Friday, March 17, 2006

Letters From: East Peoria - 03/17/06

Woodford County Board must live within its means

Regarding Woodford County Board members, I honestly wish that when the Journal Star begins to give political recommendations, they'd consider coming to a meeting.

Board Chairman Larry Whitaker runs the meetings as if he is a dictator, often talking to board and audience members in an extremely condescending manner. David Griepentrog, chairman of the finance committee, has never once voted his own mind, always taking Mr. Whitaker's lead. We absolutely did not need a county administrator. When it didn't work out, Mr. Whitaker should have taken full blame.

Regarding the 44 percent tax increase, there was a constituent-packed board room waiting the entire evening to have their voices heard against the raise. Board members Ronald Call and Arden Baldwin voted for it anyway. When I spoke, Mr. Whitaker didn't even give me the courtesy of looking up, then dismissed me as if I was just a formality. My husband and I have helped put four kids through the U of I, and we have four more to go, with one entering med school. I can't afford more taxes. Neither can fixed-income retirees and low-income residents.

If the people in Woodford County want consistent common sense, they should vote for Pete Lambie, Gary Jones and Marc Adams. The recent accusations against Mr. Lambie were politically driven, and board member Joel Lemkemann should be ashamed of himself.

We need people on the board who understand the concept of living within your means, just like I have to do every day.

Annette McMorrow

East Peoria

He Did WHAT? !

Now, we've heard of "cutting off your nose to spite your face", but what was this guy trying to spite:

Man severs own penis, throws it at officers

March 17, 2006

BY ERIC HERMAN Chicago Sun-Times Staff Reporter

Before cops threw the book at him, Jakub Fik threw something unusual at them -- his penis.

Fik, 33, cut off his own penis during a Northwest Side rampage Wednesday morning. When confronted by police, Fik hurled several knives and his severed organ at the officers, police said. Officers stunned him with a Taser and took him into custody.

"We took him out without any serious injury, with the exception of his own," said Chicago Police Sgt. Edward Dolan of the 16th District.

Doctors at Northwestern Memorial Hospital reattached Fik's penis Wednesday, sources said. He was listed in good condition Thursday, according to hospital spokesman Andrew Buchanan, who declined to comment further.

Man! I'm glad we live in Woodford County.

Letters From: El Paso, IL - 03/17/06

I really wish the [Peoria] Journal Star editors would walk further for their opinions of individuals running for office in Woodford County. If they would, they'd discover their opinion is way off from [that of the] voters.

Then again, they'd have to develop an opinion on their own, instead of having County Board Chairman Larry Whitaker forming them. Take a walk around the county and not just across the street from the courthouse.

Shelly Krug
El Paso

Thursday, March 16, 2006

"Change" in Woodford County

We find it illuminating that the (to borrow a phrase from the PeoriaPundit) "award-winning" Editorial Board of the Peoria Journal Star, both through its published opinions and its choice of election letters from "readers" [here, and here], call for "change" in Woodford County politics.

This desired "change" though, seems to be confined to the Elected Officials of Woodford County (read Treasurer, Clerk/Recorder, Sheriff) and not the County Board. The call for "change" sounds suspiciously like, "we need more people that agree with our people on the board"; "keep us in, throw those other bums out".

As difficult as it may be to see through the haze of the press the last couple of years, the truth is that the Elected Officials of the County ARE NOT THE PROBLEM. They have been demonized as fighting "change", when the reality is that they have refused to be rolled over. Have some been a little too adamant in their opposition? Probably. Are some a little too set in their ways? Certainly. Some might call this integrity; whatever . . .

The County Board, however, must of needs be the entity that brings out the best in all elements, maximizing the good and minimizing the bad. Don't blame it on others. The buck stops with the Board. Make your "change" by looking in the mirror tomorrow morning.

"The folks" are speaking. Is anyone listening?

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Letters From: Bellville, IL - 03/15/06

Waking to education reform

THERE ARE two effective solutions to improve school funding and education quality in Illinois: No-strings-attached school vouchers and increased education expense tax credits. School vouchers would afford parents freedom to choose how and where to educate their children. In Milwaukee, where school vouchers were successfully implemented, academic achievement has improved in both the public and private sector.
Increasing education expense tax credits would provide tax relief to parents whose children do not use the government schools. If more students were financially enabled to enroll in private schools, public school enrollment and operating costs would go down, your personal tax bill would go down and student achievement would go up.
In April 2004, one out of every 10 school districts had a tax referendum or bond proposal on the ballot. Voters rejected 64.2 percent of them because property owners can no longer afford the government school monopoly. From 1998-2003 school spending in Illinois increased 30.2 percent. The time for education and funding reform in Illinois for the children's sake and the property owner's sake is now. If you vote yes to school district tax referendums and bond proposals, you enable the continuation of the local school district's addiction to your money. By voting no, like the majority of voters across the state, you force Gov. Blagojevich and the state legislature to stop hitting the "snooze" button and wake up to true education reform, equalized school district funding and property tax relief for all.

- - - Zack Kersulis

Which State/Local Tax Is Most "Unfair"?

Here is some data from the annual survey by the Illinois Tax Foundation illuminating the growing discontent with local property taxes, and this is not only an Illinois phenomenon:

38% of respondents claimed they feel the property tax is “least fair” while the runner up is the state income tax.

Our basic problem with Property Tax in general is that, for the average homeowner, it is a tax on assets (think Death Tax) rather than a tax on income or consumptions, and the "assets" taxed are PAPER assets only. They aren't worth anything until sold. Theoretically, if I am on a fixed income, I will be Property Taxed to a zero net asset base! Am I wrong?

