Daily Herald|How St. Charles library had funds to grow despite voters' rejection

Executive Director of Taxpayers United of America, Rae Ann McNeilly, was quoted for a front page synopsis for the Daily Herald on expanding the St Charles Library.

Voters said “no” a few years ago to expanding the St. Charles library, but now library officials are pursuing a scaled-back expansion anyway.
They say they’ve saved up reserves for an $8.5 million addition that won’t entail a tax hike.

St. Charles library profits
2015: $1,156,337
2014: -$36,717 (deficit)
2013: $915,939
2012: $811,326
2011: $1,128,184
2010: $329,982
2009: $352,971
2008: $615,664
2007: $374,572
2006: $383,879
ALL: $6,032,137
Source: St. Charles Public Library audits

The problem, some critics say, is that if they weren’t contributing to reserves, taxpayers could have gotten a tax reduction.
That’s one of the tax issues included in this helping of something we like to call watchdog kibble, a collection of updates and investigations into tips from readers.
Also in this serving: Illinois State Police tally up their overtime costs in the investigation into disgraced Fox Lake police Lt. Joe Gliniewicz’s suicide, and the reasons why the Naperville Park District board voted to leave the Illinois Association of Park Districts.

‘Entitled’ to grow?

St. Charles Library District voters soundly rejected a $35 million expansion and tax hikes that would have paid for it and additional operational costs five years ago. But recently, library officials hired an architectural firm to design a scaled-down addition with a potential price tag of $8.5 million.

Library officials say the expansion will not require a property tax hike because they have the money set aside in a “special reserve fund.” Critics charge library officials are ignoring voters’ wishes by going forward with expansion plans and have been overtaxing residents for years to feed the reserve fund.

According to the library’s financial audits from 2006 to 2015, the district has generated $6,032,137 more than it spent during that time, mostly from property taxes. In 2015 alone, the library received nearly $7.5 million in property taxes, while spending less than $6.5 million.

If library officials had requested property taxes equal to its expenditures last year, it would have reduced its tax collections by more than 15 percent. That would have saved the owner of a $300,000 home in the district about $50 in property taxes last year, according to a Daily Herald analysis of the district’s tax levy.

Generally accepted accounting principles suggest at least two months of operating costs be kept in reserve by government agencies in case of emergency. The St. Charles library’s reserves amount to almost a year and a half of operating costs.

Library board President Tory Haines said the district, in Kane and DuPage counties, takes advantage of any property tax increases allowed under the state’s tax cap law, which limits how much a taxing body can receive based on the rate of inflation.

“We, being fiscally responsible, are entitled to levy what we’re entitled to,” Haines said. “It is in our fund and we have the right to spend it for the right things.”

But others say library officials are not being good stewards of the public’s taxes.

“You’re not entitled to a penny of my money that I don’t approve,” said Rae Ann McNeilly, executive director of Taxpayers United of America, a Chicago-based group that fights tax-hike measures throughout the country. “They’re totally disregarding what the voters clearly told them.”

In 2010, dual referendum questions failed to secure the funding necessary for expansion. Combined, nearly 57 percent of the votes rejected both requests.

But Haines believes voters didn’t want to pay extra for the addition, not that they don’t want it at all.

“We were asking the taxpayers for money at the time,” she said. “We have had requests for more space, more quiet study space. We have several areas where the staff are overcrowded. We’re responding to what our public has requested about needing a larger meeting space. The room we have now accommodates about 90 to 100 people and the last two programs we’ve had in there we’ve had to turn people away.”

The last time library officials polled users regarding potential upgrades was in 2007, officials said.

Library officials renovated the existing library in 2014, mainly replacing carpets and shelving.

Haines added that the board has not approved any expansion plans so far and hiring the architects to design any expansion and renovation is “exploratory.”

“We have made no firm commitment,” she said.

The next library board meeting is set for 7 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 11, according to the library’s website.

On the outs

Naperville Park District officials voted unanimously to leave the Illinois Association of Park Districts recently.

The vote came months after a Daily Herald investigation showed the statewide park district lobbying group’s leader, Peter Murphy, was being paid nearly $400,000 annually after a series of salary increases that also drove up taxpayer funding toward his eventual public pension.

Naperville’s exit cost the IAPD about $7,000 in annual dues, park district officials said.

Peter Murphy

Peter Murphy –

“If there’s a message, it’s to the taxpayers of Naperville that we’re trying to do our best managing taxpayer money,” said Naperville park board President Mike Reilly. “The IAPD will decide if it’s a message to them or not, but we’re not charging up a hill with a flag.”

Reilly said the park district relies on its attorneys, Ancel Glink, for guidance on policies and laws.

Glen Ellyn Park District officials suggested they might leave the IAPD as well, but a vote has been postponed until after the IAPD business meeting later this month. Glen Ellyn Park District Executive Director Dave Harris said board President Julia Nephew wants to attend the meeting to “see if there was any additional information presented” regarding Murphy’s salary and benefits before taking action.

“Following that, the board will certainly take official action,” Harris said.

IAPD officials said Naperville is the only district they are aware of to not renew its membership.

More Gliniewicz costs

A Daily Herald investigation in October revealed 49 suburban law enforcement agencies had spent nearly $200,000 on overtime assisting the Lake County Major Crimes Task Force in the first three weeks of the probe into the Sept. 1 death of Fox Lake police Lt. Charles Joseph Gliniewicz.

Joe Gliniewicz

Joe Gliniewicz –

Now, the Illinois State Police has added nearly $13,000 to that tally.

State police overtime costs were not included in the initial tally because agency officials requested additional time to respond to an open records request.

Eventually those costs were provided and amounted to $12,911, according to the state police response. Agency officials reported 54 troopers were paid an average of $66.06 for 190.5 hours of overtime assisting in the Gliniewicz investigation.

Task force officials said one trooper was assigned to the case for weeks, while the rest of the costs came in the initial days of the case, when Gliniewicz was thought to have been killed in the line of duty by assailants who escaped.

At $45,727, only the Lake County sheriff’s office, which provided 95 different employees to assist in the investigation, spent more on overtime during that time, according to the analysis.

Task force officials said they got help from more than 90 local law enforcement agencies, as well as several federal agencies and the Illinois State Police.

Investigators later determined Gliniewicz had staged his suicide to look like he had succumbed to a gunshot wound during a struggle with multiple offenders. Investigators said he killed himself in an attempt to cover up years of embezzlement and fraud he had perpetrated through his time as leader of a youth program affiliated with the Fox Lake Police Department.

Jim Tobin: Fighting taxes is his only cause|August & September 1990|Illinois Issues

ii900829-1On a Saturday in June, Jim Tobin breezed to the door of House Speaker Michael J. Madigan’s home in Chicago, rang the bell and waited. The mission was simple. The state’s most famous tax protester confronts public enemy No. 1 for fighting against the Tax Accountability Amendment. The amendment, Tobin’s latest project, was a citizens’ initiative that would let voters decide if a super majority should be required for the Illinois General Assembly to raise taxes.
“Here’s what I have to say to Mr. Madigan: Stop the politics of Red Square before glasnost. Let the people vote, Michael Madigan. Let the people vote!” Tobin said. The response was predictable. No one opened the door for the pesky little man whose dark hair is thinning and beard is graying after 17 years of leading tax revolts.
No matter. A news photographer snapped a picture. The television stations did interviews. “I didn’t really want to confront him today,” Tobin confided later. And why should he? The mad-as-hell approach to fighting taxes is grabbing attention. At age 44, Jim Tobin may be making his mark.
Over the years, Tobin has stumped through so many Illinois cities that one would think he’s a candidate for statewide office. He’s pitched referendums that roll back property tax rates for about 15 Illinois communities. Of the 117 local property tax increase referendums he’s fought, only 11 survived. “What Jim Tobin represents is that frustration valve that average citizens need to feel,” said Douglas Whitley. president of the Taxpayers’ Federation of Illinois. “There’s pleasure in being the burr under the saddle.”
Jim Tobin for president? For state senator? For park board president? Forget it. The unmarried computer software salesman who teaches economics at Elmhurst College doesn’t want to be reduced to a “cog in the wheel” of government. Tobin envisions himself as a modern-day Patrick Henry beating back “tax-eating” politicians with the same fervor that inspired American colonists to topple the “tax-eating” British beginning in 1776. He dreams of becoming the Illinois version of Howard Jarvis, late co-sponsor of California’s Proposition 13. Approved by voters in 1978, the citizens’ initiative rolled back property taxes in California about 60 percent.
Advocating privatization of public schools and a 50 percent cut in all taxes, Jim Tobin wants to be a tax savior. The only thing he doesn’t want along the way is to be confused with Patrick Quinn. Political outsiders, tax reformers, cheerleaders for voters’ initiatives � on the surface it appears Tobin and Quinn are cut from the same cloth.
The truth is Tobin thinks Quinn’s a “tax shifter” who will lower homeowners’ property taxes for votes and then raise taxes of farmers and businesses to make up for it. “It would mean higher prices in goods and services, food and clothing. Either he’s an economic illiterate or he’s lying to the people,” Tobin charged.
Quinn’s assessment of Tobin isn’t much better: “He’s a hard guy to work with. He’s got extreme views. He hates government and public service. He basically believes in a system where firms and corporations pay no taxes.”
Since the Illinois Constitution restricts the scope of citizens’ initiatives, neither Quinn nor Tobin can promote the type of “anything-goes” propositions allowed in California. There is one way that voters’ initiatives can fly in Illinois: That’s by changing the structure and procedure of the General Assembly. Quinn did it in 1980 with a citizens’ initiative that cut the size of the Illinois House by a third. Tobin wanted to achieve a similar feat in 1990 with Tax Accountability, but on August 22 the Illinois Supreme Court ruled the initiative beyond the scope of the state Constitution. The amendment proposed to require all state tax increases be approved by a 60 percent vote in the General Assembly, the public get two weeks’ notice of tax increase proposals and state legislators sit fora limit of four years on revenue committees.
Tobin asked Quinn last year to join Tax Accountability. Quinn refused, believing the amendment unconstitutional and useless in reducing property taxes (they are not taxes of state government). Now Quinn’s running for state treasurer, but don’t expect Tobin to endorse him. “He’s a hypocrite. Almost everything he’s accused these political bureaucrats of doing, he’s done himself,” Tobin said. Tobin doesn’t like bureaucrats because he once was one, too.
August & September 1990/Illinois Issues/29

As an examiner for the Federal Reserve Bank in Chicago beginning in 1971, Tobin says he put up with government waste, brought corruption to the attention of supervisors and grew stagnant writing government reports. He questioned why one-third of his pay check went for taxes. He believed the Fed caused inflation. Tn 1980, he left. “I got fed up with the Fed,” says the man who matches a slogan with nearly every complaint on government he has.
When Tobin founded National Taxpayers United of Illinois in 1976, his parents were among the first members. As secretary, his mother stuffed envelopes and took telephone messages. “She worked tirelessly for her family and the taxpayers,” wrote Tobin in his newsletter, TAXNEWS, last winter shortly after she died. Even without her, Tobin and his father continued fighting � among other things, the Illinois sales tax imposed on his mother’s coffin, Tobin wrote.
His group, affiliated with the National Taxpayers Union in Washington, D.C., today boasts 5,000 members. The group has been chief financial sponsor, contributing $30,000 in seed money to Tax Accountability.
Prominent people who have belonged to National Taxpayers United of Illinois include Robert Marshall, the Libertarian who finished last in the March GOP primary for governer; former Roselle Village Trustee Gerry Walsh, elected as a Libertarian; and unsuccessful U.S. Senate candidate Judy Koehler, a very conservative Republican. While Tobin subscribes to the Libertarian philosophy that less is best when talking about taxes and government, he insists he’s neither a Libertarian nor a Republican nor a Democrat. Tax Accountability has attracted liberals, right-wingers, anti-abortionists, flag wavers and senior citizens, but Tobin himself steers clear of labels. Fighting taxes is his only cause.

No matter the outcome of Tax Accountability, Jim Tobin can’t lose and he knows it

He’s the guy who convinced at least 2,000 people not to pay Cook County property taxes in 1977. “He was complaining to everyone that would listen,” recalls Robert Hurka, Tobin’s lifelong friend. As kids, the two shot BB guns at hubcaps, took a car for a joy ride and had all the parties at Tobin’s west side Chicago home. “He talked to me about the tax strike a couple of times,” Hurka said. “I didn’t listen. I didn’t want to take the chance.”
While critics charge the tax strike was bad advice, putting those who participated at risk of losing their homes, Tobin says it did some good. The movement spurred Cook County to roll back taxes about 6 percent, Tobin believes. And Tobin didn’t lose the home his grandfather and father owned before him. He ended his strike in 1979 by paying his overdue taxes with interest penalties tacked on. Tobin remained in the Austin neighborhood after it began deteriorating. He was captain of the block, helped get sidewalks fixed and took his turn patrolling neighborhood alleys, neighbor Geraldine Kelly said.
“I see the government as responsible for destroying my neighborhood,” said Tobin, blaming unkempt government-subsidized homes that sprang up in his neighborhood for fueling the decay. In 1982, Tobin moved to west suburban Berwyn. By then, his tax striking days were a memory. The tax fight using local voter referendums had begun.
One of Tobin’s nastiest confrontations occurred in Madison County in 1980. Tobin and former anti-tax partner Richard Suter, later linked to securities fraud, refused at a taxpayers’ meeting to let Madison County officials speak against three property tax rollback proposals. Former Madison County Highway Supt. Les Miller called Tobin “a Hitler.” Tobin cried “The tax thieves are leaving!” as the public officials stormed out. It was enough to goad retired Illinois Appellate Court Justice George Moran into shaking a finger in Tobin’s face. “I thought we were going over there to hear a democratic debate. It was nothing like that,” Moran recalled.
Tobin still believes in Tax Accountability. He wants to stop a repeat of the so-called “tax massacre” in 1989 when $1.2 billion in tax increases passed the General Assembly in its final hours. He hoped the proposed amendment would be on the November ballot and serve as a lightning rod for other voters’ initiatives.
Up to 150 petition circulators were hired to collect signatures at up to 60 cents a name for Tax Accountability. Tobin says circulators were trained to ask voters to sign a petition that could make it tougher to raise taxes. His critics charge they misled voters into believing it could cut taxes. “On Earth Day in Lincoln Park, they were wandering around saying ‘Here’s a way to cut your taxes.’ It’s very similar to the way the LaRouchies used to solicit people at the airport,” charged Steve Brown, a spokesman for Madigan. LaRouchies are a painful memory for Illinois Democrats, who were caught by surprise in 1986 when followers of super conservative Lyndon H. LaRouche Jr. won Democratic primaries for lieutenant governor and secretary of state.
The Chicago Bar Association won in court with a unanimous decision by all seven justices to keep Tax Accountability off the ballot. Critics had said it was unconstitutional because it limits the power of the state legislature to raise revenue. Other charged it could mean higher local property taxes; If the General Assembly’s efforts to raise taxes for education and other services were stymed by a 60 percent vote rquirement, local governments would be forced to make up the balance with property taxes.
Even with Tax Accountability off the ballot, Jim Tobin can’t lose and he knows it. He’s courting angry taxpayers. “It’s a no-lose battle for me,” he crows. “If they raise taxes, I’ll just get more members. We’ll beat them eventually. Tenacity is my middle name.”
Laura Janota is a reporter for the Daily Herald, who works in its Chicago bureau.
30/August & September 1990/Illinois Issues

