Saturday, April 29, 2006

U.S. Citizens Are Decent And Slow To Anger - But . . .!

We just had the "pleasure" of listening to the crass commercial exploitation of a very emotional issue represented by this pathetic "Spanish" United States of America national anthem- you may hear it while viewing an English translation at NPR's website.

The translation follows below. Read it carefully.

This is terrorism pure and simple, and self-respecting, law-abiding immigrants in the U.S. should be outraged. The general media has portrayed this as simply a Spanish "version" of OUR national anthem. The reality is something different. It has been rewritten.

These lyrics are a declaration of war on the United States. With no changes to the English translation, it could have been written by the old Soviets, the modern North Koreans, the Iranian President, Radical Islamicists- ala Al Qaeda- , Chavez in Venezuela, or Castro in Cuba; the list is long and varied, but the resentment, hatred, lust, jealousy, and self-pity remains the same.

Our citizenry is slow to anger, and generally patient and kind - but beware - two can play at these games. We can't help the past. We've made mistakes. We've made some sacrifices. We won't, however, let demagogues define our future.

Here's the translation:

" By the light of the dawn, do you see arising,

what we proudly hailed at twilight's last fall?

Its stars, its stripes

yesterday streamed

above fierce combat

a gleaming emblem of victory

and the struggle toward liberty.

Throughout the night, they proclaimed:

"We will defend it!"


It’s time to make a difference the kids, men and the women/Let’s stand for our beliefs, let’s stand for our vision/What about the children los ninos como

These kids have no parents, cause all of these mean laws.
See this can’t happen, not only about the Latins.

Asians, blacks and whites and all they do is adding
more and more, let’s not start a war

with all these hard workers,
they can’t help where they were born.)

Tell me! Does its starry beauty still wave

above the land of the free,

the sacred flag?

Its stars, its stripes,

liberty, we are the same.

We are brothers in our anthem.

In fierce combat, a gleaming emblem of victory

and the struggle toward liberty.

My people fight on.

The time has come to break the chains.

Throughout the night they proclaimed, "We will defend it!"

Tell me! Does its starry beauty still wave

above the land of the free,

the sacred flag? "

Patriotism for one's adopted home or "reconquista" jihad?

God bless all citizens of the United States of America and their guests.

Letters From: Pekin, Illinois

Folks, there is a teacher lobby group called “A+ Illinois” going around the state asking school boards and other elected and private bodies to support a resolution, demanding lawmakers provide a different method of funding education.

Typically, they are using the same old tired story of how this is needed for fairness to students, to hide the real deal, more money for the system to abuse. The new method of funding is a large hike in income and sales taxes! The new funding method DOES NOT lower property taxes!

Below are state figures for the past fifteen years that show the increases that involve education. It is CLEAR, money is NOT the problem. The problem is the “lack” of accountability for those spending the ever growing “Billions” they do get. This history proves more tax monies will not help students, but only the bureaucracy who uses students for camouflage!

(15 Year Consumer Price Index = 39.2%)

Illinois Education "State Report Card" Information 1990 - 2005 :

Total Education Dollars (Billion) 2005 : $6,966,200,000 - $3,487,500,000 (1990) = $3,478,700,000 (99.7%) 15 Year Increase

General State Aid Dollars (Billion) 2005 : $3,712,331,000 - $2,077,733,000 (1990) = $1,634,598,000 (78.7%) 15 Year Increase

Operating Dollars Per Student 2005 : $8,786 - $4,519 (1990) = $4,267 (94.4%) 15 Year Increase

Student Enrollment 2005 : 2,062,912 - 1,766,186 (1990) = 296,726 (16.8%) 15 Year Increase

Teachers 2005: 128,079 - 101,732 (1990) = 26,347 (25.9%) 15 Year Increase

Administrators 2005 : 9,847 - 7,110 (1990) = 2,737 (38.5%) 15 Year Increase

Avg. Administration Salary 2005: $97,051 - $52,564 (1990) = $44,487 (84.6%) 15 Year Increase

Avg. Teacher Salary 2005 : $55,558 - $32,925 (1990) = $22,633 (68.7%) 15 Year Increase

Percent Of Students "NOT" Meeting Standards In Reading 2005 : 47.5% - 25% (1992) = 15.5% A 13 Year "Failure Increase" !