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Real Estate Tax System? What System?!

Real estate tax system is unfair
JIM MUIR; The Southern Illinoisan

Mark Twain once said the only difference between a tax collector and a taxidermist is that the taxidermist only takes the skin. I recently read a brief history about Twain and while there was no mention that he ever lived in the Land of Lincoln, it would seem that anybody who had that kind of in-depth knowledge of the way the tax game is played in Illinois would have had to spend some time here.

And without question, Twain must have been referring to real estate taxes when he made reference to a taxidermist. He could have also added that in most instances when a person is robbed there’s a weapon involved. In Illinois that weapon is the annual dose of bad news known as a real estate tax bill - without question the most unfair, egregious tax that exists.

That point was once again driven home after reading a story in the Belleville News-Democrat about the shenanigans that are taking place in St. Clair County. The story centered on state-mandated quadrennial assessments - a total reassessment of every parcel of property within a county that is supposed to be completed every four years. The story reported that even though the Illinois Department of Revenue mandates that quadrennial assessments take place, there has not been one in St. Clair County since 1984 - and that one took place only when then-supervisor of assessments Sam Flood was forced to do the reassessment by department of revenue officials. And the 1984 reassessment was the first one in St. Clair County since the mid-1940s.

Off the subject just a little, it should be of great comfort to the taxpayers in St. Clair County to know that Flood has moved on since his days as supervisor of assessments and was recently appointed by the Blagojevich administration as acting director of the Department of Natural Resources - a position that carries a six-figure salary. I added that last nugget only to illustrate that ‘The Peter Principle' - the theory that some people rise to the level of their incompetence - is alive and well in Illinois political circles. And of course I’m speaking of both Democrats and Republicans when I point that out.

The purpose of the quadrennial reassessment is to determine the fair market value of properties and then determine the equalized assessed value, which is 33.3 percent of the fair market value. Obviously, the reason that the reassessment is supposed to be completed every four years is to make sure all new properties are being assessed and also that other properties are being assessed fairly and accurately.

The story told how St. Clair County will soon embark on trying to straighten out the mess and also how some residents who are under-assessed can expect hefty increases in their real estate tax bills. Recalling what took place in Franklin County in 1998 when a long-overdue quadrennial assessment took place, a hefty increase could mean a 30-40 percent hike in real estate taxes for some people.

Throughout the story, those who were interviewed about correcting the problem used words like 'fair' and 'accurate' and 'reasonable' when discussing ways to correct the problem.

Well, I hate to be the bearer of bad news this morning, but despite what some spineless politician might say about real estate tax reform, there is absolutely nothing fair, accurate or even remotely reasonable about the current system. In fact, taking it one step further, real estate taxes are the most unfair tax that exists, period.

Yet, all we get from Springfield is lip service about the problem that is progressively getting worse rather than better.

Let me explain why this tax is so unfair using Widow Jones, who lives in any town, big or small in Illinois and Joe Unemployed, who lives in the same town.

Mrs. Jones has raised her children, who have all moved away, and now lives alone on a fixed income in a small home she has owned for many years. Each year she receives a real estate tax bill that includes a lengthy list of taxing districts. At the top of that list is the public school where approximately 55 percent of her tax dollars will go, even though her children have not attended the school for 40 years.

On the other side of town Joe lives with his wife and three children in a mobile home he rents. All three of his children attend the same school Widow Jones is helping to support, yet he pays nothing, not a dime toward that school - or the hospital, or the library, or the park or any other taxing district.

And then there is the 'Good Ol’ Boys’ Club' method of assessing real estate taxes. This method involves knowing the brother’s cousin of the wife of a township assessor, which therefore entitles you to a reduced assessment ... or if you live in Franklin County ... perhaps no assessment at all.

And that’s just two of hundreds of examples I could use.

Any system - a sales tax increase, a consumption tax, a hike in income tax or even charging $500 to license a vehicle - would be better than what is taking place throughout the state.

In simple terms, and stopping just short of using the word 'revolution' until the masses in Illinois who are being raped each year by real estate taxes join together and say 'enough is enough' it will remain a broken, flawed and dishonest system.

JIM MUIR is a columnist for The Southern Illinoisan and can be reached at writeon1@shawneelink.netReal estate tax system is unfair

Monday, March 13, 2006

Put Politics in Perspective

Our friends in the Capitol City (yes, we still have a few) had the hurt put on 'em last night.

Springfield Mayor Tim Davlin told The (Springfield) State Journal Register he expected "every square inch of Springfield" will have suffered some effect from the storms. " the closest I've seen to this is the ice storm (of March 1978); it's just unreal," Davlin said early Monday from the city's Emergency Operations Center.

Remember the folks down there in your prayers. Photos are here:

How Much Tax Can A Tax District Tax If A Tax District Can Raise Tax?

Would you like to take a guess as to how many taxing authorities exist in Woodford County? Thirty? Fourty? Guess Again. Taken from the 2003 State of Illinois data:

Home Taxing Districts: 65
Township/Road Districts: 17
Municipalities 15
Schools & Colleges 10
Fire Protection 11
Park 3
Sanitary 1
Library 2
Multi-Township 4
Other 1

Total Districts: 129

That's right folks - one hundred, twenty-nine taxing districts for 37,000 people. That's roughly one district per 286 persons.

Now, feel free to astound and amaze your friends.

Last Chance To Meet The Candidates

As the clock winds down on this primary election, you may want to slide over to El Paso tomorrow, Tuesday March 13 at 6:30 PM.

The El Paso Kiwanis is having a "meet and greet" at Grace Fellowship Church. All candidates for county-wide office have been invited to attend.