Friday, January 13, 2017

Warning: This might get some folks p.o. at the PIO

Warning: This might p.o. some advertisers and/or taxpayers. The mtl Magazine Ad Revenue for 2016 spreadsheet is here.

It appears that many advertisers are getting reduced pricing. Lebo Citizens reader and watchdog Nick M. ran a quick check and found the following discrepancies.

Howard Hanna should be paying $2180 per issue, they get billed $1962…loss of $2180 per year
Coldwell Banker should be paying $2615 per issue, they get billed $2353…loss of $2620 per year  
Berkshire Hathaway pays full price but Howard Hanna and Coldwell Banker get a huge discount.  
Sewickley Spa should have paid $1855 for their ad, they got billed $1000…loss of $855  
Knepper Press should have paid $695 for 7 ads, they got billed $0…loss of $4865   
Jade Grill should be paying $1755 each for 2 ads but only paid $1000 each…loss of $1510  
Quite a few more too. 
I was happy to report that the PIO had a 2017 budget cut of $4,070,  but as Nick pointed out, "There was a one-time $10,500 expenditure added as a service level in 2016 to redesign the lebomag website. That expenditure won't be needed in 2017." The PIO 2017 Budget essentially had a net increase of $6,430!

So why are some advertisers getting a special deal?  Why did the PIO get a net increase of $6,430? Why does Howard Hanna get a special break? Is it because a commissioner is employed by Howard Hanna? Why does the Library get billed for advertising? Public Works? Why do Outreach and Medical Rescue Team South have to pay for advertising when they receive funding from MTL? Why does Mt. Lebanon Recreation Center pay for advertising? They are one of the larger advertisers in the magazine.  How can the PIO get away with all of this?

54 comments:

Anonymous said...

Customarily it is not unusual for advertiser that buy a full year or a regular buy to get a discounted rate from media such as radio, TV, newspapers and magazines, but looking at the numbers posted here, there doesn't appear to be any rhyme or reason behind the discounted rates.

Not saying there is, but an investigation may be warranted to see if there's any quid pro quo.

As far as the various departments buying ad space in my opinion that isn't a bad idea. But and this is a big BUT, of the magazine is using these municipal ad buys to inflate their revenue and the claim the magazine is self-funded then the taxpayer is being deceived.

Anonymous said...

Here's another problem for a government publication like MTL magazine.

Let's say a business gets an editorial feature positively showcasing their goods or services in the magazine and that feature is covering work done for a magazine staffer could that be construed as a quid pro quo and therefore an ethics violation?

In my opinion that's why the official community magazine should steer clear of stories like some that appear in MTL.

Anonymous said...

Is a good or service being provided to any government employee resulting in the reduced fee(s)? This should be referred to the Office of the Attorney General as a precaution.

Anonymous said...

Start looking at back issues.

Anonymous said...

How much for Mount Lebanon School District ?

E. T. Gillen said...

I don't think MTLSD advertises, 3:37 PM, do they?
Elaine

Anonymous said...

Didn't the school district pay $500 for Ed Kubit's FAQ insert on the HS project a few tears ago?

Anonymous said...

Did the analysis include a look at the # of advertisers over the past couple of years? My impression is that there has been a steep decline. Just thought it might play into the why!?! there are these random discounts.

Anonymous said...

"Newspaper, Magazine Revenues Fell In 2015 03/14/2016"

http://www.mediapost.com/publications/article/271086/newspaper-magazine-revenues-fell-in-2015.html

"In recent years, the Newspaper Association of America and Publishers Information Bureau have both stopped publishing figures for their respective industries’ advertising revenue and ad pages.
With ad revenues declining and print circulation stagnant or declining, more publishers are turning to digital circulation revenues, hoping to monetize online readers with paywalls and digital subscriptions."


A good reason why we should investigate dropping or making the hard copy version of MTL subscription based.

I'll bet there were discussions on this topic at the Folio show in NYC.

Anonymous said...

