“It’s just a little nothing bill.”
I can hear the words coming out of House Sponsor Roger Eddy to colleagues asking privately what the bill was all about.
Not that I know Eddy. I just know the process.
When you have an important bill, you minimize its impact.
And this is an important bill.
Eddy’s House Bill 6041 is a Tax Eaters’ delight.
School districts have been playing games with Working Cash Fund money for decades.
First, they create an emergency in their own minds. They know they can’t pass a referendum, so they pass an ordinance allowing them to issue bonds without voter approval…unless enough people sign a petition asking for a referendum.
This is called a “backdoor referendum.”
Often this is proposed in the middle of winter when taxpayers can’t go door-to-door collecting signatures.
As you might imagine, I and the democratic process prefer front door referendums.
Why should it be so easy to raise taxes?
It’s not easy to win election.
Which is more important?
I asked attorney Jim Rooney, whose appellate court victory the bill is intended to reverse, what was at stake. (I knew Rooney in a prior legislative life.)
“What’s at stake is the ability of voters to control whether a district goes into debt for building projects.
“You do have the operations and maintenance levy every year for ordinary maintenance and repair. It’s when you go into debt, you’re supposed to ask the people if they want to pay the interest and principal.”
In Cook County, about $150 million is at stake.
And the Tax Eaters are desperate to keep the money.
I can’t wait to see the roll call on this bill listed on the score card produced by National Taxpayers United of Illinois, Jim Tobin’s group.
In McHenry County, NOT ONE of our state representatives stood up for taxpayers.
Jack Franks, Mike Tryon and Mark Beaubien all voted for the bill to make it possible to spend Working Cash Fund money for capital or building purposes.
It zipped through 113-2. Only State Reps. Paul Froehlich and Betsy Hannig voted against it. Both are retiring at the end of the session.
Talk about being asleep at the switch.
Or in the pockets of school districts greedy enough to violate the law.
There was a warning issued by retiring Schaumburg State Rep. Froehlich:
“I see it as an amnesty bill. It’s giving amnesty to those school districts that didn’t follow the law.”
Amnesty not only for the spending of past money, but also for potential personal fines against school board members.
I didn’t mention that before. It not only allows this “money laundering”
Want to know how important the bill was to one school district?
The one featured in the excellent lead story of the Chicago Tribune by reporter Noreen S. Almed-Ullah is the Hinsdale High School District.
That board spend Working Cash Fund money to buy artificial turf.
Makes you wonder how the headline writer at the Tribune could possibly come up with the headline
SCHOOLS IN A SQUEEZE
The headlines below were more relevant:
Schools sell cash bonds
without going to the voters
I’ve never seen a Working Cash Fund proposal that I’ve liked.
That’s because school districts have an unlimited number of bites at the apple.
They can drain their Working Cash Fund and immediately create another one.
The worst that can happen is that taxpayers will get angry enough to force a referendum.
If they lose such a referendum, they can immediately start over or decide to lay in the weeds until things quiet down again.