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Featured In Our Jan. 18th Issue Of The Susquehanna County Transcript

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Letters to the Editor Policy

Every Coin Has Two Sides

The courts have their shorts in a knot – again. It's those pesky creationists. This time, ducking the religious moniker and calling it intelligent design, they want to actually teach the stuff. The courts and the evolutionists are doing heroic battle tilting at their perennial foe denying creation under whatever rubric it is presented. They believe in unintelligent design. This is not meant as a pejorative criticism. It simply means that intelligence is not part of evolutionary theory.

Now it seems to me there is a common ground here. The intelligent designers generally believe that God fashioned man from clay in about a day. The unintelligent designers believe pretty much the same thing. They, too, believe that man came from a kind of clay created (sorry, I can't think of any other word) by chance, not God, and in about a zillion years, not a day.

The two views camp on different grounds. The religionists, that is after all what they are, base their belief on faith. That's straightforward enough: either one believes it or one doesn't. Simple. The evolutionists' claim is more complicated. Their belief, they say, is based on science. Fair enough. So it seems fitting to ask them a few scientific questions.

One: Has life been created in the laboratory? Yes or No. Two: Is evolution experimentally reproducible? Yes or No. Three: Do evolutionists know exactly how or where life got started? Yes or No. Four: Is there indisputable proof verifying the claims of evolutionists as there is for quantum mechanics or general relativity? Yes or No. Five: Are there demonstrable laws governing evolution as in electromagnetism, light, gravity? Yes or No.

It seems that evolutionists have more in common with creationists than they would like to admit, namely that it is not science in the sense of chemistry or physics or hydraulics, but a religion. Like those who accept Genesis as literal truth, evolution, too, requires faith of its devotees. Believing, as they do, that a puddle of primordial slime can, in time, develop into a watchmaker crafting a chronometer is quite a leap of faith.

Last year there was a brouhaha over a book sold in the Grand Canyon National Park bookstores. It explained the giant chasm as evidence of the Noachian Flood. The evolutionary evangelists had a hissy fit, demanded its removal from or even its proximity to the scientific section. Inconsistent, I thought, with a scientific attitude of a free and open exchange of ideas, more like book banning or the intolerant wrath of true believers.

"The lady protest too much, methinks." After all, if creationists are Bible stumpin' zealots, devoid of rationality and at odds with science, it should be a snap to expose them for what that are. Evolutionists, armed with "science," should bare knuckle it. Air both sides of the issue and give the creationists a bloody nose. Or would the evolutionists get a black eye? Evolutionary pillars of evidential fossils, beneficial mutations, dating methods, stratigraphy and the geological column are not immune to scientific criticism.

What could be the worst of an open discussion? Would science majors abandon education, get tonsures and become monks? Would the birds fall from the sky in shocked horror? Would a new Dark Age cloud man's mind? Would western civilization crumble?

The ancient Greeks believed that the gods were continually squabbling, yet they built the Parthenon. The Indians believed the earth rested on the back of a turtle? They had a succession of marvelous civilizations. The Chinese worshiped hoards of ancestors. They invented practically everything about a thousand years before us. Today we have PhDs in all fields of science who are Buddhists, Hindus, Animists, Shintoists, Taoists, and even Christian creationists. One's religion is never an obstacle, except in the field of evolution.

Does it not seem incongruous that schools should be forbidden to teach certain ideas? And please, no separation of church and state nonsense. Neither the phrase nor the idea exists in the Constitution. It cannot even be inferred. It is a recent fabrication of the Supreme Court. But if the Court in its largesse granted us the freedom of choice, then at the very least should not the composition of the curricula be decided by parents? Whose kids are they, the courts?

Alas, in our democracy everything of consequence is decided by the Court, the Supreme Court. Our children are to be protected from the nefarious demons lurking in intelligent design. Too bad, because truth, whether of intelligent or unintelligent design, needs no protection. False ideas are like the hammer on the anvil: the hammer wears out but the anvil is unaffected. If the courts kept to their proper business, would it be too radical to teach or at least present both sides of this issue? In time, one would prove to be the hammer that it discarded and the other side revealed to be the anvil that endures.

Oh well. It would have been a grand fight: the zealots vs. the true believers.


Bob Scroggins

New Milford, PA

No Tax Increase

On Friday, December 23, the Susquehanna County Commissioners passed the 2006 County Budget of $19 million dollars with no increase in Real Estate or Occupational Taxes. 2006’s Real Estate millages were set at 11.5 mills for real estate, 1.01 mills for funded debt service, and .33 mills for the four county Library Branches. 2005’s Budget was $18.6 million dollars.

The $400,000 revenue increase will be generated largely from state mandated increases in Clean & Green property evaluations. The $400,000 expense increase will result from higher Union Wages, increases in Health Insurance premiums, rising Jail costs, and reductions in state money paid to the county for Children & Youth services.

The original department expense budgets submitted to the Commissioners amounted to much more than the $400,000 accepted in the final budget. However, our county department heads worked with the Commissioners to cut back their original expense requests. These dedicated employees also spent less money in 2005 than they were allocated in their budgets. These 2005 savings resulted in leaving Susquehanna County Government with a healthy $900,000 plus cash balance with which to start out the 2006 fiscal year.

