McHenry County Schools Asking for 1.23% More This Year

Below you can see what McHenry County school districts will be asking to extract from your checking or escrow accounts this year.

You will note that all of them put together are requesting 1.23% more, although the rate of inflation was 7/10 of one percent.

Note the biggest decrease (-18.27%) came in Wonder Lake’s Harrison Grade School District 36.  Harrison settled a tax protest suit claiming it had accumulated too much money this year.

Other districts planning to collect less money this year are

  • Fox River Grove Grade School District 36 down almost one percent–.97%.
  • Riley Grade School District 18 down a bit over a half a percent–.58%.
  • Cary Grade School District 26 down 1.41%.
  • Crystal Lake High School District 155 down 2.65%.
  • Richmond Burton High School District 157 down 1.4%
  • Woodstock Unit School District 200 down .43%.
  • Barrington Unit School District 220 down .41%

Increasing its tax burden the most was Johnsburg Unit School District.  It’s going up 8.74%.

Next highest is Wauconda Unit District 118, up 6.56%.

In the three percent increase territory are

  • McHenry Grade School District 15 — up 3.6%.
  • Alden-Hebron Unit School District 19 — up 2.58%.
  • Harvard Unit School District 50 — up 2.97%.
  • Huntley Unit School District 158 — up 3.08%.
A comparison of what McHenry County school districts taxed last year with what they are requesting this year.

A comparison of what McHenry County school districts taxed last year with what they are requesting this year.

Rebutting the MCC Rebuttal on $34 Million Project – Part 3

Below is Part 3 of the rebuttal from Lakewood bond analyst Steve Willson’s critique (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3) to the “Corrections” paper about the critique issued by anonymous McHenry County College officials:

Rebuttal to MCC’s “Corrections in Response to McHenry County Blog Claims”

The 100,000 square foot addition.

According to a March 16, 2016 letter from Demonica Kemper,

“The existing science labs total 9,400 net assignable square footage.” It includes increasing the number of science labs from eight to ten, an increase of 25%. It includes increasing the total amount of space devoted to science labs to 14,526 square feet, an increase of 54%.

The same letter notes there are four health science labs now covering 4,407 square feet.

The plan is to increase the number of labs to six – a 50% increase, and to increase the space for the health labs to 10,040 square feet, an increase of 128%!

Yet the total project is for 103,900 square feet.

MCC Lab - Lab and Student space now and proposedMCC’s “Corrections” document says the addition is “only” 66,500 square feet and the rest is remodeling.

I would suggest first, that the documents provided to the public do not show a need to increase the number of labs or their size.

I would suggest second that the total lab space, even in the documents presented, is an increase of only 10,759 square feet. Yet, apparently we are remodeling, roughly, 37,400 square feet and adding 66,500 square feet?

And all of this additional space suddenly springs out of the air.

The document “justifying” the new space speaks ONLY to the new labs, does NOT present the square footage numbers to the board or the public, and then suddenly announces a 103,900 square foot project, most of which is “student engagement space”.

In short, it has NOT been documented that we NEED more labs.

It has NOT been documented that the labs NEED to be bigger.

It has NOT been documented that space besides the labs NEED to be remodeled.

And it has NOT been documented that there is a NEED for a big addition for “student engagement”.

What’s sad is that, as I’ve said above, everyone agrees that the labs really do need to be remodeled.

And there is probably good evidence that they should be enlarged to more modern standards.

Not that MCC needs MORE labs, but that expanding at least some of them might be justified.

Yet the documents presented to the public in the board meetings do NOT prove even that need.

CONCLUSION

In any discussion of public policy, decisions should be based on the preponderance of the evidence:

the logic and the data.

I will leave it to the readers to decide whether my case is logical and well supported by the evidence and whether the anonymous “Corrections” document thoroughly refutes all of my evidence and presents new and persuasive evidence of its own. Below is a score card the public can use in deciding who proved more decisively their points.

Transparency

The administration should/should not have made the “Corrections” document public.

The administration should/should not have identified the author.

Role of the Administration

The administration acted/did not act as an impartial provider of information.

Build It and They Will Come

Massive capital projects by government should be conservative and based on known current conditions/should be aggressive and based on questionable projections about the future.

The “wish list”

The administration proved/did not prove that the lab project is based on need rather than department head desires.

The administration proved/did not prove that the “student engagement” space is needed.

Enrollment is likely to remain flat or decline.

The preponderance of the evidence shows enrollment is likely to increase/decrease.

The huge addition should/should not be built if demand is not likely to increase.

The “Corrections” document addresses/does not address the Census Bureau and enrollment data.

The “Corrections” document does/does not refute the Census Bureau and enrollment data.

Demonica Kemper shaded their recommendations.

The evidence shows/does not show Demonica Kemper quoted one bad source and did not publicly address any of the other evidence.

The administration shows/does not show evidence that Demonica Kemper presently all relevant facts in an even­handed manner.

The $34 million capital project is not based on need.

The class room hours and station utilization data show/do not show a need for more labs.

The classroom hours and station utilization data show/do not show a need for more space.

The 100,000 square foot addition.

The documents presented to the public make/do not make a strong case for non-science labs space.

Jack Franks’ Big Survey

Don’t know how many people Chicago-base American Direction Group interviewers called, but Friday night, I was one.

It’s a firm that touts its ability to target voters through research.

American

American Direction Group, the firm Jack Franks hired to do his polling, advertises that it can tell a candidate how to recruit volunteers.

And mobilize volunteers.

The topics of the call were the Presidential and McHenry County Board Chairman contests.

Of course, there is no McHenry County Board Chairman race yet, but the content of the questions indicates at minimum that Democratic Party State Representative Jack Franks is considering a run against Republican candidate Mike Walkup.

First up was an open-ended question asking what one thought the most important issue is.

The surveyer wanted to know what those interviewed throught of Bruce Rauner.

The surveyer wanted to know what those interviewed throught of Bruce Rauner.

Then came a series of politicians’ names about which I was asked whether I felt very favorable, somewhat favorable, somewhat unfavorable or very unfavorable:

  • Donald Trump
  • Michael Madigan
  • Michael Walkup
  • Hillary Clinton
  • Jack Franks
  • Bruce Rauner

Job performance was asked about them next.

