Commissioners critical of councilman

HOLLIDAYSBURG – Blair County commissioners said Tuesday that they resent the online comments Altoona City Councilman Dave Butterbaugh posted after the recent informational meeting about reassessment.

Butterbaugh, in postings on Facebook, questioned the informational meeting’s focus on tax fairness while ignoring the county’s future financial projections.

“The talk of all this tax fairness and fair share amongst other fallacies seemed to be the theme of the dog and pony show,” Butterbaugh wrote in his online posting. “Why can’t they just take a page from my playbook and just admit they’re broke and out of money, as opposed to all this fair share talk?”

Commissioner Ted Beam Jr. said he heard a lot of good comments after the meeting set up to educate people about property assessments and the lack of fairness in their property tax bills. The meeting included a video, information from a study of property assessments and time for questions.

Beam said he resented Butterbaugh’s reference to the meeting as “a dog and pony show” and to reasssessment as “a money grab for the county.”

Butterbaugh, upon hearing of the criticism from commissioners during their weekly meeting, said Tuesday that his Facebook posting and follow-up comments were not meant to be derogatory.

“You can’t assume tone when you read something on somebody’s Facebook page,” Butterbaugh said. “My reaction is logical, but if you read it with a negative tone, then you’re going to think about it negatively.”

Beam and fellow commissioner Terry Tomassetti said Butterbaugh was among the local leaders who came to them after the informational meeting and praised the presentation. So after reading the Facebook comments, Beam described Butterbaugh as “two-faced and phoney.”

“It was a good presentation,” Butterbaugh said Tuesday. “But online comments are different. You don’t get tone when you read them. People assume that people are angry or derogatory.”

In his Facebook posting, Butterbaugh said he favors being “honest about what’s going on” and predicts that everyone’s real estate taxes, over the next few years, will increase.

“It may stay revenue neutral at the beginning,” Butterbaugh wrote, “but what they refuse to admit is, after that, it’s a free-for-all for our money from every direction.”

Butterbaugh also said the informational meeting included no information about the county’s financial status.

“Why can’t they say they’re doing reassessment because they’re broke,” he wrote on Facebook. “If it’s about fairness, then it would have been done a long time ago.”

Beam described Butterbaugh’s actions as unprofessional and irresponsible.

“Maybe you’re auditioning for your own radio talk show,” Beam suggested.

Commissioners will be up for re-election next year, but Butterbaugh said Tuesday that he is “absolutely not” interested in running.

Butterbaugh also referenced the exchange of Facebook comments with attorney Patrick Fanelli, who took the position that reassessment is about fairness. After several exchanges, Fanelli writes: “I’m glad my comments were understood as being in the respectfully disagreeable posture with which they were intended.”

“So are mine because we’re both right,” Butterbaugh responded. “We could trade sides and start over on another post if you want.”