Susquehanna County historically has very little revenue coming in in January, February, March and April of each year until real estate taxes are collected by the Treasurer’s office. Because of this temporary shortfall, a short term Tax Revenue Anticipation Note (TRAN) is borrowed each year. a TRAN is a short term loan offered at a low interest rate by banking institutions to state, county and municipal governments to cover their expenses until tax revenues start coming in. A TRAN must be repaid by the end of the fiscal year in which it is borrowed.

Susquehanna County started out 2005 with a small $267,000 cash balance which necessitated borrowing a short term $1.6 Million Dollar Tax Revenue Anticipation Note (TRAN) to carry the county through until the Tax Revenue started coming in April, 2005. Because of the healthy cash balance left over at the end of 2005, the short term TRAN that will be taken out for 2006 will be reduced by over $500,000.

Susquehanna County is blessed with having over 200 dedicated, knowledgeable employees and elected public officials who strived in 2005 to reduce expenses without reducing the services they provided to the public. They are all to be commended. Because of them, taxes did not have to be raised for 2006. Thank you one and all for your hard work and dedication.


Jeff Loomis

County Commissioner

Another Huge Success

The Officers and Members of Canawacta Lodge No. 360 Masons wish to thank the community and the local business for their continued support and contributions towards the Canawacta Lodge annual senior citizen Christmas dinner. This being the 15th annual dinner, it again was a huge success. The smiles and thanks from the seniors are priceless. This meal is free to area seniors and is greatly appreciated.


Gene Graves, Sec.

Canawacta Lodge #360

County Employee Healthcare

First of all, I would like to congratulate County Commissioner Roberta Kelly for taking a public stand on this issue. It would be educational to see the other two commissioners publicly state their views on this subject as well.

Commissioner Kelly seems to have pointed out most of the issues relating to this subject and it appears that she favors the view that it is necessary for all employees to bear a portion of the burden. Unfortunately, she does not indicate her plans to make this happen. She states that she has volunteered to pay a portion of costs for her own insurance as an elected official, but doesn't indicate what steps will be taken to insure that this policy would apply to all. Just stating that it can’t be done legally for current elected personnel doesn't hack it.

It is time that our County Government take a firm stand and insure that all elected, union, and non-union personnel pay their fair share of these costs. I’m sure that if they were to do that, it would go a long way towards ensuring their re-election. If they fail to immediately act on this matter, we, the electorate, should express our dissatisfaction in the next county election by supporting candidates who will take the necessary action.


Harry Biesecker

Susquehanna, PA

Reflections On Commissioners

For the last several years I have written many letters to the editors of various newspapers concerning county management of our tax dollars. Obviously all of my observations have not been heard or understood by the commissioners. I now believe that the real problem is all of the commissioners that have served since I have been following Susquehanna County politics lack business or industry experience. Thus, they put their interests before the interest of the people they should be serving. I will explore some key areas.

There was a very significant county tax increase several years ago. Subsequently the county refinanced the long term debt and saved hundreds of thousands of dollars. This windfall of money was used to put an elevator to the court room. The elevator was needed, however, the money should have been obtained through a grant. All money saved by refinancing debt should have been used for tax reductions. The elevator installation required extensive renovations in other areas of the court house and also entirely new office area for the commissioners.

I just read in a local newspaper that the cost of healthcare will increase by 30% in 2006. Looks like the county will be paying $1950 for each of the 200 employees. I was at a social function this past weekend and talked with a union official that lived 40 miles out on Long Island. He told me that healthcare in his area costs businesses $640 per month. It’s time that the county give their employees a flat dollar amount for healthcare and allow them to purchase insurance on their own. That way all employees would be treated the same; no penalty for non union people.

I mentioned that the county now has 200 employees, per report in a local newspaper. My experience from working in industry is that if management does not exercise control, headcount growth is the name of the game. The rule of thumb is that budgets are always exceeded by at least 10%. Susquehanna County should strive to reduce permanent headcount by 20%. Part time or temps could be used when absolutely needed and approved on an individual basis. Imagine the millions that could be saved.

At the last commissioner meeting an agreement was approved to lease a vehicle for three years at a total cost of $26000 +. When I was township supervisor we purchased nearly new vehicles from federal agencies at a small fraction of their blue book value. These were late model with very low mileage. Often times, agencies replace their vehicles after 3 years regardless of mileage. (Each vehicle had a detailed maintenance record so we knew exactly what we were buying.)

Newspapers north of the border have had numerous articles concerning part time elected officials receiving free healthcare. Some have already elected not to receive the free gift. Others may be forced to pay through decisions by trustees. The articles mention that free healthcare was started many years ago when healthcare costs were “peanuts.”

People hired because of grant money must understand that their employment may only last the duration of the grant funding. Further the grant should cover both labor and burden costs. Burden includes healthcare, 13 holidays, vacation, sick time, and any retirement contributions. Good practices in industry are good for county employees.

An entry level unskilled worker could start at $8.50 per hour. On top of this is a healthcare package costing taxpayers $11.60 per hour. This does not include 13 holidays, vacation, sick time, and retirement contributions. Add up the value of all this! I personally don’t think most working people and retirees can afford paying taxes for this. Of course ALL county workers are exceptional, but I happen to think that many of our farmers and other trades also are exceptional.

We the taxpayers of Susquehanna County must make ourselves aware of how our tax dollars are being managed. Otherwise we only have ourselves to blame for the high cost of county government. By working together the county can once again be a place we look at and talk about with pride.


Tom Jurista

Silver Lake Township


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