Distracted drivers cause havoc on WA roads

MORE than just a danger to life and limb, distracted drivers are likely proving disastrous for family budgets across the country.

With smartphones now ubiquitous, almost as common is the sight of their owners scrolling through Facebook feeds or replying to text messages behind the wheel.

Inattentive driving resulted in 26 fatalities on WA roads last year, double the previous five-year average.

According to Road Safety Commission research, 57 per cent of WA drivers admit to texting while driving.

RSC acting commissioner Iain Cameron said mobile phones were a relatively recent challenge.

“People’s risk appreciation is quite low and they don’t believe it will happen to them,” he said.

“About 70 per cent of all of our serious crashes are somebody momentarily making a mistake, picking up the mobile phone or whatever.

“They’re not deliberately engaging in high-risk behaviour such as speeding or drink-driving.”

In an illustration of how widespread the bad mobile phone habits have become, The Sunday Times this week captured numerous motorists at traffic hotspots across the city who were using their phones.

While drivers seldom disclose being distracted by their phone when lodging a claim, Canstar group executive for financial services Steve Mickenbecker said he had little doubt the bad habit was driving up car insurance premiums.

According to the financial comparison site, WA premiums jumped between 5 and 19.5 per cent last week — with families with young drivers and 30 to 49-year-olds stung hardest.

“While the data isn’t great on the number of accidents where distracted driving is a causal factor, all State governments have brought in fines and launched huge educational programs to address the issue,” he said.

“That doesn’t happen if it wasn’t causing serious loss to property and to life.”

Both Mr Mickenbecker and an RAC spokeswoman said insurers did not keep records on the number of claims they received relating to distracted driving.

“When there is a fatality there is a full-on investigation and court orders to check phone records to establish if the driver was distracted, but that doesn’t happen in a regular bread-and-butter prang with some panels broken,” the Canstar executive said.

“With no loss of life police rarely get involved and so statistics don’t capture the size of the problem.”

The WA Insurance Commission, which deals only with motor injury insurance, reported a decrease in the number of claims to cover medical bills over the past decade. Commission secretary Kane Blackman said the high number of insured vehicles in the State (2.9 million including caravans and trailers) also helped apply downward pressure to compulsory motor injury insurance premiums.

That would suggest an increase in the number of less serious crashes is fuelling the jump in private insurance premiums.

Mr Mickenbecker pointed to the number of teens and 30-somethings walking around while texting.

“Hopefully when they get behind the wheel they are not quite as prolific but frankly I think we have a whole generation of people who find it extremely difficult not to look at their phone when it goes off,” he said.

Regulator Blasts Wells Fargo for Deceptive Auto Insurance Program

That internal report said the costs of the unneeded insurance, which covered collision damage, had caused some 274,000 Wells Fargo customers to fall behind on their car loans, and almost 25,000 vehicles were wrongly repossessed. Customers on active military duty were among those hurt by the practice.

In the comptroller’s report, regulators said management at the bank’s auto loan unit, Wells Fargo Dealer Services, had ignored signs of problems in the business such as consumer complaints, focusing instead on sales volume and performance. The report described its management of compliance risk — essentially the ability to abide by regulations and best practices — as “weak.” It noted that Wells Fargo in 2015 had characterized the risks associated with this business as “low.”

Wells Fargo has set aside $80 million to compensate the 570,000 customers it said were harmed by receiving auto insurance they didn’t want. The comptroller’s office said that the amount was inadequate and that the bank might have to pay out substantially more as additional victims were identified — partly because Wells Fargo’s analysis of how much money it needed to set aside excluded many years when the insurance was being imposed.

The report does give Wells Fargo’s management credit for taking action after identifying the problems at the auto loan unit, such as hiring legal and consulting firms to assess customer harm, changing staff at the operation and notifying regulators.

The comptroller’s findings are likely to affect how Wells Fargo does business, not just in the auto lending operation but across the bank. The comptroller’s office said it would require Wells Fargo to ensure that all of its business units had effective systems in place to identify and prevent risky practices.

Catherine Pulley, a Wells Fargo spokeswoman, said in a statement that the bank had made significant changes in recent months to strengthen controls and oversight of insurers and outside vendors with which it does business.

“We are also working to enhance our customer care program and improve complaints resolution,” she said. “We will continue to work with regulators on the remediation and make improvements to our auto lending business to build a better Wells Fargo.”

