Tuesday, December 18, 2007

N.Y. Times Says End Property Tax

John Brady, Op-Ed. contributor to the Regional/N.Y. edition of the Times says, among other things:
The property tax is a concept whose better days are behind it. It concentrates on one asset while ignoring income. Two people in similar homes pay the same tax — even if one lives on Social Security and the neighbor makes a huge salary and has millions in stocks . . .

The most obvious drawback of the current property tax system is that since it ignores a person’s income, it causes undue hardship for retired people and those going through tough times. As baby boomers, many of whom have no defined-benefit pension plan, begin to retire in huge numbers, thousands in Connecticut will be forced out of their homes — and most likely out of the state since affordable housing isn’t easy to come by here . . .

The property tax is ready for retirement. Somewhere there has to be an imaginative public official who can come up with an answer to the problem. Whether it is a simplified municipal income tax or something else, we need a solution.
Any of this sounding familiar?

You may read the full piece here.

Friday, December 14, 2007

What Kind Of Way Is This To Fund K-12/Community College?

Look at what has become of a much more major tax to most people than income taxes:

Multiplier applied in two counties; could mean higher tax bills

Now look at how things have changed only for the worse over the past 30 years:

Property tax for public schools

BY DAVID V, MAY A lawyer and civil engineer, he is project administrator for Walsh Brothers Construction, Chicago.

Property tax for public schools

THE SQUEEZE is on for public school districts in Illinois. Caught in the pinch between skyrocketing expenses and slowly growing revenues, many districts have cut programs, reduced staff, shelved expansion plans and withheld salary increases. Some have cut extracurricular activities such as sports, school newspapers and yearbooks. Others have gone to a 12-month schedule. In human terms these retrenchments mean that many Illinois students no longer have the benefit of the same programs that students enjoyed ten or even five years ago. In economic terms, they show that the revenue base supporting public education in Illinois — from federal, state and local sources — is insufficient.

A century ago, many school districts owned property bestowed on them by law when the land was first surveyed and platted. This land was used for school-yards, rented to farmers and sold, Today very few school districts own income property, and even those rare exceptions, such as the Chicago Board of Education with its several Loop properties, derive only a tiny percentage of operating revenues from income property. Another minute portion of school expenses is covered by bequests in wills and donations by civic groups such as PTAs. The only significant source of local revenue is the property tax.

Historically, the local property tax was the largest revenue source for public schools. State and federal funding was inconsequential. The 1964-65 school year saw local property taxes generate $855 million for Illinois schools, 70 per cent of total revenues. The state provided 27 per cent; the federal government 2 per cent. Ten years later, the 1974-75 school year saw property tax collections of $1,782 million. Although this figure was 108 per cent higher than 10 years earlier, it amounted to only 46 per cent of total school revenues. The state contribution had risen to nearly 40 per cent; federal funding was almost 6 percent. The 1975-76 school year found state funds exceeding local property tax revenues for the first time. What has happened to local school taxes in the last 10 years to reduce their former commanding role in school financing?

Dynamics of the tax
To begin to answer this question, one must first understand the dynamics of the property tax. In addition to education, property taxes fund many other local public functions such as county and city governments, fire protection, parks, sewage treatment, mosquito abatement, etc. The property tax levied to provide all these services is an annual ad valorem tax on real property and on personal property owned by corporations and certain partnerships and estates. "Ad valorem" means that the amount of the tax is related to the value of the property — not to the number of bedrooms in a house or the horsepower of a car's engine. The term "real property" refers to land, buildings, other structures attached to the land such as windmills or dams, minerals in the earth and other legal interest in land. "Personal property" is everything else: automobiles, furniture, livestock and other movable goods.

Many owners of real property are not required to pay any tax at all on their property; these include the federal, state and local governments. Religious organizations are exempt from tax on property used for the religion; this covers churches, religious schools and similar property but not investment property even though the income is used for religious purposes. Likewise, certain charitable, medical, educational and scientific organizations are exempt from taxes on property used directly in activities that are thought to further the public good. A partial exemption from property taxes is provided for the elderly: $ 1,500 is deducted from the assessed value of their homes before the tax is calculated. Further tax relief comes from circuit breaker legislation which provides for refunding a portion of the property tax paid on the homes of elderly and disabled persons who have a low income.

The personal property tax on individuals was abolished in 1972. At present, private corporations are the major class subject to the personal property tax. The 1970 Illinois Constitution Article IX, Section 5(c) directs the General Assembly to replace this tax by 1979 with a nonproperty tax on corporations. it is not clear whether the legislature will comply with this constitutional mandate, but whatever the legislature decides, this portion of school revenues should remain intact barring a constitutional amendment or a shift in judicial interpretation.

The abolition of the individual personal property tax in 1972 reduced the property tax statewide by about $1 billion or about 2 per cent. The impact of this reduction was not felt in the Cook County area because the tax had been ignored there for years. Conversely, in downstate school districts, the impact on the tax was roughly double the state percentage.

The process of taxing property for schools starts with the preparation of a budget by the local school district. This budget is divided into various categories called "funds": education, operations,

10/ October 1977/ ss

building and maintenance, capital improvements, transportation, summer education, special or vocational education buildings, fire and safety, and bond retirement. After approval by the local school board, the budget is submitted to the county clerk who levies a tax upon taxable property in the school district sufficient to raise the money required to meet the budget. To levy the tax, the clerk calculates a tax rate which is a percentage of the taxable value of local property.

The catch here is that the state has set maximum tax rates for each fund which generally can be exceeded only if the voters approve by referendum vote. Since almost every school district needs as much money as possible, the budgets are carefully designed to require the clerk to levy the maximum tax rate for each fund. Thus the tax rate ceiling limits the budget, not the other way around.

Assessment is the process whereby the values of specific pieces of property are determined and placed on the tax rolls. Typically a township or county assessor is empowered to inspect parcels and, based upon experience and utilizing standard methods, estimate the current market value of the property. This determination can be adjusted or appealed before a final entry is made to the tax rolls.

Since such a value will soon change in response to improvements, deterioration inflation, altered surrounding circumstances, the economic climate, etc., reassessment is necessary. Illinois law requires assessors to reassess all property at least every four years. More frequent reassessments are common. Specific parcels which have been improved by construction are reassessed immediately; certain areas of a county may be reassessed more quickly than others if rapid fluctuations in prices are suspected. In any event, every taxable piece of property should have a fairly recently assessed value.

Multiplier for equalization
A strange twist is added at this point. The "assessed value" of property in Illinois is by law declared to be 33 1/3 per cent of the actual market value of the property. An exception is Cook County where various classes of property are assessed at different levels — some above 33 1/3 per cent, others below. In most of the state though, a $30,000 house will be listed for tax purposes as having a value of $10,000.

But, that's not the last step. A state agency, the Department of Local Government Affairs, has been assigned the task of assuring that all counties assess at the same level. The purchase price is determined by using the property transfer tax on the sales price of every real estate transaction. This actual market value is compared to the assessed value multiplied by three. This comparison is done for urban and rural property in. each county. The department can then calculate a tax "multiplier" to equalize the assessing variations from county to county.

Table 1

The main purpose for the multiplier arises from the state school aid formula. This formula is designed to apportion state education funds on the basis of local effort. This local effort is measured by the school tax rate. If the school tax rate drops below a minimum figure set by the state, state aid is reduced. The opportunity for chicanery arises in assessing local property. Intentionally low assessments, such as 25 percent of market value instead of the required 33 1/3 per cent, would allow raising the tax rate without actually raising the amount of taxes paid. The equalization multiplier makes this dodge more difficult. The equalization process also can help spot inequities between townships and between urban and rural property. Finally, the multiplier gives the assessors a continual review of the accuracy of their work.

Typical multipliers are between 0.900 and 1.500, but some are even smaller and others much higher. A multiplier of 1.050 would raise the assessed valuation of a $30,000 home from $10,000 to $10,500. If the local elementary school tax rate was 1.5 per cent, expressed as .0150, the annual tax on the owner of this hypothetical home would be $157.50 for the elementary schools. The high school district tax might well be about the same.

The two most important variables in determining how much property tax is levied are the tax rate and the total equalized assessed value. Increases in the tax rate can generally only be accomplished by referendum. The school referendum allows the aggrieved taxpayer to express complaints about high taxes and government profligacy. These referenda come in two types: proposals to raise tax rate ceilings and bond issues requiring voter endorsement. in these elections the taxpayer can say "no" not just to the question at issue but — at least symbolically -- to increased taxes and expanding government in general. Unfortunately, for the school children this approach often means that they must bear the brunt of public ire over the excessive appropriations of legislators in. Springfield and Washington whose tax proposals are

October 1977/ Illinois Issues / 11

not directly tested by election.

Has the stinginess of taxpayers caused the school financing woes? Statewide data shows that from 1967 to 1973 the average tax rate for schools, weighted according to property and students, rose from .0287 to .0362 — a 26.1 per cent rise. The cost of living index rose 33 per cent during that same period and the per capita disposable income rose 50 per cent. At first glance the voters' performance may appear wanting, but remember that this tax rate rise was three-fourths of the inflation rate and one-half of the increase in income, without considering reassessment.

Factors of inflation
From 1967 to 1973 the total Illinois equalized assessed value of taxable property rose 19 per cent, from $42.1 billion to $50.2 billion.* Combined with the 26.1 per cent rise in the tax rate, this increase meant a rise in elementary and secondary school property tax extensions of 50 per cent: from $1.21 billion in 1967 to $1.82 billion in 1973. This 50 per cent rise in local school property taxes is equal to the 50 per cent rise over the same period in per capita disposable income.+ Therefore, the property tax payers cannot be accused of being stingier with the schools. In fact, when the sums generated for public schools by state and federal taxes are added to the local property taxes, the data for Illinois shows that from 1966 to 1972, the percentage of per capita income that was paid for schools rose from 3.8 per cent to 5.5 per cent. This 5.5 per cent figure has remained fairly constant through 1975.

