Newly-Appointed Lakewood Village Trustee Weighs In on Issues

A comment from newly-appointed Lakewood Village Trustee Jason McMahon which deserves broader readership:

Jason McMahon

It’s easy to be a no name, armchair quarterback on a blog too (I will give Steve [Willson] credit for using his name).

There are so many nameless individuals on this and other blogs that seem to have a lot of ideas and criticism but don’t show up and participate.

They are no different from those that complain and don’t vote.

While I was NOT involved in the land purchase and generally don’t agree with government purchasing real estate this purchase makes sense.

– The property was in foreclosure and was purchased below market price. In fact, the purchase contract between Lakewood and the bank included a claw back clause wherein the Village would be required to surrender some of the profit to the bank if the Village should turn around and sell the property for a profit within a set time frame. This has recently expired.

The intersection of Route 47 and Pleasant Valley Road as it will appear after it is reconfigured by the Illinois Department of Transportation.

– A portion of the property is needed for intersection improvements at 176 and 47. Would you have preferred the Village wait until the property was purchased by a private owner, then enter in to costly negotiations with a new owner or possibly an eminent domain proceeding? Spending money on attorneys and eminent domain fights does not save taxpayers money.

– By purchasing the property, Lakewood was moved up on the list for State money to fund the improvements because there wouldn’t be a costly fight to obtain the property needed for the improvements.

– Lakewood may even be able to sell the remainder of the property that is not needed for the improvements and recoup most, if not all, of the initial purchase cost. This would result in a net SAVINGS to the tax payer over the plan suggested by other commentor.

– Making bad decisions that cost Village residents money and blaming it on a previous Board is a foolish suggestion. As stewards of Village finances, Trustees are required to do what is best for the Village. Just because we do not believe in a previous Boards actions, does not give us the right to damage Village finances.

– Selling off property at a loss, simply for the sake of selling it makes you a TAX WASTER. Blaming it on someone else makes you a child. As government officials we are constantly at the mercy of our predecessors. All we can do is make informed decisions moving forward.

– Selling Village assets and reducing cash reserves may temporarily and artificially reduce taxes for ONE year but it could also negatively affect the Village bond rating. If our bond rates rise, the interest on our debts will rise and the savings residents thought they were getting will be erased in future tax years. I am excited to see how the tax fighters will cut 10%, permanently, from our Village budget while maintaining the level of service our residents expect. This means cutting at least $300,000 from a $3,000,000 budget and equates to about $225 per home in a tax year.

– Selling Village assets and spending cash reserves to reduce taxes is similar to a person spending money from their savings account and pretending their expenses for the year were less because they did not need more income. Lakewood infrastructure is aging, there are water and sewer main repairs that will need to be done. Paying for those repairs from cash reserve funds will cost residents less than borrowing money.

– Developing commercial property in Lakewood is the only real solution to a tax reduction. Route 47 and 176 is the best answer. Do I believe we should build a sportsplex or baseball stadium? No, I don’t believe the Village should build anything but if a developer wants to RISK HIS OWN FUNDS, that is a different story.

And while we are on the topic of 176 and 47, there is NOT a ticking tax time bomb.

All development in that area is Planned Unit Development (PUD).

This means the Village Board must approve any development and can set the parameters on how that will happen.

No Village Board is going to approve residential development in that area.

  1. Lakewood needs commercial in that area and
  2. They know the damage it will do to the Village budget.


Newly-Appointed Lakewood Village Trustee Weighs In on Issues — 11 Comments

  1. This is the trustee who was single handedly chosen By none other than President, Erin Smith to fill the resigned spot of Ken Santowski.

    Jason is the trustee who said at a public meeting that Lakewood needs to cater to developers and that Lakewood is quickly becoming known as “the village that says NO to everything”, citing Lakewoods saying NO to:

    – The Sportsplex
    – The Turnberry Condo Development
    – Video Gaming!

    Jason continues to sing the song of Erin Smith and her business as usual style of politics, evenva day AFTER we, the Lakewood residents have so boldly said “NO MORE”!.

    Still Jason echo’s Erin Smith’s talking points almost verbatim.

    Jason – first, learn the difference between the budget and the property tax levy. You sound like a fool!

    Second, are you really so arrogant as to pretend you are clairvoyant?

    For you to say “No Village Board is going to approve residential development in that area” shows a frightening, degree of both ignorance and arrogance on your part!

    Particularly when we just watched our village board attempt to get rid of police patrol at night, in an effort to finance the design phase of their beloved new village hall.