Specific questions about political issues came next.

  • Real estate taxes — just right, too high, etc.
  • Property tax freeze — level of support
  • State budget impasse — outrage, angry, disgusted, embarrassed, frustrated, satisfied, pleased
  • Role of Jack Franks in budget impasse — significantly responsible for, little to do with, other choices, too

Then came tests of potential campaign themes.

Jack Franks

Jack Franks

Franks was described as

  • a State Representative
  • a lawyer specializing in banking and collections
  • a bank chairman
  • a conservative
  • outspoken
  • voted against every tax hike
  • opposed high paying pensions (local, I believe–no mention was made of his legislative pension) and
  • that he would continue to root waste and fraud.

There was something about his being part of the patronage system and an ally of Mike Madigan which led to the stalemate in Springfield.

Again his role as a [bill and mortgage] collections lawyer who had put families out on the street was mentioned.

Mike Walkup

Mike Walkup

Next came a description of Mike Walkup:

  • a disability lawyer who fights for the welfare of his clients
  • combats bloated cronyism
  • has taken taxpayers dollars in the form of a pension [remember, there is no requirement for truth in campaigns]
  • advised that county board members plead the 5th to protect their pensions
  • backed by the Good Ol’ Boys

Then there were statements about why each candidate should be elected or not elected.  After each the interviewed indicated how persuasive the argument was from very persuasive to very unpersuasend croynishive.

After each statement, the person being interviewed was asked whether to what extent they supported or opposed the position.

District 3 Democratic Party County Board candidate Arne Waltmire campaigned on cutting the size of the County Board.

District 3 Democratic Party County Board candidate Arne Waltmire campaigned on cutting the size of the County Board.

First were statements about why Jack Franks should be elected County Board Chairman:

  1. something about taxpayer dollars and Franks’ opposition to any property tax increase [contradicted by some Johnsburg residents]
  2. vocal opponent of pension system for county board members and will work to eliminate county board pensions
  3. making county government as efficient as possible, supporting term limits for all members, a small board with single member districts
  4. reform local government, make county government transparent, consolidate as has been done in DuPage County where $13 million has been saved
  5. end cronyism under Democrats, end Good Ol’ Boy politics

Next were five statements about why Jack Franks should not be elected County Board Chairman:

  1. he’s a lawyer who has put dozens of our citizens out of their homes
  2. he can’t be trusted, chairman of the State Bank Group which is being sued by Johnsburg for not having put streets in a subdivision [The Northwest Herald’s story about this did not mention Jack Franks’ name.]
  3. his consolidation reforms are not the answer, they actually cost money
  4. he is part of the problem in Springfield, will be nothing but the same in McHenry County
  5. he is an ally of Mike Madigan and the Democratic machine.  McHenry County can’t afford to have Jack Franks bring Chicago politics here

Three why not vote for Mike Walkup statements followed:

  1. he’s a political opportunist, wants a salary rather than his legal fees, cynically running as a Republican, but ran as a Democrat for the legislature before
  2. he gaming the system getting disability payments because he is allergic to paper
  3. he can’t be trusted to root out the fraud in county board pensions, he told members to plead the 5th if asked questions about how many hours they worked

Finally, I was asked my age and party identification or lack thereof.

County Taking Less Property Tax Dollars This Year Than Last Year

Tax rates and levies have been published by the McHenry County Clerk’s Office so McHenry County Blog is going to do some comparisons to see which districts have been naughty and which have been nice.

McHenry County

Let’s start with McHenry County, which I already know has been nice to taxpayers.

Assessed valuation increased from to $6,919,462,532 to $7,075,931,695, a 1.6% increase.

The new McHenry County Board is composed of all Republicans.

The new McHenry County Board was composed of all Republicans.  Now Jeff Thorsen has replaced Ken Koehler.  Nick Provenzano is not in the photo.

Last year the extraction request from the County Board was $78,966,290.31.

This year it is $76,289,016.04.

That’s a cut of $2.6 million or 3.3%.

The tax rate in next month’s bills will be just under $1.08 per $100 of assessed valuation, while last year it was just over $1.14 per $100.

A six cent per $100 cut, so the rate is going down a bit over 5%.

That includes the 708 Mental Health Board levy, but not the Conservation District’s, which the County Board also approves.

That seems a little strange, so let’s next look at the MCCD.

McHenry County Conservation District

Last year the County Board-appointed Board requested $19,650,996.80.

This year, the number is slightly less–$19,583,206.46.

Last year the tax rate was a bit over 28 cents per $100 (.283996).

This year the tax rate is a bit under 28 cents per $100 (.276611).

That’s a cut of about three-quarters of a cent.

Rebutting the MCC Rebuttal on $34 Million Project – Part 2

Below is Part 2 of the rebuttal from Lakewood bond analyst Steve Willson’s critique (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3) to the “Corrections” paper about the critique issued by anonymous McHenry County College officials:

Rebuttal to MCC’s “Corrections in Response to McHenry County Blog Claims”

Enrollment is likely to remain flat or decline.

I argued was that enrollment was likely to remain flat or decline.

I first noted that the sole source of information presented by Demonica Kemper for a projected increase in enrollment was thoroughly discredited projections by the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning, CMAP.

I then showed the following contrary evidence:

(a) the flattening of enrollment at MCC since 2010;

(b) the decline in McHenry County population documented by the U.S. Census Bureau;

(c) the projections for low national population growth by the U.S. Census Bureau;

(d) the projections for low Illinois population growth by the State of Illinois;

(e) the trend in enrollment in McHenry County schools; and

(d) the declining level of enrollment in each grade in McHenry County schools.

This last factor especially absolutely guarantees a smaller number of high school seniors for the next twelve years absent in­migration.

The “Corrections” document spends nearly two pages addressing future enrollment and never explicitly addresses much less refutes one single piece of evidence presented above.

They are not even mentioned.

Instead, the “Corrections” document says “many other sources of data were also discussed”.

But it never says what these sources are or gives us the data.

The document goes on to say

“It is short­sighted to extract a few years out the 40+ year history of MCC that has shown overall growth and say that this trend will continue into the future.”

This is a true statement.

It’s also a non sequitur; that is, it doesn’t rebut my conclusion.