Wells Fargo stopped the auto insurance program in September 2016.

Once the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency makes its findings formal, Wells Fargo will have time to correct the problems. A spokeswoman for the comptroller’s office declined to comment on the report.

The report did not mention penalties or fines. The comptroller can impose penalties for violations of laws or unsound business practices in an attempt to deter violations and encourage corrective measures.

Last year, the comptroller’s office came under scrutiny for its own failures to supervise Wells Fargo. A report in April by the office’s ombudsman concluded that the agency “must continue our efforts to improve and refine the agency’s supervisory program, to sharpen our early warning processes, and to enhance our supervisory capabilities.”

Wells Fargo is facing turmoil elsewhere. On Friday, the bank said that four foreign-exchange bankers in its investment banking unit had left and another executive had been reassigned. The moves were first reported by The Wall Street Journal, which said, citing anonymous sources, that they were part of a regulatory investigation into the bank’s foreign-exchange operations.

The comptroller’s review of Wells Fargo’s auto lending and insurance practices has been underway for several months.

The report paints a damning picture of a bank that didn’t monitor its contractors, that lacked the impetus to correct problems once they were uncovered and that proved unresponsive to complaints from its customers.

For example, the comptroller cited extensive lapses in Wells Fargo’s oversight of National General, an insurer with which it had contracted to underwrite the auto insurance. National General was not obligated to — and did not — alert Wells Fargo to customer complaints about the unneeded insurance, the report said.

And when auditors at Wells Fargo detected and then flagged problems with National General in 2015, the comptroller’s office said, the bank didn’t act on those concerns promptly.

Christine Worley, a spokeswoman for National General, disputed elements of the report. “We believe that our customer service in this area was handled in a timely manner,” she said in a statement. “We work closely with our financial institution clients and advise them of complaints on a regular basis.”

The bank’s lapses in handling consumer complaints and managing vendors are not new. Regulators in recent years had ordered Wells Fargo to improve its oversight in both areas.

Wells Fargo’s ability to track consumer complaints efficiently, for example, had been part of a 2015 compliance-improvement plan at the bank, the report noted. And a so-called consent order in 2011 between Wells Fargo and the comptroller’s office involving the bank’s mortgage foreclosure operations required it to establish a more effective program to manage its relationships with outside companies and contractors.

The comptroller’s office also concluded that the bank’s plan to compensate customers who were harmed by the improprieties was insufficient. When calculating potential damages, the bank limited its payments to customers who were affected beginning in January 2012 and extending to July this year. But the auto insurance program has been in place for almost 12 years, and the bank didn’t calculate potential damages caused for much of that period.

“The number of customers harmed in this time period could be substantial,” the report said.

Wells Fargo also used “an overly complicated reimbursement methodology which lacked clear support for addressing all the customer costs incurred,” according to the report.

Wells Fargo’s auto insurance practices violated a section of the Federal Trade Commission Act that prohibits unfair or deceptive acts in commerce, the report said. For example, the bank did not break out the insurance costs embedded in car loans; rather, it included the amounts owed on the unneeded coverage in the monthly payments. Had borrowers known what the cost increases were for, the comptroller’s office said, they could have taken action more quickly to avoid harm.

Even when Wells Fargo borrowers notified National General that they already had car insurance, they had trouble reversing the erroneous charges. The comptroller office’s review of loan files and consumer complaints showed that Wells Fargo’s customers often had to submit proof of coverage multiple times before the coverage was canceled.

Continue reading the main story

Caught red-handed risking death: Distracted drivers cause havoc on WA roads

MORE than just a danger to life and limb, distracted drivers are likely proving disastrous for family budgets across the country.

With smartphones now ubiquitous, almost as common is the sight of their owners scrolling through Facebook feeds or replying to text messages behind the wheel.

Inattentive driving resulted in 26 fatalities on WA roads last year, double the previous five-year average.

According to Road Safety Commission research, 57 per cent of WA drivers admit to texting while driving.

RSC acting commissioner Iain Cameron said mobile phones were a relatively recent challenge.

“People’s risk appreciation is quite low and they don’t believe it will happen to them,” he said.

“About 70 per cent of all of our serious crashes are somebody momentarily making a mistake, picking up the mobile phone or whatever.

“They’re not deliberately engaging in high-risk behaviour such as speeding or drink-driving.”

Road rage women fight

In an illustration of how widespread the bad mobile phone habits have become, The Sunday Times this week captured numerous motorists at traffic hotspots across the city who were using their phones.

