Wednesday, March 18, 2015

If I pay taxes, everyone pays taxes!

My township has two JEDD’s, Joint Economic Development Districts. “Joint” means shared, “Economic” means producing income, “Development” means growing said income and “District” means the place it all happens.

The first JEDD went into effect about the same time I became the township clerk, and the “Joint” partner and I got the district up and running. That was 2006, light years ago. I know a couple of things about getting a JEDD off the ground.

One business owner of rental storage units let me make a sweep of the units to see who might be using them in business. I showed him some local advertising that make me suspicious. “Go right ahead,” he said. “If I pay taxes, everyone pays taxes!”

January first of last year our second JEDD went into place. This district essentially covers the rest of the township not in the first district. There are nine businesses in this district. One is the county yard, one is the ski run, one is the park and the last six are 501c3’s associated with the park. When I pulled their 940’s and saw the amount of payroll, I was stunned.

My township is financially strangled by the national park. We aren't the only township in the country with this problem, but I am charged with helping keep this township financially able to pay for snow plowing, police, emergency services, so I take the matter personally. Because of the national park and some local parks, 92% of the township’s taxable real estate is off the tax rolls.

This means that township residents pay to repair roads that millions of park visitors drive on annually. We pay to rescue people lost and hurt in the park. We pay to plow the roads park employees drive on to go to work. We even pay to send their children to school. The park does not pay. There are fewer than seven hundred of us left in the township, and, as I like to say, a lot of us are children.

When I realized from the 940’s, which are filed by tax exempt organizations, how many six figure salaries it takes to run these operations, I suggested to the township trustees we should figure out how to structure a new JEDD to collect income taxes to partially offset the cost of having them around. We got the job done and that JEDD went into effect on January 1st of last year.

I talked to the Human Resources people at each of the nine employers, explaining the JEDD requirements. It was an easy start up. The employees already pay residence taxes; the new tax washes as reciprocity. Eight made the change with no problem. Who has obfuscated the past year away? The national park, of course.

Federal law permits federal employees who work in areas under, I think, 20,000 population, to elect not to have local taxes withheld from their pay. This sounds wonderful, until the awful realization: taxes  must be paid. In fact, all local taxes must be paid to our taxing authority by January 10th, if there is no payroll withholding.

The park’s solution was to remind employees that taxes are their personal responsibility. Eventually I got the park to distribute withholding authorizations. Less than 20% of these were processed, although more seem to have turned them in.

Now, of course, it’s time to pay the piper the taxes. Park officials tell me it will be better next year, they are signing up new employees for withholding. After I hung up and quit banging my head on the desk I filed a Freedom of Information request for the names, addresses and W2 pay of all park employees in that JEDD in 2014, for submission to the tax collector.

Then I wrote two short articles for our local newspaper. One explains to park employees how to bypass the park and go directly to the payroll service to have local taxes withheld. The other explains how to file and pay local taxes.

It saddens me that some people may pay interest and penalties because their employer is a horse’s ass. Perhaps, as one trustee suggests, employees should have been more responsible. But, if I pay taxes, everyone pays taxes.

 Sent from the phone of my BFF,
somewhere overlooking the Caribbean.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

What is the most time-consuming aspect of weaving?

Question five from Jacqueline at Cheapskate Blethering. Hop  over to see her contest. 

Folks always wanted to know, “how long did it take you to make this?”  Eventually I devised the answer, “From the time I start until the time I finish.” It generally got a laugh, and deflected the question without an answer.

In the end we had ten looms in the studio, each threaded for a different kind of fabric or weave. That eliminated the need to rethread the heddles. Our brother built us many wondrous jigs and fixtures. We literally could put forty cones of thread on the floor, run the ends through the holes in a fixture he built, put the ends through the tension box and commence turning a hundred and fifty yards of thread into each section. Then we tied the ends in sequence to the ends of the old threads, pulled it all through the heddles and reed, tied the sections to the apron and it was another warp to weave. Jan and I each could put on a new warp in a few hours. She could tie twice as fast as I could, though, and she often took pity on me and tied the new to the old.

Off the loom, the weaving is not fabric, it is “the web.”  It must be “fulled”, made full, all the little spaces between warp and weft brought together. In the old days the web was submersed in a stream, pounded with smooth stones. Put in a “fulling” tub and tromped by many feet or worked by many hands.

We did it in the washer and dryer.

Jan and I each cut out the garments, and sewed in the beginning. We were decent sewers, but not great, and when sewers came into our lives, we let them do what they did best. The first was Janet, who had a degree in sewing. I learned so much from her, from how to make a pattern to using the straight of the grain.

We had Sewin’ Susie, the wife of a childhood friend, and Linda, a costume designer. Linda was among the dearest people in my life. A kind and gentle soul who lived for her husband and sons. She was battling cancer when she came to us, and was a fighter to the end. We finished up our last two years without Linda, for we were planning on retiring and it was hard to think of anyone else sitting in Linda’s seat.

Every job was just part of the process of moving from thread to garments to sell. I never had an answer to “how long does it take you to make this?”, so I answered “from the time I start until the time I get done.

Sue at the serger, greeted by Fiona.
Angus and Fiona adored Sue.