What is short sighted is to extrapolate a 40 year trend when there is strong evidence that the trend has changed.

One might as well conclude every 60 year will live to be 120 because they’ve lived 60 years already.

If they wish to claim that demand is likely to increase, then they must do two things.

First, they must show that all of the data that I presented does NOT lead to my conclusion.

They didn’t do this.

Second, they must show evidence that the trend of the last few years is likely to reverse.

They didn’t do this, either.

Then the document claims the project isn’t based on projected increases in enrollment.

I’m sorry, but they can’t have it both ways.

If enrollment is likely to stabilize at best and more likely continue to decline, then the need for more facilities must diminish.

Demonica Kemper shaded their recommendations.

I quoted extensively from the documents and presentations that Demonica Kemper made to the board in public meetings to show that the evidence of future growth that they presented was falsified by subsequent facts (the CMAP projections) and that there was substantial contrary evidence not presented to the board (the Census Bureau data and projections, the Illinois population projections, and local school enrollments).

The “Corrections” document says, and I quote, “DKA is a very reputable firm with an impeccable record, and has worked with numerous community colleges. The accusations that DKA has “purposely shaded the facts” is both rash and false.”

That statement is what’s called an “assertion”, meaning a claim without evidence.

I don’t care what Demonica Kemper’s reputation is; if they presented false evidence for one side of the issue and ignored all contrary evidence in presentations to the board,

that’s “shading”.

The $34 million capital project is not based on need.

MCC Lab - Lab and Student space now and proposedI quoted explicitly from Demonica Kemper dcuments that Demonica Kemper’s recommendations were not based on either the quality of existing capital assets or demand for such assets.

There is no other evidence in the documents they presented to the board that speaks to “need” with the exception of the lab utilization data, which I address later.

In examining the need for labs, there are two factors to consider: classroom utilization and student station utilization.

Classroom utilization means how many class hours per week the labs are used.

Student station utilization means how many of the “stations” in each lab are used during each class.

For example, you could have a lab that is used 50 hours a week, but only half of the stations are ever used. This would be like running a factory two shifts a day, but only using half the machinery in the factory during each shift.

I quoted Demonica Kemper’s that they showed “guidelines” for usage, not maxima proving negative consequences beyond the “guidelines”.

Ask yourself, what evidence was presented that bad thing happen if MCC goes a little over the “guidelines”?

Is MCC claiming that current students are short­changed or not learning?

I noted Demonica Kemper’s own guideline for hours used per week was 24 to 28 hours per week and that MCC’s labs are used 27 hours per week on average, which is WITHIN that “guideline”.

I quoted Demonica Kemper’s that the “guideline” for station utilization was 76% to 80% while their own numbers to show that “station utilization” only averages 62% at MCC.

I posted one of Demonica Kemper’s own graphics that show that, on average, only 35% and 39% of the stations are used in MCC’s two nursing labs when class is in session.

That’s less than HALF of the “guideline”.

In fact only ONE of the labs at MCC exceeded the guideline: Biology Lab A222 has 83% of its stations used, so it is all of three percentage points above the “guideline.”

The “Corrections” document states

“The reason that the utilization is low is because the available stations are actually overstated. If one were to actually go into these labs and see the condition they are in.”

I agree.

I have said all along that everyone agrees the labs are obsolete and need to be refurbished.

But this does NOT justify a huge expansion, it only justifies modernizing existing labs.

= = = = =
Part 3 tomorrow.

Franks Doing Serious Polling

Jack Franks worked the tables at McHenry County State's Attorney Lou Bianchi's fundraiser in 2014.

Jack Franks worked the tables at McHenry County State’s Attorney Lou Bianchi’s fundraiser in 2014.

Last night a Friend of McHenry County Blog got wind of a 20-minute poll which was all about State Rep. Jack Franks.

It wasn’t a robo-poll.

It was a real live person.

To say it was “in-depth” would be an understatement.

Questions about a State Rep. race.

Questions about a run for Chairman of the McHenry County Board.

Questions about the Presidential candidates.

The conclusion was that Franks was exploring the water, if he hadn’t already put one foot in the water.

Would he be ambitious enough to run for both State Rep. and County Board Chairman (which, of course, being a good Democrat, he would call “County Board Chair”)?

If you can fill in some more details on the survey, please do so in the comment section.

County Clerk Mary McClellan Sued for Assault

McHenry County Clerk Mary McClellan has been sued for assault by former employee Maria Ramos Warnecke.

Warnecke claims that McClellan “in a fit of rage thrust her hands in the direction of Plaintiff’s face”…placing her “in fear of imminent battery.”

Over $50,000 in damages is sought through her attorney Robert Hanlon.

McClellan Assault Complaint from Warnecke 4-29-16 p1McClellan Assault Complaint from Warnecke 4-29-16 p2

Republican Willing to Bet Jack Franks Will Run for County Board Chairman

Jack Franks had to run to catch his vehicle at the Johnsburg roundabout.

Jack Franks had to run to catch his vehicle at the Johnsburg roundabout.

I have often written of the possibility of State Rep. Jack Franks running for County Board Chairman.

Oh, I know that he said he wouldn’t, but, if he decides to do so, it won’t be the first campaign promise he has broken,

After all, when he first ran for the Illinois House in 1998, he promised to limit himself to three terms.

We know what how well the nine-term legislator kept that campaign ledge.

I have heard that Franks has approached various Republicans seeking support.

Mike Walkup was carrying a sign for County Board in the Johnsburg Parade.

Mike Walkup was carrying a sign for County Board in the Johnsburg Parade.

So far, I haven’t heard of anyone from the GOP climbing on board, but there were Republican Precinct Committeeman who supported the nominally Independent candidacy of James Harrison for Sheriff over Republican Bill Prim.

Now, I have a prominent Republican saying he is willing to bet me cash that Franks will run for County Board.

Somehow I doubt that he would have the courage to run for both offices, although legally I believe he could.

I can’t think of a Democrat in his State Rep. district prominent enough to beat Republican Steve Reick, who is something of a unifying factor in that area.

McHenry County Republican Chairman Sandra Salgado, GOP House Leader Jim Durkin and State Rep. candidate Steve Reick conferred at the Johnsburg Community Club the Sunday before the Primary Election.

