A communication from Lakewood Village Trustee Paul Serwatka:
Reporting on Recent Village Board Meeting
I really believe this is yet another very telling example of the poor stewardship that I continue to oppose within our current village board.
On the agenda, was a motion to approve an Intergovernmental Agreement to, once again, participate in the “MC Ride” Program.
As many know, I tried, unsuccessfully in 2015, to convince the board NOT to approve this program.
But, this program was “Recommended for Approval” by our Village Manager, and all other trustees followed her recommendation.
Mine was the only vote against approving this program.
Now, this year, after paying more than $15,000 in tax-dollars over the last two-years to implement this program in Lakewood, it has now been proven that this was a 100% complete waste of tax-payer dollars – and the board has finally voted unanimously NOT to approve this program for 2016-2017.
A Little Background
The MC RIDE Program was originally implemented in Lakewood, for 2014-2015, before I was elected to the board. It was approved for 2014-2015 with a unanimous decision by the board of trustees.
This program was again brought before the board in November 2015 – with a “Recommendation to Approve” from our village manager – and was again approved for 2015-2016. I was the ONLY vote AGAINST adopting the program for 2015-2016.
At our November 8th 2016 meeting, this Program was again being presented to the board for approval for 2016-2017
The MCRIDE Program provides a Pace Bus service that will pick up a resident at their home, or other location, and drive them to a location of their choice. The fare paid by residents is $2.00 per trip for the first 5 miles, ($1.00 for seniors and disabled) then $25-cents per mile after.
The remaining cost of this service is subsidized by tax-dollars. In 2015, county-board members estimated that the average cost-per-ride subsidized by tax-dollars was approximately $17.
The Over-all Cost to Tax-Payers
Total cost to implement this program in Lakewood last year was $7,622 with $4,991 being paid directly from Lakewood tax-dollars and the remaining $2,631 being provided through a Senior Services Grant. And, it’s important to keep in mind, that while these grants are always portrayed as if they are “free money,” there is nothing “free” about them. These grants are 100% funded by other tax dollars collected, that you and I paid into!
In November, 2015, this program was presented to the board with a “Recommendation to Approve” from our village manager.
In formulating my vote, I posed the following questions to staff and fellow board members:
Q – Did Lakewood residents ever express a need or desire for such a program, to inspire the board to adopt this program in 2014?
A – NO. Staff and the Board just thought it would be nice community service to offer residents.
Q – Is this a “needs-based service” provided to serve Seniors, the disabled or low-income?
A – NO. The service is available to any resident of any age for any reason without demonstrating a need.
Q – What kind of a response/usage did the service have in 2014-2015? / How many residents have used the service?
A – Reports for 2014/2015 showed 4-5 residents used the service in 7- months while other months no usage was reported.
The following questions were then posed by fellow board members, to me:
Q – What if a resident locks their keys in their car?
A – I suggested they could call a family member, friend or cab.
Q – What if a resident has too much to drink?
A – Again, I suggested that they could call a family member, friend or cab.
My contention was, and remains, that our village board should not levy a tax on residents, to pay (grossly over-pay) for a “community service” to provide rides to adults who have consumed too much alcohol, locked keys in their car, etc.
Board members, in general, disagreed with my thoughts.
They shared in the opinion that this was a nice community service to offer and that Lakewood’s share of $4,991 per year in taxes, with the remaining $2,631 being paid by even a broader source of tax-dollars, was “a negligible amount to be squabbling over”.
I then suggested that if we were so insistent on providing this type of service (and I don’t know that we should be), that we could contract with “Uber” or a local cab-company to provide this service, as needed, and we would still save the Lakewood taxpayers thousands of dollars per year and also cut-down the hour-plus wait times that residents regularly experienced with the PACE service. (Again, this is not to say that I advocate doing this, but it was an example of how we were grossly over-paying for this service with this current program)
My arguments were to no avail, and as I said, the end result last year, was that the board approved this program for a second year with mine being the only NO vote.
This year, the program was presented for the boards approval once again. This time, with a pretty disturbing new piece of information being presented.
First we covered the resident usage of the program for last year.
After spending another $4,991 in Lakewood Tax-Dollars and another $2,631 in grants, for a total of $7,622 in tax-dollars – In 2015, 2 to 7 residents used this service in some months, with no usage reported for other months. < At this point; even with the updated stats showing such a low interest in the service, and even after considering the gross over-payment for our participation in this program, the sentiment and discussion by the board still seemed to me, as though the board was steering toward approving the program for a third year and that I would, once again, be the sole vote against it. Then another piece of information was discovered, that was not previously disclosed to the board.
It turns out that Grafton and Door Townships, which comprise approximately 98% of Lakewood, had both already adopted the MC RIDE Program prior to 2014-2015!
This entire service that Lakewood Taxpayers were paying for, was already paid for by Grafton Township residents (which obliviously includes Lakewood)!
This program was already available to, Lakewood residents before we ever spent a dime of the $15,000!
Lakewood residents essentially double-paid for this program in both of the last two years!
And while Grafton and Door Townships only account for about 98% of Lakewood – the other 2%, or so, of Lakewood that falls within Algonquin Township, also has a similar program in place for residents, but, it “may possibly have some restrictions”.
Now, there is no reason that members of the board would necessarily have had personal knowledge of this specific, but quite important, information.
But, our Village Manager/staff, absolutely should have known this and would have been required to make certain that our board members knew as well!
I honestly struggle to believe that our village manager was not aware of this.
Our staff has demonstrated that they worked very closely with the MC Division Of Transportation people, on this agreement, including the Principle Transportation Planner, Scott Hennings.
Board members were given copies of some of the communications that took place between staff and Mr. Hennings, where he went through great lengths to provide data and offered all kinds of suggestions on how to pitch the board of trustees on approving this program – even offering to come and pitch us himself.
He certainly had to have knowledge that Grafton and Door Townships were already under contract with this program.
Whether this is just typical bureaucratic, government waste – or something else entirely – one thing is certain…
This is anything BUT the “Good Fiscal Stewardship” that this board and staff continue to proclaim.
The Good News – Lakewood will no longer waste tax-dollars on this unnecessary and grossly over-costly program.
Bad News – We will never recoup the $15,000 wasted tax-dollars that was recklessly spent.
Thought to Ponder – We currently face many other issues, just ahead, in our village… Issues of a much greater magnitude and a much larger impact to Lakewood residents…
That being considered, this April, Lakewood residents will have an opportunity to elect some new faces to our village board and President seat…
We’ll have an opportunity to elect new members with new perspectives and new attitudes…
We’ll have an opportunity to elect a team that has expressed a sincere desire to effect better government in Lakewood… a team that has demonstrated a sincere understanding of the need for reform in our village government..
This April we will have an opportunity to completely transform our village board into a board that is committed to Restoring Accountability, Providing utmost transparency and actually LOWERING property tax burdens for Lakewood families…
I sincerely hope you will continue to stay informed as we move forward to April’s Municipal Elections – and please encourage other Lakewood friends and Neighbors to stay informed as well!
Please share this newsletter and encourage others to subscribe as well by simply sending a request to Paul@LakewoodTaxFighter.com.
And. please be sure to check our website for updates at www.LakewoodTaxFighter.com.
As always, your thoughts, questions and concerns are always welcome and always valued.<
This weeks board packet can be found at the link below: