More Tax Hike Referendums Scheduled

One of the reasons that tax districts are proposing tax hikes is because state income taxes are going down.

One of the reasons that tax districts are proposing tax hikes is because state income taxes are going down.

When McHenry County Blog first reported on referendums local tax districts had scheduled for the April election, there was only one.

Now there are three:

  • Village of Spring Grove – Proposition to increase extension limitation to 0.214%
  • River East Public Library District – Proposition to increase limiting rate (A similar question was on the fall ballot. It lost.  69.5% of the voters defeated it. River East also has two openings on its Library Board for which no one filed.  People can run as write-ins.  See this article.)
  • Fox Lake Fire Protection District – Proposition to increase limiting rate for levy years 2013 to 2018

Why are tax districts asking for more money?

One reason is that the Illinois General Assembly didn’t come to their aid the way State Senators Pam Althoff and Karen McConnaughay, along with State Rep. Mike Tryon and Barb Wheeler did.

As anyone who has been reading McHenry County Blog since the veto session ended knows, legislation was passed to allow the McHenry County Conservation District to borrow money without going to the voters.

Unemployment graphic from The First Electric Newspaper.

Unemployment graphic from The First Electric Newspaper.

That means higher taxes as those new bonds are repaid.

The three tax districts proposing tax hikes above did not receive similar dispensation from their state legislators.

In fact, they probably didn’t even ask.

From one point of view, the three tax districts should be praised.

At least they are asking for citizen approval before raising taxes.

As 2014 was ending, Sam's Club in Crystal Lake was selling regular gasoline for under $2 a gallon.

As 2014 was ending, Sam’s Club in Crystal Lake was selling regular gasoline for under $2 a gallon.

Another reason for going to voters now may be the better economy.

Unemployment is down.

New stores are opening.

Housing construction is up, e.g., the new apartments west of the Crystal Lake Post Office.

And, finally, gasoline prices are way, way down.

That gives people more disposable income, hence, less reason to vote against tax increase referendums.

When people feel more confident about their personal finances, they are more likely to vote “Yes” on tax increase questions.


Comments

More Tax Hike Referendums Scheduled — 23 Comments

  1. To clarify, the borrowing of a taxing District is statutorily limited, with MANY exceptions, so in this case they have to ask in referendum, in order to raise tax total amounts as they have been raised in all the prior years, even as our home values fell.

    Percentages such as, for example, “to .214%” means that:

    This particular taxing body may legally demand money annually, under penalty of seizing legal property ownership, of the amount of dollars equal to .214 of 1% of 1/3 of everyone’s home value.

    Doesn’t sound like a lot, right? But remember, there are MANY taxing bodies, ALL raising levies every year as property values crash and homeownership is transferred through foreclosure from people to investors. –look at your tax bill, when they all tax to the max and beyond, your tax bill reflects that McHenry County has risen lately to be possibly the highest percentage tax rate in America (official statements call it 25th highest in America, but with my own 2013 tax bill at 3.68% of total home value, I have tried many hours to find any higher on Zillow.com, and cannot).

    The Percentages represent the amount which may be legally demanded from a homeowner in order to allow that homeowner to legally “retain ownership” of their own home.

    But there is a secondary issue which is:

    “How Much Debt Can Taxing Body Accrue with Legal Ownership of Private Property Pledged as Collateral”?

    Home-(owners? renters?) must consider the amount of debt-per-capita and debt-per-household which is affected by voting “YES” to any new spending or borrowing referendum.

    (If voter is a renter, only the rent amount is affected by these issues. Renter/Voter may leave town and evade/void lease legally or as a practical matter).

    For example, In Woodstock CUSD 200, every taxable property in The School District is indebted at about 5% of their own home/property value for DEBT accrued by CUSD 200 Schools.

    ADDITIONALLY, Another 6% of home/property value is pledged to (bond) indebtedness of legally empowered taxing bodies (like MCCD, for example).

    This is as-of 2012, and since that year our property values have crashed further. So we have MORE debt than stated above.

    Another way to state the same data: EVERY MEN,WOMAN, CHILD, INFANT in the taxing District of Woodstock CUSD 200 OWES $11,000 for debt that keeps being refinanced into eternity.

    ***Supporting TIF formation also benefits taxing Districts which are Statutorily Empowered to Borrow up to an amount of money corresponding to a percentage of Equalized Assessed Value.

    Even though a School District will not receive the tax revenues generated by new property developed in TIF Districts(that money will be awarded at the sole discretion of Municipal Rulers to the Sole Benefit of Developers chosen without oversight to receive these ‘Grants’ from the Municipal Rulers), School District will be Statutorily Empowered (by ‘rising EAV’) to BORROW NEW DEBT, WITH ALL HOMEOWNERS’PROPERTY LEGALLY ENCUMBERED TO PAYING FOR THIS DEBT***.

    In My Personal Opinion: Fire Districts seem to not have abused privilege of taxation; in fact these brave men and women have historically asked less than they might have for the personal-risk value they represent.

    Other taxing bodies seem to have learned from Wall Street, and are demanding percentages to support Administrative salaries+benefits in excess of $300,000 per year at present, rising annually, with guaranteed pensions which are present-valued by common rule of thumb at 25 times annual payout = $7,500,000 ($7.5 million dollars).

  2. Anyone else notice that the appointment of someone for the Merit Commission, a position that pays zero, receives so many comments but other than Susan no one pays attention to politicians digging into the pockets of the taxpayer?

    The taxpayers of this county are showing they deserve what they are receiving – governance by people who have no qualms relative to digging into your pockets!

    Just look at the makeup of the County Board – you count the number of members who actually work for the taxpayers on a hand that has had two fingers amputated!

  3. I don’t much care about who is running for office, I want to devote time and attention to the powers vested with that office.
    Here’s where I believe taxpayers’ time would be best spent: efforts to achieve legal or practical limitation on:

    The powers of taxation without representation, the powers of eminent domain, and the powers of channeling money of the many through the hands of the few into the hands of the fewer.

  4. In addition to bond debt service owed by taxpayers, taxpayers also have “debt” or IOU’s in the form of unfunded pension and healthcare liabilities.

    So looking at local fire unfunded pension liabilities for suburban Chicago.

    Any given fire department had a choice.

    Participate in no pension fund, participate in IMRF (Article 7 of the Illinois Pension Code), or participate in the Downstate Fire Pension Fund (Article 4 – Firefighters’ Pension Fund – Municipalities 500,000 And Under).

    Many of the Downstate Fire Pension Funds underfunded, many vastly underfunded.

    IMRF is typically pretty well funded, 80% or higher, but recently that’s often because of smoothing, and because the taxing district contributions to the pension fund have increased substantially.

    IMRF has many lucrative perks, it’s a very generous pension, but many of the other pension funds in the Illinois Pension Code are even more generous.

    As a recap, if you are only looking at bond debt in terms of what property taxpayers owe in the future, that’s not enough.

    Also look at the debt owed as a result of unfunded pensions.

    Those pension benefits have been hiked by legislators and Governors, a practice which dramatically escalated after one sentence was added to the Illinois State Constitution in 1970, as a result of the 1970 Constitutional Convention.

    “SECTION 5. PENSION AND RETIREMENT RIGHTS
    Membership in any pension or retirement system of the State, any unit of local government or school district, or any agency or instrumentality thereof, shall be an enforceable contractual relationship, the benefits of which shall not be diminished or impaired.”

    Those pensions have also been hiked by hiking salaries and pensionable income in collective bargaining contracts and administrator contracts.

    To hike a pension, hike the pension benefits and / or hike the salary.

  5. To make a bad situation worse, if you add the unfunded pension liability to the bond debt service, you still would not have an accurate figure, because some of the many actuarial assumptions being used by the pension funds are overly optimistic.

    And it’s worse yet, because taxpayers also have unfunded retiree healthcare liabilities.

    Each taxing district is unique.

    And the debt repayment for unfunded liabilities often comes from a mixture of taxpayer sources of revenue (state income tax, property tax, sales taxes, etc.).

    Each pension fund and retiree healthcare fund is unique in how it’s funded.

    Illinois is at the top or near the top of all states for problems with unfunded pension and retiree healthcare liabilities (taxpayer IOU’s).

    Yet the State of Illinois or some taxing district is typically blamed for not contributing enough revenue to the funds.

    Completely ignored or minimized with some bogus assumption(s) are the legislative benefit hikes, and local collective bargaining and administrator pay hikes.

    So before voting for any referendum, wouldn’t you want to know how much you you currently “owe” the government?

    Figure out how much debt you already owe in the form of bond debt service and unfunded liabilities for the taxing district holding the referendum, and for that matter all the taxing districts plus the State and Federal.

    That’s an overwhelming task but if there was at least one watchdog for every taxing district, and the watchdogs collaborated, the task would be much simpler.

    For now we have Truth in Accounting, Better Government Association, OpenTheBooks.com, Taxpayers United of America, Family Taxpayers, Wirepoints, Illinois Comptroller Data Warehouse, Reboot Illinois, and some other resources.

