Where did $454 Million In Property Taxes Go?

By Tom Tresser -TIF Illumination Project

Did you know that someone took $454 million in Chicago property taxes from us in 2011?

That “someone” was Chicago’s 163 Tax Increment Financing (TIF) districts spread across the city.

A TIF district is a special branch of the city government that is created to spur economic development. The district captures property taxes to give them to private developers for projects that are deemed public benefits. TIF money is also used by the city to make public improvements, such as streetscapes, school construction and other public building work. TIF money can only be used for physical projects, not for hiring teachers, policemen, after-school counselors, park district coaches, librarians or doctors.

TIFs are supposed to create development in so called “blighted” communities.

Does A Village of 3,000 People Need A $6 Million Village Hall?

The Village of East Dundee planned to swap the obsolete firehouse with the East Dundee Fire Protection District to use as a new police station once the $5 million referendum passed. Voters approved the referendum for a new firehouse back in November.

Last Monday the trustees and public saw the proposed plans for the first time. Instead of a simple remodel of the firehouse, the plan unveiled was a complete expansion and redo of the current village hall and firehouse next door. The plan is expected to cost over $6 Million.

Voting Practices in the Statehouse

by Scott Reeder

For the life of me, I’ll never understand why lawmakers are too lazy to push their own voting buttons.

After all, that’s what we pay them to do: vote on our behalf.

Back in 1988 when I first covered the Illinois General Assembly, a lawmaker proudly pulled a seven-foot-long piece of No. 9 wire from under his desk and showed me he could not only vote for himself, but also use his wire stick to press the voting buttons on all the empty desks around him – without even getting up from his chair.

The practice of lawmakers having others operate their voting button is not only commonplace – in Illinois, it’s expected.

The Statehouse press corps has pretty much stopped reporting on the practice. After all, it has been going on for generations.

If you are surprised by this, it’s because you haven’t watched more than five minutes of the Illinois House of Representatives in action.

If you have, you’ve witnessed chaos.

Spiking, Tapping, Double-Dipping: The Lingo of Pension Abuse

by Andy Shaw, President and CEO of the Better Government Association

Illinois lawmakers are returning to Springfield on Wednesday for a special session on the pension crisis.

They’re searching for a plan that’s fiscally sound, constitutional, politically palatable and capable of winning passage in the Legislature.

So far they haven’t found it, which is no surprise because it’s a daunting challenge.

But they have to, and soon, because state and local pension systems are heading toward insolvency, and current pension obligations are gobbling up too many scarce budget dollars.

So reform is imperative, and that means — in addition to a comprehensive fiscal solution — a targeted ethical cleansing that outlaws the blatant abuses that enrich connected insiders at taxpayer expense.

Watchdogs have been exposing those scams for years, including last week’s BGA report in the Sun-Times about a dubious pension “sweetener” that was quietly engineered by the Daley administration in ’08 to boost former fire commissioner Ray Orozco’s pension by $27,000 a year.

$26,835 still owed to East Dundee Taxpayers

June 17, 2013

Back in 2011 when the village loaned $30,000 to Cozzi Discount Grocers, they were expected to stay in the village a minimum of 5 years and repay that loan through local sales.

Well the store left East Dundee in May 2012 and I have been asking about this money since the fall of 2012. Now 9 months later new Village President Lael Miller directed staff to stop ignoring my questions.

It turns out Cozzi only collected $3,165 in local sales taxes from August 2011 through May 2012. Therefore, it appears they still owe the Village $26,835 in sales taxes or direct payment.

AMBULANCE BILLING FEES

banner james carlini - Carlini's Corner

By James Carlini

We have all heard about the municipality in California that has paid some of its administrators with six-figure salaries as well as six-figure pensions, but we think that is a very rare occurrence and that our own municipality would never get that bad.

Look closely at your own municipality and its agencies. Are they gouging you on the price of services? Are you paying double compared to the city next door?

I would have never thought that about my small Midwest community, but after needing an ambulance, I was in shock when we got the bill. We already pay for the fire department, East Dundee Fire Protection District (Illinois), and its pension fund on two separate line items on our property tax bill. What are we paying for? Where does all that money go?

The Answer Is a Longer Yellow

Red-light cameras have become a lucrative form of taxation.
by HOLMAN W. JENKINS, JR. | Wall Street Journal

In Chicago, voters are familiar with human nature. This may explain why no one believes Mayor Rahm Emanuel when he says concern for children is the motive for his promotion of anti-speeding cameras to milk money from the city’s motorists.

A Chicago Tribune poll finds even those most inclined to support the cameras were cynical about Mayor Rahm’s motives: “Senior citizens and women voters were evenly split on whether they favored or opposed cameras, but they showed broad consensus that they believed Emanuel sought cameras to raise revenue, not save lives.”

When governments are engaged in sleazy new forms of taxation, sleaze happens. In fact, speed cameras were the mayor’s consolation prize—which he hopes will generate $20 million a year in revenue—when Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn nixed his plea for casino gambling in the city.

And sleaze has happened, not unlike the scandals that two decades ago engulfed the private companies that run state lotteries. Last week three executives of Redflex Traffic Systems, an Australia-owned company that operates Chicago’s cameras, were fired over an alleged $2 million graft campaign aimed at the local official who oversaw the city’s camera contract, including gifts of Super Bowl tickets and trips to White Sox spring training.

Trends in Public Education

By  Veronique de Rugy – NRO

I continue to be amazed by this chart. Its author is Andrew Coulson at the Cato Institute and it shows there is no connection between the level of spending per student (adjusted for infation) and educational outcomes. Basically, real spending per capita has more than doubled since the 1970s and test scores have remained flat.

Coulson links to a Deloitte study showing that the same is true in the U.K.