McHenry County Republican Chairman Sandra Salgado, GOP House Leader Jim Durkin and State Rep. candidate Steve Reick conferred at the Johnsburg Community Club the Sunday before the Primary Election.


But Franks does have a half million dollars in the bank and Republican nominee Mike Walkup has close to zilch.

Another indicator of Franks’ intentions to forego the long commute to Springfield are letters he is undoubtedly stimulating to the Northwest Herald trashing Walkup.

Jeff Thorsen to Lead Grafton Township GOP

McHenry County Board member and candidate Jeff Thorsen was sworn in as the new Chairman of the Grafton Township Republican Central Committee.

McHenry County GOP Chairman Sandra Salgado swore in the new officers of the Grafton Township Republican Party.  From left to right, they are Treasurer Shannon Teresa, Chairman Jeff Thorsen, Secretary Colleen Keneally and Vice Chairman Tom Poznanski.

McHenry County GOP Chairman Sandra Salgado swore in the new officers of the Grafton Township Republican Party. From left to right, they are Treasurer Shannon Teresa, Chairman Jeff Thorsen, Secretary Colleen Kenneally and Vice Chairman Tom Poznanski.

He replaced Paul Serwatka, who nominated him.

Brief discussion was held regarding whether to hold a primary election for township offices with Highway Commissioner and former Township GOP Chairman indicating he favored an election, rather than the alternative, a caucus.

Twelve of the twenty elected Republican Committeemen attended the meeting.

There are thirty-four precincts in Grafton Township.

Rebutting the MCC Rebuttal on $34 Million Project – Part 1

Below is Part 1 of the rebuttal from Lakewood bond analyst Steve Willson’s critique (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3) to the “Corrections” paper about the critique issued by anonymous McHenry County College officials:

Rebuttal to MCC’s “Corrections in Response to McHenry County Blog Claims”

It’s good that there is on­going discussion of the quality of the study that claims to support a massive, $34 million expansion of the McHenry County College campus. The public should get to see such an important issue debated.

Below I present my rebuttal of the anonymous “Corrections” document given to MCC’s trustees.

Steve Willson, April 28, 2016

====================================================

TRANSPARENCY

I reviewed the recommendation to spend $34 million on a massive capital project. I did so under my own name and I gave it to Cal Skinner, who was kind enough to publish it in full for the benefit of the public.

The “Corrections” document was given only to each trustee at the last meeting of MCC’s “Committee of the Whole”. It was not listed on the agenda and has never been published on their web site. Cal Skinner had to make a Freedom of Information Act request to get a full copy of the document.

To date the College still refuses to identify the author.

I leave it to the reader to decide whether this conduct is acceptable.

ROLE OF THE ADMINISTRATION

My first comment goes to the role of the administration, not just of MCC but of any government.

Suppose that you owned a business and that you assigned a task to an employee to determine if facilities needed to be expanded, a major, multimillion dollar capital project.

What kind of response would you expect?

I think that you’d expect a thorough and unbiased analysis.

After all, under one of the most common principles of business law, the “agency rule”, an agent owes allegiance to his master, meaning employees are supposed to act in the best interest of their employer, not in their own self interest.

And if, instead, you got what you considered to be a slanted repot, one that was shaded in favor of a project and that didn’t really provide an objective analysis, you’d probably fire that employee.

If that’s true of employees of private businesses, how much more true is it of government employees, of administrators who are supposed to be acting on the public’s behalf?

Should they not, if anything, be held to an even higher standard?

In short, our public administrators have an obligation to provide thorough and unbiased analysis of such projects.

I will leave it to the reader to decide if that happened in this case.

BUILD IT AND THEY WILL COME

My second comment goes to how governments should make decisions about big capital projects.

Should governments spend millions of dollars on projects that assume big increases in demand when there is significant debate about such forecasts, or should they be conservative and wait for demand to become apparent, unless there is a major problem with waiting?

Note that I said “significant debate”.

MCC Lab - Lab and Student space now and proposedI’m not even demanding that the administration and the liberal faction of the MCC board agree with my conclusions, I’m only saying where the issue of future enrollment is highly arguable, does it make sense to build now or to wait?

Again, I will leave it to the reader to decide which is the more appropriate action when using the public’s money, and if that is what happened in this case.

RESPONSES TO SPECIFIC POINTS

I will now turn to specific points in my analysis of the need for the $34 million project and the “corrections” from MCC.

The “wish list”

I quote explicitly from the Demonica Kemper documents that the study was NOT based on demand. President Gabbard even said at a recent meeting that department heads were told to “dream” – his word, not mine. That, in my opinion, is a “wish list”.

The “Corrections” document says, “Meeting with the faculty and staff whose job it is to educate the next generation of the MCC community is an imperative part of any Planning Study—not a wish list.”

I agree – it is an imperative part. However, that there may have been further meetings that scaled back the “wish list” does NOT prove that the new spaces are needed; it simply became a smaller “wish list”.
= = = = =
Part 2 Saturday.

Valley Hi Consultant’s Report

Have to say I was disappointed with the Wipfli LLP Market Study Report presented at the joint meeting of the Valley Hi Operating Committee and Public Health and Human Services Committee.

Valley Hi's entrance.

Valley Hi’s entrance.

From the hour or so presentation and discussion I distilled the following two recommendations to continue to attract lucrative post-hospital Medicare patients:

  1. single occupancy (private) rooms need to be made available.  (These could be put in the lower level–a basement currently with a gravel floor that could be a walk out because of the sloop of the terrain.)
  2. the rehab facilities need to be updated.

The next biggest recommendation seemed to be to hire an architect to provide cost figures.

That leaves County Board members and the public with what I characterized as the Valley Hi “wish list.”

It totaled $6.7 million.

Not listed was the cost for single occupancy rooms.

Many times have I heard that consultants are hired by government to tell the governmental officials what they want to hear.

Mike Edwin, the consultant, had these last words to the Operating Board:

“If you have additional comments in there, changes you want, let us know.”

There were other suggestions including  “a dementia care program, a stand-alone assisted living and memory care option or a unit in the nursing home for supported living facility.”

The consultant suggested that outside investors be sought, but advised that the country location would be a detriment.