  2. Gene, yours is a patent attempt at changing the focus of the discussion to Paul, and with zero evidence.

    I don’t know Jason, so I’m willing to give him the benefit of the doubt.

    Still, I’ll be skeptical because that’s the right approach for the public to any elected official, and the right approach for any elected official to the bureaucracy.

  3. S. Prichard, didn’t you just post that same comment regarding me on another story? Once again…

    S. Prichard, use your real name. Take my offer to meet face to face. You are great at hurling insults on a blog, but what have YOU done for Lakewood? When will you stand up and contribute?

    Not one thing you said contributed to the conversation. You simply wrote a 300 word tantrum trying to insult, belittle and degrade me. If you don’t believe enough in the things you write to use your real name, why should I or anyone else take you seriously?

    Residents with the courage to stand up and volunteer in their community will do what is best for Lakewood. Residents that run for Board positions, residents that volunteer for committees, residents like Steve Willson, whom have the courage to use their name and contribute to a discussion. While I may not always agree with what he writes, he takes time to do the research and is confident enough to put his name on it. Research and knowledge are what it takes to make educated decisions.

    Lakewood residents are smart. They will see through your scare tactics. They will find the emperor has no clothes, I will be sure of that.

    Use your real name and let’s talk Budget vs. Levy, that would be fun.

  4. Jason, let’s examine your comments one by one.

    First, “A portion of the property is needed for intersection improvements at 176 and 47.”

    If indeed a portion of the property was needed for “improvement”, then purchasing that portion and only that portion could be justified.

    However, that word “improvement” is used awfully loosely with regard to road projects. Can you show the tangible benefit of the proposed changes? Can you compare that with the total cost? Only if the value exceeds the cost can you claim that portion is justified.

    As for the rest, it was not justified.

    Next “Selling off property at a loss, simply for the sake of selling it makes you a TAX WASTER.”

    No, Jason, keeping property the Village has no business owning is a tax waste. Trying to divine the market and time the sale is real estate speculation, and that is not the business of ANY Village Board — not the last one and not the one coming into office.

    Next “Selling Village assets and reducing cash reserves may temporarily and artificially reduce taxes for ONE year but it could also negatively affect the Village bond rating.”

    Jason, no one suggested using the proceeds of the sale for a one-time large reduction. A better idea would be to spread the proceeds over, say, a ten year period to reduce our taxes.

    After all, the property was purchased with our taxes, and that the Village had enough money for the purchase shows they have been over-taxing us for years.

    As for the bond rating, that’s not going to drop if the money is drawn down slowly.

    Next “Selling Village assets and spending cash reserves to reduce taxes is similar to a person spending money from their savings account and pretending their expenses for the year were less because they did not need more income.”

    No, it’s not, because it’s OUR money — the TAXPAYERS’ money. In a perfect world, the government would take in exactly what was needed to cover necessary expenditures. As the world isn’t perfect, in any given year, the government may run a small surplus or a small deficit. But over time, those should balance out. The only reason to keep a modest fund balance is to cover uneven cash flows throughout the year. Moody’s considers a fund balance equal to 8% of expenditures to be adequate. But if the Village has large fund balances, then, as I said above, it’s because they over taxed us for years.

    Next, “Developing commercial property in Lakewood is the only real solution to a tax reduction.”

    No, Jason, there’s another obvious solution: cut expenditures. That you fail to even entertain that idea is a particularly disturbing statement from a

    Finally, “No Village Board is going to approve residential development in that area.” [47 & 176]

    One would hope so. But we’ve seen Village Boards do other stupid things, like buy golf courses and sign TIF agreements putting Lakewood’s taxpayers on the hook for expenditures by a school district of which they aren’t part. We’ve seen school districts build bleachers without permits and then use the taxpayers’ money to fight a losing suit all the way to the Illinois Supreme Court. Based on my years of experience with local government, I lack your faith, which is why I prefer that local governments simply stay out of such situations.

  5. Steve, Thank you for the well thought out reply. It is a great example of how two people that may not agree can have a productive discussion.

    Purchase – My initial reaction to the purchase of the property was the same as your’s.

    I was not happy the Village was potentially risking taxpayer dollars and purchasing property.

    Not being part of the original Board discussion to purchase the property, I am unable to speak to whether or not purchasing only the needed portion of the property was an option or if a cost benefit analysis was performed either locally or at the state level.

    I do believe, should the road project move forward, this purchase will have ultimately saved money for the taxpayers by avoiding attorney fees and/or eminent domain proceedings.

    Sale – We may have to agree to disagree on this one.