Buying in bulk and receiving a discount is a pretty common thing.. Allowing discounted rates to bulk purchases, in any market or context, drives incentive to purchase more product or subscribed to something for longer. Also, 11:31, maybe you should call the AG and tell him that someone is getting a discount for buying a bulk subscription but you THINK that maybe the discounts are happening because a commissioner is being provided with a good or service. You may want to also mention that you have an extreme hatred for the commissioners, and also that you have no evidence other than a clouded judgement due to that distain. I'm sure he will launch a full investigation (as a precaution,) of course.
-GE

E. T. Gillen said...

Nice, 10:57 AM. Were the commissioners mentioned here?
Elaine

Anonymous said...

commissioners/PIO, whatever. It's all the same to you. Everyone who disagrees with you is working with each other to waste tax payer dollars on their own goods and services. Ever stop and think that we're lucky that the only problems we have to worry about are a magazine that prints things you don't like and a decision on deer you don't agree with and maybe not.. say.. rampant crime and homicide?
-GE

E. T. Gillen said...

You got all that from reading the 2016 magazine revenue report? Impressive. Now you don't have to beat your spouse today. Glad to help.
Elaine

Anonymous said...

1:00 pm, this resident would feel a lot luckier and richer if we consolidated the school district and municipal public information offices under one roof and saved a bunch money like USC does.

"About USC TODAY Magazine
UPPER ST. CLAIR TODAY, the official publication of the School District and Township of Upper St. Clair, is published and mailed quarterly to residents and businesses in Upper St. Clair."

Anonymous said...

Yeah! Great! Combine them and save money! I'm all for saving money, that's wonderful. But some commenters honestly believe that there's some massive conspiracy by the lebo government members to receive benefits for giving discounts on buying bulk advertisements. Now Elaine calls me a wife beater? I'm just confused.

Zak said...

Let's just wait to hear back from the AG and others before rushing to judgment. Nothing for anyone to worry about as long as its all on the up and up.

Anonymous said...

Gloria Estefan beats her spouse? More like the Mt Lebanon Bullshit Machine.

Anonymous said...

2:41 you're pretty abusive here..to us..to Elaine..are you taking your frustrations at home out on us ?

Anonymous said...

Once a year the commission approves a fee schedule that can be found at http://mtlebanon.org/DocumentCenter/View/14353

It’s obvious the PIO doesn’t care about what the commission approves...and who gave Morgans the express right to charge anything different than what the commission approves? Why even have a fee schedule if you’re not going to follow it?

Why does one real estate firm get charged normal discounted rates but 2 others receive thousands in additional discounts? I would be hopping mad right about now if I were Berkshire Hathaway or any of their agents.

Why does Patete Kitchen & Bath pay more for their 2/3 page ad than Rossi E Rossi, Jade Grill or Sewickley Spa pay for their full page ad? Patete advertised in all 10 issues last year, paid the correct discounted rate of $1065 per issue while the other 3 paid only $1000 and advertised in many less issues. Rossi E Rossi advertised in 1 issue only.

Elaine listed just a fraction (over $10,000) of lost revenue coming from the PIO. She only listed a handful who received favorable rates.

Many posters advocate combining the school PIO with the municipal PIO, it’s apparent that the municipal PIO is making that case for themselves.

Our illustrious officials just approved an $8300 per year taxpayer expense to be paid to Mirabel Technologies for a specific piece of web-based software called Magazine Manager to handle the contracts and billings for the Public Information Office's magazine advertising function. Do we really need this?

As a resident and taxpayer, I question this because we are losing ad revenue while Morgans gets her cell phone paid for by us and enjoys a $108,000 per year income plus all the benefits that go along with her employment. And let’s not forget the pancake breakfasts and appreciation dinners in which her family members attend…on the taxpayer dime of course.

Where is the accountability? Why don’t the commissioners side with the taxpayers and say, enough is enough? Isn't the commission the overseer of taxpayer monies in addition to having a fiduciary duty to all of us?

Nick M.

Anonymous said...

Again with the cell phones... I bet she has a personal phone, too. An employer giving an employee a company phone is not unusual.

E. T. Gillen said...

Upper St. Clair also has The Patch for their local news. Upper St. Clair, PA Patch Residents can get real time alerts. Think Lebo ALERTS. Another service that is costing us money.

It is free, Steve Silverman!
Elaine

Anonymous said...

Y'all love to talk about how great the system is over in USC. The taxes are lower, they've got the PIO office you seem to love, a school that's not being renovated. Maybe you should move out and make this a "USCCitizens" Fan page! Or maybe you'd go there, find problems, and annoy them until you're in court with a different local government. ��

E. T. Gillen said...

Is that your answer when we post cost saving solutions? You suggest we move and throw in a cheap shot too? We're showing how we can save money. Is that so bad, 8:52 PM?
Elaine

Anonymous said...

Elaine:
I think 8:52's wife is beating him up. He's not a wife beater. He is manning up and attacking you instead.


