MCC Candidates, Minus One, Present Selves

There were six names on the tables at the front of the McHenry County College auditorium.

Five of the six candidates for McHenry County College appeared before well under 50 people Monday.  From left to right are Matthew Hardt, Ron Parrish, Mike Smith, Scott Summers and Karen Tirio.  Missing was Jeffrey Hill.

Five of the six candidates for McHenry County College appeared before well under 50 people Monday. From left to right are Matthew Hardt, Ron Parrish, Mike Smith, Scott Summers and Karen Tirio. Missing was Jeffrey Hill.

Missing was candidate Jeffrey Hill, running for a six-year term.

After the forum I discovered he had signed the paperwork that the McHenry County League of Women Voters and had not notified the group that he would not be present.

That left three candidates running for six-year terms on the stage and two for the four-year terms.

Facing the public for the six-year terms were MCC Board President Ron Parrish and newly-appointed member Mike Smith, who was appointed to replace Tom Willbeck when he moved out of the district, plus former Trustee Scott Summers, who resigned. Subsequently Summers ran for

McHenry County Board as a Democrat and was a write-in candidate for Governor after being removed from the ballot as the Green Party candidate.

Running for the four-year term are Karen Tirio, co-owner with her husband of Monarch Senior Care, and Prairie Ridge High School Industrial Arts teacher Matthew Hardt.

Karen Tirio

Karen Tirio

Parrish, Smith and Tirio are running together.

First to address the audience of maybe 70 was Tirio.

She emphasized that McHenry County is in the top 1% of counties in the United States as far as property tax burden goes.

“Rent is too damn high,” she said.

“We have higher taxes than Beverly Hills.”

Summers told of a prediction by a Harvard professor that within fifteen years half of all colleges will be closed.

That leads him to be opposed to expansion of the Crystal Lake campus.

Instead of students coming to the campus, Summers said the college should be going to the students either through the internet or in classed taught at county high schools.

Mike Smith

Mike Smith

Smith pointed to his financial background and stated his explicit opposition to borrowing money with referendum approval.

He pointed out that Elgin Community College has passed a referendum during the recession.

Parrish stressed that students were the most important part of the the college with faculty a close second.

“Everything else is a distant third or fourth,” he said.

Parrish was proud of the increase of transparency during the two years he has headed the Board, citing the internet streaming of Board meetings.

He argued that an intangible–community spirit related to the college–needed improvement.

Matthew Hardt

Matthew Hardt

Hardt told of serving on an MCC advisory committee and attending MCC on the way to earning a master’s degree.  He teaches at Prairie Ridge High School in Crystal Lake and is on the board of the teachers association.

Hardt would like to see a program in diesel technology and thought a partnership with Caterpillar might make such an addition relatively inexpensive.

Concerning tuition increases, Tirio said her attendance at meetings gave her no indication that students would receive “any extra added value” from the recent $5 per credit hour hike.

She pointed to the 8% drop in enrollment in the last ten years and use of only 50% of the classroom space.

“When less people are seeking your services, it’s not time to raise your prices,” Tirio said.

Scott Summers

Scott Summers

Summers suggested cutting the tuition rate the more courses that a student took.

He also advocated cutting courses which were not cost-effective and giving students vouchers to take them over the internet or at other colleges.

Smith pointed to MCC’s tuition being 30th of the 39 Illinois community colleges.  He favored “moderate, prudent” tuition increases.  He stressed that he favored user fees over higher taxes.

Parrish pointed out that while tuition had been increased “at the behest of students,” he refused to budge on imposing an infrastructure fee.

“A $5 increase,” Hardt said.  “I would have been for that.  It’s still a great value.

“We have to make sure the teachers and the staff are paid well enough so they don’t want to go elsewhere,” he added.

Hardt also said that he thought there was “lots of need for students to be in-house.”

Perhaps referring to the offer by Sage Products to conduct courses in robotics, Tirio noted that “business leaders have come to the college and been turned down because it [wouldn’t] be under the roof of the college.”

The audience was sparse.

The audience was sparse.

She pointed out that when she went to Job Fairs at MCC, she didn’t meet MCC students.

She told of asking whether the Shah Center brought in more money than it cost, but said that college administrators did not know.