The rise in total assessed valuation, however, is less than might be expected. A tax based primarily on the value of real property would seem to provide an excellent hedge against inflation. Farmers know that the prices paid for Illinois farmland have been skyrocketing. Builders and would-be homeowners have watched dramatic increases in construction costs hike the prices of both new and old buildings. These price rises result from two economic factors: general inflation and expansion of the economy. General inflation particularly raises land prices because the supply of land is constant and new technologies cannot make it cheaper or outmoded.

Anyone familiar with realty knows that an investment in real property will usually retain its value relative to other investments despite use to earn income or derive other benefits. Furthermore, the expansion of both population and per capita real income are accompanied by new construction and repair and remodeling to provide more housing and business space. In an expanding economy, therefore, the total value of real property should increase at a rate greater than inflation. An examination of the most recent Illinois property statistics fails to show this.

From 1960 to 1970 the total Illinois equalized assessed value of property increased 33.3 per cent. Over the same period the consumer price index rose 31 per cent — about the same rate. But from 1970 to 1975 the assessed value — adjusted to negate the influence of the abolition of the personal property tax on individuals — rose only 17 per cent. In the same period the consumer price index rose nearly 40 per cent — over twice as fast.

The most distressing figures are the most recent. Assessed value from 1972 to 1975 rose only 6.6 per cent while inflation raced ahead 29 per cent. Since statewide property assessment data since 1975 is not yet available, one can only speculate whether assessed values have risen at inflation rates. Even optimistic estimates, however would be well below the 1976-77 annual inflation rates of 8 - 12 per cent.

Statistics of average purchase prices for used homes in the Chicago metro politan area from 1967 to 1976 show increases slightly larger than those of the consumer price index. This tends to support the hypothesis that existing property appreciates at or above the inflation rate. The further assumption that new construction and increased demand for land by a growing economy will add enough value to total property values to keep up with total disposable income is not verified. However, growth and expansion surely do occur and must amount to a large sum.

Reasons for tax loss
We can estimate how much money is involved in the imbalance between assessed values and inflation and between assessed values and personal incomes. If the taxable property in 1968 had been maintained and replaced so that similar land, buildings and personal property were in existence in 1973; and if the prices of the property had inflated at the same rate as consumer prices as measured by the consumer price index, the equalized assessed dollar value in 1973, excluding the individual personal property, would have been $55.0 billion, rather than the actual $50.2 billion. The difference is a $4.8 billion shortfall


*Source: "Illinois Property Tax Statistics," 1966-1975. Department of1 Local Government Affairs. +Source: U.S. Department of Commerce figures.

12 / October 1977 / Illinois Issues

which if taxed for schools at the 1973 average rate of .0362, means $ 174 million less for the schools in 1973, It the 1968 property had been expanded and enhanced in value at the same rate as the growth of real disposable personal income in Illinois. the equalized assessed dollar value would have been (64 4 billion -- $14.2 billion more than the actual 1973 total assessments. If the average school tax rate is applied against this sum, the amount that would be raised is a staggering $511 million. The $174 million is about 8 per cent of total school property tax revenues in 1973; the $511 million is nearly 25 per cent.

The recent failure of assessed values of property to keep up with inflation, much less with personal income growth. is something of a mystery. One factor was the abolition of the personal property tax on individuals in 1970. Although hard data is not available, an estimated $1 billion, or 2 percent, was dropped from the tax rolls. The data used above, however, was corrected to eliminate the influence of the end of this tax, so the question remains. One explanation is that a larger portion of wealth is being spent on personal property than in the past. This may be a factor in the growing gap between income growth rates and assessed valuation rises, but it does little to explain the sudden leap ahead of inflation rates over assessed valuation figures.

Another hypothesis points to the lag in the assessment, taxation and disbursement process as the critical factor. Indeed, the procedure followed in laying the Illinois property tax is ill-suited to inflationary times. The levy for a given year is based upon the equalized assessed values for the preceding year. If reassessment occurs every four years as state law requires as a maximum, the average age of assessments on the tax rolls will be two years old- Already the tax collected is three years behind inflating costs. Over a period of time when the inflation rate is fairly constant. the increase in assessed value will be fairly constant. However, when inflation really leaps ahead, the effect will not be seen in the taxes until the reassessment process catches up a couple of years later. This hypothesis Provides a fairly good explanation for the years 1960 to 1972, but fails to deal with the slowdown in assessed valuegrowth from 1972 to 1975.

Another theory has been put forward to explain the mystery of these recent years. The assessors in the 1960's were slowly adjusting the assessed valuations toward the unenforced statutory requirement that assessments be equal to 50 per cent of actual market value. When legal action created an immediate threat that this 50 per cent level would be enforced, the legislature passed a bill in 1971 reducing the requirement to 33 1/3 per cent, effective 1975. Assessors immediately, so the theory goes, began a

The property tax has begun to fall out of favor because it often fails to satisfy a principle of taxation: apportion the burden of taxation on the basis of ability to pay

slow readjustment of values backdown toward 33 1/3 per cent. This resulted in small increases in assessed value from 1972 to 1975 despite accelerating inflation, Unfortunately, this hypothesis defies verification and cannot alone account for all of the observed shortfall in these years.

