Saturday, November 25, 2006

Minonk Truth in Taxation Hearing Scheduled

Monday, December 4th is your chance to voice opinions about the city of Minonk's requested tax increase. You probably can pick up some of the scuttlebutt over at the Minonk Talk website.

It looks as if they are looking for over a 10 percent increase in property taxes.

Woodford Spending To Go UP!

Here we go again.

The Woodford County Journal this week proclaimed on it's front page banner, "Woodford tax to go down". Evidently the editor forgot one word. "rate" should have been inserted between "tax" and "to"; an understandable oversight.

The headline should have read, "Woodford Spending Up 7.5 Percent!", because that is the increase in the County's budget.

How can this be? Well, you already know the answer to this. The tax rate is only one factor in total property tax extensions. The other big factor is the total property base's valuation to which the rate is applied. Of course there are other "revenue streams" besides property taxes as well - call 'em whatever you wish - they're still taxes. No one seems to understand that, unlike the taxing authorities, the average taxpayer has no other revenue sources from which to draw upon.

To be fair, "the Journal" does include a "primer on taxation" on page 4A - the editorial section. Unfortunately it perpetuates the myth that the property tax/spending equation is hopelessly complicated and you might as well leave talk of rates, abatements, levies, caps, and EAV to the experts.

Don't get us wrong, we're glad the rate went down and we're happy, we guess, to see some burden shifted to "user fees" from property taxes. Just don't be fooled that this county's taxes went down, because they sure didn't. Nor should you be convinced that all of this is way too complicated for the average voter. It isn't. It's really simple:

How much did you spend last year, the year before that, and the year before that? What do you want this year? Unfortunately for the taxpayer, this question needs to be asked of every taxing authority - schools, fire, water, municipal, library, township, county, community college, etc.

And no, "appraisal creep" doesn't refer to the guy setting the values.

Metamora "Master Plan"

The Metamora Planning Commission put out a "plan" in June. You can see it here.

Wow. Wonder what that cost? Ya know them consultants, architects and that fancy paper ain't cheap. But if it prevents just ONE urban sprawl, isn't it worth it?

Seriously, it always disturbs us a bit when the "committee" or "commission" or "advisory group" gets its "public input" and then has its architect move around a couple of lines so they can say, "This is the community's plan, not our plan. Far be it from us to think we know how to plan this community best".

We certainly don't know the situation in Metamora - we're just sayin' . . .

Olio Township in Chicago?

OK. We admit it. We use Google Alerts to keep tabs on Woodford County's 17 Townships.

Today we got an alert on a Chicago band called "Olio Township". Now, this can't just be a fluke. Some of these boys (or girl) must be local (especially when a 'Sauder' is included). Has anyone heard of them?

Friday, November 24, 2006

House Keeping

We're moving!

Well, not really. Everything here at the Truth Detector will remain the same, but we are moving our Home Page web site to

The old site, at will remain up and running for a few weeks and eventually will just point over to the new site anyway, so this shouldn't cause any major problems.

We believe the Domain change from .Com to .Org better reflects our non-profit status. The new site also enables a few bells and whistles which our previous server prevented.

If you receive the Truth Detector Newsletter, you will notice the sending address has changed. You might want to ensure it isn't flagged by your anti-spam filter. (You can sign up for the news letter at the site, or just email us).

Continue to forward your much appreciated suggestions!

"Eureka Park District" WannaBes Meet

Recently seventeen folks got together at the Eureka City hall to discuss how to best proceed with the creation of a new taxing district.

The Legal Record says that Tiera Darnall-Charlton of Secor, who ran unsuccessfully for the Woodford County Board in the Republican primary, "was chosen chair of the 'committee".

Why someone that lives in Secor and works in Bloomington would chair a committee for a Eureka park is a puzzlement. Is that how big this proposed tax district is going to be? We think not, but these folks seem to believe that a taxing authority encompassing essentially what is the CUSD #140 area might fly.