“If we don’t know what it is doing, what is the point?”

Also touching on finances, Summers said, “Tax revenue’s going to have to be flat.”

One question asked whether MCC should be a four-year institution.

Summers said, “No,” that such an idea was “empire building” and “misguided.”

“We need to concentrate on what we have,” Tirio said.  “Let’s aspire to be the place people are knocking down the doors to attend.”

Smith said he “would keep an open mind, but I’d lean today as being opposed.”

He suggested focusing on “core competency.”

Smith pointed out that when he attended the College of DuPage thirty-five years ago, there was talk of making the institution a four-year college.

Ron Parrish

Ron Parrish

Parrish told of a proposal last week by the President of Northern Illinois University to more closely integrate with the community colleges in Northern Illinois.

“That would not be very different from the cooperative agreement MCC has with local high schools,” he pointed out.

In his concluding statement, Summers reminded people that he and Donna Kurtz, after initially supporting the 2007 plan to build a minor league baseball stadium, changed their minds and opposed it.

“That saved us from a multi-million dollar mistake,” he said.

Parrish pointed out that over the last two years there have been fundamental changes.  Two he mentioned were

  1. resisting tax increases
  2. merit pay for administrators
  3. stopped expansion of the college complex

He said the Board needs to create new sources of income and reduce ancillary expenses.

“We need to hold the line on taxes,” Tirio reiterated.  “People in McHenry County are being taxed out of their homes.”


Comments

MCC Candidates, Minus One, Present Selves — 6 Comments

  1. Don’t Veer When You Steer In Bull Valley

    I was recently reviewing the webpage of our neighbors in the Village of Bull Valley. Village President (Ron Parrish who has indicated he is not running for re-election in order to allow his protégé to run unopposed in the upcoming election) recently posted a note to the “Friends and Fellow Villagers” of Bull Valley.

    It was an interesting read and I would highly recommend that it be viewed by both its residents and by friends (like me) who hail from other villages, towns, cities, and unincorporated portions of McHenry County to gain a sense of how the economic aspect of “Public Safety” of the Village has been “improved”.

    In his letter posted on the Village’s web page (http://villageofbullvalley.org/President.aspx), the Village President noted;

    “the village police team has grown to two full time officers and eight part-timers, and has been refocused from the former “Bull Valley speed trap” theme to focus on enforcing safety and preserving lives – both human and wildlife. We are continuing to enforce the speeding laws as necessary, but also training our officers to recognize and address overweight trucks that are damaging to our roads and a threat to motorist and resident safety.“

    Further in the letter the Village President notes

    “Conversely, the latest audit report for 2014 states “The Village’s financial condition has improved as a result of its governmental activities.”

    The Village was able to fund operations for the 2014 fiscal year without incurring debt. In round numbers, fiscal 2011 had revenues of $493,000 and expenses just over $694,000 – a net effect loss of over $200,000 dollars!

    In this past year, while laying off the “speed trap” model and focusing on life saving and resident safety and protection initiatives, we made $126,000 income – a positive reverse swing of $326,000 – to the better!”

    After pondering these quoted sentences contained in the Village President’s letter I thought it would be interesting to delve into the historical financial details of the Village of Bull Valley to ascertain how this remarkable turnaround in the financial stability of the Village of Bull Valley took place.

    As some folks know, the audited financials of all Illinois villages, towns, cities, municipalities, and other governing bodies that are required to have an annual CPA audit performed can be readily found online via GOOGLE.

    What follows is based upon a my less than full understanding of the audited financial statements of the Village of Bull Valley for fiscal years ending April 30, 2011 through April 30, 2014 as prepared by the CPA firm of Brown & Co., LLP (my Chicago attorney friend suggested that I insert this disclaimer as I am a air jockey and not a green eyeshade accountant).

    Hopefully my ramblings for a fellow who flies the “friendly skies” make sense to those who read this. In posting any comments please remember this isn’t my regular day job.

    In preparing my summary I have tied back to the numbers in the Village President’s letter.

    In no way do I assert that I have a keen knowledge of finance and accounting.

    I am just summarizing what I see in the audited financials of the Village of Bull Valley.