  6. Here’s a way to look at the underfunded pension and retiree healthcare liability problem.

    It’s money that should be in the fund today, that is not in the fund today.

    Now it seems reasonable to have 100% funding before passing benefit and pay hikes.

    Pensions and retiree healthcare are a form of pay known as deferred pay, so that should be logical.

    But that’s not what was done.

    The funds were underfunded, and benefit and pay hikes continued.

    It was completely irrational from a fiscal sense but obviously made political sense since it was done by politicians.

    So we cannot trust elected politicians.

    Since we cannot trust elected politicians, we only have ourselves, the taxpayers.

    However as with most volunteer efforts, about 5% of the people do 90% of the work.

    No pay, most people don’t understand or appreciate it, maybe a thank you, lots of complaints and criticism.

    Which is one reason we don’t have enough watchdogs.

    Instead everyone concentrates on their lives and making money and simply move if taxes get too high.

    Thank goodness there are 50 states each with its own rules.

    Can you imagine if every one was in the financial condition of Illinois and many of its taxing districts?

  7. In the last comment, instead of, “So we cannot trust elected politicians.”

    No doubt that will offend some elected politicians.

    Maybe replace with we cannot trust the elected politicians who voted us into this mess.

    There are all sorts of reasons politicians may vote in a way that is not beneficial for society as a whole, and at or near the top of the list would be special interest groups, party leadership, horse trading, rules governing the consideration of bills or consent agenda items, Administrators purposefully not providing school board members with the full picture or giving board members last minute information or information on short notice just before a vote, there are so many games played.

    So it’s not the intent to throw 100% of elected officials under the bus, just looking at the big picture in general terms.

  8. I volunteer to do research on this question of ‘unfunded, unreported debt’ if some others also volunteer to do this task. We should hammer out details on dividing up the agencies which we are analyzing, and agreeing upon what constitutes debt, and specifically agree upon what interest rate, inflation rate, and other assumptions to use to make our analysis uniform. In the end we will have developed a formula to be applied to any new spending, new bond debt, etcetera.

    Then at least elected politicians will never again be able to plead ignorance to the question:

    “At What Cost”?

  9. I would concentrate on the taxing districts on your property tax bill, starting with the one you are most concerned about.

    Here’s some information on Illinois Public Sector pensions.

    Page 1 of 5

    Tia Goss Sawhney explains problems with Illinois public sector pension funds from an actuarial perspective.

    PUTTING THE “PUBLIC” IN PUBLIC PLAN ACTUARIAL WORK
    Society of Actuaries

    By Tia Goss Sawhney

    July 2014

    http://www.soa.org/Library/Newsletters/In-Public-Interest/2014/july/ipi-2014-iss10.pdf

    Inadequate Actuarial Work meets Underfunded Pensions and Poor Journalism – WP Guest
    Wirepoints

    By Tia Goss Sawhney, DrPH, FSA, MAAA

    August 19, 2014

    http://www.wirepoints.com/inadequate-actuarial-work-meets-underfunded-pensions-and-poor-journalism-wp-guest

    Police and fire pension funds report $200,000 shortfall – Actuarial change leads to property tax boost to cover pensions

    Forest Park Review

    By Jean Lotus

    September 9, 2014

    http://www.forestparkreview.com/News/Articles/9-9-2014/Police-and-fire-pension-funds-report-%24200%2C000-shortfall-

    Busted: 45-year-old mortality data hid some pensions’ debt – WP Original
    Wirepoints

    By Mark Glennon

    September 10, 2014

    http://www.wirepoints.com/busted-45-year-old-mortality-data-hid-some-pensions-debt-wp-original

    “Full” Pension Payments Aren’t Full in Illinois
    Wirepoints

    By Tia Goss Sawhney, DrPH, FSA, MAAA*

    October 15, 2014

    http://www.wirepoints.com/full-pension-payments-arent-full-in-illinois-wp-guest

    Illinois’ Most Pernicious Pension Lie – WP Original

    Wirepoints

    By Mark Glennon

    October 19, 2014

    http://www.wirepoints.com/illinois-most-pernicious-pension-lie-wp-original

    ‘Illinois Math’ Ridiculed, Deficit for Illinois’ Biggest Pension Jumps by $5.9 Billion
    Wirepoints

    By Mark Glennon

  10. Page 2 of 5

    October 31, 2014
    http://www.wirepoints.com/illinois-math-ridiculed-deficit-for-illinois-biggest-pension-jumps-over-10-wp-original

