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Daily Herald|How Roselle District 12 won its $500 tax increase

Taxpayers United of America (TUA) was mentioned by the Daily Herald about their opposition to the Roselle District 12 tax increase.


When Roselle Elementary District 12 officials decided to seek a substantial tax increase during a presidential primary, the proposal seemed almost certain to fizzle.

Most government bodies tend to avoid placing such hot-button proposals on the ballot in prominent elections such as Tuesday’s primary. With higher turnout — and many voters backing anti-establishment candidates in the presidential race — proposed tax increases seem doomed to fail.

But District 12 bucked that trend when voters approved a property tax increase that will cost the owner of a $250,000 home about $500 more a year. Unofficial tallies show almost 56.4 percent of voters favored the hike.

“I still can’t believe it today,” Superintendent Melissa Kaczkowski said Wednesday.

The revenue will help pay for repairs in the district’s two 1960s-era schools and help fix its finances after years of budget deficits.

“We ramped up the message in terms of how serious and how urgent this was at the beginning of this school year,” said Kaczkowski, who cautioned that the district could face cuts to student programs and bigger class sizes if the tax increase was denied.

Kaczkowski also credits the approval in part to an active group of supporters who pushed for the district’s first operating tax revenue increase in more than 30 years.

Here’s a look at their winning strategy.

Targeting neighborhoods

A steering committee with only about eight core members and “a shoestring budget” of roughly $4,000 organized the referendum campaign by Save Our Schools, member and parent Steve Zurek said. But dozens of volunteers still managed to personally visit more than 1,100 households, he said.

Having a dedicated group that mobilized around the issue likely “made a difference in what really should have been an anti-tax election,” said Constance Mixon, an Elmhurst College political science professor and director of the schools’ urban studies program.

Those one-on-one conversations with neighbors are more effective than mailers at getting out the vote, Mixon said.

The group included a Democratic precinct committeeman who opened up access to voter databases so volunteers could target their message, primarily to Democrats, seniors, renters and parents in the district, Zurek said.

“We wanted the community to start talking with one another,” he said.

Low-profile opposition?

“Vote No” signs popped up in the weeks before Tuesday’s primary and several Facebook pages against the increase were created anonymously, but they garnered only a handful of “likes.”

“They certainly were hiding in the shadows,” Roselle Mayor Gayle Smolinski said of opponents.

A Chicago group, Taxpayers United of America, also urged voters to reject the increase, saying the district should instead pursue cuts and consolidation and calling employee salaries “lavish.”

But Smolinski said supporters kept a visible presence.

Teacher deal

About a month before Tuesday’s primary, the school board accepted an offer by the teachers union to freeze cost-of-living pay increases for one year and save the district about $35,000. Both sides also agreed to delay negotiations on a new contract — previously set to expire in June — for one year.

Union leaders say they made the offer to build support for the tax increase.

“Not only am I voting ‘yes’ myself, but I also have to do my part as a teacher,” union Vice President Terri Schoen said at the time.

The agreement, Kaczkowski said Wednesday, “created a lot of momentum with teachers,” many of whom live in town and knocked on doors in support of the tax increase.

“It wasn’t a huge financial piece of the puzzle, but it was absolutely their investment in this and their willingness to offer something voluntarily,” she said.

Looking ahead

Kaczkowski said the district initially struggled to get people in the door to hear about its plan to shore up its finances.

But after blasting automated calls out to parents, more than 300 people attended a fall forum in the district where Kaczkowski and two principals are the only administrators.

She says the district will remain “diligent” about getting people’s input about spending, adding that a parent advisory committee will begin meeting in the coming weeks.

They have more than a year to plan before the district starts to receive the new revenue.

“Ongoing communication and accountability is key,” Kaczkowski said. ” … That’s certainly a piece we don’t want to lose.”

McHenry Times|With primary win secured, Allen Skillicorn vows to continue fight against Mike Madigan in House

Tax Accountability’s, the political action arm of Taxpayers United of America (TUA), endorsement of Allen Skillicorn was mentioned by McHenry Times.


