The Skunk, the Meerkats and the Elephant – Part 2

“This is nothing, absolutely nothing,”

Northwest Herald reporter Amber Krosel quotes newly-sworn in Grafton Township Trustee Gerry McMahon at Thursday night’s meeting.

This was the same day that McMahon and his fellow trustees were given their third McHenry County Court smackdown concerning their illegal attempts to build a new township building.

McMahon was giving a lecture about how insignificant the taxpayer meerkat’s concern about paying for the over $5 million new township hall the township trustees are trying to shove down their throats.

The cost was so small. It was like comparing a meerkat to an elephant. That’s what McMahon argued.

What McMahon just can’t comprehend is that the meerkat taxpayers might just want to be asked their permission before being put in debt for $5 million.

The “trust me” argument from public officials went out of style with President Jimmy Carter.

President Ronald Reagan brought the “trust, but verify” method of dealing with the Soviet Union.

Ex-Governor Rod Blagojevich and other crooked and arrogant Illinois state and local officials have brought citizens to the stage of

“Why should we trust you?”

The surface reason for issuing the over $5 million in debt is that current township facilities are inadequate.

But the real reason is that if the township board even doesn’t take as much money as it can get, it forever will lose whatever that stream of income is.

It’s a function of the tax cap, which allows local governments to take from us what they got last year, plus the increase in the cost of living.

If a district ever takes less than the maximum allowed, its “base” is lower for the next year and every year thereafter.

Oh how I wish there were more public officials who did not adhere to the

“Tax to the Max”

philosophy.

Township Assessor Bill Ottley gave me this insight after the annual town meeting while inquiring why I, who lives right across the township line in Algonquin Township, cared about what Grafton Township was doing.

Proponents of the debt certificate financing scheme the township trustees are trying to put in place argue that taxes will not go up.

What they mean is that tax bills will remain the same. They won’t be higher than they already are.

There most certainly will be more taxes extracted from Grafton Township taxpayers.

You can’t pay back more than $5 million without someone’s pocketbook being lighter than it would be without bearing that burden.

But, proponents keep arguing,

“Taxes won’t go up.”

Daily Herald reporter Jeffrey Gaunt suggests such a pitch is worthy of a used car salesman.

But as Gaunt so persuasively wrote about the Carpentersville School District 300 referendum in January 2006:

“It’s a little like tacking 10 years onto a five-year prison sentence. You’re already in prison, the argument goes, so what’s a few more years.”

In Grafton Township’s case, it’s tacking on 20 years.

For argument’s sake, let’s say the impact on Grafton Township tax bills is too small to worry about.

Is anything else wrong with the town hall picture?

I can think of two things.

The first concerns the democratic process.

Township government is supposed to be, but is less and less, the government of the people.

I can remember when uppity township electors wrote in $1 for each line item in the Nunda Township Road Commissioner’s budget. I think the commissioner was Leroy Geske. That was around 1970.

Residents of a private subdivision road wanted township taxpayers to improve it, but the township road commissioner, citing state law, refused.

Retaliation didn’t deprive him of his salary because it’s in the Town Fund.

That was the same year that Algonquin Township Assessor Forrest Hare’s supporters added $500 in legal fees to sue the McHenry County Supervisor of Assessments Willard Hogge for having equalized Algonquin Township’s property values higher than they should have been.

The township attorney frittered away the money telling the township board, which did not want the suit to go forward, why it couldn’t be done.

The Illinois General Assembly, always being responsive to township officials, plugged that hole.

It prohibited electors from voting on budgets.

The second reason will be addressed tomorrow.

= = = = =
The other articles in this series are can be found here:

The Skunk, the Meerkats and the Elephant – Part 1

The Skunk, the Meerkats and the Elephant – Part 3


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