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Tag Archive | "budget"

Beauty regimens that won’t break the bank

Photo courtesy of Getty

(Family Features) When it comes to looking your best, it’s easy to spend a fortune. With manicures, pedicures, hair stylist appointments and facials, you can quickly run through your budget. Here are a few tricks to save money while looking great:

Skip the manicurist. Regular manicures and pedicures can be expensive, but if you’re willing to purchase the tools up front, you can save a great deal over time. To get started, follow these step-by-step instructions:

Beginning with clean nails, file or cut the nail into shape. Next, soak your nails in a bowl of warm water for about 3 minutes; for pedicures, soak feet a bit longer. Follow the soaking with a moisturizing lotion or cream. To get rid of dry skin on your feet, use a scrub or foot file. Then, using a cuticle remover, push the cuticle away from the nail gently; carefully trim any excess. Follow this process by adding polish to your nails, but before you do so, remove any oil with nail polish remover using a cotton swab, so as to protect the cuticle area. Apply a base coat, two coats of color and finish with a top coat.

Give yourself a facial. Opting for home facials can also help ease the burden of a beauty budget as well. Even the most basic of routines can really make a difference. Start by cleansing the skin and removing any makeup. Fill a pan with water and bring to a boil. Use a bath towel and drape it over the back of your head, then slowly and carefully lower your face over the steaming pot for several minutes.

Next you can use a gentle facial scrub, or you can make your own using 1 tablespoon of ground steel-cut oatmeal, 1 teaspoon of lemon juice and 2 teaspoons of yogurt. If you’re looking to create a facial and body scrub, try mixing 1 teaspoon of honey with 1/2 teaspoon of sugar and apply before stepping into the shower.

Remember that the key to great skin is moisture, so be sure to apply body lotion and facial moisturizer just after you towel dry skin.

For information on how to save money on hair products, visit

www.suave.com/scalpsolutions or www.Facebook.com/SuaveBeauty.


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An Open Letter To The Cedar Springs City Counci


Dear Mayor Charlie Watson & City Council,

I attended the budget workshop on Saturday, at which you reviewed your budget for the upcoming fiscal year. It’s no secret that times are tight economically, and so tough decisions regarding the City’s budget have to be made. Throughout the meeting I heard words like “depressing” and “discouraging” several times. But I would like to offer a different take. I see four great things about the current budget situation in Cedar Springs:

1. It’s an opportunity to learn new ways of doing old things. I think this poem from Robert Browning Hamilton says it best:

I walked a mile with Pleasure –

She chattered all the way

But left me none the wiser

For all she had to say.

I walked a mile with Sorrow

And ne’er a word said she,

But, oh, the things I learned from her

When Sorrow walked with me.

There are some things we learn in difficult times that we simply wouldn’t learn at any other time.

2. You have the opportunity to involve new partners. Just like the B2B group stepped in to help run the Spooktacular, and Calvary Assembly of God and the Community Action Network organized the Mingle With Kris Kringle event, and business partners jumped into to help with the Red Flannel Festival, I know others will step in to help as well. We are a community of citizens that love Cedar Springs, so we are willing to help, if you will give us the chance.

3.  You can increase community awareness. As many of you remarked, there were more concerned citizens at this year’s budget workshop than in previous years. When times are tough, it gets our attention. We want to know what you are doing, and our involvement now will probably translate into our continued involvement when Cedar Springs comes out of this economic downturn.

4. You are building our trust. It’s been said that trust is built on difficult ground. Anyone can make smart decisions when times are good and the City coffers are abundantly filled. But as you are making wise decisions during these tough times, you are building our trust in your fiscal responsibilities.

We’re all in this together. We elected you to help lead us through good times and bad times. So we’re behind you. We will come out of this time stronger, more unified, and more committed to making Cedar Springs the best place to live and work in West Michigan!

Sincerely Yours,

Craig T. Owens

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School cuts budget by $2 million