While drivers seldom disclose being distracted by their phone when lodging a claim, Canstar group executive for financial services Steve Mickenbecker said he had little doubt the bad habit was driving up car insurance premiums.

According to the financial comparison site, WA premiums jumped between 5 and 19.5 per cent last week — with families with young drivers and 30 to 49-year-olds stung hardest.

“While the data isn’t great on the number of accidents where distracted driving is a causal factor, all State governments have brought in fines and launched huge educational programs to address the issue,” he said.

“That doesn’t happen if it wasn’t causing serious loss to property and to life.”

media_cameraA driver using their phone on the road.

Both Mr Mickenbecker and an RAC spokeswoman said insurers did not keep records on the number of claims they received relating to distracted driving.

“When there is a fatality there is a full-on investigation and court orders to check phone records to establish if the driver was distracted, but that doesn’t happen in a regular bread-and-butter prang with some panels broken,” the Canstar executive said.

“With no loss of life police rarely get involved and so statistics don’t capture the size of the problem.”

The WA Insurance Commission, which deals only with motor injury insurance, reported a decrease in the number of claims to cover medical bills over the past decade. Commission secretary Kane Blackman said the high number of insured vehicles in the State (2.9 million including caravans and trailers) also helped apply downward pressure to compulsory motor injury insurance premiums.

That would suggest an increase in the number of less serious crashes is fuelling the jump in private insurance premiums.

Mr Mickenbecker pointed to the number of teens and 30-somethings walking around while texting.

“Hopefully when they get behind the wheel they are not quite as prolific but frankly I think we have a whole generation of people who find it extremely difficult not to look at their phone when it goes off,” he said.

Government sheds new light on autonomous car insurance liabilities

Drivers failing to install software updates in their autonomous vehicle in the future, or asking it to take over driving in inappropriate parts of the journey will invalidate their insurance according to new Government plans.

As part of the new Automated and Electric Vehicle Bill, the Government seeks to give insurers more guidance over how autonomous technology will affect vehicle insurance cover in the future.

Previously, the UK Government announced that insurers would pay out to those injured in accidents involving autonomous cars. Insurers would then begin negotiations in the background with the vehicle manufacturer to determine whether the car or driver was to blame. 

However, under new plans introduced in the Automated and Electric Vehicles Bill, owners of autonomous cars would be required they keep on top of the latest software updates and know when it is safe to engage autonomous driving modes on their cars.

The bill states that an insurance policy may exclude or limit the insurer’s liability as a result of a “failure to install safety critical software updates that the insured person knows, or ought reasonably to know, are safety critical.” 

Another section of the bill states that insurers won’t be liable “where the accident that it caused was wholly due to the person’s negligence in allowing the vehicle to begin driving itself when it was not appropriate to do so.”

• Best car insurance companies

The Automated and Electric Vehicles Bill had its first hearing on 18 October 2017 in the House of Commons, with the second hearing scheduled for 23 October. 

Ben Howarth, senior adviser for motor and liability at the Association of British Insurers said: “Insurers are helping the UK become a global leader in autonomous vehicles. These vehicles have the potential to dramatically improve road safety and it’s great to see the Government’s on-going commitment to taking forward the legislation needed to get them onto our roads. The planned approach to insuring autonomous vehicles should keep the process as straightforward as possible for consumers, and is based on proposals made by the industry.” 

What do you think of the new proposals on autonomous vehicle insurance? Tell us in the comments below…

Install Extra Safety Devices to Get a Discount on Auto Insurance

LOS ANGELES, Oct. 21, 2017 /PRNewswire-iReach/ — Auto-car-insurance4.info has released a new blog post explaining why safety devices can improve auto insurance premiums.

Drivers should focus on the safety of their cars. A family vehicle with a high safety rating will get the best coverage prices. By buying some essential safety devices, drivers can make their vehicles safer and get better coverage prices. The car’s technical condition, as well as its market value, are also very important factors that influence coverage prices.

Installing extra safety devices can improve a vehicle’s safety rating which reduces coverage costs. Some important devices like a passive restraint system, an anti-lock braking system (ABS), a blind-spot detection system and a  lane-departure warning system can significantly reduce auto insurance costs. These devices improve the general safeness of a vehicle which is an important issue for any agency that sells auto insurance.

Drivers have now access to free auto insurance quotes from top agencies in their area. They do not have to visit each individual company to see their prices; a single website, with important connections, can provide the best brokerage services that make shopping for coverage easier and faster: http://auto-car-insurance4.info.

Comparing online car insurance quotes is the best method of shopping for vehicle coverage. Clients can use quotes to reduce their coverage expenses. Clients who shop around before signing a policy will manage to cut more than 25% of their insurance expenses.

“Installing safety devices can help you reduce car insurance costs,” said Russell Rabichev, Marketing Director of Internet Marketing Company.

Auto-car-insurance4.info is an online provider of life, home, health, and auto insurance quotes. This website is unique because it does not simply stick to one kind of insurance provider, but brings the clients the best deals from many different online insurance carriers. In this way, clients have access to offers from multiple carriers all in one place: this website. On this site, customers have access to quotes for insurance plans from various agencies, such as local or nationwide agencies, brand names insurance companies, etc.

For more information, please visit http://auto-car-insurance4.info.

Media Contact:Russell Rabichev, Internet Marketing Company, 800.475.3410, rel=”nofollow”>russell@internetmarketingcompany.biz

News distributed by PR Newswire iReach: https://ireach.prnewswire.com

 

SOURCE Auto-car-insurance4.info

Iowa State president’s compensation package

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Learn about the faculty and students at Iowa State University, Iowa’s largest university.
Kathy Bolten/The Register

Exactly who will be named Monday as Iowa State University’s newest president is anyone’s guess. But one thing is likely — whoever it is will get paid more than their predecessors.

And the contract will likely be filled with more perks.

According to The Chronicle of Higher Education’s annual survey of public-college leaders’ compensation data, average pay in 2016 for a university president was a little more than $521,000.

When deferred compensation is included, the average pay package is considerably higher.

For example, presidents’ compensation packages at the 10 peer institutions to which Iowa State compares itself averaged $742,060, the Chronicle’s data shows.

Steven Leath speaks at a press conference following his selection as the new Auburn University president on March 20, 2017, in Auburn, Ala. (Photo: Opelika-Auburn News)

Former Iowa State President Steven Leath was earning $650,000 in annual base pay, deferred compensation and bonus pay for the 2015-16 fiscal year.

By comparison, University of Iowa President Bruce Harreld was paid $790,000 during 2015-16.

Consider it the price of doing business for major universities, said Judith Wilde, professor and chief operating officer at George Mason University’s Schar School of Policy and Government.

University president contracts are being increasingly complex, as more conditions and rewards are written into them, she said.

“We’re calling this the corporatization of the presidential contract,” said Wilde, who has worked on an ongoing research project analyzing contracts of university presidents.

“I can argue university presidents deserve big salaries because their students are our next leaders. I don’t know that that job is quite as complex as the president of the United States.”

The U.S. president is paid $400,000 annually (although he receives a lot of perks, free room and board at the White House, for example). Iowa’s governor makes $130,000.

Iowa Sen. Herman Quirmbach, D-Ames, and ranking member of the education committee, said compensation for Iowa State’s next president likely will reflect the trend in higher pay for private sector executives.

But that doesn’t mean he’s pleased about it.

“The salary of the average worker with a high school education has been stagnant for the last 40 years and not kept up with inflation,” said Quirmbach, an associate professor of economics at Iowa State.

“On the other hand, CEO salaries, including that of university presidents, has grown and grown and grown.” 

President’s salary vs. faculty’s

When Leath was hired in October 2011, his annual salary was $440,000.

When he resigned last spring to take the helm at Auburn University, his base salary was $525,000, a 19 percent increase.

By comparison, since 2012, faculty salaries at Iowa State increased an average of 2.7 percent a year, according to a recent regent’s report. Average pay for faculty members in the fiscal year that ended June 30 was $120,285, the report said.

Across the 221 public university systems nationwide, the average pay for a president increased 5.2 percent between 2015 and 2016, according to a The Chronicle of Higher Education survey.

“The reason for the upward trend is the imbalance between supply and demand,” said Raymond Cotton, a partner at the law firm Nelson Mullins and who specializes in higher education-related issues including compensation.

“There is greater demand for less supply, so the price goes up,” he said. “Universities are competing with each other for the best available talent and that drives the price up.”

Sixty-four people — 59 men and five women — applied for the job of president at Iowa State. The four finalists (one dropped out Friday) were interviewed by a 21-member search committee at a Minneapolis-area hotel. 

They include:

  • Sonny Ramaswamy, 65, who since 2012 has been director of the National Institute of Food and Agriculture. According to FedsDataCenter.com, a service of FedSmith Inc., he was paid $179,700 in 2016.
  • Pamela Whitten, 54, who since 2014 has been senior vice president for academic affairs and provost at the University of Georgia in Athens. Her annual salary is $420,800, according to her contract.
  • Wendy Wintersteen, 61, who since 2006 has been dean of Iowa State’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. Her annual salary is $309,226, according to her contract.

Sonny Ramaswamy, director of the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, is a candidate for Iowa State University president. (Photo: Special to the Register)

The Iowa Board of Regents is scheduled Monday to interview the three remaining candidates and select Iowa State’s next president, negotiating a compensation package.

The package is expected to be more generous than Leath’s, although the board could take into consideration the person’s previous experience.

Still, said Cotton, governing boards should not be shy about offering generous compensation packages to their new hires.

“These best people will bring around other best people who that new president will demand delivery of top quality work,” he said. “For boards that start penny-pinching, they’ll lose out on the top talent.”

Shrinking tenure

Although university presidents are being paid more, they’re staying less time, studies show.

The American Council on Education’s 2017 American College President Study showed that current presidents had been in their jobs an average of 6.5 years, two years less than in 2006.

Leath stayed at Iowa State five years. Gregory Geoffrey, Leath’s predecessor, was president for 11 years.

UNI’s former president, William Ruud, left in 2016 after three years. Sally Mason stepped down as president of the University of Iowa in 2015 after eight years in the position.

“Tenure — for me that’s my biggest concern,” said Michael Tupper, 21, an Iowa State junior majoring in agricultural engineering. “I don’t want to see a continuous revolving door of presidents or see someone jump ship because they were offered more money by someone else.

“What we need with our leadership right now is a long-term commitment.”

Tupper said he would support providing a new president a generous compensation package as long as the person “was committed to Iowa State, was experienced and had a clear vision to take us to that next level.”

Iowa State’s enrollment has exploded in the past decade, becoming the state’s largest public university. This fall’s enrollment is 36,321, 35 percent more than 26,856 enrolled in 2008.

The growth has created a need for more student housing as well as concerns about student-to-faculty ratios.

During roughly the same time, state appropriations for Iowa State’s operations have fallen 30 percent with the university getting $3,700 less in state support per resident student than in 2009, Benjamin Allen, interim president, told the regents in August.

The funding cuts have caused delays in filling some jobs and the elimination of others, as well as cuts to travel and other expenses.

Those challenges and others are among the reasons lucrative compensation packages with attractive perks are offered to university presidents, said Lynn Pasquerella, president of the Washington, D.C.-based Association of American Colleges and Universities.

Compensation packages of many current university presidents include retention bonuses, paid moving expenses, supplemental life and disability insurance benefits and vehicle allowances, she said.

Other common contract features include providing a tenured faculty position to a president who retires or resigns.  

“All of these are mechanisms intended to retain and recruit the most talented people during a time when the average retention rates are rapidly declining,” she said.

Harreld, who was hired as the University of Iowa’s president in 2015, receives an annual deferred compensation of $200,000 on top of his base salary of $590,000.

He also received compensation for a vehicle, was reimbursed for his moving expenses, and will be granted tenure in the business college when he leaves the president’s job.

Nook, who became UNI’s president earlier this year at an annual salary of $357,110, was provided a vehicle and vehicle insurance, cell phone and laptop computer, according to his contract.

In addition, Iowa taxpayers pay for all utilities at the president’s house on the Cedar Falls campus, as well as cable television, a computer and printer, and local phone service.

“Some of the extra perks make sense,” said Michael Poliakoff, president of the American Council of Trustees and Alumni. “It’s important everything pass the smell test. … Boards need to be careful of the kind of image projected to the people the state.”

Still, he cautioned, governing boards contemplating compensation packages for university presidents should keep in mind their state’s median household income, which in Iowa is $54,736.

“These jobs are acts of service,” Poliakoff said. “That doesn’t mean top administrators shouldn’t be properly compensated.

“At the same time, these are institutions that are supported with taxpayer dollars.”

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This car hire firm is parking its fleet of vehicles right outside people’s homes… and they can’t do anything about it

A car rental firm that used residential streets to park its fleet of vehicles has said it was perfectly within its rights to do so – despite numerous complaints from homeowners.

