discuss several illegalities in the Lease/ Purchase agreement that allowed the Pickens County School Board to obligate county residents to almost $400 million in new & remodeled school buildings. This financing agreement has effectively mortgaged the entire taxable property in the county for the next 30 years. Our assertion that this agreement is an operating expense rather than a mortgage agreement was correct. The South Carolina Supreme Court ruled so in July 2009. It has been reported that Sen. Martin is trying to rewrite the law in order to keep the General Assembly from living up to their responsibilities of providing education to all in this state (Article 11, Section 3 of SC Constitution). In every case, Sen. Martin has tried to put the burden of the schools on the property owners; thus contributing to the foreclosure mess in Pickens County. Additionally, Law 388 that was supposed to be a tax swap was made possible by the reassessment of property through state statutory law. Instead of an even swap, this created a 500% increase in property taxes - made possible by property reassessment.



The Conservatives of the Upstate will address the County Delegation - outlining the illegalities & violations of the South Carolina Constitution and statutory laws of this state.

Please attend this very important meeting if at all possible on January 11, 2010 at 5:30PM at Six Mile Baptist Church located at 149 N. Main St, Six Mile SC, 29682. Let the politicians that are supposed to be serving the people of Pickens & Oconee County will see that we are genuinely concerned and want something done about our state government.

( CLICK HERE FOR MORE INFORMATION )


Here’s a history of the sales tax that some call the “fair” tax: 3% was put on by referendum in 1951 for the sole purpose of building schools, then another 1% for the children, then another 1%, then another 1% sales tax swap. At 6% State tax - the Pickens County Council added another 1%. Then municipalities added 2% on prepared foods called a “hospitality tax”. 9% STILL isn’t enough to fund government. Can you imagine what would happen if you gave the federal government the authority to levy “fair taxes”.

The State Constitution says that there can be no taxation without representation.

Tell us, who represents the people in one county that go into another county to buy things? Who represents you when a person of a county pays sales taxes for recreation facilities in the city, and then has to pay a membership fee different than the city resident for his child to participate even though they paid sales taxes in that city. Our State government knows they are breaking the law and violating the constitution, so that is why they funnel the money through the State so that it appears your elected delegation qualifies as the elected representative. Local council members cannot tax someone outside of their elected jurisdiction.

Now that we’ve talked about sales taxes, let’s talk about the school construction (the lease/purchase in Greenville & Pickens Counties). The dummy corporation in each county owns all the old schools and now the new ones . An unelected board determines the millage that is required to make the 1/30th payments each year. Unelected officials CAN NOT levy taxes. The Auditor and Treasurer of the county are “ministerial” in duty in that they determine and collect millage only to the extent of its quantity as set by duly, elected and seated officials. They cannot determine that indebtedness is legal. Once again this is taxation without representation. Your vote was stolen from you.

On top of all this the School Board and County Council have over collected about $60 million dollars by under estimating the value of a mill. They have taken money from the people in Oconee & Pickens Counties that was supposed to be refunded because Duke Power had underpaid in previous years. This was just another $30 something million dollars.

What have we gotten from all this money and deception? We have gotten lower test scores on the graduate exam, lower SAT scores, the same number or more of drop outs, and 750 homeless students.. For this we have spent $400 million more dollars for school construction. At the County level we have gotten roads that have grossly low shoulders, an ordinance that steals road frontage from property that we have paid for, azaleas on the streets in a city using county funds, a baseball tournament that the national level office didn’t even see fit to permanently establish in Easley, and proposal for a local stimulus when the people were generally against the one in Washington among other things too numerous to name here. We have fees for facilities we have already paid for, our children forbidden to use facilities that we paid for, and water and power lines across the middle of our property.

Why have we gotten poor results? We pay the schools to do worse. For example, we pay teachers twice as much as the people who support them. They have far better fringe benefits and raises every year. Yet we get poorer results. Why should they get any better? They won’t as long as there is no accountability. Do our students know how to calculate property taxes, do they know who their elected representatives are? Do they know who Saul Alinsky is? Piven and Clower? How many times did Senator Martin & Senator Alexander not support the Governor on conservative matters. Do the people know that the 50 bond mills on their tax bill were ruled a state responsibility in July, yet our county government did not take them off their bill. Why has their been no reassessment of property, this past year as required by law – because the reassessment would result in LOWER values due to the downturn in housing and the economy – that’s why.