E. T. Gillen said...

No, I get it, 9:26 PM. 8:52 PM is frustrated and has no good come back.
Elaine

Anonymous said...

"For 22 years, UPPER ST. CLAIR TODAY has served as the official publication of the School District and Township of Upper St. Clair.

UPPER ST. CLAIR TODAY is dedicated to promoting our community, recognizing the gifts and contributions of the people who live and work here.

UPPER ST. CLAIR TODAY is made possible through the combined resources of the staff and volunteers of the Township and School District of Upper St. Clair."

Who wants to bet that USC spends a lot less money on Public Information than Mt. Lebanon.

Would you agree on that 8:52?

I like the transparency in USC too. Their printed budget totals 377 pages while ours totals a mere 93. I would guess that USC is more transparent when it comes to letting residents know how and where tax dollars will be spent. Are you a fan of transparency 8:52?

Nick M.

E. T. Gillen said...

I love how there are those who love to divert attention away from the topic at hand. This thread is about how the PIO is wasting money. I don't need to be lectured on domestic violence. This isn't about deer. This isn't about my court case. And I certainly won't be told to publish something or told to move out of Mt. Lebanon because my views are different than someone else's.

I published a spreadsheet from the municipality. It shows many discrepancies. Consider it more evidence of the local government waste, and we're not even talking about PAYT. The commissioners need to stop the bleeding that is going on in the Public Information Office.
Elaine

E. T. Gillen said...

We have a Mt.Lebanon Police officer who had a PFA filed against him. Where were you when I had that on the blog? The PFA was dropped so that the police officer could return to work.

The commissioners raised our taxes. The school board directors are raising our taxes. But there are a few people out there who would rather send in abusive comments to me, and hide behind their computers, feeliing good about themselves.
Elaine

Anonymous said...

Combining Public info offices does not mean keeping one or the other at their current pay and benefits levels.

USC magazine's entire editorial staff is budgeted at $38,000.

8:33 while having a company paid cell phone isn't uncommon it isn't automatic either. Just why does the PIO need a phone? Does she make that many phones calls outside the office and are those calls so pressing they can't wait until she's at her desk?

Anonymous said...

Hughes was never convicted of anything. And his wife decided herself to drop the PFA.

E. T. Gillen said...

Said by a domestic abuser? A woman just doesn't "decide herself" to drop the PFA. Your response 12:11 AM, just proves my point.

About the cell phone, 11:54 PM, and I can't believe I am saying this, but Susan Morgans uses her phone to take photos at commission meetings. She also uses it during meetings when she waves it in front of our faces. This behavior was witnessed by then manager Feller and a commissioner during a commission discussion session. It has occurred before commission meetings, as well.
Elaine

Anonymous said...

Yes Elaine, I've seen her do that. She also carries an iPad, no?

A question for 8:52.
When you're not here telling people that don't see things like you do, to move somewhere else do you paint N-words on football equipment and teach your kids to scribe swastikas in the dirt?

That whole Unity thing went over your head didn't it?

Anonymous said...

She's not allowed to use her phone to take pictures?

Anonymous said...

"That whole Unity thing" was about respect for people of different races, religions, sexuality, genders and national origins. If this site won't unify with the PIO, why would I want to unify with this site's collective of groupthink Eeyores?

Anonymous said...

8:43, then I guess you disagree with Commissioner Fraasch?

"This is our community, all of our community." — Kelly Fraasch

I didn't read where she said this is 8:43's community and you must agree with them or move elsewhere.

The Business Dictionary defines community as "
community:
"Self-organized network of people with common agenda, cause, or interest, who collaborate by sharing ideas, information, and other resources. Virtual communities consist of participants in online discussions on topics of mutual concern, or of those who frequent certain websites."

You of course 8:43 believe that discussing "topics of mutual interest" should only be what you want to discuss, right?

E. T. Gillen said...

8:43 AM, some would say it this way. "If the PIO won't unify with this site."

Atta girl, Susan. Deflect from the mtl Magazine Ad Revenue for 2016 spreadsheet discussion. You go, Girl!
Elaine

Anonymous said...

8:05, please point out where anyone said "She's" not allowed to take photos.

The discussion was whether 'she' needs a taxpayer paid for cell phone. Do we pay her so little that she can't use a personal phone to take photos?

In a cost saving measure, I'd recommend buying one or two of the excellent digital cameras on the market and make them available to any staffer that has an assignment requiring a photo. They are available for under $150, are Wifi capable and have many features beyond a cellphone camera.