Navcar is based in Salford but stores its vehicles on the other side of Bury Old Road, in Manchester.

Residents said the company’s vehicles first appeared around January this year, blocking parking on Catherine Road, Melton Road and Moxley Road in Crumpsall ward.

Navcar vans and cars parked along Melton Road

Locals claim the cars sit there between 5pm until 7am before being rented by customers for the day.

Cars on the other side of the road have been forced to park with two wheels on the pavement, partially blocking the path, to keep the road clear.

One homeowner in the area worried the vans would stop emergency services from reaching her house.

Jon Pritchard, a councillor for Crumpsall ward, said: “Despite repeated attempts by myself and officers of Manchester City council to engage with Navcar they have been unwilling to address this current situation.”

Navcar vans and cars parked along Melton Road

Coun Pritchard also claimed one of his officers called Navcar to discuss the issue but had the phone put down on him.

He added: “Let me be clear that these are residential streets and should not be used to park business vehicles of all types.

“I suspect Navcar vehicle insurance would also be interested as to why these vehicles are parked where they are. I would ask Navcar to treat our residents with more respect.”

Councillor David Lancaster, lead member for environment and community safety at Salford City Council, said: “I can understand both the residents and Manchester City Council’s frustration with this company’s inconsiderate behaviour.

“We have received one complaint about it but, as it is not in our area any action would need to come from Manchester City Council. I can only hope that the company directors consider how they would feel if the situation was outside their homes and give residents a break.”

Navcar’s website says the company aims to serve ‘local communities with hassle free self-drive hire vehicles delivered directly to their door’. It hires out compact cars, large box vans and high end vehicles from its office in Enfield House on Bury Old Road, Salford.

Lez Leitner, director of Navcar, said his company was within its rights to use the space: “Catherine Road and Melton Road are both residential streets with free parking where houses are ONLY on one side of the street. Parking is therefore not restricted nor do our vehicles cause a nuisance.

“Manchester City council has visited our premises on numerous occasions and is aware of the neighbour’s concerns.”

He added: “We are well within our rights to park freely on any street subject to the relevant parking restrictions, as is every other vehicle that is taxed and holds a current MOT and insurance.

“We have recently leased an additional car park in Salford and as a result there are currently no vehicles parked on the surrounding streets. During peak periods, however, it is to be expected that some of our fleet will indeed park on the street just like the other local car hire companies.”

Manchester City council that if a car is taxed and insured and not parked in a restricted area (like on double yellow lines) the council has no power to intervene.

Uninsured Motorist Car Insurance – Finding Protection for the Worst Scenario

LOS ANGELES, Oct. 20, 2017 /PRNewswire-iReach/ — Lower-auto-insurance.com has released a new blog post explaining the advantages of uninsured motorist car insurance.

Uninsured motorist (UM) coverage is an important clause drivers should look for when buying a car insurance policy. Since estimates say that one in seven American drivers do not carry insurance, chances of collision with an uninsured motorist are pretty high. If an insured driver collides with someone who does not have liability coverage, financial compensation will be difficult to get.

Even if liability auto insurance is mandatory in most states, some car owners may not have an active policy. If they cause an accident, the victims will have to wait a long time for financial reimbursement as the guilty driver will not have immediately available funds. Uninsured motorist coverage is a type of plan that tries to provide a financial net for that type of situation.

The key to find cheaper coverage options is to compare online car insurance quotes. This can now be done, online, without having to lose time and money when looking for coverage. A single professional brokerage website like http://lower-auto-insurance.com/ gathers the best rates available in a region and displays the results on a single website.

The website uses a search engine that selects plans based on the client’s insurance needs and based on some information about his or her vehicle and driving record. The input can be provided in just a few minutes and a client will get offers from multiple auto insurance agencies in just a few minutes.

“Uninsured motorist car insurance can be very important. Visit us for more information and free online quotes,”  said Russell Rabichev, Marketing Director of Internet Marketing Company.

Lower-auto-insurance.com is an online provider of life, home, health, and auto insurance quotes. This website is unique because it does not simply stick to one kind of insurance provider, but brings the clients the best deals from many different online insurance carriers. In this way, clients have access to offers from multiple carriers all in one place: this website. On this site, customers have access to quotes for insurance plans from various agencies, such as local or nationwide agencies, brand names insurance companies, etc.

For more information, please visit http://lower-auto-insurance.com/.