Percent Of Students "NOT" Meeting Standards In Math 2005 : 47.2% - 34% (1992) = 13.2% A 13 Year "Failure Increase" !

Percent Of Students Graduating 2005 : 87.4% - 80.8% (1992) = 6.6% A 13 Year Increase "Inspite Of The Failure Increases" !


Jim Mangan, Pekin, Illinois

What Do You Pay In Taxes?

Quick, how much total do you pay in taxes? Perhaps the greatest innovation of bureacrats in the 20th century was the tax load shell game - the clever balkanization of the tax load that makes it nearly impossible for the average person to truly know how much they pay in taxes to the government.

Start with income taxes. April 15 is long gone for this year, but even so, how many people know how much they paid in income taxes last year? For many people, this is the single largest expense they have, but the total amount is disguised by the fact that most income taxes are taken out as direct payroll deduction. Governent employees everywhere in the US should get up in the morning and give thanks for direct payroll deduction -- without it, if every American had to write a single check once a year for the sum total of their annual income taxes, there would have long since been a revolution.

OK, so you don't know how much you paid in federal, state and local income taxes. But in addition to that, how much did you pay in social security and medicare (typically about 8% of salary)? Property taxes (typically 1-2% of your home value)? How about sales taxes (typically 6-9% of your purchases)? What about vehicle licensing fees and special taxes on hotels and airfare and rent carsand fuel? If you add all these up, the average American pays about 30% of his/her salary in taxes. The Tax Foundation has a great chart summarizing this shell game, with relative burdens expressed as days of work each year required to pay the tax. Note that on average, your federal income tax is only 1/3 of the total of what you are paying:

So those are the direct ones, but how much are you also paying in higher prices due to government import duties? What about the 8% FICA and medicare that employers pay on your behalf - how much higher might your salary be and how much lower the cost of the products you buy if they did not have to pay these? What about corporate taxes - you may not pay them directly, but they certainly get passed on to you in the form of higher prices and lower dividends on your 401k.

We won't even get into the confiscatory nature of "Death", "Property", and "Capital Gains" taxes. While certainly less hidden, they are perhaps the most insidious, since they are a tax savings and not income or spending.

- - - the Coyote

Friday, April 28, 2006

Woodford White Hats To The Rescue!

This from the PJS's editorial page - their "Thumbs Up" thing:

Friday, April 28, 2006

To Woodford County officials for agreeing to help Tazewell County get its tax bills in order. Under the agreement, Woodford Supervisor of Assessments Laurie Epkins will train new Tazewell employees in processing tax bills. Tazewell tax bills may be as much as two months late this year, in part because there's been so much turnover in the assessment office there. The delayed tax bills cost every Tazewell government money, because they either have to borrow in the interim or fail to earn interest. Counties must get bills out on time. This type of intergovernmental cooperation ought to help. There should be more of it.

Last we knew from the Journal Star's Award Winning Editorial Board [nod to PeoriaPundit], we were the backward hicks of the Tri-County area, capable only of bickering amongst ourselves. Glad we could help out, and a tip o' the hat to our Ms. Epkins and the PJS.

Would A Tax Extension Limitation Law for Woodford County make a difference?

Here is the change in the Consumer Price Index (inflation), year-to-year from 1990-2004.

Now here's the change in Woodford County's EAV (property tax) for those same years.

It's a little hard to read, but notice that the compound annual growth rate is 6.9% while inflation based on the CPI index was just under 3.1%.

Theoretically, the Property Tax Extension Liability Law (PTELL), had it been available and in effect for these years would have bridged the gap between those numbers somewhat.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

County Gas Tax?