Interesting was that the average nursing home is at 88-90% occupied, while Valley Hi is at 98%, the highest the consultant had seen.

That there is currently a excess capacity of nursing home beds in the county with two developers (Centegra and Alden) seeking an permission to build another 208 beds was interesting.

The lower level could also be used for adult day care, but “It’s unfortunate that you are here [too far from the population center].”

Questions indicated that services provided by Family Alliance would not be a good fit.

The catch phrase for the night was “continuum of care.”

The creation of that was recommended in case “Medicare and Medicaid blow up.”

County Board member Donna Kurtz said that a cost-benefit analysis was needed.

Mike Walkup wanted to know the desirability of Valley Hi’s location.

The consultant said Valley Hi had “been able to buck the tide.”

He then described McHenry County as “basically rural” to rolling eyes from those from the eastern part of the county.

Walkup also asked about the possibility to selling the nursing home.

Kurtz disagreed with Walkup, indicating the referendum approval in 2002 meant county taxpayers wanted the facility.

“The premise of selling this facility makes no sense at all.”

A member of the Operating Board commented about the “incredible lack of certainty” that the administration and Operating Board faced.

She said that “spreading out the risk, exploring these options makes a great deal of sense.”

Operating Board Chairman Jim Kennedy, a former County Board member elected as a Democrat, noted that McHenry County’s nursing home was not in the financial trouble that DuPage’s had, but “we may not be far behind.”

“I don’t know of any county nursing home doing any  better than ours,” County Administrator Peter Austin observed.

Valley Hi Administrator Tom Annarella pointed to two options.

The first would be to do nothing.

He said that five years from now the odds were good that the facility would be “running into something.”

He talked of a lower level walkout.

“There’s no problem with filing our beds now,” but “younger, more high skilled Medicare persons want a more modern hospital environment.”

County Board member and Chairwoman of the Public Health Committee said that the rehabilitation part of Valley Hi needed modernizing.

Walkup wondered if the County should “say we’re going to be the last resort for the indigent.”

Previously, it had been discussed that private nursing homes had no incentive to take Medicaid (welfare) patients.

“That is our mission,” Kennedy stated emphatically, adding, “If we go all Medicaid, [it’s] almost undoable.

“We may be the only stop for Medicaid 5-10 years down the road.”

McCann noted that Valley Hi should be operated as “close to break even as possible.”

Micheal Rein, a member of the Public Health Committee, asked for the operating loss.

“$700,000,” Annarella replied, noting that this year that the balance was “not trending in the right direction.”

Discussion turned to the “surplus.”

Austin said the Operating Board had $18 million as a “target reserve.”

Monday, there was $41,660,082.57 in the Valley Hi bank accounts.

Annarella pointed out that every year the $18 million figure went up because of increases in operating expenses.

Operating Board Chairman Kennedy explained that Valley Hi was “currently not using any tax levy to operate the nursing home” and asked, “What’s the philosophy going to be?”

He argued that the surplus “proves businesswise that we’ve been a [tremendous] success.”

He wondered if the Board should be helping the most indigent or selling the nursing home.

Kennedy added that he thought that, if another referendum were held, it would pass.

= = = = =
Democratic Party District 3 County Board candidate Dominique Miller attended the meeting.

Ex-Lawyer Gets Four Years in Mortgaged Scam

A press relese from the U.S. Attorney’s Office:

Disbarred Illinois Attorney Sentenced to More Than Four Years in Prison for Deceiving Homeowners in Mortgage Fraud Scheme

CHICAGO ― A disbarred Illinois lawyer has been sentenced to more than four years in federal prison for her role in a mortgage fraud scheme that bilked lenders and vulnerable homeowners out of more than $725,000.

AVALON BETTS-GASTON contrived fraudulent real estate transactions to defraud homeowners and financial institutions.  She and a co-defendant, DIMONA ROSS, arranged for the submission of materially false information on mortgage loan documents in four Cook County real estate transactions worth more than $725,000.

A federal jury last year convicted Betts-Gaston, 47, of Naperville, on two counts of wire fraud.

In addition to the 57-month prison term, U.S. District Judge Charles R. Norgle yesterday ordered Betts-Gaston to pay restitution in the amount of $239,550.48.

“This case demonstrates a sophisticated scheme to take advantage of the trust that mortgage lenders placed in the loan applications they received, and the trust that the homeowners placed in her,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephen Chahn Lee argued in the government’s sentencing memorandum.

“The homeowners believed that she was there to help them, and instead she put their homes and equity at risk.”

Betts-Gaston graduated from law school and was admitted to the Illinois bar in 2000.

Ross was a licensed real estate loan officer.

Together they founded IJCN Investments, which was based in Chicago Ridge and purportedly helped distressed homeowners refinance their homes to avoid foreclosure.

IJCN was involved in various Cook County real estate transactions, with Betts-Gaston handling the legal aspects and Ross obtaining the mortgages.

Evidence at trial revealed that instead of refinancing the homes, the defendants arranged for the properties to be sold to a straw buyer.

In doing so, the pair submitted false applications for mortgage loans, eradicated the homeowners’ legal rights in their properties, and obtained all of the homeowners’ equity.  Betts-Gaston and Ross received fees for the deals, and the straw buyers were paid thousands of dollars.

IJCN was dissolved in 2008, and Betts-Gaston was disbarred in 2012.

Ross pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud.  She is scheduled to be sentenced by Judge Norgle on May 11, 2016, at 10:00 a.m.

The sentencing was announced by Zachary T. Fardon, United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois; and Michael J. Anderson, Special Agent-in-Charge of the Chicago Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

The government is represented by Mr. Lee and Assistant U.S. Attorney Timothy Storino.

Get Rid of Your Prescription Drugs

A press release from the McHenry County Department of Public Health:

National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day April 30

Promotes safe, convenient and responsible disposal of medications

The Lake in the Hills Police sent a photo of its CVS drop-off box, into which prescription drugs may be placed year round.

The Lake in the Hills Police sent a photo of its CVS drop-off box, into which prescription drugs may be placed year round.

McHenry County Department of Health (MCDH) encourages residents to take advantage of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency’s (DEA) program “National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day” on Saturday, April 30.