Media Contact:Russell Rabichev, Internet Marketing Company, 800.475.3410, rel=”nofollow”>russell@internetmarketingcompany.biz

News distributed by PR Newswire iReach: https://ireach.prnewswire.com

SOURCE Lower-auto-insurance.com

Hearings pave way for DOT funding applications | News

Community transportation headlined Monday night’s Board of Commissioners meeting.

Three public hearings were held in relation to the county’s transportation services, particularly the funding through the state’s Community Transportation Program of the N.C. Department of Transportation and for Monarch and Senior Services. No one spoke at the hearings required before starting the application process.

Stanly County is seeking $454,972 from the CTP for its transit services, with $57,198 required from a local taxpayer match.

Administrative funds account for $234,002 of the total with a 15 percent match, or $35,101. The sum funds the salaries and benefits for three full-time employees and one part-time staffer, vehicle insurance, drug testing and daily office operations, etc.

Capital funds represent $220,970 with a 10 percent local match, or $22,097, which funds four replacement vehicles, agency lettering, one bicycle rack, 14 Bluetooth adapters for a new radio system and three replacement personal computers.

Monarch will also apply for funds through DOT to support transportation costs for qualified individuals who use public transportation as their primary means of getting to and from Monarch day programs.

In Stanly County, Monarch provides program activities and supported employment services to more than 80 individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities at Stanly Industrial Systems (SIS) in Albemarle.

Monarch relies on DOT funds in nine rural counties across the state, including Stanly.

Senior Services will also apply for DOT funding, which allows the department to expand transportation services for older adults in the county above the levels of what the Home and Community Care Block Grant funds permit.

The grant sought is for $60,000. Most of the funding, or $54,000, derives from federal and state funds, with the remaining $6,000, or 10 percent match, coming from local funds. However, since HCCBG proceeds for the department’s aging programs will be used toward the expense, no county revenue will be used.

To submit story ideas, contact Ritchie Starnes at (704) 982-2121 ext. 20 or email ritchie@stanlynews press.com.

Pearland raising taxes to balance future city needs

Local municipalities have adopted property tax rates for the 2017-18 fiscal year that began on Oct. 1.

The city of Friendswood dropped its property tax rate by nearly two cents over the previous fiscal year to the city’s effective tax rate of 52.73 cents per $100 valuation on Oct. 2. By adopting an effective rate, residents will pay the same amount in city taxes in 2018 as they will this year when tax bills begin circulating in late October.

“The council as well as staff is always interested in giving our taxpayers the best services at the lowest rate,” Friendswood Mayor Kevin Holland said.

On the other hand, Pearland City Council raised its property tax rate by nearly two cents to 68.5 cents per $100 valuation on Sept. 25, which will raise eight percent more revenue compared to the 2016-17 fiscal year.

“This represents between 20-30 percent of the total tax bill that a property owner would receive,” Pearland City Manager Clay Pearson said. “We need this revenue for operations. It pays for the police, fire, public works, parks and recreation—essential services that are offered to citizens throughout the year—and it pays for all of our debt service for repaying capital bond financing.”

Balancing future needs
Although Pearland city staff initially proposed to drop the tax rate by one-eighth of a penny to 68 cents per $100 valuation for the FY 2018, City Council took a different approach to ensure funding for major expenditures.

Pearland City Council considered a tax rate ranging from 68 cents to 70 cents per $100 valuation before adopting the city’s rollback tax rate of 68.5 cents per $100 valuation. The additional half-cent will be allocated for city operations, not debt service, according to budget documents.

If Pearland adopted a rate above the rollback, which is an 8 percent revenue cap, the city could have been subject to a citizen petition for a rollback election, according to the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts.

“When we talk about our tax rate we’re looking at what happened to our city and the growth process and the needs for that as well as the damage done by Harvey,” Pearland Mayor Tom Reid said. “We’re not going to complete FEMA or other reimbursements on all of the damage that’s been done; we’ll have to pick up through our tax dollars at some point.”

The city’s tax rate has fluctuated between 65 and 71 cents per $100 valuation for at least the past 11 budget cycles, according to budget documents.

About two-thirds of property taxes is used for debt service and is not allocated to the general revenue fund.

“It’s completing very real, very important capital projects, things that we see and use everyday here,” Pearson said. “It’s a part of our challenge of where we’re at today as a city. The operations are tight, and we’re managing them and will continue to do that.”