    I will defer to any supportable and documented rebuttable by the Village of Bull Valley President, its external auditors, or outside counsel. (some additional comments recommended by my Chicago based attorney friend in Willis Tower)

    YEAR ENDED APRIL 30, 2011

    Revenues for the fiscal year ended April 30, 2011 were approximately $493,000. A summary of revenue as noted in the audited financials follows:

    Revenue from Taxes – $306,000
    Revenue for Bond – 84,000
    Court Fines 94,000
    Revenue from Fees – 7,000
    Other – 2,000
    Total $493,000

    Expenses for the fiscal year ended April 30, 2011 are summarized as follows:

    Village Administration – $151,000
    Public Safety (Police) – 277,000
    Roads and Bridges – 181,000
    Bond Debt Service – 83,000
    Misc. 1,000 (plugged this to balance. Was pretty darn close)

    Total 694,000

    Net Income (Deficit) (200,000) per the Village President’s letter.

    After comparing these result to what other villages and towns reported for 2011 it was clear that the year ended April 30, 2011 was a tough one for most.

    Reasons cited focused primarily on the revenue line with the inability to significantly reduce expenditures during 2011.

    The primary reasons for the decline in revenues seemed to be either a reduction in tax revenues or delays in receiving court fines due to non-payment of the fines by the individuals or entities that had been fined.

    Clearly this year continued to reflect the economic downturn referred to as the Great Recession that began in 2008.

    YEAR ENDED APRIL 30, 2012

    A review of the audited financial statements for the period ended April 30, 2012 reflected better economic times for the Village.

    Revenues for the fiscal year were approximately $718,000; an increase of $225,000 from 2011.

    In reviewing the financials I noted the introduction of a new revenue category; Impound Fees.

    As you will note in subsequent years this and court fines become nearly as important to the continuing fiscal well-being of the Village as Revenue from Taxes.

    In discussing this with some of my friends I learned that that back in the 1990s the Village had another special form of revenue known as “P-tickets.”

    P-tickets take their name from the fine print found at the bottom of the citation, which states an offender can avoid having a “point” placed against his or her permanent driving record by paying a fine directly to the municipality.

    I found it interesting the introduction of P-tickets in the Village of Bull Valley was back when the current Village President was the Village President back in the 1990s.

    P-tickets were often are issued to motorists for minor speeding, stop-sign or car-equipment violations.

    In the late 1990s Secretary of State George Ryan’s office said Schaumburg and several neighboring communities and towns in DuPage, Lake, McHenry and Will Counties were breaking state law by writing local traffic tickets that weren’t recognized by the state.

    Eventually a legal challenge to this practice was initiated by the Secretary of State’s office culminating with the December 30, 1999 case of People ex rel. Ryan v. Village of Hanover Park, Nos. 1-98-3752, 1-98-3851, 1-98-3852 Cons.

    The result of this case was to affirm the judgment of the Circuit Court of Cook County that had held that the practice of “P-Tickets” was illegal under existing Illinois statutes.

    Now, getting back to the review of the audited financials of the Village of Bull Valley.
    The detail of revenue as noted in the audited financials are summarized as follows:

    Revenue from Taxes – $465,000
    Revenue for Bond – 91,000
    Court Fines 83,000
    Revenue from Fees – 26,000
    Impound Fees – 26,000
    Grants/Donations – 14,000
    Other – 13,000
    Total $718,000

    Expenses for the fiscal year ended April 30, 2012 are summarized as follows:

    Village Administration – $186,000
    Public Safety (Police) – 263,000
    Roads and Bridges – 171,000
    Debt Service Bond 91,000
    Misc. 5,000
    Total 716,000
    Net Income (Deficit) 2,000

    YEAR ENDED APRIL 30, 2013

    A review of the audited financial statements for the period ended April 30, 2013 reflect better economic times for the Village.

    Revenues for the fiscal year were approximately $1,035,000; an increase of $317,000. Revenue from Taxes increased by $73,000, Court Fines increased by $139,000, and Impound Fees increased by $85,000.