Unspecified "Eureka city officials" have said without the formation of a park district, out-of-city program participants might be forced to pay additional park usage fees in the near future. So, let's see . . . we can pay extra fees or have a Park District taxing authority? We choose the extra fees, thanks very much.

Others in this committee's rogues gallery apparently include EYRA president Bill Schulz (president of the Eureka Youth Recreation Association), Gerald Moxley(athletics?), Sherry Silverthorn(Tri-County Planning Commission?) and Jerry Babbs(CUSD #140?).

Hold on to your wallets, folks.

Woodford County Unemployment Drops; Illinois' Lowest Rate

Economist Dr. Arthur Laffer (the "Laffer Curve") was on the radio the other day talking about the current state of the U.S. and world economies. In the course of his discussions he made an interesting and basic analysis of the unemployment rate in the U.S. and average or median wages (for this example, take your pick).

Many decry that wages aren't growing at a faster rate. Laffer says with virtual full employment that's what you'll have because previously unemployed workers enter the statistical base and lower the average. He says, "Which would you rather have though, an unemployed worker or one that is employed with an entry wage? He maintains that slowing or static wages is GOOD! (as long as unemployment is low).

But we digress. Unemployment in Central Illinois, while likely to tick up over winter as always (due to construction jobs) dropped again.

McLean County tallied a 2.7 percent jobless rate last month, down from 3 percent in September. McLean County tied with DuPage, Moultrie and Piatt counties.

The national jobless rate in October was 4.4 percent, slightly above the Illinois rate of 4.1 percent.

Woodford and Brown counties had the lowest rate, at 2.5 percent in October. Woodford County posted a 2.8 percent rate in September.

DeWitt and Ford counties' unemployment each dropped from 3.6 percent in September to 3.2 percent last month.

LaSalle County's jobless rate dropped from 4.5 percent to 4.3 percent in October.

Unemployment decreased in Livingston County to 3.2 percent, from 3.7 percent in September.

In Logan County, unemployment fell from 4.1 percent in September to 3.7 percent in October.

Tazewell County's unemployment rate dropped from 3.4 percent to 3.2 percent in October.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

President's Thanksgiving Proclamation

As Americans gather with family and friends to celebrate Thanksgiving Day, we give thanks for the many ways that our nation and our people have been blessed.

The Thanksgiving tradition dates back to the earliest days of our society, celebrated in decisive moments in our history and in quiet times around family tables. Nearly four centuries have passed since early settlers gave thanks for their safe arrival and pilgrims enjoyed a harvest feast to thank God for allowing them to survive a harsh winter in the New World. General George Washington observed Thanksgiving during the Revolutionary War, and in his first proclamation after becoming President, he declared November 26, 1789, a national day of "thanksgiving and prayer." During the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln revived the tradition of proclaiming a day of thanksgiving, reminding a divided nation of its founding ideals.

At this time of great promise for America, we are grateful for the freedoms guaranteed by our Constitution and defended by our armed forces throughout the generations. Today, many of these courageous men and women are securing our peace in places far from home, and we pay tribute to them and to their families for their service, sacrifice, and strength. We also honor the families of the fallen and lift them up in our prayers.

Our citizens are privileged to live in the world's freest country, where the hope of the American dream is within the reach of every person. Americans share a desire to answer the universal call to serve something greater than ourselves, and we see this spirit every day in the millions of volunteers throughout our country who bring hope and healing to those in need. On this Thanksgiving Day, and throughout the year, let us show our gratitude for the blessings of freedom, family, and faith, and may God continue to bless America.

Now, therefore, I, George W. Bush, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim Thursday, November 23, 2006, as a National Day of Thanksgiving. I encourage all Americans to gather together in their homes and places of worship with family, friends, and loved ones to reinforce the ties that bind us and give thanks for the freedoms and many blessings we enjoy.