Helluva lot cheaper than an iPhone 7!

Anonymous said...

9:47, most smartphone cameras are basically digital cameras at this point. You should see the resolution on the iphone 7+! It's really something. If she doesn't have a work phone, should she be required to make business related phone calls on a personal phone? Nope. Just because she is paid by taxpayers, doesn't mean she should get screwed out of the normal benefits a normal employee would have. And no one said "she shouldn't take pictures," but it was basically implied. That was the issue someone had with her phone. That she was taking pictures at a commissioners meeting. You can rest easy tonight knowing that they don't charge you per picture you take on your iphone. lol. The camera quality from your wonderful suggestion of 150 dollar or less camera would be just as good as a phone. You just suggested a waste of money.

Anonymous said...

What, is Mt. Lebanon the incarnation of Orwell's 1984 state "Oceania" where "'Newspeak' is under the control of a privileged elite that, persecutes individualism and independent thinking as 'thoughtcrime'."

Wow 8:43, I'll never unify with you and why I don't support our current PIO.

Anonymous said...

"I'll never unify with you." Nice. You want to compare the state in 1984 to a group of commissioners just because you disagree with them? If this was the 1984 society, nothing like this blog would exist.

Anonymous said...

10:20 sorry to say this but you're full of shit.
I'm well aware of the capabilities of the iPhone 7 and it does take excellent pictures but it has a very limited zoom, flash and photo enhancements like sharing, color control, color balance controls, etc., etc.

Plus, I doubt that the PIO is going to share her phone with someone that may need to cover and photograph an event whereas a department camera or two can be shared.

Of course you could tell me how many photojournalist have chucked their digital cameras and rely just on a smartphone.

You also write: "Just because she is paid by taxpayers, doesn't mean she should get screwed out of the normal benefits a normal employee would have.
Please provide us with your study on the definition of a "normal employee" their benefits, compensation, perks, and duties. I'd love to read it.

Oh back at ya... LOL! If they don't charge you by cellphone photo why couldn't the PIO use her personal phone? It doesn't cost her anything either. Calls and texting are unlimited too.

Anonymous said...

11:00 am what, am I required to unify with you?

As long as the current PIO exist in its present form then no I won't unify with it. In fact I'd prefer they quit sending me copies of their magazine.
I will unify with the community as always by paying my taxes, obeying the law and working to make this a better community.

I will also never tell someone to go live somewhere else because we might disagree on a community issue.

Oh by the way...
JPMorgan: Go pay for your own phone - YouTube

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=W0cbetCVHSQ

Anonymous said...

If Ms. Morgan's takes pictures on her personal cell, they wouldn't be subject to all of your costly RTK's!!!!

Anonymous said...

Maybe she shouldn't have to use a personal phone because she doesn't want to give her personal phone number out to everyone she does business with.

Anonymous said...

12:57, RTKs that she may or may not give out?
1:09, I guess it would be too complicated to have the municipal secretary or front desk to tell her callers that the PIO is away from her desk and will return your call ASAP.
Public works and other depts. I know do that.
If she calls them she can set her phone up not to identify the number.
Problem solved.

Try again.

E. T. Gillen said...

You're right, 2:57 PM. Plus, personal phone numbers are always redacted in RTKs.

11:00 AM, try to keep up. The comparison was, 1984 to the PIO, not the commissioners.

12:57 PM, when Ms. Morgans uses her personal phone for work, it is subject to RTKs. The sad part is that she can delete anything she wants and there is nothing that can be done about it. Yeah, I know, Susan Morgans would never try to get away with anything that isn't above board, like approving an employee's time card for a total of fifteen minutes of work in a day.
Elaine

RG said...

Kudos to Nick M. and Elaine for providing this spreadsheet. Someone has pointed out that it is not uncommon for a business to offer a discount for conditional sales (such as quantities, early payment, etc.). I agree, but there are a couple of other points about the revenue spreadsheet that I think are worth considering:
1. The "paid" date is not included.
2. As of 31 December 2016 there was a $38,233.50 outstanding balance (accounts due).

OK, I understand that a substantial part of the outstanding balance was due to billing dated 1 December 2016, due 31 December 2016. It is very possible that payments for a number of the accounts billed in December simply didn't show up in time for the end of the year. However, look over this spreadsheet carefully, and you'll find a number of accounts going back to the beginning of 2016 that simply did not pay their bills. I hope the PIO will refuse additional advertising until these people pay.

