Not long ago I published an article demonstrating how some of our local tax dollars are spent/wasted. (Click here for article.) Even before publishing that article, we began looking at the County’s and School System’s use of Purchase Cards. Purchase Cards are commonly referred to as Credit Cards and in the instance of our local government, they are known as P-Cards.
Currently we are in possession of copies of P-Card statements from June 2019 thru June 2020 that the County charged me over $200 to obtain through a very deceptive, time-consuming, and frustrating Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) process. Nevertheless, we have been able to conduct a general review of the statements and are well on our way to building spreadsheets that will enable us to take a much closer look at how our tax dollars are being spent. We also intend to ask our local government to allow us to review and copy some of the supporting document files for some of the charges. I say some of the supporting document files because it would literally take us weeks if not months and several hundred dollars or more in FOIA fees to the County to scrutinize such a magnitude of files. Transparency is expensive in Gloucester County.
What do we know about Gloucester’s P-Cards in general? We know a P-Card was used by the person convicted of stealing from the School System’s bus garage. (To read two related stories, Click here and click here.) We know thousands of purchases are made every month. We know some of the charges are payments for goods and services procured through a competitive bidding process. An example of such procurements is pizza from Domino’s for school lunches once a month. We know P-Cards are used to make purchases in other countries like Germany, Canada, The United Kingdom and Ireland. We know P-Cards are used to travel all over Virginia and to Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Texas, Arizona, California, Pennsylvania and other states. We know there are employees who use the P-Cards appropriately and we know there are ones who abuse them. We know we have more to learn and we are doing so.
I guess it’s time to tell you how much money we are talking about. From June 1, 2019 until June 30, 2020, they charged and paid off $4,437,897.19. Thus far, we have determined those charges were made by over 100 different P-Card holders but will not know the exact total until more work is done. Let’s look at some other things we have learned so far.
The following are the amounts spent per month for three consecutive months and the total spent each month on just a few Merchant Categories (MCC) of goods and services. (Purchases rounded to nearest $100)
$442,337.33 was charged during June 2019.
Airlines – $1,300
Lodging – $10,500
Meals – $1,500
Cox Communications – $40,300
Verizon – $11,800
Amazon – $21,500
Local Walmart, Food Lion & Kroger – $2,600
Organization Memberships – $955.10
Coffee Service – $300
Computer Software - $11,500
$695,379.49 was charged during July 2019.
Airlines – $2,400
Lodging – $10,700
Meals – $3,100
Cox Communications – $38,200
Verizon – $2,500
Amazon – $22,400
Local Walmart, Food Lion & Harris Teeter – $3,400
Organization Memberships – $4,900
Mulch and Lawncare – $700
Coffee Service - $200
Computer Software - $5,700
$293,198.46 was charged during August 2019.
Airlines – $4,900
Lodging – $3,700
Meals – $2,000
Cox Communications – $38,100
Verizon – $4,500
Amazon – $23,300
Local Walmart and Food Lion – $4,200
Organization Memberships – $10,000
Mulch and Lawn Care - $33,000
Coffee Services - $200
Computer Software - $600
There was a heck of a lot of money spent each month on air travel, lodging and meals. The examples above do not include reimbursements for cash receipts and do not reflect parking fees, tolls, fuel costs, car rentals, taxi fares, bus rentals, etc. related to travel. There were multiple people traveling every month throughout the 13-month period we are studying.
We pay Cox Communications a lot every month as well. The amount does not seem justified considering the number of people in the County who get no benefit from their service. I believe the same can be said about Verizon.
As for Amazon, Walmart, Food Lion, Kroger, Harris Teeter and a huge number of other suppliers, we will have no idea what all of that money was spent on until we get a look at the supporting document files for the charges. Rest assured, I will share whatever we find, good and bad. You can see more suppliers in the copies of P-Card statements I have provided in the SlideShare presentations below.
Organizations and memberships is another tax dollar eating category. Most of these organizations bring no direct benefit to Gloucester taxpayers and in some instances, they work against the citizenry and are downright Socialist and or divisive in nature. Examples of such entities are: Virginia School Board Association, Virginia Association of School Superintendents, Society For Human Resources, National Alliance of Black Educators, National School Board Association, Virginia Association of Elementary School Teachers, Virginia Parks and Recreation Association, Realtor Association, Association of International Certified Professional Accountants, Virginia Association of Governmental Purchasing and too many more to list here. You can click on each organization listed to visit their website. I encourage you to take a look at each of them.
The amount of tax dollars spent on Mulch and Lawncare services is, in my humble opinion, absolutely ludicrous. There seems to be plenty money to spend on luxury and unbeneficial things, but not enough to keep our schools maintained.
The County and School System have initiated an all out campaign to entice Gloucester residents to vote in favor of raising the local retail sales and use tax. They are disseminating flyers on social media that are full of deception. The words “may”, “potentially” and “probably” are words of uncertainty and lack of commitment and are used throughout their flier. If this tax increase is enacted it will not only provide the School System with a blank check for as much as $100 Million, it will also pave the way for a meals tax increase. Did you know Gloucester has already increased the lodging tax to raise more tax dollars for Recreation and Tourism? It’s true.
It is time for our School System and County to be forced into becoming fiscally responsible. We The People of Gloucester were ignored during the recent Public Hearing on the School System borrowing nearly $6 Million. This can never be allowed to happen again. The whole Public Hearing was nothing more than a sham and is not how government in the USA is supposed to work. Not one Public Comment speaker spoke in favor of the borrowing, yet every Supervisor except Mr. Winebarger and Mr. Bazzani voted yes to approve it. Mr. Winebarger and Mr. Bazzani voted no. This time they cannot ignore our voice. Let’s send them a clear message this year by voting “NO” on the tax increase and send another message next year by voting several School Board and Board of Supervisors members out of office.
Written By: Kenny Hogge Sr
Gloucester Point, Virginia
A few interesting transactions that we intend to look at further.
06/06 74208474X00072Q9D JIMDO HAMBURG $240.00
06/06 74208474X00072Q9D FOREIGN TRANSACTION FEE $2.40
JIMDO Hamburg Website and webstore hosting from Hamburg, Germany. https://www.jimdo.com/
07/22 24755426O3HM5N9Y2 FERG CENTER FOR THE ARTS $600.50
07/23 24040836QS66JG33B SWIFT CREEK MILL THEATER $442.00
Ferguson Center for The Arts https://www.fergusoncenter.org/
Swift Creek Mill Theater http://siteline.vendini.com/site/swiftcreekmill.com/
08/27 24692167F2XDZV3Z6 SAN DIEGO ZOO WEB STORE $725.00
San Diego Zoo We Store https://shopzoo.com/