Including $54,000 from sports

By Judy Reed

Nothing was sacred this year as Cedar Springs Public Schools looked at ways to cut expenses next year by $2 million, and at the same time found ways to increase their revenue.
Several parents turned up at the Board of Education meeting Monday to voice displeasure that certain sports did not receive funding in the budget. At risk is JV girls golf, JV boys golf, JV baseball, JV softball, girls freshman soccer, and middle school tennis. According to Assistant Superintendent David Cairy, athletic supervisor Autumn Mattson came up with a list of sports where participation levels are low and interest has dropped. “If we have enough interest in a sport, we’ll find a way to do it,” explained Cairy. “We are all about providing opportunities for kids. But if we don’t get enough to sustain it, that’s a problem.”
Board President Joe Marckini and other board members echoed that sentiment. “We were stunned at some of the numbers falling off, especially girls soccer,” said Marckini. “If you get the numbers, I’ll support it.”
Overall, the school cut funding for athletics by $54,125, which also included reductions in supplies, uniforms, and coaches.
Several parents complained that they feel communication on the subject was poor, and that the coaches in the sports didn’t even know their sports were at risk.
“Sports are very important to us, too,” board trustee Todd Hanson told parents. He noted that they also cut technology, and that with fewer teachers, that means increased class sizes, “which no one wants,” he said. He also noted academics are at risk. “We also may not have AP Biology because of low interest,” he said.
The biggest cuts in next year’s budget came from staff reductions: $1 million in teaching staff that retired (12) and won’t be replaced, and $200,000 in support staff (7) that were laid off. They also cut $250,000 in technology, $100,000 in curriculum, and various other service reductions to meet their $30.7 million budget, including using $182,700 from their fund balance.
On a high note, because the school has been getting their fund balance up to a recommended level of 14 percent, they will not need to borrow money this summer—for the first time in many years—to meet payroll, which equals several million dollars. Although the school’s fiscal year starts July 1, the state’s fiscal year doesn’t start until October, causing a gap in payments.
Increases in revenue will also come from sharing services with other districts. Cairy is now also business manager for Kent City schools. He is contracted through Kent Intermediate School District, who will manage the funding. Cedar Springs also continues to share a transportation supervisor with Sparta, and will be doing some bus runs for them where the districts cross lines. They also share some other business services at the KISD.
One big change for next year will be that New Beginnings students will move into Red Hawk Elementary. Cairy said they will be two schools within one building, and will be separated. “It’s not like they don’t see each other, because they already ride the bus together and park at Red Hawk to be released,” noted Cairy. There is plenty of room, because just a few years ago there were 700-plus students at Red Hawk, and currently only a little over 200. Cairy said they will save about $40,000 by moving New Beginnings there from Hilltop–$30,000 in custodial fees, and $10,000 in natural gas from not having to heat that wing.
“We are trying so hard to do anything we can in the business office to be good stewards, so that kids don’t have to miss opportunities,” he remarked.
High Schoolers might also see a bump up in lunch prices from $2.25 to $2.50 but it has nothing to do with the budget. Rather, it’s mandatory to meet federal guidelines.

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This is no way to run a government

By Lee H. Hamilton

In the days following the budget deal to stave off a government shutdown, the news was filled with reports on what the measure actually contained. Stories focused on the bits of budgetary hocus-pocus that got the White House and lawmakers to $38 billion in cuts, what was actually in those cuts, and the stray bits of policy-making that had nothing to do with reducing the deficit. But the news seemed to miss the most important point: the whole process got things exactly backward.
The way Congress used to work, budgets were crafted by a series of committees holding public hearings and debating separate appropriation bills. There was the occasional last-minute surprise, of course, but for the most part the process was organized and transparent.  Our elected representatives knew what was coming and had the opportunity to shape it, and the American people knew whom to hold accountable for what.
This budget deal, on the other hand, was put together behind closed doors by a handful of people striving to meet a doomsday deadline, handed off to unelected staff and a few legislators to work out the details, and then presented to the bulk of Congress for a take-it-or-leave-it vote. In some instances, no one has admitted responsibility for last-minute maneuvers that changed established policy; they emerged from the black box of negotiations as if untouched by human hands. Call me old-fashioned, but I fail to see either the “representative” or the “democracy” parts of our representative democracy at work here.
Yet the concerns expressed by many members of Congress in the lead-up to their vote on the agreement had nothing to do with how they’d been shunted to the sidelines. Rather, they complained about what they’d learned was in the measure—especially among conservatives, the revelation that the deal did not cut spending as deeply as had been advertised. Meanwhile, congressional leaders, according to The New York Times, were “rueful” that a final vote had to be delayed an extra day, “giving opposition an extra day to build.” In other words, leaders didn’t want legislators to find out what was in the bill because this would worsen its chances of passage.
What’s especially worrisome is that Congress seems to have gotten addicted to this seat-of-the-pants style of legislating. The next issue on its plate is the looming deadline to raise the debt ceiling, and it’s a good bet that once again we’ll be treated to the spectacle of last-minute negotiations, recalcitrant caucuses trying to hold the other side’s feet to the fire, and a dismaying sense of confusion in Washington. The ability of the government to function and its financial credibility both at home and overseas grows more tenuous with every passing day.  And only when it’s all over will we find out what actually took place.
This is no way to run a country, let alone a democracy. Comedian Jay Leno put it best: “A lot of people wonder what a government shutdown would be like,” he said. “I think a lot more people wonder what a government running properly would be like.”
Why is last-minute, dead-of-night negotiating among a few leaders so bad? For two major reasons. The first is its effect on government. As a shutdown loomed, public and private managers dependent on government funding found it impossible to plan ahead; agencies were forced to halt projects in midstream because the money they needed to continue hadn’t arrived on time; thousands of federal workers and contractors had no idea whether their programs would be shutting down; and confusion over which employees and which programs were essential paralyzed Washington and federal offices around the country.
Even more pernicious, the habit of cramming the federal budget—and other major legislation—into last-minute deals concentrates far too much power in the hands of a few leaders and staff members, effectively shutting most of the people who represent you and me out of the process. It also presents unparalleled opportunities for lobbyists pushing hard for narrow special-interest provisions to thrive in the confusion and shadows. It’s safe to say that some of them had more say in the recent budget deal than most members of Congress.
There is an answer to all this, and it’s a return to the procedure for crafting budgets that Congress developed over many decades of experience — committee hearings on individual spending bills, floor action allowing for an orderly amendment process, open conference committees, and then final votes in which every member knows precisely what he or she is voting on. That Congress has allowed itself to move so far from that time-honored process raises deeply disturbing questions about this government’s ability to govern.
Lee Hamilton is Director of the Center on Congress at Indiana University. He was a member of the U.S. House of Representatives for 34 years.