The Peoria Journal Star today has an article speaking to the inclination of some Woodford County Board members to do something with the 1% "Public Safety" sales tax.

We believe there is an embarassment of riches there.

Specifically a trial balloon seems to have gone up from the Board regarding eliminating the County sales tax on fuel purchases at retail. We don't think the short term savings (one or two cents per gallon) justifies such a knee-jerk reaction.

We do, however, find a plan to retire early the bonds which funded the new "Public Safety" complex intriguing.

We've got the tax. We're living with it. Accelerate the repayment of the debt, to the extent the agreement allows, plan for a lean "Public Safety" budget, and ultimately reduce the cost to property tax payers.

Woodford County's future should not include a business unfriendly permanent 1% "Public Safety" sales tax, nor a balancing of the "public safety" budget on the backs of property owners. There must be a middle ground to plow.

Please review this previous post for County revenues.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Letters From:

In Response To Our Recent "School District Spending" Piece:

Patrick M. Byrne
President and Chairman, Inc.

America’s Classrooms, Teachers & Students Come First
with the 65% Solution

By Dr. Patrick Byrne

Ben Franklin famously said, “A penny saved is a penny earned.” For K-12 education funding, a few pennies saved could mean literally billions of dollars earned for America’s classrooms. That’s the driving force behind First Class Education, a thriving national movement to enact the 65% Solution.

It’s a simple idea. If we can get the business side of education to adopt better business practices, we would have more money for the education side of education. Business schools throughout America teach management techniques called “best practices” and “benchmarking” – determine what the most efficient companies in a given field are doing and apply similar goals for your firm. In the business of K-12 public school education, First Class Education proposes the benchmark of placing 65% of operational budgets in the classroom.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), just four years ago seven states across America -- from Utah to Maine, Tennessee to New York -- placed at least 65% of their operational budgets in the classroom. Now only two states do. Four years ago fourteen states placed less than 60% of their budgets in the classroom. Now twenty states aren’t even getting 60% to their classrooms. The NCES has reported dramatic recent increases in K-12 education funding – four times the rate of inflation – while for four straight years the percentage of dollars reaching America’s classrooms has declined. Just 61.3% is now reaching our classrooms as a national average. We can and must do better.

If we were to increase that average to 65%, America’s classrooms would have an additional $14 billion a year without a tax increase. Just 3.7 cents more per dollar to our classrooms would be enough to buy a new computer for every student in America or hire 300,000 additional teachers with a starting salary of $40,000, or a near doubling of classroom supplies.. Small change can equal a big change.

To see what the 65% Solution would mean for your state visit:

Plenty of possibilities exist to save money if school districts had an incentive to be innovative. In Nevada, the Clark County school district recently cut their electric bills with the incentive of giving 10% of the savings back to school principals for their school’s use. The savings: more than $9 million by just turning the computers and lights off at night and stopping the fiddling with the thermostats. In Oregon, the Hillsboro school district will save close to $2 million over the next three years by its recent competitive-bidding of maintenance services. In these examples, “millions saved are millions earned.”

And plenty examples of largess exist in many, if not most school districts. Florida’s Miami-Dade school district has over 240 employees making more than $100,000 a year. Not one is a teacher. Arizona’s Deer Valley school district has 101 school buses, but also 167 cars. In Minnesota a district superintendent recently resigned mid-contract and received $440,000 in severance in addition to his lifetime pension and health insurance.

Nearly every teacher can easily identify waste outside the classroom while they are spending money out of their own limited pockets for basic classroom supplies.

As sound as placing more of our education money in the classroom is for teachers and taxpayers, it’s equally important for students. Rank all 50 states by standardized test scores and you’ll find the top five states place the highest percentage in the classroom – averaging 64.12%. The bottom five states for test scores place the lowest percentage in the classroom – averaging 59.46%. Research by Colorado’s Independence Institute shows the percentage of dollars reaching the classroom had five times greater correlation with increased test scores than simply spending more money.

Thankfully, change is coming. First Class Education was founded less than a year ago, but already Louisiana and Kansas have adopted 65% proposals. Texas Governor Rick Perry enacted the 65% Solution by executive order. Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue will sign 65% Solution legislation into law this week. Supporters in Colorado this week submitted over 100,000 signatures to place the issue before voters this November. Missouri Governor Matt Blunt and Florida Governor Jen Bush are supporting legislative efforts to refer the 65% Solution to their November ballots. Citizen initiative drives are underway in Arizona, Ohio, Oregon and Washington. And Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty is pushing a 70% in the classroom requirement for his state.

Let’s support our teachers, benefit our students and be responsible to our taxpayers by ensuring that at least 65% of our education tax dollars reach the place that makes the difference – America’s classrooms.

Dr. Patrick Byrne is the Founder and President of and the National Advisory Chairman of First Class Education.

IMRF, SLEP, ECO, AOQE, and other sundry alphabet soup ingredients in County Pension Outlays

From the Woodford County 11-30-2005 financial audit:

(Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund) contributions [by State mandate]:

SLEP (Sheriff's Law Enforcement Personnel - 6.5%
ECO (Elected County Officials) - 7.5%
AOQE (All Other Qualified Employees - 4.5%

County contribution rate for calendar 2004:

SLEP - 15.44% of payroll - $ 210,517 total
ECO - 56.55% of payroll - $ 105,063 total ( 5 persons, if we're correct)
AOQE - 2.90% of payroll - $ 68,957 total

Now, if we're not mistaken, Woodford County got hoodwinked by the State of Illinois by the ECO thing in 1997, and opted out in 2000. The result - we're stuck with over $100,000 per year in pension funding for a handful of County employees, while the remainder have some what less than $280,000 per year contributed on their behalf - we'd say that goes for in excess of 100 employees, as a guestimate.

We don't have an answer . . . we can only ruminate on the mistakes. The elephant is stomping in the closet.

Topinka Advocates Sales Tax Cap On Gas

We're pretty sure that the total excise tax, State and Federal, is 58 cents per gallon in Illinois. If we're off a few cents, it's only because on the incredible obfuscation on this issue. The dirty little secret over the past year or so is that sales taxes on the increased prices at the pump have been a huge windfall for State, County, and Municipal governments.

Yesterday, Judy Barr Topinka said she'd like to "freeze" State sales tax when the pump price is $2.50 per gallon or higher. The tax would be collected on $2.50 even if the actual price was $4.00

Aside from the retailers' nightmare of tracking a change like this, it sounds like a good start to us. Now to get the feds on board. If the sales and excise tax on fuel isn't going to be dedicated exclusively to road building and maintenance, then we've prefer getting rid of them entirely. They shouldn't be used as windfalls for the "general funds". How's that for a "windfall profits tax"?

Monday, April 24, 2006

Timberline Camp Ground and Arsenic?

The Peoria Journal Star today reports that Timberline Mobile Home Park has been cited by the Illinois EPA for twice the acceptable level of arsenic in its well water. Unfortunately, the yard stick was moved the first of the year. The "acceptable" level went from 50 parts per billion to 10 ppb.

Arsenic is a sometimes naturally occurring component of some well water. Last year they were well (no pun intended) within the limits - this year they face fines or worse. Sigh . . .

The PJS also seems miffed that Timberline and the other development mentioned are owned by "out-of-towners". I don't know what the population of Timberline is, but I doubt if there are a whole bunch of investors located there - maybe they mean Goodfield - or Peoria. I don't think Cat is owned by "townies". I'm not sure about the PJS. That angle seems a quasi-populist spin which is specious to its core. Let's just look at the facts and not whether the landlord lives on site.

Woodford County School District Spending Trends (click chart to enlarge)

Here's some School District info from Woodford County. It takes a little staring at to garner insights. The final column refers to the "65% threshold" which everyone across the country is talking about. It refers to 65% of the money going "into the classroom" as opposed to administration and other activities and expenses.