The one-day event is from 10 am2 pm at participating law enforcement sites. This coordinated effort addresses a vital public safety and public health issue.

Medicines that languish in home cabinets are susceptible to diversion, misuse, and abuse.

When medication is not disposed of properly, it can end up in our lakes, rivers, streams, and groundwater. Pharmaceuticals should not be discarded by flushing them down a toilet, or throwing them into the trash.

The DEA’s program and local law enforcement drop-off programs are structured to offer an economically viable and the most environmentally sound disposal alternative for residents’ expired/unwanted medication.

Residents can bring prescription and over-the-counter, solid dose (tablets, capsules) medications in clear, sealed plastic bags for disposal.  Items not accepted include liquids, intravenous (IV) bags/solutions, injectables, needles, lancets and sharps.  Prescription labels should be removed (or personal information blocked out with a permanent marker) from plastic bottles before tossing into weekly curbside recycling containers.

Eleven participating drop-off sites in McHenry County include –

  • Algonquin Police Department, 2200 Harnish Drive – Algonquin
  • Cary Police Department, 654 Village Hall Drive – Cary
  • Harvard Police Department, 201 W. Front Street – Harvard
  • Huntley Police Department, 10911 Main Street – Huntley
  • Johnsburg Police Department, 3611 N. Chapel Hill Road – Johnsburg
  • Lakewood Police Department, 2500 Lake Avenue – Lakewood
  • Marengo Police Department, 142 E. Prairie Street – Marengo
  • McHenry Police Department, 333 S. Green Street – McHenry
  • McHenry County Sheriff’s Office, Wonder Lake Fire Protection District #1 (East side station), 4300 E. Wonder Lake Rd – Wonder Lake
  • Spring Grove Police Department, 7401 Meyer Road – Spring Grove
  • Woodstock Police Department, 656 Lake Avenue – Woodstock

To find collection sites near you, visit the DEA’s webpagehttp://www.deadiversion.usdoj.gov/drug_disposal/takeback/index.html.  Check often as new sites will be added daily or contact your local police department. Additional information is available from your participating local law enforcement agency, on the MCDH webpagewww.mcdh.info (Environmental Health) or by calling Kristy Hecke, McHenry County Solid Waste Manager at 815-334-4585.

Anonymous MCC Source Rebuts Steve Willson Critique of $34 Million Project

The following was passed out at the McHenry County Board’s Committee of the Whole meeting last week.

It was in response to Lakewood bond analyst Steve Willson’s critique of the $34 million lab renovation and student services proposal detailed in

McHenry County College

Corrections in Response to McHenry County Blog Claims on Health Careers Renovation Project
April 2016

Below, please find a response from McHenry County College (MCC) to correct recent claims made about the College’s Health Careers and Science Project in the McHenry County Blog.

It is critical to the College and the future success of this project that the community fully understands the factual background and information about this study/project.

[I guess whoever prepared this memo did not think sharing it with McHenry County Blog was important.  I had to file a Freedom of Information Request to obtain what you are reading here.  I would gladly have published it the day it was distributed to the Board of Trustees, if whoever prepared it had made such a request.]

Claim: Instead of examining how best to use MCC’s existing space, the “study” became a wish list by department heads.

FACT: The consultant team met with representatives from nearly every department on two separate occasions during the nearly two-year development of the Planning Study. The first time was at the beginning of the process in order to understand overall concerns about existing learning spaces (quantity and quality) and future needs. The second time was at the direction of the Board of Trustees, after various options were developed to address the projected needs. Meeting with the faculty and staffwhose job it is to educate the next generation of the MCC community is an imperative part of any Planning Study—not a wish list.

Claim: A presentation by Demonica Kemper in August 2014, when it was seeking a contract from MCC, sought to make the case that MCC would grow. As evidence, they showed the projections from the Chicago Metropolitan Planning Agency.

FACT: The CMAP projections were referenced only during the initial interview but never identified as the end-all, be-all data for demographic projections for the MCC district. In fact, the College asked DKA not to use this as the primary data source for the project. This information is merely one source of data.

After the interview portion of the selection process, many other sources of data were also discussed. It has been stated on numerous occasions to the Board that demographic growth/decline is not a major driver of space needs at higher education institutions. Paulien & Associates was selected by the Board of Trustees based on their extensive experience working with hundreds of higher education institutions across the country to develop Space Use Studies. Their approach has been clearly outlined to the Board. Neither college employees nor the College’s consultants have stated that the needs identified in the Space Study are tied to any projected demographic growth within the district.

Claim: Beyond population, we know for a fact – not a projection – that the student population in McHenry County will continue to decline over the next eleven years.

FACT: Student population at community colleges is based on a myriad of different issues, including the state of the economy, job market, the College’s marketing plans, cost of education at four-year institutions, special incentive programs offered to students, etc. Community colleges are not the same as public school systems—students do not have to attend community colleges. Rather, they choose to attend community colleges. Their choice is based on many of the issues identified above, as well as others. It is difficult to predict with confidence what population growth or decline will occur over a decade. The number of first graders in the district may be a very small indicator of the potential pool of students that will choose to attend MCC over the next ten years, but it is not the primary driver.

It is also important to note that the health care/careers programs at the College do not follow the same average age trend as some of the institution’s other programs. The average age of students in 2016 across all health careers programs is 28. Specific age average by program for 2016 is listed below.
MCC instert 4-27-16Claim: In short, we know that enrollment at MCC is likely to remain flat at best and more likely to decline.

FACT: See response above. It is short-sighted to extract a few years out the 40+ year history of MCC that has shown overall growth and say that this trend will continue into the future. There are always ups and downs in the marketplace, but in general, there is typically growth, especially at a community college that is committed to serving its community.

Claim: And we know further that Demonica Kemper chose to ignore all the data that contradicted their justification for a new building. We also know that Demonica Kemper had a pecuniary interest in showing bad data: they wanted to get hired, and if there is no growth, then there is no need for Demonica Kemper’s services.

FACT: DKA did not ignore the data that Mr. Willson is referring to. As indicated above and through numerous discussions with the Board of Trustees, DKA and Paulien & Associates have attempted to make it very clear what process and data were used. In order to address the accusation that DKA ignored data in an attempt to secure a design contract, it is very important to note that all of the space needs developed as part of the study were developed by Paulien & Associates, the firm chosen by the Board to lead this effort. Once the space needs were identified and presented to the Board, Paulien stepped out of the process, and DKA was responsible  for providing ideas and concepts for the Board’s consideration on how to best address the identified needs.

Claim: Yet the Board majority chose to ignore all the evidence, including the evidence that Demonica Kemper was purposely shading the facts, and hired Demonica Kemper.

FACT: DKA is a very reputable firm with an impeccable record, and has worked with numerous community colleges. The accusations that DKA has “purposely shaded the facts” is both rash and false.
________________________________

Claim: The $34 Million Addition Proposed for McHenry County College – Part 2.

FACT: The title of Part 2 of this blog is actually very misleading. The College is not proposing a $34 million addition to the campus. It is actually proposing a $27.3 million addition—the balance of the project is renovation work to better utilize existing space on campus.

Claim: Yesterday I ran Part 1 of bond analyst Steve Willson’s analysis of McHenry County College’s $34 million capital projects plan, in which he rebutted the evidence from the College’s consultant that enrollment at the College was likely to grow at a rate far in excess of national and state population projections

FACT: Other than a brief reference to some CMAP data during the interview process as a possible source of data, DKA has not made population projections a significant part of the study, and they certainly  never stated at a Board Meeting, committee meeting, individual meetings with the College administration, or in any of their written reports that MCC was likely to grow “at a rate far in excess of national and state population projections”.

Claim: The report says EXPLICITLY in the first slide that it was “not based upon aesthetics, existing facility conditions or enrollment”. Demonica Kemper said neither the quality of existing facilities nor enrollment were factors in their recommendations.

FACT: The study was organized into two phases. Phase 1 was focused specifically on Utilization and Space Needs and targeted the quantitative aspects of space on campus. Moreover, this portion of the study focused in on specific programmatic needs, not overall college enrollment figures. Upon approval of Phase 1 and authorization by the Board to move on to Phase 2 of the study, the qualitative aspects of space on campus (conditions of existing space) was incorporated into the overall needs, and options to address these needs were developed and presented to the Board for their consideration.

Claim: MCC is reported as using their labs 27 hours per week for teaching credit classes (see graphic below), so it is within the “guidelines”.

FACT: The labs that this graphic refers to are all labs on campus. With respect to science labs and health careers labs, the average lab utilization is as follows: Science Labs – 28.875 hours per week /Health Careers Labs – 36.25 hours per week. Both of these average utilization rates are in excess of national guidelines of 24-28 hours per week for technical labs. It is very important to note that labs, by their very nature, are designed to be program-specific. A chemistry lab cannot be taught in an Anatomy & Physiology Lab and vice versa. Similarly, an Occupational Therapist Assistant lab cannot be taught in a Nursing lab and vice versa. It is also important to note that MCC must abide by both state and accreditation body guidelines in terms of what space to use and how to use it.

Claim: In short, Demonica Kemper and Paulien Associates demonstrated that there is no need to expand the number of labs at MCC, based on current enrollment and utilization.

FACT: This is not true. Much of the expansion identified in the study is not to accommodate new labs for the College. In fact, much of the space need identified was to bring existing labs up to standards in order to accommodate the various training exercises that occur within the labs, safety within the labs, and ADA issues within the labs. The new labs that were identified are, for the most part, associated with new programs (Physical Therapist Assistant, Patient Care Technician, Engineering, etc.), and to provide space for necessary training such as a Cadaver Lab, Simulation Labs, and a Student Resource Lab.
_______________________________________
Claim: In the final installment today, Willson shows how a plan to refurbish existing labs morphed into a 100,000 square foot addition, complete with “Student Engagement” space for foosball tables, couches and big screen TVs.

FACT: This comment is misleading. The addition is only 66,500 sf, not 100,000 sf. The balance of the project is reusing existing space to maximize its use on campus, which is everybody’s goal. The Student Engagement Space will accommodate resources for students such as Veteran’s Resources and space for many student organizations and clubs that promote overall student achievement and success. In addition, space will be provided for students to collaborate and socialize, which is an invaluable aspect of learning. This collaborative space is desired by both faculty and students who need places to work together in teams, for tutoring efforts, and special projects.

Claim: Please note even in the graphic above that the station usage of the two nursing labs are 39% and 35%.

FACT: The reason that the utilization is low is because the available stations are actually overstated. If one were to actually go into these labs and see the condition they are in, it would become clear that the average enrollments listed on this chart could not be increased drastically without overcrowding the space. This also becomes abundantly clear when one looks at the average utilization rate of these two labs at 45 hours per week. Remember that the high end of the national guideline is 28 hours per week. Further, this is all about the way that the space must be utilized.

Claim: The NEW plan is NOT to add 5,000 square feet, but to build 103,900 square feet of space at a cost of $34.35 million.

FACT: The 5,000 sf being referred to is an assignable sf number, whereas the 103,900 sf Mr. Willson is referring to is a gross sf number. This is an apples-to-oranges comparison. The 5,000 sf is the variance between the space standards for current space versus the actual space that exists. It does not account for the new lab space to accommodate new programs (PTA, Patient Care Technician, Engineering) or the spaces that are necessary to support existing programs (Cadaver Lab, Simulation Labs, Resource Lab). This comment is misleading. The current plan is NOT to build 103,900 sf of new space. The current plan is to build 66,500 sf of new space, and the balance of the space will be renovated to maximize its use on campus.

Claim: In other words, the NEW plan increases teaching space by 86% while the analysis in 2014 indicated a “shortage of only 697 square feet in teaching space.

FACT: If you refer to Page 7 of the December 8, 2015 presentation made to the Committee of the Whole, the total ASSIGNABLE AREA associated with “teaching space” (we prefer to call these spaces “learning spaces”) within the proposed addition is 30,320. A significant part of the proposed overall project is renovation of existing space. If we run the same calculation as Mr. Wilson did with accurate numbers, the teaching (learning) space is being increased by only 16% (30,320/188,223)…not 86%.

Claim: And note that the “Science Labs and Health Sciences Renovation Recommendations” suddenly became the “Science/Student Engagement” Recommendation.