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The Good, Bad and Ugly of Gov. Snyder’s First Budget

By Michael D. LaFaive | Mackinac Center for Public Policy

Gov. Rick Snyder’s first budget fell short of the “atomic bomb” promised by Lt. Gov. Brian Calley, in part due to the fact that a megaton of further spending and tax cuts were left on the table. Overall, however, the budget moves the state in a positive direction with greater tax simplicity, more transparency, less corporate welfare and fewer discriminatory tax policies.

This comparison shows the inequity between public-sector and private-sector employees for overall compensation.

Among the lost opportunities is the fact that the net effect is a tax shift, not a tax cut. Yet as Mackinac Center analysts have shown, by bringing government employee benefits in line with private-sector averages, $5.7 billion in savings could be made available for real tax cuts without reducing programs or laying off employees.

That said, there’s plenty of good news here: Gov. Snyder intends to scrap the complicated and hated Michigan Business Tax and surcharge, replacing it with a simpler corporate flat tax of 6 percent. The Washington, D.C.-based Tax Foundation estimates this will move Michigan from 48th place in its business tax rankings to 22nd, even without a net tax cut.

Also positive is Gov. Snyder’s intention to eliminate the Michigan Economic Growth Authority and other discriminatory tax breaks. Given that the governor was once the vice chair of the Michigan Economic Development Corp., which presides over the state’s current corporate welfare regime, this has a certain “Nixon goes go to China” aspect. It’s not quite the “fair field and no favors” recommended by Mackinac Center scholars, because special treatment for certain firms won’t be eliminated entirely, but the process will henceforth be done through straightforward legislative appropriations, bringing a huge leap in transparency.

And there are real cuts in this budget, including revenue sharing haircuts of up to $300 million, trimming school grants by $300 per pupil from current year levels, and $280 million from higher education spending. However, there are devilish details that may partially undercut potential savings—schools, universities and local governments may be able to reclaim some of those dollars by agreeing to reforms in their own governance, for example.

The most unfortunate part of the budget is the proposal to raise taxes on pensions. While the tax fairness and simplicity arguments are not invalid, it’s still a very large tax hike, and one that’s totally unnecessary — those $5.7 billion in potential government employee fringe benefit savings would save several times the estimated $700 million in new revenue from this tax. It’s worth noting that such a hike could be far more tolerable if the offsetting personal income tax cut was deeper. Currently, the personal income tax is scheduled to drop in Fiscal 2012 by one-tenth of 1 percent. In revenue terms, that’s about $161.8 million. A proper tradeoff for the pension tax hike would be an income tax cut of at least $700 million.

It’s worth mentioning, too, that the pension tax revenue projections may assume that taxpayers are just sheep who will stick around to be sheared, but many won’t. In effect, the move charges a retiree with a $40,000 annual pension about $1,700 a year for choosing to remain in Michigan rather than move to sunny, income tax-free Florida.

In his essay “How to Save $2.2 Billion,” my colleague Jack McHugh points out that just requiring school employees to pay 25 percent of their own health insurance premiums could save $650 million annually. Other ideas abound too. The state could devolve state police road patrols to county sheriffs and save $65 million. Mackinac Center analysts have published literally hundreds of ideas for saving more than $2 billion from the state budget since 2003, and many of the ideas have not yet been adopted or adapted by the state.

The governor also let slip an opportunity to call for even bolder reforms in government employee relations, such as those recently seen in states such as Wisconsin and Ohio. That may come in the future, but meanwhile, there’s much to like in this budget and tax proposal. In effect, it represents a huge change from an opaque and dishonest tax-and-spend system to one that’s transparent and forthright.

Michael LaFaive is director of the Morey Fiscal Policy Initiative at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, a research and educational institute headquartered in Midland, Mich.

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