In witness whereof, I have hereunto set my hand this sixteenth day of November, in the year of our Lord two thousand six, and of the independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-first.

George W. Bush

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

More On "Hyper-Local" Governance

Because it is an extremely important issue (and perhaps due to recent federal and state elections portend no tax solutions there) some follow up on the discussion here will continue to be forthcoming.

There was a four part series in the Herald & Review last June/July called "Big Government" which discussed at length Illinois' penchant for multitudinous taxing authorities. (Unfortunately it appears to no longer be available online.) It pointed out that Illinois has some 8,500 units of government - the most in the country. Pennsylvania is second with around 2,100.

As we've seen, there are those that applaud this feeling that it brings democracy and accountability closer to the citizen. In theory, this seems correct. However, it does not take into account the complexity which this system has bred. There is a fascinating summary of the Herald & Review's articles here:

Public must take lead to cut surplus government

A FOUR-PART series in the Herald & Review, "Big Government," ends today. The series examined the large number of local governmental units we have in Illinois, its effects and what can be done about it.

Two conclusions can be drawn from the series.

First, there is a need to study the issue of how to reduce the number of governmental bodies, not only statewide, but in Macon County. But this issue deserves more than study. It also deserves action.

Second, change will not be easy and will have to come from the voters.

As the series pointed out, Illinois has nearly 8,500 units of local government. That's easily the most in the nation; Pennsylvania is second with about 2,000 fewer units of government.

Macon County alone has about 170 taxing districts, not including 63 drainage districts.

The problems with this system are obvious. First, it grossly inefficient. Second, it's costly. Third, it doesn't serve the public well at all.

There are those who say the numerous units of government are a good thing - that it brings democracy and government service closer to the people.

Really? Quickly, name your township supervisor? Who do you call if you have a mosquito problem? Know anyone at the local mosquito abatement district? Got a drainage issue? Know anyone at one of the county's 63 drainage districts?

OK. Now name the mayor of Chicago. The truth is Richard Daley is more accountable to the people he serves than most other local government officials.

The system of government is so complex that in some cases, taxpayers are paying twice for the same service. Some residents in Long Creek, for example, pay for fire protection from the city of Decatur and the Long Creek Fire Protection District. The only way to get out of paying twice for the same service is to go to court - a process that can cost hundreds of dollars in legal fees.

How democratic is that? How sensible is that? Is that serving the public?

The fact is, multiple units of government make it more difficult for citizens to get their problems solved.

The multiple units also have to be frustrating for developers who want to build new houses or create jobs in a community. Can you imagine trying to wade through the many governmental bodies necessary to get that kind of work done?

The system is also expensive.

"Each one takes a bite of the tax apple," said former Decatur Mayor Terry Howley, a proponent of studying unified government. The bites may be mere nibbles, but they add up.

Although a study by the Indiana Policy Review Foundation concluded that cutting taxes was usually not the result of consolidation attempts, we have to believe that Illinois would be different. With so many taxing bodies - each with overhead - tax savings would have to be a part of the equation.

The lack of tax savings in consolidation attempts also says more about government than it does about consolidation. A business consolidation almost always includes programs to increase customer service and reduce costs. We have not seen that sort of objective in many government consolidations.

Any logical person would look at the Illinois system of local government and conclude there has to be a better way. So, why hasn't anything been done?

The answer is simple. Leaders in each of these local governments receive a salary, giving each a vested interest in maintaining the status quo. "In many cases, you've got too many chiefs and not enough Indians, and the chiefs don't want to become Indians," Howley said.

It's clear there is little momentum toward reducing the number of governmental units. The Illinois General Assembly approved a commission to study the issue nearly a year ago. But the commission hasn't met because Gov. Rod Blagojevich hasn't made any appointments to the group.

In an administration where an education plan can be thrown together in a matter of days to answer a potential political opponent, the lack of action on government consolidation shows a lack of interest.

But there also is a lack of interest locally. Although there is a degree of cooperation among local officials, it isn't normal operating procedure. All governments, for example, are facing increased health care costs, but none of the governmental units have discussed working together on the issue.

It's clear change is only going to happen if voters demand it. One expert quoted in the series said it would take a catastrophe - government going bankrupt - for change to occur.

But change can happen before a catastrophe, if the voters demand it. Think taxes are too high? Demand that elected officials quit paying lip service and do something about the state's number of governmental units.

Macon County can't wait for Illinois to take action. One way to transform government in the county is to put forth a reform plan that will reduce the size of government and lower taxes. A good start would be to consolidate all of the various taxing districts into at least the township level. Secondary steps would be to incorporate township functions into the county; look seriously at a consolidation of law enforcement agencies; merge the Decatur Park District with the city of Decatur.

Nothing will happen if we wait for governmental leaders. The voters must demand reform or forever be faced with a governmental system that is inefficient and expensive.

Woodford County Sex Offenders

After the recent WHOI News piece on Peoria and Bloomington sex offenders living near the schools we thought it appropriate to list just the Woodford County information from the Illinois State Police site:

25 Offenders found. Page of 1
Name Address City

Sexual Predator

Sexual Predator

Sexual Predator

57 W 4TH
Apt. C
EL PASO 61738

Sexual Predator
206 1ST SOUTH ST KAPPA 61738

1787 COUNTY RD 2900E MINONK 61760

Sexual Predator

Sexual Predator

Sexual Predator
399 N COUNTY RD 1125E DEER CREEK 61733

Sexual Predator


Sexual Predator

Sexual Predator
201 E FIELD ST SECOR 61771


506 E SMYTH ST SECOR 61771


Sexual Predator
Apt. B
EL PASO 61738




Sexual Predator


Sexual Predator



Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Remember Woodford County's "40 Acres" and a mewl?

There is apparently a Champaign County Board meeting tonight on "Township Boundary changes". That seems to be code for land use restrictions on a County-wide basis.This should sound familiar to property owners of Woodford County as we dealt with it a year ago. From a poster over at the IlliniPundit:

“This issue of preserving prime farmland by relinquishing the owner’s property rights is a huge issue. How would you like to be a landowner and have your county board dictate new zoning regulations that restrict your ability to sell off home sites? Ten years ago a one acre home site was legal by right. Today the new zoning text amendments are proposing to restrict the landowner to one lot per forty acres with a maximum of four additional lots per tax parcel.

Here’s an example; if you owned sixty acres you could have a minimum six, possibly more home sites. If the new regs went through, you would be limited to one home site. How can the county board even consider doing this to the citizens of this county?

Especially when you see that the loss of farm land is not a big issue outside the urban sprawl of CU. CU is the culprit, not the rural landowners."

Brush up on the information because this issue will not go away quietly in Woodford County. Certain Board factions will be back again with something this next year.

[ UPDATE - 11/22/06]:

There was a large turnout for Champaign County's meeting and the ordinances will not be changed - for now; demonstrates what citizen turn-out can do at local meetings.

Is NEA Reading Its Own Research?

Fom our good friends over at the Education Intelligence Agency:

Last week, the National Education Association released its latest edition of Rankings & Estimates with the headline: "Teachers Take 'Pay Cut' as Inflation Outpaces Salaries." The subhead reads: "NEA President Warns Students Pay the Price with High Teacher Turnover."

I suppose it's hopeless to point out that NEA mistakes cause for effect. "High teacher turnover" means high-paid teachers retire and are replaced by low-paid rookies, thereby reducing the growth in the "average" salary. If I have two teachers earning $70,000 each, and one retires and I replace her with a teacher earning $35,000, the average salary has been reduced by 25 percent, but that's hardly an argument for a hike in pay.

But there's an even bigger reason why the average teacher salary doesn't rise to reflect the amount taxpayers are sinking into public education. NEA's own research provides it, but the union's self-interest prevents it from highlighting it in any context whatsoever.

America continues to hire armies of teachers.

EIA has illustrated this before, but public appear to school district hiring and firing practicesbear no relationship to the one factor that should drive them: student enrollment.

According to NEA's own estimates, student enrollment in the United States will grow this school year by a total of 349,452 students (0.7 percent). The number of classroom teachers is expected to grow by 62,443 (2.0 percent). That, my friends, is one new teacher for every 5.5 new students.

That's not even the most ridiculous statistic. Most of the enrollment growth is in secondary school, as the last of the Baby Boomers' children work their way through high school. Secondary school enrollment is expected to grow by 1.4 percent, while the number of secondary school teachers is expected to grow by only 1.0 percent.

Elementary school enrollment is expected to grown by only 88,595 students (0.3 percent), but we're planning to hire 49,965 more elementary school teachers (2.8 percent). That's one new K-8 teacher for every 1.8 new K-8 students.

This simply cannot be sustained. It's not beyond the realm of possibility that someday soon the marginal increase in teachers – in actual numbers, not percentage - will exceed the marginal increase in students.

This is not a new problem. In the last 10 years, elementary enrollment increased by a total of 4.2 percent. But the number of elementary school teachers increased by 19.1 percent.

Is any of this sinking in? I don't know, but last week's newspapers were filled with "surprising" enrollment figures from all across the country:

* "Florida school enrollment far below projection"

* "HISD enrollment down by 7,000 for fall semester" (Houston)

* "Traditional schools in DPS up 2 pupils" (Denver)

* "San Diego Unified, like many districts throughout California, is in a chronically declining enrollment phase."

Average salary increases will always appear smaller when spread among a growing number of employees. Once hired, there is a significant "enrollment lag" before the size of the labor force reflects a decrease or slowing in student enrollment. Thanks to tenure protections, reducing the workforce generally can happen only two ways: retirement and layoff of probationary teachers. Or what some people might term "high teacher turnover." We'll see more of it in the coming years.

The emphases are our own.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Township Newsletter Example

Now here's an example of an Illinois Township keeping the folks in the loop via a newsletter and website.

Hyper-Local Government

We just had an interesting discussion with a friend regarding our rants against the proliferation of taxing authorities in Illinois and Woodford County.

He says, "Yes we have around 140 taxing districts in Woodford County. Ain't it great? That means the taxing is closer to the people and more accountable. The further consolidation that occurs and the further up the government ladder it goes - towards County and State - the more expensive and less responsive it becomes."

We said, "Yes, but the problem is that every taxing authority thinks their mission is the most important on earth!" The response? "Their mission is the most important. That's the way it's supposed to work. We, the voters, chose to set up a fire district, or an ambulance district, or build infrastructure. We thought we needed them!"

We're paraphrasing.

We were, as was the intention, stunned. This is a very attractive idea on the surface of it. After consideration it makes more and more sense. After all, keeping political power and decision making "close to the ground", so to speak, is incredibly desirable. We think conservatives and libertarians should probably sign on to this idea, with a few caveats.

One is that voters get their act together with regard to Township government in Woodford County and the property appraisal process. After all, this is what fills the various purses. There are too many elected appraiser slots unfilled. That doesn't mean no appraiser; just one that's not elected.

The townships need to do much better communicating to the public what they are doing. When's the last time you got a newsletter of notice of a meeting from your Township Board?

Transparency and accountability is a two-way street. The voter has the responsibility to be the ultimate insurer of local government's responsiveness.

Secondly, and perhaps this is the same thing - after those decisions to implement fire or police or ambulance taxing districts, there must be better oversight, reporting, and measurement of the performance of said authorities. The voters shouldn't necessarily have to beg to get this from those authorities which they themselves set up.

At this time of property tax extensions from the various bodies being revealed, it is appropriate that we examine the Townships more closely. This we shall endeavor to do in the next few weeks. Please feel free to chime in.

Thanksgiving Transcends Politics

Thanksgiving Transcends Politics

(Andrews in Denver Post 11/19, also 11/18)

Gloomy, dejected, defeated? Not this Republican. It’s Thanksgiving, and I have too much to be grateful for.

Yes, the Democrats elected a governor, gained legislative seats, and took Congress. Yes, our judicial term limits proposal lost, and few ballot issues went as I hoped. And no, the GOP currently doesn’t have the “got’em where we want’em” defiance of John Elway’s old Broncos.

So why am I not down? Because before I am a Republican I’m a conservative, and I am an American before that. At bedrock, prior to anything, I am on a lifetime enlistment as a servant of my Maker and a soldier of the Cross, poor though my example may be.

Through such eyes, the blue wave and red rout of Nov. 7 have no more finality than a chess king tipped over at game’s end. We’ll vow to do better next time, of course – but with light hearts in the joy of a world too bright for any election to darken.

The common-sense recognition that politics isn’t everything happens to be a distinctively American trait, just as Thanksgiving is a distinctively American holiday. The day’s occurrence so soon after votes are counted is helpful in reminding us what really matters. While congratulations are due Bill Ritter and all the winners, along with condolences to Rick O’Donnell and others who lost, this week is about giving thanks for the bigger picture.

We give thanks for constitutional government and democratic capitalism, the framework of liberty and law that has made these United States the freest, most prosperous, most open, most generous, most decent, and most powerful nation the world has ever seen. We hear the voice of conscience bidding Americans always use that power for good.

We give thanks for a stable, competitive, mutually respectful two-party system that forces consensus toward the center and fairly registers the people’s choice, so the trustees of power can be turned out when they lose touch or break faith – and the reins of authority can then be peacefully transferred. Much of the world lacks that.

We give thanks for the blessings of material abundance, opportunity, tolerance, innovation, cultural creativity, and the most optimistic educational system on earth, adding up to a magic escalator for group after group from marginal status to full participation in American life – minorities, women, immigrants, the disabled, who next? The striving of millions to come here isn’t just a policy problem, it’s an accolade to us.

We give thanks for living in the most religious nation in the world, a country where humanity’s restless search for God is unfettered by state-sponsored churches or compulsory worship, a country where much individual conduct is still regulated by the sense of moral obligation before an eternal Judge, allowing government’s hand to rest more lightly on our lives.

We give thanks for freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of assembly, and the right to petition the government for redress of grievances. This daring, exuberant, risk-defying openness gives our system an almost miraculous capacity for self-criticism, self-correction, and self-renewal. This is what doomed slavery and defeated communism. It makes tyranny unlikely here. It is the jewel of humility in America’s crown.

We give thanks for our families. Parents and spouses, babies and elders, siblings and kids, eccentric uncles and cousins, grandparents and grandchildren, foster and adoptive relatives, those difficult in-laws, that couple who fits no conventional definition but just undeniably belongs together, the “stray” at your Thanksgiving table who doesn’t need to be blood to have a place in your heart – what would we do without them? Family transcends all politics, thank heaven.

But consider the last phrase. When “Oh thank heaven” can become a convenience-store slogan, America’s problem isn’t theocracy, it’s superficiality. Too many of us bring only a Hallmark faith to Thursday’s national feast.

The mere attitude of gratitude is not enough. As the turkey is carved, remember that thanks are meaningless unless given TO someone – in this case to the Creator of all things. “Our fathers’ God to Thee, Author of liberty, to Thee we sing.” From our house to yours, happy Thanksgiving.

Posted by John Andrews in Andrews in Print

A happy and blessed Thanksgiving to all from Woodford Tax Facts.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

The French Have Some Sense

Charles De Gaulle:

"I have come to the conclusion that politics are too serious a matter to be left to the politicians."