    State of Illinois Office of the Auditor General

    State Actuary’s Report

    Based on Reports by Cheiron, the State Actuary

    http://www.auditor.illinois.gov/Other-Public-Documents/State-Actuary-Reports.asp
    http://www.auditor.illinois.gov/Audit-Reports/Performance-Special-Multi/State-Actuary-Reports/2014-State-Actuary-Rpt.pdf
    http://www.auditor.illinois.gov/audit-reports/performance-special-multi/state-actuary-reports/2013-state-actuary-rpt.pdf
    http://www.auditor.illinois.gov/Audit-Reports/Performance-Special-Multi/State-Actuary-Reports/2012-State-Actuary-Rpt.pdf

    Audits

    Supplemental Digest to Retirement Systems

    http://www.auditor.illinois.gov/Audit-Reports/RETIREMENT-SYSTEMS-AUDITS-SUPPLEMENTAL-DIGEST-TO.asp

    State University Retirement System (SURS)
    http://www.auditor.illinois.gov/Audit-Reports/STATE-UNIVERSITIES-RETIREMENT-SYSTEM.asp

    Illinois State Board of Investments (ISBI)
    http://www.auditor.illinois.gov/Audit-Reports/INVESTMENT-STATE-BOARD.asp

    General Assembly Retirement System (GARS)
    http://www.auditor.illinois.gov/Audit-Reports/GENERAL-ASSEMBLY-RETIREMENT-SYSTEM.asp

    Judges’ Retirement System (JRS)
    http://www.auditor.illinois.gov/Audit-Reports/JUDGES-RETIREMENT-SYSTEM.asp

    Teachers Retirement System (TRS)
    http://www.auditor.illinois.gov/Audit-Reports/TEACHERS-RETIREMENT-SYSTEM.asp

    Illinois Pension Scam
    by Bill Zettler

    Civic Committee of the Commercial Club of Chicago
    http://www.civiccommittee.org/initiatives/state-finance

    Civic Federation of the Commercial Club of Chicago
    http://www.civicfed.org

  11. Page 3 of 5

    Illinois Pension Code
    http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/ilcs/ilcs3.asp?ActID=638&ChapterID=9

    Obtain the actuarial valuation report for the most current year for each pension fund.

    Article 2 – General Assembly Retirement System (GARS)

    GARS, JRS, & SERS fall under the umbrella of State Retirement Systems of Illinois aka SRS (TRS and SURS are not categorized as SRS).
    http://www.srs.illinois.gov

    Article 3 – Police Pension Fund – Municipalities 500,000 And Under (Downstate Police)
    Downstate means all municipalities outside Chicago.

    This is not one large pension fund but many small pension funds each unique to the municipal taxing district.

    Most police departments fall under the municipality and are not their own taxing district.

    Information on each Police Pension Fund would most likely be found (if indeed any information is available online) under or linked to the municipal website.

    Some Police Departments participate in IMRF instead of creating an Article 3 Downstate Police pension fund.

    Some police departments do not offer a pension fund.

    Every two years the Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability (COGFA) issues a, “Report on the Financial Condition of the Downstate Police and Fire Pension Funds in Illinois (PA 96-1495).”
    http://cgfa.ilga.gov/Upload/2013FinancialConditionofDownstatePoliceFirePA96-1495.pdf

    Article 4 – Firefighters’ Pension Fund – Municipalities 500,000 And Under (Downstate Fire)
    Downstate means all Fire Districts outside Chicago.

    This is not one large pension fund but many small pension funds each unique to the fire taxing district.

    Most fire departments are their own taxing district, separate from the municipal taxing district.

    Each Fire District would have its own website (or not) that may or may not contain information about the pension fund.

    Some Fire Districts participate in IMRF instead of creating an Article 4 Downstate Fire pension fund.

    Some Fire Districts do not offer a pension fund.

    Every two years the Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability (COGFA) issues a, “Report on the Financial Condition of the Downstate Police and Fire Pension Funds in Illinois (PA 96-1495).”
    http://cgfa.ilga.gov/Upload/2013FinancialConditionofDownstatePoliceFirePA96-1495.pdf

    Article 5 – Policemen’s Annuity And Benefit Fund–Cities Over 500,000 (Chicago Police)
    http://www.chipabf.org

    Article 6 – Firemen’s Annuity And Benefit Fund–Cities Over 500,000 (Chicago Fire)
    http://www.fabf.org

    Article 7 – Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund (IMRF)
    http://www.imrf.org

    Article 8 – Municipal Employees’, Officers’, And Officials’ Annuity And Benefit Fund–Cities Over 500,000 Inhabitants (Chicago MEABF)
    http://www.meabf.org

  12. page 4 of 5

    Article 9 – County Employees’ and Officers’ Annuity and Benefit Fund – Counties Over 3,000,000 Inhabitants (Cook County Fund)
    http://www.cookcountypension.com

    Article 10 – Forest Preserve District Employees’ Annuity And Benefit Fund (Cook County Forest Preserve District Fund)
    http://www.cookcountypension.com

    Article 11 – Laborers’ And Retirement Board Employees’ Annuity And Benefit Fund–Cities Over 500,000 Inhabitants (Chicago Laborers aka LABF)
    http://www.labfchicago.org

    Article 12 – Park Employees’ And Retirement Board Employees’ Annuity And Benefit Fund–Cities Over 500,000 (Chicago Parks)
    http://www.chicagoparkpension.org

    Article 13 – Metropolitan Water Reclamation District Retirement Fund (MWRDRF)
    http://www.mwrdrf.org

    Article 14 – State Employees’ Retirement System Of Illinois (SERS)
    GARS, JRS, & SERS fall under the umbrella of State Retirement Systems of Illinois aka SRS (TRS and SURS are not categorized as SRS).
    http://www.srs.illinois.gov

    Article 15 – State Universities Retirement System (SURS)
    http://www.surs.com

    Article 16 – Teachers’ Retirement System Of The State Of Illinois (TRS)
    http://www.trs.illinois.gov

    Article 17 – Public School Teachers’ Pension And Retirement Fund–Cities Of Over 500,000 Inhabitants (Chicago Teachers Pension Fund aka CTPF for Chicago Public Schools aka CPS employees.)
    http://www.ctpf.org

    Article 18 – Judges Retirement System Of Illinois (JRS)
    GARS, JRS, & SERS fall under the umbrella of State Retirement Systems of Illinois aka SRS (TRS and SURS are not categorized as SRS).
    http://www.srs.illinois.gov

    Article 22 – Miscellaneous Collateral Provisions, Division 1 – Additional Pension Funds – Transit Authorities (Chicago Transit Authority aka CTA)
    http://www.ctaretirement.org

  13. The school district will have certified employees (teachers and administrators) in the Teachers Retirement System of Illinois (TRS) pension fund.

    In terms of contributions to the TRS pension fund.

    The school district contributes .58% (little over 1/2 of 1%) to TRS.

    Active TRS members are required to contribute 9.4 percent of their creditable earnings each year.

    This contribution is allocated as follows:

    7.5 Retirement Benefits

    0.5 Post-retirement Increases (COLA)

    1 Survivor Benefits

    0.4 Early Retirement Option (ERO)

    9.4 Total

    Members receive their ERO contributions back upon retirement if they don’t participate in ERO.

    TRS has Tier I and Tier II.

    Tier II is for employees whom started their career on or after January 1, 2011, and that includes substitute teaching even for 1 day.

    Now there is a loophole called “pension pickup” which if in effect for the rank and file teachers will show up in the collective bargaining agreement.

    Some school districts have pension pick-up for administrators, or select administrators, but not the rank and file teachers.

    Pension pick-up for administrators would be indicated in the administrator’s contracts which can be obtained via FOIA.

    Some school districts also indicate pension pick-ups on the Salary and Benefit report which is required by state law to be posted on the school district website.

    There are various types of Salary and Benefit reports.

    One is for Teachers and Administrators.

    Another is for employees contributing to the IMRF pension fund whom earn over $75,000 pear year.

    Furthermore, the laws governing the school district reporting of teacher salary to the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) has changed over time for teachers and administrators, and as of FY 2013 & FY 2014 (FY is the year the school year ends as a school year spans parts of two calendar years) the school districts are only reporting base salary to ISBE, whereas previously the school districts were reporting pensionable income to ISBE.

    So be careful if comparing teacher and administrator pay to previous years.

    A pension pick-up is where the employer “picks up” part or all of the employee’s 9.4% contribution.

    Pension pick-up is also known as “board paid TRS.”

    There are different ways to calculate board paid TRS as spelled out on the TRS website.

    Board paid TRS typically increases gross pay and is a Federal Tax shelter.

    The collective bargaining agreement is required by law to be on the school district website.

    Members may also make elective contributions for optional service credit and the Early Retirement Option (ERO).

    Members may also make elective contributions to upgrade service earned before July 1998 to the 2.2 benefit formula.

    Active members also make an additional contribution to help fund the Teachers’ Health Insurance Security (THIS) Fund.

    THIS fund finances the Teachers’ Retirement Insurance Program (TRIP), which is administered by the Department of Central Management Services.

    For the year ending June 30, 2010, the THIS/TRIP member contribution rate was 0.84 percent.

    Next, the school district will have some non-certified employees in the IMRF pension fund.

    Pretty sure that’s the “pension” line item you see on your property tax bill.

    Don’t think TRS pension contributions show up on your property tax bill.

    So that’s a little bit about the types of pension funds in a school district, and some information about employee and employer contributions to the pension funds.

    Some school districts you can call and talk to someone in the business office about this stuff and they will explain all this and provide helpful information.

    Other school districts will give you the run-around, and you pretty much have to know what you are asking for to get the necessary information.

    In terms of TRS, the public information officer Dave Urbanek is pretty helpful, you can contact him by phone or email.

    TRS also has a general phone number you can call to ask questions.

    The Civic Federation took at stab at calculating unfunded liabilities including school districts for six municipalities in an August 29, 2013 article.

    http://www.civicfed.org/civic-federation/blog/unfunded-pension-liabilities-capita-six-illinois-municipalities

    When getting involved with school districts you will inevitably sooner or later get involved with board meetings.

    Many school boards are not very well run, many board members are not all that knowledgeable about school district finance, relying heavily on the administration, and in turn some administrators are not all that knowledgeable about school district finance, relying heavily on financial consultants such as PMA and architects for building and remodeling schools.

    There often is not as much due diligence as you would expect, and again that varies by school district.

    Here’s a few areas where school districts are commonly not as transparent as they could be, and it varies by school district.

    School districts should audio and video tape their board meetings and archive them on their website. It’s not required by state law but there’s no reason not to.

    Administrators should not be giving board members information a few days before a board meeting and asking them to decide on that information at the board meeting.

    Again, permissible often by state law but the board should table any such vote until the next meeting so they can properly consider the information.

    You would be amazed how many school district administrations ask board members to decide on information given to them only a few days earlier, and the school board members don’t even question the practice.

    The public should have access to an electronic board packet. Again not required by law but good practice.

    An electronic board packet is simply a huge document containing all the individual documents for the board meeting.

    Some school districts are stuck in the stone ages and don’t have an electronic board packet, rather, you have to click all over the place on some board agenda to get all the documents, a waste of time.

    Another not uncommon scenario is the the administration provides the board members with documents at various times and the public does not have an opportunity to see all the documents before or at the meeting (maybe the public sees many or most of the documents but not all the documents…no one questions the practice).

    That should help anyone navigate school boards a bit.

    It’s counter-productive to get upset with public school personnel, you will get the information eventually, it just takes quite a bit of time to figure out how to get the information in many circumstances.

    Just smile back at them and be friendly.

    Chris Jenner is a great resource for anyone dealing with school boards and community colleges.

  14. Susan: Your comment: “I don’t much care about who is running for office,” Who votes for the laws We, The People, are forced to adhere to?

    If we don’t care who is running for office, why vote?

    Unfortunately, more and more do not care, based on voter turnout in primaries and local elections. Primaries determine who we have an opportunity to vote for, or not, in the General Election and local elections determine what your property taxes will be.

    Based on your posts Susan, you would have made a great candidate for County Clerk or the County Board.

    You would also be a great asset on your School Board.

  15. My comment was exactly as follows:

    I don’t much care about who is running for office, I want to devote time and attention to the powers vested with that office.

    Here’s where I believe taxpayers’ time would be best spent: efforts to achieve legal or practical limitation on:

    The powers of taxation without representation, the powers of eminent domain, and the powers of channeling money of the many through the hands of the few into the hands of the fewer

  16. Each taxing district is its own little empire.

    The following are generalities, each taxing district and every person in that district is unique.

    Unspoken Rules to The Taxing District Transparency Game

    1. If the stakes are great enough, you have to assume people will lie.

    (everyone has a different breaking point, would you lie to save your loved one’s life?)

    2. Image is Everything.

    3. Hide and Seek.

    4. Kick the Can.

    5. We are the Experts.

    6. Frustrate Information Seekers.

    7. Discredit Critics.

    8. Use Bureaucracy as a Tool aka Hide the Nugget of Gold in the Mountain of Information.

    9. Information Seekers and Watchdogs will go away eventually, it may take a few years.

    10. Leverage Special Interest Resources such as politicians, public sector unions, & vendors.

    11. We are a Government Monopoly, We Can’t Go Out of Business.

    12. We Provide a Valuable Service, and Good Service Costs Money.

    13. We Need More Money, to Improve the Valuable Service.

    14. Create a Crisis.

    15. Shhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.

    So don’t burn yourself out playing a game.

    It’s just a game.

    Make it a fun game.

  17. Well after all that can we find any information about the three referendums listed in the article?

    Just looking at the first referendum.

    1. Village of Spring Grove – Proposition to increase extension limitation to 0.214%

    http://www.springgrovevillage.com

    Nothing on the main page about the referendum.

    First reason to vote no for the referendum.

    It’s easier to find information about the upcoming Spring Grove referendum on McHenry County Blog than on the taxing district website.

    Maybe if one dug through board minutes one could find something.

    The Board Agendas and Minutes are found at http://www.springgrovevillage.com > Government and Elected Officials.

    Only Year 2015 Agendas are present on the website.

    No previous years.

    Second reason to vote no for the referendum.

    Meeting minutes listed are 2013 and 2014.

    What about Meeting minutes for years 2012 and prior?

    Why are they not posted on the website?

    Third reason to vote no for the referendum.

    Clicking on the December 2, 2014 Board Minutes.

    Search on referendum.

    First of all, a bonus point to the Village for having searchable board minutes.

    Incredible as it may seem, many taxing districts go through the extra effort of having select important public documents in non-searchable image format on their website, requiring one to read the entire document to determine if there’s anything of interest, as opposed to searching on a keyword.

    However, when copied and pasted from the village website to this comment, whatever strange font was used does not copy some characters property, so we’ll give the Village only 1/2 a bonus point for searchable board minutes that do not copy and paste properly.

    Anyways searching on referendum, we get a hit.

    Attempted to edit the text, for the characters that did not copy properly, may have missed a few characters.

    New Business.
    Approval of an Ordinance providing for and requiring the submission of the proposition for increasing the limiting rate for the Village of Spring Grove, McHenry County Illinois, to the voters of said Village at the Consolidated Election to he held on the 7th day o f April, 2015.

    In the ongoing discussion on a possible referendum to increase the village’s tax rate in order to provide additional funding for the police pension fund, President Eisenberg put forth an ordinance that calls for an increase of $338,000 over the 2013 total capped extension.

    The village has seen less property tax revenue in recent years, as required payments towards the police pension fund continue to rise.

    This would only be the second referendum to increase its tax rate since the village’s incorporation in 1902.

    If the Board approved the ordinance to submit, the question that would be placed on the April 7, 2015 ballot would read as follows:

    Shall the limiting rate under the Property Tax Extension Limitation Law for the Village of Spring Grove, McHenry County, Illinois, be increased by an additional amount equal to 0.2140% above the limiting rate for corporate purposes for levy year 2013 and be equal to 0.027% of the equalized assessed value of the taxable property therein for levy year 2015?

    (1) The approximate amount of taxes extendable at the most recently extended limiting rate is $653,234.74, and the approximate amount of taxes extendable if the proposition is approved is $991,755.55.

    (editor’s note: $991,755 – $653,234 = $338,521 / $653,234 = 52% increase).

    (2) For the 2015 levy year the approximate amount of the additional tax extendable against property containing a single family residence and having a fair market value at the time of the referendum of $100,000 is estimated to be $71.33.

    (3) if the proposition is approved, the aggregate extension for 2015 will be determined by the limiting rate set forth in the proposition, rather than the otherwise applicable limiting rate calculated under the provisions of the Property Tax Extension Limitation Law (commonly known as the Property Tax Cap Law).

    The Board acknowledged it would have to educate the puklic and candidates running for trustee that
    the referendum is necessary and its passage would allow tke village to properly fund its the police
    pension fund and use those funds currently being diverted to the police pension fund towards funding
    road improvements.

    A home valued at $200,000 would experience a $0.38 per day increase and a $300,000 home a $0.57 per day increase.

    The village does not kave a large retail base like larger communities and with no homes being built; the village cannot continue to balance its budget using its reserves.

    The only increases to last year’s budget were to salaries, health insurance benefits and the
    police pension fund.

    Trustee Lee moved, seconded by Trustee Kopke to approve the ordinance providing for and requiring
    the submission for increasing the limiting rate for tke Village of Spring Grove, McHenry County, to
    the voters of said Village at the Consolidated Election to be held on the 7th, day of April, 2015.

    Roll call vote:
    Ayes: Anhalt, Houghton, Kopke, Lee, Mazzanti and McMahon – 6.
    Nays: None.
    Motion carried.

    The very next agenda item is notable.

    It’s for the purchase of real estate.

    Not enough money to fund police pensions but the Village is considering a purchase of real estate?

    Executive Session – Section 2(c)(5) of the Open Meetings Act for discussion of the possible
    purchase of real estate.

    Trustee Hougkton moved, seconded ky Trustee Lee to adjourn into executive session under Section 2(c)(5) of tke Open Meetings Act for discussion of the purchase of real estate.

    Roll call vote:
    Ayes: Ankalt, Hougkton, Kopke, Lee, Mazzanti and McMakon – 6.
    Nays: None.
    Motion carried, the Board adjourned into executive session at 6:25 p.m.

    End of minutes.

    The real problem here is overly generous police pension benefits enacted by State Legislators and Governors.

    The problem is happening all over the state at the police pension level, and at the other 17 pension funds in the Illinois Pension Code.

    Let’s look at the funding status of the Spring Grove Police Pension.

    Report on the Financial Condition of the Downstate Police and Fire Pension Funds in Illinois.
    Dictated by PA 96-1495.

    Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability (COGFA).
    January 2013.

    SPRING GROVE POLICE PENSION FUND

    Year 2010: 48.91% Funded.
    Years 2004 – 2010 are also listed, that 48.91% has actually improved from 36.18% in 2004.

    This is a not uncommon problem of grossly underfunded police pensions that has been around in the Spring Grove police department and police departments and many fire departments all over the state.

    Looking further at the report, there are 10 active members in Spring Grove Police Department Pension Fund, and two retired members.

    This brings up a very good point.

    Their is going to be a wave of police and fire retiring in the upcoming years with pension benefits and salaries that have been spiked that is unprecedented.

    When those police and fire started their careers, the pension benefits and salaries were not as lucrative as they are today.

    And thanks to one sentence added to the Illinois State Constitution in 1970, those pensions cannot be diminished or impaired.

    First guarantee the pensions, then hike the pension benefits and hike the salaries.

    Even guaranteeing 1970 pension benefit levels and salary increase levels would have been irresponsible.

    But guaranteeing unlimited, uncapped, future pension benefit hikes and salary hikes is absurd.

    That was an annual priority of Illinois State legislators and Governors though starting in 1971 and continuing through today, hiking pension benefits in the 18 pension funds in the Illinois Pension Code.

    The salary hikes were courtesy of collective bargaining agreements and administrator contracts approved by locally elected boards, or at the state level the various people involved in approving pay hikes.

    None of that has anything to do with not respecting police officers.

    It has everything to do with the public not being informed by police officer unions, village boards, and state legislators and Governors over what has transpired for the past 40+ years.

    If anything there has been no respect for the taxpayers funding the scheme.

  18. Mark

    As a Spring Grove Trustee, I would like you to call the village to get my personal phone number and call me regarding your post.

    Pat

  19. A lot of comments in this post were how to research taxing districts and pension funds in general.

    In regards to Spring Grove, there was scant easy to find information about the Spring Grove referendum at the time the above comments were made.

    The average property taxpayer doesn’t know what an extension limitation is and what it means.

    Today, seven weeks until the April 7, 2015, referendum, there is no information on the village homepage or anywhere on the website about the April 7, 2015 referendum, at least nothing which can be located by the average taxpayer.

    There is almost certainly information about the upcoming referendum in Board Minutes.

    Expecting the average property taxpayer to locate and then hunt and peck through village board minutes to obtain information about an upcoming referendum is unreasonable.

    There is no information of the upcoming referendum in the village newsletters section of the village website, because the village does not archive newsletters on its website.

    If there was a known taxpayer watchdog for Spring Grove, River East Library, and Fox Lake Fire who posted information on a website, we would have another source of information about those upcoming referendums.

    One idea is for taxing districts to post on their website a Referendum Report, with footnotes, about any upcoming referendums.

    The report could contain pros and cons about the referendum, a report of the financial condition of the taxing district including bond debt service (principal and interest) payment schedule, pension and retiree healthcare liability information (number of active workers, retirees, funded and unfunded amount of the liability, etc.), TIF Districts, revenue sources and amounts (State, Federal, property taxes, fees, etc.), etc.

    There is a lot municipalities could be doing to explain their financial condition and predicament to property taxpayers.

    To summarize:

    Transparency.

    Explanation of the Transparency.

    Distribution of the Transparency along with the Explanation.

  20. After reading all the post hear and viewing the Spring Grove website I was shocked to find the same.

    No information on the proposed tax hike.

    The village needs to work with what they have ($$) if you need more advertise and drive new business into the village.

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