    Based upon my current knowledge, I believe the Village should keep the portion required for “improvements” and put the remaining property up for sale.

    This way we can attempt to recoup some, if not all, of the initial expense, sooner than later, while leaving the option open for future road “improvements”.

    I stand by my previous statement that selling the entire property now, simply for the sake of selling it (and possibly buying it back in the future), would make you a TAX WASTER.

    As the area develops and becomes even more heavily traveled it will make sense to reduce the number of traffic lights to maintain traffic flow.

    It will also make sense to have a controlled access plan for development along Rt 47 to alleviate issues similar to the Randall Road corridor.

    Immediate Sale – Steve, It is fairly well documented by commentors on this blog and other sites that the tax fighter party should immediately sell the land and return the money to the taxpayers.

    In my opinion, the commentors are looking for immediate reductions in their tax bills not a $40 discount on a $15,000 tax bill over the next ten years.

    Bond Rates – I agree with your statement that it is prudent to slowly draw down reserves so as not to negatively impact our bond rating.

    Again, my feeling is the residents are expecting differently based upon campaign promises.

    Selling Village Assets and Drawing Down Reserves –

    (1) I absolutely agree it is the taxpayers money. However, while refunding taxes will TEMPORARILY reduce tax bills, it is not the same as reducing operating expenses and thereby ACTUALLY reducing the tax burden. Once “our savings” is gone, it is gone and the tax bill goes right back to where it was. It is a smoke and mirrors way of making taxpayers think you gave them what you promised.

    (2) While Moody’s may feel 8% is a reasonable reserve, I am not certain I feel the same. HOWEVER, I am open to opinions on this topic. Lakewood has an aging infrastructure and a small tax base which makes paying for major, unforeseen infrastructure repairs expensive and would have a significant impact on the budget. As I understand, in your ideal world, Lakewood would simply raise taxes for a few years to cover those repairs and then lower taxes back down once the repairs were paid off. While this may be ideal, don’t you think residents might get tired of their tax bills varying significantly from year to year? Or possibly, large variances may make it impossible for residents to pay their tax bill at all. It seems to me, having a cash reserve large enough to even out the highs and lows would be more desirable for residents than a $50 to $100 reduction on a $15,000 tax bill. It would also seem more desirable than constantly borrowing money and wasting tax dollars on interest payments. AGAIN, I am open to gaining a better understanding of your thoughts on this process and look forward to discussing it further.

    Cut Expenditures – Steve, your statement regarding my failure to acknowledge reducing expenditures is incorrect.

    I did acknowledge that expenditures could be reduced and stated that I was excited to see the tax fighter plan for cutting 10% from the budget.

    I further stated a 10% reduction would be approximately $225 per home per year. While this is something, it isn’t much.

    My feeling is that commercial development can ALSO be used to reduce the tax burden on residents and will likely be MORE significant at reducing the burden than simply cutting expenditures.

    My belief is both tactics are important.

    On your final point regarding Village Board decisions – Agreed, it is best to stay out of such situations.

    I would love to discuss the TIF with you.

    Perhaps Cal can make an article out of it.

    Great thoughts. Thank you.

  6. Sorry, this was not blighted land which is what TIFs are for.

    Stop giving millions of our dollars to developers when the taxpayers need relief.

    You will soon be playing to an empty room, Bureaucrats!

    What don’t you understand about that?

  7. That Lakewood TIF will site residential development is not speculation it is a certainty.
    Lakewood passed a resolution to do so.

    This was done to address Lakewood’s deficiency in affordable housing relative to the Illinois Affordable Housing Act.

    Lakewood had to present a report to Illinois as to curing the deficiency.

  8. Susan – Do you have a copy of the resolution or know when it was passed?

    My understanding is Lakewood proposed retirement facilities as a solution to the IAHA and not residential.

    If you have information to the contrary, it would be very helpful.

    Thank you.

  9. Wow….no one will develop that land without sewer and water brought there.

    None of you on either side understand that.

    That is a fact.

    Willson you can’t buy a portion of a foreclosed property, especially one riddled with wetlands.

    Again, the most you can hope for in this tax fighter battle is to save $100 to $300 a year.

    Basically a pizza a month is what you are all attacking each other for.

    As far as Pritchard bring Paul, even if it is….he should be allowed to be incognito.

    These blogs are vicious and it gets back to your families and kids in school.

    Lakewood is now becoming a place where hatred is leading the way now.

    No one has a plan for a beautiful Village, it as all about saving a few bucks for a pizza each month.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *