David McSweeney knows how to pick ’em.
And Jack Franks has been a master of gaining publicity for virtually his entire 14-year legislative career.
McSweeney came up with the idea to reform the alternative revenue bond process and had a bill drafted.
The changes he proposes and Franks buys into would give the taxpayer s of McHenry County College a change at defeating ill-conceived projects like the minor league baseball stadium and the proposed health club at the ballot box, rather than paying higher taxes for a couple of decades if the revenue stream identified to pay off non-referendum bonds turns into a trickle.
For those who don’t dip into McHenry County Blog that often, alternative bonds are a method approved by a previous state legislature that allow government entities, such as Lakewood with its early 1990’s golf course purchase, to borrow money for projects without going to referendum.
The premise in Lakewood’s case was that golf course revenues would pay off the bonds.
And who came up with the projections?
It was a golf course management company with no skin in the game.
I feel so personally involved because I and other Lakewood homeowners paid 53% of the cost of an amenity which I have never used.
The alternative bond document forced subsequent village trustees to flay repayments off the hides of us taxpayers.
McHenry County College is now trying to do this in order to build a health club and classrooms.
That addition space will cost a lot more than the now-re-named RedTail Golf Course, although the price per homeowner, if muscled through by the MCC Board and the revenue projected by the health club operator company Power Wellness don’t pan out, would probably be far less than the $500 a year that I remember paying.
There is currently a way that taxpayers can force a referendum when a taxing district like McHenry County College decides to borrow money without asking voters for permission, but the number of signatures needed on a petition is virtually impossible to gather.
In MCC’s case, state law now says that signatures of 7.5% of the registered voters must sign the petition.
That’s 7.5% of 182,766 voters.
Multiply that out.
My hand multiplication tells me that’s 13,709 signatures.
A bit more than the 500 that Jack Franks had to gather to put the County Executive referendum on the ballot, so he can certainly understand the statutory hurdle of those wishing to stop their tax bill from going up because of alternative revenue bonds.
The McSweeney-Franks bill would lower the petition signature number to 5% of the voters or 500 signatures, whichever is less.
The legislative proposal would also increase the length of time to gather those signatures from 30 to 90 days.
That would at least give the taxpayers a chance if the junior college decides it wants to borrow over $40 million without asking voters’ permission.
Besides the Tribune article on Wednesday and mine on Tuesday, the Northwest Herald has one today.
While the Tribune did not make the McHenry County College connection, the NWH did in its first sentence:
“Legislation filed this week in Springfield could make it harder for McHenry County College to fund its proposed expansion.”
And, the sub-headline reads, “The locally sponsored legislation could affect MCC plans.”
The article even mentions RedTail Golf Course.
And a commenter under the article “Patrick F” of Cary points out that the Cary Park District was planning to buy a golf course (its second) with bonds not approved by voters. (I believe he is mixing up the power that all park districts and other local tax districts that had non-referendum bonding in 1994–may be a year off. State legislation I actively opposed allowed those with unpaid non-referendum bonds to forever use the amount being paid back in the year in question to finance new borrowing without voter approval. That is how the Crystal Lake Park District is financing its new West Beach House.)
See articles summary of Tribune articles about what happened to Lakewood homeowners here:
- Lakewood Red(Ink)Tail Golf Club Alternative Revenue Bond Failure Featured in Chicago Tribune – Part 1
- Lakewood Red(Ink)Tail Golf Club Alternative Revenue Bond Failure Featured in Chicago Tribune – Part 2
Tuesday’s McHenry County Blog article (“McSweeney and Franks Send Shot Across McHenry County College’s Bow) about newly-introduced House Bill 983 can be found here.