The McDonough County Voice|Tax watchdogs say public pensions ‘stolen’ from taxpayers

Taxpayers United of America’s president, Jim Tobin, was quoted during the latest pension release detailing the pension payouts of public employees in Fulton and McDonough counties by The McDonough County Voice.

MACOMB — With much attention being paid statewide on public employees’ salaries, layoffs and sweeping cuts to higher education and services, at least one group is suggesting another approach: pension reform.
Taxpayers United of America recently put out figures based on state records illustrating the pensions for retirees from Macomb School District, Western Illinois University and the City of Macomb. TUA President Jim Tobin first took on WIU President Emeritus Alvin Goldfarb by stating that Goldfarb “enjoys an annual taxpayer funded pension of $187,541.” Tobin further said, “Over a normal lifetime, he will get about $6 million in pension payments. His personal investment in this rich payout is about 5.3 percent or $321,260.”
The list also highlights Francis A. Kranovich as a Macomb School District retiree as having an annual pension of $149,363 payout and City of Macomb retiree Danny W. Brown as having a $61,969 annual pension. Tobin pointed out Brown’s retirement age of 56 and projected his lifetime payout as being about $2 million.
Lists broken down by county, city and school retirees can be found on the group’s website, TaxpayersUnited.org.
With the state’s budget impasse in full swing, Tobin said pensions are unsustainable.
“Tax dollars continue to be diverted from services required by today’s taxpayers into the pension funds for government employees, whose services were rendered long ago,” Tobin said.
To take things up a notch, Tobin even said the “largesse is stolen from a constituency whose standard of living is far below the ‘civil servants’ they support.” He also referred to the public employee pension system as a “Ponzi-scheme” generated by “Chicago Machine Boss (Mike) Madigan” and his “cronyism with unions.”
Earlier this week, Gov. Bruce Rauner’s office also accused public universities around the state of waste and “cronyism” as why higher education institutions such as WIU are facing budget shortfalls.
In response to Tobin’s allegations of budgetary shortfalls being due to high pension pay-outs being “stolen,” Illinois Federation of Teachers Vice President John Miller told the Voice that pensions did not create the budget crisis, and cutting such pensions will not solve it.
“It is disingenuous to imply that the total benefit paid comes from taxes,” said Miller, who is also the president of University Professionals of Illinois, Local 4100. “The state failed to fund its share of the pensions for decades. To assume that the benefits are the problem is simply incorrect. The pension fund is like any other portfolio. The employee contributes money, and it is invested, allowing the money to grow. The single largest sum of money that pays for these benefits is investment earnings. The problem is the state’s failure for decades to put its share of the amount into the system. State employees do not receive Social Security, nor does the state pay into Social Security like other employers. In essence, the state did not invest its part of their employees’ retirement.”
With regard to many public employees who make modest salaries, Miller said employees — including many teachers — take the jobs for modest pay knowing they will have security at retirement.
“They plan their lives around the standing pension agreements,” Miller said. “They cannot go back in time and invest differently if their pensions are drastically altered.”