Elaine makes a very good point when she asks why agencies of the municipality - such as Public Works - get billed and pay for advertising space in the magazine. Consider that the municipality claims that the magazine is "profitable" - and I'll concede that sometimes this is true (but not all the time!). But the affect of this "profitability" on the municipality's bottom line can only be considered sans the intergovernmental money swaps. The only revenue that counts is the kind that is external, not internal. If you give your kid $10 for mowing your lawn your family's income did not go up by $10 - you simply made an internal transfer. True, little Johnny now has ten bucks more than he had a while ago, but dad has $10 less; and Johnny's ten bucks actually came from dad's employer.

Finally, many have called for the elimination of the PIO. Do we need a Public Information Office? - yes; but not the kind we currently have. The better question is what kind of public information MEDIA do we need? Certainly there is a need to get important information concerning the municipality out to the residents; but a municipal publishing arm is wasteful. Please note that I have nothing against a slick magazine or newspaper that carries "news" about Mt. Lebanon; but those things already exist as private entities that would be more than happy to arrange to take announcements from the municipality and/or public "feel good" stories about Lebo. And even if there were some costs involved they would certainly be far less than what we currently spend. Also, while Ms. Morgans and I have butted heads over certain issues here in the Bubble they have all been on a professional level - nothing personal. I also understand that the PIO is not a news organization (far from it!); the purpose of the PIO is to act as cheerleader for the municipality and not cover hard news. Granted. But we can cheer-lead for a hell of a lot less tax money!

Anonymous said...

Elaine you are right, but the comment about "1984" wasn't even referring to the PIO.

It was directed at 8:43's comment "If this site won't unify with the PIO, why would I want to unify with this site's collective of groupthink Eeyores?"

The issue was with 8:43 that believes for some reason Elaine and her readership should or must unify with the PIO or we are a bunch of "groupthink Eeyores."

Sounded like Orwellian rhetoric to me -- "where "'Newspeak' is under the control of a privileged elite that, persecutes individualism and independent thinking as 'thoughtcrime'."

Now they didn't accuse us here of thoughtcrimes, but they did persecute our independent thinking.

Anonymous said...

Did anyone ever notice that when commenters make a blanket statement like " "Just because she is paid by taxpayers, doesn't mean she should get screwed out of the normal benefits a normal employee would have", and you ask them questions like "what is a normal employee" and how many normal employees get employer paid phones, they never answer or prove their comments?

Anonymous said...

Don't play dumb, 4:56. You surely know that thousand and thousands of private sector employees receive company phones. If you work at McDonalds or some low level job; no chance are you won't get a company phone. Chances are, if your salary is 100,000, and your every day business involves interacting with people who you may not want to provide your personal phone number to, you will receive a phone or some type of reimbursement for a phone. Here's the question you should ask yourself "If I liked the PIO or agreed with her on the issues, would I be whining about her phone, or taking pictures with her phone?" I assure you the answer is "No." Before you scrutinize portions of the budget from now on, really ask yourself "Do I truly think that this is a ridiculous waste of money, or do I just dislike those who are spending the money?" I'm pretty certain if you were buddies with the PIO, you wouldn't be complaining that they got a company phone. Guess what, if she quit tomorrow, she'd have to give the phone back. Stop whining for the sake of whining.

Richard Gideon said...

Hummm...in mine of 4:26 PM the word "intergovernmental" probably should be "intragovernmental," as the PIO and the Public Works department are agencies within the municipality. Mea culpa.

E. T. Gillen said...

It is pretty clear to me that this post got some folks p.o. IN the Public Information Office.
Elaine

Anonymous said...

Folks in the PIO shouldn't be the only ones who should be po'd, it should also include the businesses who received unfavorable treatment by being unfairly billed for their ads when other folks were billed far less, in some cases almost 50% less. We can add Atria's to that list too, they were billed $1755 for a similar add that other folks were billed only $1000 for.

Restaurants work on very small margins to begin with. Atria's has been a main staple in Mt. Lebanon for decades and for their local community magazine to treat them so unfairly needs to be questioned by and answered by someone. I wonder if the PIO will reimburse Atria's $755.

Nick M.

E. T. Gillen said...

OMG, yes, Nick signed his name "Nick M." He has helped me with this blog by filing and paying for RTKs, and has graciously agreed to sharing them with all of you.

BTW, before I get any more comments about this, I will continue to sign my name as "Elaine." Seriously, you have a problem, pal.
Elaine