    The detail of revenue as noted in the audited financials are summarized as follows:

    Revenue from Taxes – $538,000
    Revenue for Bond – 105,000
    Court Fines 222,000
    Revenue from Fees – 11,000
    Impound Fees – 111,000
    Grants/Donations – 3,000
    Insurance Settlement 28,000
    Other – 17,000

    Total $1,035,000

    Expenses for the fiscal year ended April 30, 2013 are summarized as follows:

    Village Administration – $245,000
    Public Safety (Police) – 336,000
    Roads and Bridges – 195,000
    Bond Debt Service – 105,000
    Misc. 0
    Total 881,000
    Net Income (Deficit) 154,000

    Expenses increased by $165,000 over 2012; with Police costs increasing by $73,000, Roads and Bridges increasing by $24,000, and Village Administration increasing $59,000.

    YEAR ENDED APRIL 30, 2014

    A review of the audited financial statements for the period ended April 30, 2014 continues to reflect even better economic times for the Village; though the purse strings to the Village pocketbook have loosened quite a bit for Public Safety and Roads and Bridges spend.

    However it should be noted that the $1,000,000 road bond that was approved by the Village residents in 1998 was fully retired with the bond’s final payment in this fiscal year.

    Thus freeing up approximately $100,000 for the Village to use for Roads and Bridges.

    Revenues for the fiscal year were approximately $1,076,000.

    Most of the revenue increase is attributable to Impound Fees increase of $27,000 and Local Ordinance Fees $25,000.

    The detail of revenue as noted in the audited financials are summarized as follows:

    Revenue from Taxes – $529,000
    Revenue for Bond – 108,000
    Court Fines 230,000
    Revenue from Fees – 14,000
    Impound Fees – 138,000
    Grants/Donations – 11,000
    Insurance Settlement 0
    Local Ordinance Fees 25,000
    Dog Park – 10,000
    Other – 11,000

    Total $1,076,000

    Expenses for the fiscal year ended April 30, 2014 are summarized as follows:

    Village Administration – $238,000
    Public Safety (Police) – 392,000
    Roads and Bridges – 302,000
    Debt Service Bond – 110,000
    Misc. 0

    Total 1,042,000

    Net Income (Deficit) 34,000

    Total expenses for 2014 were $161,000 higher than 2013; most of the increase was in Police of $56,000 and Roads and Bridges $107,000.

    Once you let this information sink in, it is easy to see that an important source of the Village of Bull Valley’s revenue beginning in the fiscal year ending on April 30, 2012 and continuing to grow in magnitude in subsequent years is court fines and impound fees.

    As many of you painfully know Woodstock’s City Council passed an impound ordinance (12-O-02) on January 17, 2012.

    Apparently the Village of Bull Valley, taking a cue from Woodstock’s City Council, also passed similar legislation which has resulted in a financial windfall for both Woodstock and the Village of Bull Valley.

    This is confirmed in the Village President’s note to the “Friends and Fellow Villagers”, “We have also become aware of a continuing DUI threat in our Village involving both drugs and alcohol and have provided our officers with special training to recognize and properly address any medical situations as they appear.”

    Even one of the Village Trustees is quoted in the August 23, 2014 Northwest Herald Article, As most localities’ DUI arrests drop, Bull Valley’s soar.

    “Those critical of the number of DUIs coming from the small village (Bull Valley) are questioning the motivation to shift its law enforcement focus to heavily target drunk drivers, believing it to be a money grab on the backs of those traveling through the village.

    “To me there’s no traffic offense that will net more money for Bull Valley than DUIs,” McHenry and Kane county defense attorney Matt Haiduk said.

    “They have no sales tax base and they don’t want to raise their property taxes … quite frankly the people of Bull Valley should be ashamed of their police department.”

    Not so, says Bull Valley’s trustee who serves as a police liaison to the Village Board. Peter Helms said any money the village receives from DUIs is just a “fringe benefit.””

    Interesting that my colleague from another carrier would note this significant revenue source is just a “fringe benefit”.

    As noted by Robert Flavin, a DUI Attorney with offices in Woodstock, Illinois who represents drivers charged with DUI in McHenry County Illinois and neighboring counties.

    “When a person is arrested for a Bull Valley DUI, they are asked to pay a $500 administrative fee on top of any fines and court costs.

    As a Bull Valley DUI attorney, this bothers me.

    If a person gets their Bull Valley DUI dismissed entirely, they still have to pay the $500 administrative fee, unless the police stop was not supported by Probable Cause.

    Probable Cause is a reasonable suspicion that a driver is violating the law.

    In order to win a Probable Cause motion the defense attorney must show it is more likely than not that the officer lacked Probable Cause to make the traffic stop.

    This is hard to do, because the Probable Cause can be that the motorist was violating the most simple of laws, i.e. speeding or improper traffic lane usage.

    The driver will not win the administrative hearing to save the $500, if there was probable cause to make the stop, regardless of whether they had the DUI dropped later.

    One could argue that in such a system, the police should arrest everyone on suspicion of DUI, collect the fee, then dismiss the charges.

    That way they don’t have to pay their attorneys to take the case to trial. It turns out it could be a very lucrative proposition for the Village.”

    Attorney Flavin further notes on the website, Excessive Bail, http://www.excessivebail.com/author/rayflavin/

    “Each little hamlet in this little slice of heaven we call Illinois is now authorized to collect up to $500 in administrative fees after an arrest for DUI or driving while license suspended.

    In an earlier post, I joked about the possibility of local municipalities arresting drivers and then releasing them after they paid the $500 administrative fee.

    Sort of a Catch and Release program.

    The idea was that if they had probable cause for the stop, then they could keep the $500 fee, and when they dismissed the case they would save attorney’s fees for prosecution of the DUI.

    I also mentioned that municipalities received very little of the MASSIVE fines and fees collected by county courts for DUIs, even though they provided the police, the tickets and the prosecutors for those cases.

    Well, it seems that one municipality may have figured out the puzzle that is DUI enforcement.

    It has been said that one Village’s DUI percentage (the portion of DUIs that survive to TRIAL OR GUILTY PLEA in court) is inexplicably low.

    However, their collection of the administrative fee is nearly 100%.

    I think they have figured out that the real money is not in DUI enforcement, but in collection of the administrative fee.

    That perhaps sheds some light on the question, “Do they arrest DUI drivers to reduce DUIs, or for the money, and the answer is …

    I will let you draw your own conclusions.”

    Flavin also notes,

    “Why are there so many DUIs written by the Village of Bull Valley?

    As a Bull Valley, IL DUI attorney I have represented hundreds of people charged will Bull Valley DUIs and I still can’t figure out how they write so many.

    There are no bars in the Village of Bull Valley.

    There are no liquor stores.

    And to confuse the matter more, most people charged with Bull Valley, IL DUIs are not from Bull Valley.

    They mainly come from Crystal Lake, Woodstock, Wonder Lake and the City of McHenry.

    When I was a kid they used to have speed traps.

    Hainesville, Illinois was a famous speed trap.

    The speed limit dropped from 55 to 35 on a road that was essentially going through woods and cornfields.

    I think Hainesville made a lot of money from that trap.

    Bull Valley makes about 300K off of their traffic tickets.

    There DUI ticket writing has increased about thirty fold in the past years. I suspect that has something to do with staffing.

    While this craziness occurs my recommendation would be to plan your evening driving using routes that do not go through Bull Valley.”

    In a recent court case, The Village of Bull Valley v. Zeinz, 2014 IL App (2d) 140053, the Appellate Court of Illinois held that Officer Page incorrectly charged the defendant, Daniel Zeinz, as driving under the influence in the Village limits of Bull Valley.

    Officer Page’s testimony during cross examination clearly showed that Officer Page was not absolutely sure that the defendant had been driving in the Village’s jurisdiction when he stopped the defendant outside of the Village’s limits on eastbound Route 120 just east of Ridge Road.

    In a situation like this, if the defendant’s vehicle was impounded by the Village of Bull Valley does it seem proper that the Village should collect the $500 fee when the DUI arrest is reversed upon appeal?

    Therein people is the problem.

    Has the Village of Bull Valley’s police department become overzealous in their pursuit of DUI offenses primarily motivated to provide much needed revenue to the Village of Bull Valley?

    Does the current program of impound fees used by need to be vetted and have standard rules and procedures that must be followed; including a requirement that the majority of DUI citations are not summarily dismissed to avoid legal costs for the municipalities that are “gaming the system”?

    As Attorney Flavin notes above, when you drive home in the evening it would be wise to avoid routes that go through the Village of Bull Valley.

    By doing so you would be ensuring that the residents of the Village of Bull Valley remain safely tucked away in their “little” cottages in the country and you would eliminate a potential financial risk of $500 that may occur even if you aren’t driving under the influence in the Village of Bull Valley. And that ain’t no Bull!

    POSTSCRIPT

    In the spirit of fairness, as I have earlier noted, the Village of Bull Valley has also increased its revenue from taxes.

    For the longest time the Village of Bull Valley had not significantly increased its tax assessment rate even during the first few years of the Great Recession under the administration of Ron’s predecessor.

    However, beginning in the 2011 Assessment that was payable in 2012 (June and September 2012), the Village Assessment Rate was increased from .4718 to .5198.

    During the current administration’s 4 year tenure the taxing rate has increased by 41% (from .4718 to .6645)!

    Notwithstanding the decrease in assessed property valuation from $75.6 (2010) million to $58.1 (2013) million, a decrease in taxable base of 26%, the Village of Bull Valley is now well positioned to significantly increase its revenues (off the backs of its own residents) when the real estate values turn the corner and begin to increase.

    Far be it for me to say that the Village of Bull Valley would ever in the future reduce its taxing rate to reduce the tax burden upon its residents but if they can continue to keep the Village of Bull Valley solvent on the backs of fines and impound fees that are substantially imposed on backs of nonresidents……..just saying.

    All of the data noted in this Postscript can be found in the audited financial statements of the Village of Bull Valley.

    One final point, Ron Parrish is running to be reelected as a trustee of the McHenry Community College Board.

    One of his key platforms for his reelection is that he is staunchly against raising taxes on the good people of McHenry County.

    However when you note that during his 4 year leadership of the Village of Bull Valley you note that he did not feel guilty in increasing taxes on his own fellow residents.

    The question, come election day, is has the tiger (Ron) really changed his stripes to spots?

    Or should we citizens of McHenry County prepare to be required to pay more in taxes to support McHenry Community College….again just saying.

  2. Jeffrey Hill was targeted by Dave Bachmann’s new blog, McHenry County Secrets.

    I saw it, read it, and was convinced by Bachmann’s exhibits about Hill, that Hill was not a man whom we should elect.

    Appears the local bloggers are getting their messages across, again.

    Appears Jeff Hill ran for the hill.

    We need to thank people like Bachmann who aren’t afraid to show us the truth.

    What happened to his new web site anyway? We need guys like him.

  3. Jim Page is giving cops a bad name in McHenry Co.

    Bull valley residents should insist that the $500 fee charged to them for calling a tow truck is refundable when found not guilty of the towable offense.

    Only then will this misguided revenue grab stop.

    All of our elected officials that know better than the public they represent approved this at the behest of their police departments as an antidote to shrinking DUI revenue.

    I’d love it if an attorney looked into the stops made by Page and the Bull Valley PD

  4. If you think that your taxes are high, look at the school board candidates, because I guarantee they are about to get much higher in Crystal Lake.

    The real story that everyone is missing is the number of teachers and teachers union members running for the school board in D155 & D47.

    D47 has a MEMBER OF THE UNION LEADERSHIP (CURT WADLINGTON) running and judging by the number of teachers that has signs in their yards, Fetzner is their friend as well judging by sign placements.

    http://patch.com/illinois/crystallake/district-155-teachers-vote-in-favor-of-strike

    D155 has a slate of 3 d47 teachers running for school board; Blazier, Guss and Pelz that ARE ENDORSED BY THE D155 TEACHERS UNION.

    https://www.facebook.com/district155educationassociation/posts/405848389594712?fref=nf

  5. Woodstock Willie: Geez write a book, why don’t ya .

    I fell asleep waiting for the point and gave up.

    Nobody: you’re right.

    The college is another form of govt we have to watch.

    If there’s not a conservative majority on that board after the election, the expansion will be re-introduced.

    At Rauner’s event last week in McH Co. he said IL has twice as much government than other states.

    This is one reason it’s so expensive and the other is that the elected officials won’t stand firm on finding ways to cut spending and always have their hands out to the tax payers.

    Thank God Quinn is history. Our individual counties have to elect people who watch out for the taxpayers or we’ll ALL BE voting with our feet and leaving this once great state!

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