Debate on the tax
Over the years the property tax has begun to fall out of favor because it often fails to satisfy a principle of taxation: apportion the burden of taxation on the basis of ability to pay. Ability to pay is the touchstone of the income tax, and it is in comparison to the income tax that the property tax fails to measure up. Especially hard pressed are the family farmers and the retired. The latter, often living in appreciating homes on fixed incomes, find it increasingly hard to make ends meet. For them the homestead and circuit breaker tax relief provisions are available. Farmers are in a business requiring huge capital investments in land, and the concomitant property taxes become a major business expense. Some relief has recently been provided by a state law directing assessment of agricultural land to be based upon value as used rather than value derived from potential for more lucrative uses. Thus a farm in the path of urban development will not be taxed at actual market value until the potential is actually realized.

Another principle often invoked by framers of tax legislation is that the burden of the tax should be apportioned to those receiving the benefits of the tax funds. For a drainage district or a fire protection district a property tax thereby makes some sense, but for a school district there is little relationship between property taxes and education benefits. Therefore it comes as no surprise that, with the advent of a state income tax, many favor shifting education expenses to the state.

One more line of argument against the school property tax points out that although federal grants and the state aid allocation formula have gone a long way toward equalizing per pupil expenditures in different districts, the wealthy districts are still capable of spending more than the poorer districts. In order to further equalize educational funding, many support a continued shift to state and federal financing. These people maintain that every child in the state should have an equal educational opportunity regardless of the circumstances of the school district in which the student happens to reside.

On the other side of the discussions on school taxes are those who see a threat to liberty. With the continuing transfer of funding from local sources to state and federal sources, some fear a loss of local control over schools. It is bad enough that decisions on matters such as number of school days and safety requirements are made from afar, but the specter of complete state regulation of curriculum, books, teacher salaries and discipline codes raises strong opposition among many.

Another reason given for retaining the local property tax for schools is more pragmatic. The schools need all the money they can get, and this is one source that is sure to be there next year. A new legislature can change the allocation formula; Congress can cut education funds; but the property tax will continue to provide a big chunk of money. It is hard to get people to accept taxes; but old, familiar taxes like the property tax are likely to resist the winds of change. 

October 1977 / Illinois Issues / 13

We have applied the bold and italic emphasis ourselves to illustrate what we believe has not changed since 1977 and what needs fixing.

ur "representatives" in State government continue to fiddle while Rome burns and we are fed up with it.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

"Land Stewardship" Program Still A Question Mark

Illinois landowners still cannot sign up for the conservation program that will let them pay reduced property taxes in exchange for managing woodlands, prairies and wetlands for wildlife. Hasn't anyone told Springfield that the year is nearly over?

The law was to take effect immediately upon signing by the Ayatollah , erhh, we mean the Governor, on the first of October. So far, no sign-up is available through the Illinois Department of Natural Resources for the program.

The lack of a sign-up could mean that landowners will pay property taxes on non-agricultural land at a much higher tax rate until the new law is implemented.

Happy Hanukkah

The Jewish Festival of Lights is upon us.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Jethro Bodine Turns 70 Years Old!

On Dec 4, 1937 Max Baer jr. was born in Oakland, California to the former heavyweight boxing champ, Max Baer (see the June 3, 2005 entry for an interesting take on the real Cinderella Man History or check out this article defending Max Baer Sr.).

Monday, December 03, 2007

Illinois Anniversary of Statehood Today

Illinois joined the Union 189 years ago today - that's 1818 for the numerically challenged.

Remember when you were proud to be from Illinois? Today it is almost an embarrassment.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Gallup: Republicans Rate Themselves With Better Mental Health

We're just going to publish a couple of these graphs from a recent Gallup Poll and let them speak for themselves:

No real surprises here if one carefully thinks through the ramifications.

U.N. Rates "Best", "Worst" Countries In Which To Live

The U.N.'s "Human Development Report" 2007/2008 rated Iceland the most desirable place to live in the world. Countries were rated in terms of their "human development index". After Iceland, the next nine "best places to live" are: Norway, Australia, Canada, Ireland, Sweden, Switzerland, Japan, the Netherlands, and France. The United States (not pictured) came in 12th, a drop from eighth place in 2006. The AIDS-devastated African nations of Burkina Faso and Sierra Leone came in last. The full report can be found here.

No word yet on why the authors insist upon living in New York.

Nebraska: 40% Of Corn Crop Goes To Ethanol

Apparently, Nebraska is sending a lot of food to be burned.

Nebraska is the third ranked state with regard to corn production in the U.S, and second in the production of ethanol.

With three new plants added in November, annual corn demand for ethanol production in Nebraska passed the 500-million-bushel mark for the first time, using 37% of Nebraska's corn.

Here's Your Share!

Thanks to a loyal reader, we have the Woodford County (2004) Contribution to Property Tax Extensions by type of property. They reflect an interesting disconnect between revenue generators' and homeowners' share of the tax burden:

Property Type % of Total
Residential 68 %
Commercial 20 %
Industrial 11 %
Farm 1.6 %
Railroads .1 %

Friday, November 30, 2007

Eureka Public Library Online Presence

The time has come for us to clear up a few things about the Eureka Public Library, Eureka, Illinois, and the so-called "complaint" registered with the Illinois Attorney General.