FACT: The title of this slide is “Science/Student Engagement, simply because the Science and Student Engagement spaces are the spaces being shown in the new addition on the image. The Health Careers Space is being provided within existing space in Building A to maximize overall space use.

Claim: CONCLUSION

It is clear now that the new liberal board majority had an agenda.

  • The justification for expansion is based on patently disproven enrollment projections.
  • The “space utilization” study was transformed into a wish list without regard to demand or quality of existing facilities.
  • The data prove MCC has sufficient lab space based both on hours used and station utilization.
  • The new plan nearly doubles the amount of space at MCC and includes much more than refurbishing the science labs, despite the title given to the project.

FACT: All of these conclusions are inaccurate based on above responses to the various comments made.

Illinois Has Highest Real Estate Taxes

That’s what the Chicago Tribune is reporting a California company finds.

Illinois has the highest median property tax rate in the nation, with various agencies and entities taking a combined 2.67 percent bite, according to a CoreLogic analysis of real estate property taxes nationwide.

Nationally, the median property tax rate is 1.31 percent, said the Irvine, Calif.-based data provider to financial services and real estate companies. That means that a home valued at $200,000 will, on average, pay annual total property taxes of $2,620.

In Illinois, that homeowner would pay $5,340…

After Illinois, the states with the highest median property tax rates are: New York, 2.53 percent; New Hampshire, 2.4 percent; and New Jersey, 2.37 percent.

Divide your property tax bill by what you could sell your home for and tell us in the comment section what your percentage is.

Fardon Comments on Hastert Sentence

A press release from the U.S. Attorney:

Statement by the United States Attorney’s Office Following the Sentencing of Former U.S. Speaker of the House John Dennis Hastert

CHICAGO — U.S. District Judge Thomas M. Durkin today sentenced JOHN DENNIS HASTERT, 74, of Plano, to 15 months in federal prison.

Hastert pleaded guilty last year to one count of illegally structuring cash withdrawals in order to evade financial reporting requirements.

After the sentencing hearing, the United States Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Illinois issued the following statement:

“With this case, the Office sought to hold Mr. Hastert accountable for the crimes he committed that could still be prosecuted: illegally structuring cash withdrawals and lying to the government about his motive for engaging in that activity.

“All of us have been inspired by the strength and bravery of the victims and witnesses who came forward in the most challenging of circumstances.  ”

As in all cases, the Office is dedicated to doing everything we can to help victims and their families seek justice.  It is our hope that the sentence imposed today will promote respect for the law.”

The sentencing was announced by Zachary T. Fardon, United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois; Michael J. Anderson, Special Agent-in-Charge of the Chicago Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation; and James D. Robnett, Special Agent-in-Charge of the Chicago Office of the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation Division.

The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Steven A. Block and Diane MacArthur.

Consolidation of Power Referendum Headed for Fall Ballot

McHenry County Board Chairman Joe Gottemoller went to a national convention and found out that Los Angeles County only has five commissioners.

That seems to be the immediate impetus to cutting the size of the McHenry County Board, which is a legislative body.

Had he looked further, he could have found other counties with only three commissioners.

My grandfather James Clayland Stevens served on one such board on the Eastern Shore of Maryland.

The Eastern Shore was solidly Democratic then.

There were two factions in Queen Anne’s County.

Both courted my retired farmer grandfather.

He chose one side and won.

We grandkids were really impressed with one of the perks–free entrance to the Churchill movie theater.

I have no idea the connection of county government was to the  movie theater.

Queen Anne’s County was an interesting one politically.

In the 1950’s Democratic Party boss Joe George brought home a brick faced bridge where Route 50 split into 301 going north to Wilmington.

During the 1930’s my grandfather told of a family with seven voters going from one side of the courthouse square to the other side, from one lawyer’s office to another, offering to sell their votes.

The final price was $35.

I’ll be plenty of people would be willing to accept that price today.

But, back to my headline.

The McHenry County Board at the beginning of a meeting.

The 24-member McHenry County Board at the beginning of a meeting.

There are now 24 county board members.

Cutting that number in half, as was originally proposed, would guarantee one thing:

Fewer people would control McHenry County politics

Of course any referendum to eliminate elected officials will pass.

Think of Pat Quinn’s Cutback Amendment.

He claimed it would save money.

It would improve government.

No one can show that either promise was fulfilled.

My prediction is that cutting the number of county board members in half will result in a doubling of their $21,000 salaries.

The argument will be that they are doing twice the work, so deserve twice the salary.

This might not happen during the first term, because 24 people will be setting the salaries and close to half will be resentful that they will lose their jobs.

Give in a couple of terms and any claims that the scheme will save money will be found to be false predictions.

But power will have been consolidated into fewer hands.

The Six “P’s” of Dennis Hastert’s Life

Several times I have explained the three “P’s” that Republican National Committee Field Director Ray Humphries taught a campaign school in Jacksonville in about 1968.

He said they explained the motivations that people had for seeking public office:

  • Power
  • Prestige
  • Pecuniary

The third one is a bit awkward, but it refers to monetary rewards.

All three undoubtedly motivated former Illinois State Representative and U.S. House Speaker Dennis Hastert to seek appointment to the Illinois House and election to Congress. (He beat future State Rep. Tom Johnson in the GOP primary for Congress.)

During the course of his indictment we learned that the man who once represented a small part of McHenry County (Coral Township, I believe) had another “P” before he entered public service:

  • Pedophilia

Today, Hastert will learn which of two more “P’s” he will face during the rest of his life:

  • Probation
  • Prison

How Much Fat Was There in Universities?

U $600 mil 4-16The end of the school year is almost here and the only state university announcing an early closure is Chicago State University, one whose educational product is not widely praised.

The question I have been asking myself since the universities started complaining about not getting their state subsidy is “How much fat is there is the state universities?”

If there were not huge reserves, one would think that the universities would have shut down before now.

Back in the 1990’s, when state government tried to force the University of Illinois enterprise funds (read primarily dorms) to pay for their health insurance, the university legislators passed a bill to prohibit collecting what it cost.

That gave a subsidy to students renting dorm rooms that certainly did not meet cost accounting standards.

I’d guess the universities must have had a lot of money squirreled away to last nine months without their usual state subsidy.