Pearland expects to generate $79.1 million in the general revenue fund for city operations and is slated to expend $78.72 million. About 70 percent of general fund expenditures is for employee salaries, and public safety comprises more than 50 percent of that.

Property taxes only comprise about one-fourth of Pearland’s general revenue fund with the single-largest source of revenue being sales tax. Other sources of revenue include charges for service, fees, fines and permits.

“I think what we really need to do is be cautious with how we spend our money in case things don’t occur like we think on the budget,” Reid said. “I’m not too sure we’re going to be able to get our money the way we think it’s going to come in.”

While most Pearland property taxes pays for debt service, less than 20 percent of Friendswood taxes pays for debt service, according to budget documents.

Friendswood City Council approved a $56.4 million budget with general fund expenditures of $26.6 million. About one-third of general fund revenues is generated through property taxes. More than 20 percent of the total budget is allocated to public safety.

The FY 2018 tax rate of 52.7 cents per $100 valuation is at least a 39-year historic low for the city.

“Over the last 39 years our tax rate has decreased about 20 cents,” said Katina Hampton, deputy director of administrative services for the city of Friendswood and the budget officer.

Investing in retention
The costliest increase to the city of Pearland’s operating expenses is salary raises for staff, which will cost $465,000 to implement starting in the third quarter of the fiscal year, according to budget documents. The raises will cost an additional $1 million in the future for the 2018-19 fiscal year budget.

Pearland City Council approved the raises for city staff after reviewing the results of a commissioned salary and compensation study in July that revealed large disparities between employee pay plans and market value for certain positions. The last compensation study was done about 11 years ago by in-house staff.

“We are a service-based organization,” said Michelle Graham, director of human resources for the city of Pearland. “As a local government, we don’t have a widget that we produce or base things on sales or goals of production. … We have to make sure we are adequately and fairly compensating those people in order to retain them.”

Only 11 out of 48 positions, not factoring in department heads, in the survey results had salary ranges above market value, according to final 2017 report. Pay scales in the study were as low as 64 percent below market for minimum base salaries. The Pearland Fire Department had the worst funded salary schedules, with nearly every position in the department requiring a pay scale adjustment, from paramedics to fire captains.

“City employees are not asking to be No. 1. We’re not asking to be the highest paid in the state. We’re just asking to be paid average, market, midpoint whichever phrase you wish to choose,” said John Despain, a police detective for the city of Pearland and president of the Pearland Police Officer’s Association.

Another $800,000 increase to the FY 2018 budget was approved for additional city staff. Pearland City Council approved additional police officers, a jailer, mechanics and a senior city planner. The fire department will roll out its continuous onboarding starting January as part of a long-term recruitment plan to add 70 fire fighters in six years.

Unfunded city projects
While Friendswood residents may rejoice in knowing the tax rate will remain flat next year, the city has $1.8 million in unfunded general fund projects for FY 2018.

“I can understand a bunch of these given that our budget is going to be tight, and that’s on purpose because we like to keep the budget down,” Friendswood City Council Member Steve Rockey said.

Some of the unfunded projects include improvements and restroom renovations at Stevenson Park, a street sweeper, additional city staff and a list of 14 Friendswood Volunteer Fire Department line items.

“Every year, we have submitted that set of priorities in priority order,” said Rick McFee, president of the Friendswood Volunteer Fire Department. “They’re here and now and impact our operational needs on a daily basis.”

FVFD requests include additional funding for workers compensation insurance, medications for emergency medical service, vehicle insurance increases, additional weekend staff, training field improvements and additional funding for existing positions that were previously underfunded by the city.

McFee said the No. 1 priority this year for the department is funding for additional paramedics. However, the department every year also looks at its needs and operational budget to determine where impacts relative to cost increases, new programs and new needs may come up.

“I can see the argument of, well, do we want to improve the fire training field now?” Rockey said. “It may not be the year to do that, but other [FVFD requests] give me slight bit of concern that we’re not recognizing they’re subject to the same forces of insurance.”

Council members expect to discuss mid-year appropriations to cover FVFD’s insurance requests.

“That funding can occur mid-year,” Friendswood City Manager Roger Roecker said.

The city is also considering putting out a bid request for third-party a emergency medical services contractor instead of contracting for ambulatory services with FVFD.

“We’re going to continue to provide the service that we have that our residents expect and pay their taxes for,” Holland said. “It’s an ongoing discussion with the entities, and we’re working together.”