A few months ago, Citizens for Transparency in Government, the publisher of WoodfordTaxFacts.org, wrote a note to Lisa Madigan via the Attorney General's online messaging feature, simply asking for clarification on last year's amendments to the "Illinois Open Meetings Act" laws. The changes require that publicly funded entities post minutes and agendas of meetings on their websites if the sites are maintained by employees of the taxing authority.

Next thing we know, we receive a copy of a letter to the library from the Attorney General telling them they have ten days to respond to a "complaint" they received on the library's compliance with the open meetings act provisions.

OK. Fine. There was no "complaint", but we thought it would be interesting to see how the library responded.

We received a copy of the library's letter back to the A.G. Their defense, essentially, is that they are not currently updating their website at all and so are not bound by the Open Meetings Act provisions. They basically shut down their website rather than go to the "expense" of posting agendas and minutes.

We suppose that is one approach to transparency.

The library has a bit of confusion apparent as to the law. They must believe that "full time" employee refers to an employee who's full time job is to maintain the website. This is not the case. "Full time" refers to regular employees who happen to maintain the website - just for clarification.

Our point here though really, is that we never filed a complaint. We simply were asking for clarification on the fine points of the law. We apologize for any trouble we caused Eureka Public Library. We also encourage them to post minutes, agendas, and Board email addresses and phone numbers on their website. It would only take a few minutes a month. We'd be glad to help in any way we can.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Internet Can Enhance Local Government Transparency

The Union Leader in Manchester, N.H. (that bastion of anti-tax sentiment - "Live Free or Die") has an interesting article sounding notes ever more frequently heard across the country on transparency in government and how the internet can help:

Corruption can't flourish with someone watching over your shoulder. In government, that transparency is doubly important. Every government expenditure is made with money taken from people's pockets. Government has an obligation to explain to each of us why it took our money and what exactly it's doing with it . . .

Modern technology has created tools to make even the smallest details of government accessible to everyone. One hundred years ago, opening the books to public inspection would have been burdensome and impractical in all but the smallest of towns. But the Internet has changed that and created a national movement toward government transparency.

. . . Missouri's Web site, www.mapyourtaxes.mo.gov, is a good example of what's possible . . .

The general idea is to list online every government expenditure by name, date and amount . . . A transparency Web site is designed to show not just how much government is spending but the details of what our money is being spent on. Every person, company and amount will be listed so we know who received the money taken from us and what exactly it was for.

Knowing what is happening doesn't necessarily dictate a policy decision. That's why the transparency movement is being encouraged by both Grover Norquist, the most influential conservative taxpayer advocate, and Ralph Nader, longtime liberal consumer advocate.

For smaller towns, this task is relatively simple. Every transaction can be posted online. Credit card statements can be posted in their entirety so we know each charge, regardless of size.

Not everyone will bother checking the town Web site. But in each town there are a few dedicated souls who concern themselves with every little detail of government. Opening up the details to their eyes lets everyone know that someone's watching. That very transparency should keep anything from happening in all but the most extreme cases . . .

Sometimes leadership filters up. Once a few cities and towns start opening the doors of their government to the people, state government might start talking about it.

Unfortunately, today state government can't even tell us how much it spends in total on a regular basis . . . A little kick-start from the towns might be in order.

Or from the counties.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

ZOGBY: Clinton Trails Leading GOP Candidates

Released: November 26, 2007

Zogby Poll:

General election match-ups show the New York Senator would lose against every top Republican

UTICA, New York – A new Zogby Interactive survey shows Democrat Hillary Clinton of New York would lose to every one of the top five Republican presidential contenders, representing a reversal of fortune for the national Democratic front–runner who had led against all prospective GOP opponents earlier this year.

Meanwhile, fellow Democrats Barack Obama of Illinois and John Edwards of North Carolina would defeat or tie every one of the Republicans, this latest survey shows.
























































Illinois Tax Payers Pay for Open-Source Bias.

The Microsoft fact in Illinois by ZDNet's Paul Murphy -- The Illinois study is one of eight documents from the Microsoft web site, all intended to sell IT managers on the idea that a small commitment to Microsoft can be leveraged to produce significant budget and span of control gains.

Who Pays Property Taxes in Woodford County?

According to the Illinois Department of Revenue, the following is a breakdown of who pays property taxes:

Property Type % of Total
Residential 55.61%
Commercial 27.76%

Industrial 12.28%

Farm 3.89%

Railroads .40%

Could someone point us to these figures for Woodford County?

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Why Al Gore Can't Run Again For President

Joint Nobel prize winner Albert Arnold Gore, Jr. doesn't appear to be all that popular with Americans according to a recent Gallup poll:

Thursday, October 11, 2007

CUSD #140 Administrative Costs Up 57%

At its last meeting, the Congerville-Eureka-Goodfield Community Unit School District Board waived the state provision requiring the district to keep administrative expenses from rising at an annual maximum of 5 percent.

Administrative expenses are budgeted at $363,800 this year which represents a 57% increase over last year.

According to the Illinois State Board of Education figures over the last ten years, CUSD 140 "General Administration" spending has increased 49%, while "Instruction" spending increased at a 40% rate.

The district lost 32 students over that period of time!

"Operating Expense" per pupil increased 56%, which equates to $2,605 per student.

Hillary "Rob'em" Clinton

"I have a million ideas. The country can't afford them all."

- - - Hillary Clinton, 9-10-07, to Boston Globe Editorial Board

Trick or Treat, y'all.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Eureka Public Library Budget

Wow. Hold your breath or this one will knock it right out of you . . .

According to their website, the Eureka Illinois Public Library District serves a population of 6,231.

Most libraries show a "registered user" base somewhere between 60 - 85% of their district population. Let's be generous and assume Eureka's is 85%. That gives us 5,296 registered users. We couldn't find current figures, but in 2002, according to the Illinois Library Association's own figures, Illinois Libraries averaged around $25 in spending per capita; $54 in spending per registered user. Let's inflate that last number for the ensuing years and call it $57 per user now.

Eureka's 2007-08 budget calls for $617,000 in operating expenses which is a whopping $117 per user. Salaries, Health Insurance, and Retirement Funding alone is $285,000 which comes out to $54 per user per year! Don't even get us started on what is termed "travel" in the budget at $10,500. That is more than the line item expense for periodicals.

In fact, the personnel expense plus travel is nearly three times the amount budgeted for library materials (books, audiovisual, periodicals, and software)!"

Something is seriously wrong with this picture.

"Sir, step away from the property tax trough with your hands in plain sight!"

Friday, October 05, 2007

Ethanol Running Out Of Gas?

Several wire service articles and "local" papers have run pieces similar to this one from the PJS:
"Ethanol-fueled boom losing steam"

One of the most telling items was this from Chet Perry, president and CEO of Barrington-based ITEC Refining and Marketing:
"Everybody, in my opinion, is holding out to see what comes out of Washington in the next energy bill and the next farm bill," he said. "I know a lot of people in the industry would call me a Judas for saying this, but as long as you have mandates, it's a license to steal."
Indeed. Ain't government market intervention wonderful?

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Woodford County Agendas and Minutes/info

We shall endeavor to post monthly meeting agendas and minutes/budget information for our readers' convenience:

Woodford County Board -
Committee Minutes
Budgets - N.A.

Illinois Central College District #514 -
Committees - N.A.
Budgets - N.A.

Congerville-Eureka-Goodfield CUSD #140 -

Deer Creek-Mackinaw Unit No. 701 -

El Paso-Gridley CUSD #11 -
Agendas - N.A.
Committees - N.A.

Fieldcrest Community Unit No. 6 -
Committees - N.A.

Germantown Hills SD #69 -
Committees - N.A.

Lowpoint-Washburn CUSD #21 -
Agendas - N.A.
Minutes - N.A.
Committees - N.A.
Budgets [links broken]

Metamora Community Cons. District Unit No. 1 -
Budgets [links broken]

Metamora Township High School No. 122 -
Budgets ['07-08 missing]

Riverview Community Cons. School District #2 -
Committees -N.A.
Budgets [fiscal '07 missing]

Roanoke-Benson Community CUSD #60 -
Committees -N.A.

Eureka Public Library District -
Agendas - N.A.
Minutes - N.A.
Committees - N.A.
Budgets - N.A.

Illinois Prairie Public Library District -

Committees - N.A.
Budgets - N.A.

Grant Memorial Park District
Web Site - N.A.

Metamora Park District
Web Site - N.A.

Roanoke Park District
Web Site - N.A.

Village of Bayview Gardens

Village of Metamora

Village of Benson

City of Minonk

Village of Congerville

Village of Panola

City of El Paso

Village of Roanoke

City of Eureka

Village of Secor

Village of Germantown Hills

Village of Spring Bay

Village of Goodfield

Village of Washburn

Benson Fire Protection District
2040 Co. Rd. 2200 E, Benson IL 61516
Fire Chief-Randy Koehler (309) 394-2421

Congerville Fire Protection District
317 County Highway 8, Congerville IL 61729
Fire Chief-Dave Zobrist (309) 448-2384

El Paso Fire Protection District
247 E. Front St, PO Box 56, El Paso IL 61738
Fire Chief-Dale Uphoff (309) 527-2555

Eureka-Goodfield Fire Protection District
PO Box 2, 211 North Main St., Eureka IL 61530
Fire Chief-Craig Neal (309) 467-6181

Germantown Hills Fire Protection District
313 Prairie Ave., Metamora IL 61548
Fire Chief-Mathew "Chip" Wilmont (309) 383-4890

Metamora Rural Fire

1472 Lourdes Rd, Metamora IL 61548
Fire Chief-Fred Glueck (309) 367-2640

Minonk Fire Protection District
PO Box 32, Minonk IL 61760
Fire Chief-Bill Herman, Jr. (309) 432-2844

Roanoke Fire District
106-108 West Broad, Box 748, Roanoke IL 61561
Fire Chief-Jeff Smith (309) 923-8351

Secor Fire District
Box 17, Secor IL 61771
Fire Chief-Greg Slayton (309) 744-5358

Spring Bay Fire District
200 Ronald Road, East Peoria IL 61611
Fire Chief-Dennis Perry (309) 822-0152

Washburn Fire District
2004 Co. Rd. 00N, Washburn IL 61570
Fire Chief-Jesse Erkman (309) 248-7219

Tip o' the Hat to www.woodford-county.org . . .

More to follow . . . stay tuned . . .

"Pluralistic Ignorance" in the United States of America

The editorial staff at the Bloomington Pantagraph writes:

You read it here first, so you should believe it

Sunday, September 23, 2007 11:01 PM CDT

Anyone who regularly reads Internet blogs, comments made after stories on www.pantagraph.com and even letters to the editor on this page has seen how many people can ardently, fervently believe something no matter how much contradictory information is available.

The old Mark Twain quotation that “a lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes” may have been a humorous observation in his day but it’s deadly accurate in the era of the World Wide Web.

For those who are troubled by that, there’s no comfort in a recent study by University of Michigan social psychologist Norbert Schwarz. He found that even when people are told by an authoritative source that something is not true, a large percentage of them will erroneously remember the false information as true. Worse, they will attribute the false information to the source that tried to debunk it.

A lot depends on what people hear first — the correct information or the myth, according to Schwarz and other researchers.

The situation would be almost comical if not for the serious implications.

Schwarz’s latest research involved a myth vs. fact flier distributed by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention regarding the flu vaccine.

But such examples also have been witnesses— and most likely will continue to be seen — in political campaigns, whether it’s the issue of which candidate is “smarter” than the other or what a candidate did decades earlier while serving in a combat zone.

Political consultants are well aware of the phenomenon — confirmed by these researchers — that repetition leads more people to believe something, even if the repetition is from an unreliable source or involves individuals trying to debunk the information.

But ignoring a falsehood won’t make it go away.

In the “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” category is research finding that failure to respond promptly to accusations leads many people to believe they are true.

Just ask unsuccessful presidential candidate John Kerry.

Therefore, whether you are the CDC or a political candidate, you have to do your best to get your message out and hope for the best. There is not a lot you can do about human nature.

But there is something we, as individuals, can do — and must do.

We can be careful consumers of information who read things carefully and consider the source or sources.

We respond:

Woodford Pundit wrote on Sep 24, 2007 7:22 AM:

The unfortunate side effect of this pervasive 'factual relativism" is the development of what some writers have termed "the decline of truth" in the U.S. and the fact that, despite any and all evidence to the contrary, a lot of people today think they are smarter and more knowledgeable than they objectively are proven to be.

This, in turn, has led to a feeling on these folks part that they are somehow "more special" than others and somehow "better" and should not have to abide by the rules and conditions of "the others" in society. ["The others" tending to be everyone but themselves.] When confronted with fact and reason they tend to shut/shout down discussion with, "deal with it" or "grow up", or with cries of "racist!"

The Pantagraph wisely avoids mentioning specific issues demonstrative of the "I's knows what I's knows and ain't no facts gonna make no difference" attitude. Empirical, evidential reasoning seems dead. The ancient Greeks must be turning over in their graves. Wait . . . you know they're not really dead . . . "We heard that in an email we got from an online blog we read (well, we looked at the pictures anyway . . . )."

Another article we were reading recently states:
". . . Sociologists call it pluralistic ignorance. It's this concept where reality applies to everybody but me," says Kevin Wehr, an assistant professor of sociology at California State University, Sacramento. "We justify things because we think we're better or different from other people. But, of course, we are not better than others. We are just as bad as the next folk."

Track Federal Spending - If You Can!

A tip o' the Blogging Hat to Mark Schaver of The Courier-Journal, Louisville, Kentucky for this:

... using the new, free FFATA Portal. A spokesman for Global Computer Enterprises, Inc., the private company that created the site, told Federal Computer Week that "the goal of the search portal is to make the information easy to find by taking out the government jargon." The site explains:

The portal offers free, instant access to contracts and grants awarded across the federal government via a user-friendly free text search and dynamic reporting tool. No login or registration is required – the public has instant access to federal spending information and the ability to create custom reports from that information. This site is not associated with any government agency and is provided free of charge from GCE.

By providing more transparency in government, this site is the easy way to track federal spending and your tax dollars at work. Users are able to search government contracts, grants data, and earmark grants from the appropriations process.

OMB Watch is another private entity that offers a federal spending database.

We need to stay on top of this spending machine in Washington. We may not be able to stop it but we can certainly attempt to expose it.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Saudis Abandoning "Peg" To The Dollar?

Saudi Arabia has refused to cut interest rates in lockstep with the US Federal Reserve for the first time, signalling that the oil-rich Gulf kingdom is preparing to break the dollar currency peg in a move that risks setting off a stampede out of the dollar across the Middle East.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Everything You Always Wanted To Know About Illinois Property Tax Law

Here is a complete listing of Illinois Property Tax laws, exemptions, and processes for your perusal and archives in .PDF format.

For all of the Woodford County grousing about the potentialities of PTELL, we notice a lack of concern on the part of the various taxing authorities regarding the "elephant in the closet" (from page 25):

"Senior Citizens Homestead Exemption — Your property qualifies for this exemption if
• you are at least 65 years old;
• you own and occupy the property as a residence (or lease and occupy a single-family
residence; and
• you are required to pay the property taxes for the residence.
The maximum amount of the exemption from equalized assessed value is $2,000 ($2,500 in
Cook County.)
Senior Citizens Assessment Freeze Homestead Exemption — You qualify for this exemption if
• you are at least 65 years old;
• your total household income is $40,000 or less; and
• you meet certain other qualifications.
This exemption “freezes” your property’s equalized assessed value the year that you qualify for
the exemption. Your property’s equalized assessed value does not increase as long as you
qualify for the exemption. Your tax bill may still increase if any tax rates are increased or if you
add improvements that increase the value of the property."
Imagine what happens to the assessed valuations in Illinois when the "baby boomers" all start claiming the above exemptions; And you're worried about PTELL? Better get used to belt tightening regardless of PTELL or not. The halcyon days are just about over. Who do you think is going to pick up the slack? The slacker generation? Pensions, benefits, Medicare, and a dwindling property tax base are about to come home to roost and you won't be able to tax your way out of this one. Read Alan Greenspan's new book for clarification. It's simple demographics.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Monday, September 03, 2007

Guest Commentary on Property Taxes

Published Sunday, September 2, 2007

What state needs is a taxpayer revolt

The Henderson County [North Carolina] Board of Commissioners decided to place a referendum on the November ballot concerning a proposed transfer tax which will be paid by sellers when they sell their properties. The proposed tax will at least help seniors because they aren't "playing the housing market" like many of their neighbors.

The real issue that should be addressed is the basic inequity of the ad valorem property tax.

Just because others in Henderson County are making money by selling their homes for high prices, others who don't plan to sell are victimized by an increase in the assessment of their homes.

If the present trends continue, seniors who have either lived here all their lives or moved from other states are confronted with the same dilemma which faced home owners in California in the mid-'70s.

If a stock increases in value, the owner is not required to pay any tax on the increased value until and unless the stock is sold. Then the stock will be taxed at the appropriate capital gains rate.

For some homeowners who had the good (bad) fortune to be living in highly appreciated real estate, the bad news was that California intended to take its pound of flesh every year, no matter how high the property taxes rose and regardless of the intention of the owner to sell the home or the ability of the homeowner to pay the increased taxes.

Home prices appreciated wildly in much of California, resulting in a windfall for home sellers and those in the real estate-related industries (brokers, title insurers, property insurers) but which forced some homeowners living on fixed incomes to consider selling their properties in order to pay the rapidly increasing property taxes, which were based on comparable sales in the area.

This situation became intolerable for many people in California. What became known as the "tax revolt" rocked California. The chief rebels were Howard Jarvis and Paul Gann and the initiative they sponsored was known as Proposition 13.

On June 6, 1978, nearly two-thirds of California voters passed Proposition 13 which reduced property taxes on homes, businesses and farms by about 57 percent. The tax assessment year was rolled back to the 1975-1976 tax year and the assessment was set at 1 percent of the 1975-1976 valuation. There was immediate relief for all property taxpayers. Please note that prior to the passage of Proposition 13, 100 percent increases in property taxes were not unusual.

The amendments to the California constitution mandated that property tax rates couldn't exceed 1 percent of the property's market value and future increases couldn't exceed 2 percent per year, thereby giving predictability to future property taxes. This system is still in effect and will remain so until and unless the state constitution is amended.

In the days leading up to the referendum, gloomy forecasts predicted the decline and ultimate demise of public education and a precipitous decline in public services offered by the state.

Opponents of Proposition 13 claimed that $6 billion to $7 billion in property tax revenue would be lost. Since counties and schools depended heavily on property tax revenues, there was an understandable outcry from all quarters about the elimination or decline in essential local services, such as police and fire. Education which was funded almost exclusively by property taxes was certain to collapse. But California survived.

A lawsuit by Stephanie Nordlinger made its way to the U.S. Supreme Court (Nordlinger v. Hahn). Nordlinger alleged that the 1 percent valuation provision in Prop 13 was unfair because it resulted in neighbors paying wildly disparate property taxes, sometimes five times more than the "older" neighbor.

The Supreme Court upheld the judgment of the court of appeal, and the 1 percent rate is still the law in California.

New purchasers pay more than their neighbors. Property taxation is predictable and not subject to the whims of elected officials.

What can be done to avoid the California situation? First, the county should freeze assessments for seniors (65 to 70) at the current level. Second, we need a North Carolina Jarvis and Gann to lead our citizens in a "tax revolt." Third, we must acknowledge that it is unlikely that our elected officials will act on their own to shut off the flow of easy money. Finally, spending at all levels be must be controlled by some sort of cap.

I hope we can find the right leaders for these difficult times.

Bob Stevens was a licensed lawyer in California for two years and a licensed real estate broker for 24 years. Since moving here [Henderson County, N.C.] in 2003, he has taught business law courses at A-B Tech and an introductory business law course at Mars Hill College.