In the four-candidate race for House Representative in District 66 that became a three-candidate race at the 11th hour, Allen Skillicorn emerged as the winner of the Republican primary on March 15.
“I am feeling good,” Skillicorn told the McHenry Times. “We are excited about finally being able to publicly declare victory.”
The East Dundee trustee and vice-chair for the Kane County Republican Party said he personally knocked on more than 10,000 doors, and talked to voters about property tax relief and the need for Republicans to stand up to House Speaker Mike Madigan — a message Skillicorn said was very well received.
Now that all the signs and campaign litter has been cleared up, Skillicorn said it’s time to continue the conversation about Madigan and the state of Illinois.
“The next stop is continuing to talk to voters and raise awareness about what Speaker Madigan is doing in Springfield,” Skillicorn said. “Currently the House is on spring break until April and the fact is we need a budget; the fact is we need pension reform; the fact is we need significant financial and business reforms to get the Illinois economy going; and Mike Madigan refuses to advance those issues. He also refuses to even schedule the House to meet.”
Skillicorn, who claimed approximately 33.04 percent of the votes in McHenry and Kane counties, will face off against Democratic challenger Nancy Zeller in November for retiring State Rep. Mike Tryon’s seat.
“She’ll be able to get some financial resources and she has some fans in the area, but at the end of the day she has a track record of raising property taxes,” Skillicorn said. “She supports Mike Madigan and she supports Madigan’s tax increases. I don’t think the voters of the 66th District are going to be able to identify with those issues.”
Curtailing property taxes has been the hallmark of Skillicorn’s campaign. Skillicorn was elected as East Dundee trustee in 2011 and fought to keep property taxes from rising. His efforts ultimately helped lower village property taxes per home.
The marketing director signed the Tax Accountability Taxpayer Protection Pledge on July 10, 2015, and has been endorsed by Tax Accountability, the political action arm of Taxpayers United of America (TUA).
In addition to solving property tax problems, Skillicorn wants to help promote accountability in Springfield and believes term limits for elected officials would greatly reduce corruption in government.
For now, Skillicorn is grateful for voters’ support and promises to be their voice in Springfield.
“I just want to thank people for their support, and we plan on taking the fight to Mr. Madigan,” Skillicorn said.

Madison Record|Haine and Haida among top IMRF beneficiaries in state; Though adequately funded, critic says pension system 'just as efficient at stealing taxpayer wealth'

President and founder of Taxpayers United of America (TUA), Jim Tobin, was quoted by Madison Record about the latest IMRF Pension data release.


The top Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund (IMRF) beneficiaries in Madison and St. Clair counties are among the state’s highest paid. And both of them – a lawmaker and a judge – are accruing benefits in other pension systems that will provide even more tax payer-supported income for life when they retire a second time.
State Sen. William Haine (D-Alton), who served as Madison County State’s Attorney for 14 years (1988-2002), began receiving IMRF pension benefits one month after he was elected to the 56th Senate District in November 2002.
According to Taxpayers United of America (TUA) pension analysis, Haine currently receives $148,042 annually from IMRF. He began receiving pension payments on Dec. 1, 2002 at age 58. He retired after 26.5 years of credited service at the county, which included work as a public defender and county board member.
To date, Haine has received $1,714,021 in IMRF payments. He contributed $110,031 into the system. Based on a life expectancy of 85, Haine will receive an estimated $3,033,922 in lifetime benefits from the IMRF.
His current salary as state senator is $67,836, plus he receives $111 per diem while in session. His total tax-payer supported annual income is approximately $228,804.
When he is no longer a state legislator, Haine will be eligible for benefits from another state pension system – the General Assembly Retirement System (GARS).
In St. Clair County, Circuit Judge Robert Haida, who served as St. Clair County State’s Attorney for 19 years (1991-2010), began receiving IMRF pension benefits in 2012, two years after he was elected to the Twentieth Judicial Circuit.
Haida currently receives $154,084 annually in IMRF benefits. He was 55 when he retired as state’s attorney; he is credited with having worked 24.6 years as a county employee, which also included time as an assistant state’s attorney.
To date, Haida has received $520,442 in IMRF payments. He contributed $209,176 into the system, and will have received an estimated $4,283,142 at age 85.
As a circuit judge he is paid $178,835, bringing his total tax-payer supported annual income to $332,919.
When he is no longer a judge, Haida will be eligible for benefits from another state pension system – the Judicial Retirement System (JRS).
The state senator and circuit judge – both of whom seek to keep their seats in the November general election – were named to the TUA’s list of top 200 IMRF beneficiaries, Haida in 40th place and Haine in 50th.
“The IMRF, although touted as the gold standard in government pension funds, is just as efficient at stealing taxpayer wealth to benefit the political elite as any Illinois state pension fund,” said Jim Tobin, TUA president, in a press release.
“The entire list of the top 200 IMRF annual pensions exceeds $116,000 with multi-million dollar lifetime payouts that are largely taxpayer funded. Although the IMRF is adequately funded, that doesn’t make it fair to taxpayers, especially considering that the total unfunded liabilities for Illinois government pensions is far in excess of $111 billion.”
The TUA reported these statistics regarding the IMRF:
• Total number of pension beneficiaries is approximately 119,556
• 478 collect pensions in excess of $100,000
• 5,916 collect pensions in excess of $50,000
• The average 2014 annual pension is $17,268
• The average amount that employees paid into their own pension fund is $19,030, or 4.6 percent of their estimated lifetime pension payout
• The average estimated lifetime payout is $411,998, based on a life expectancy of 85 and an annual 3 percent cost of living adjustment
• The average age at retirement is 62
• The average years of employment are 18
• In fiscal year 2014, taxpayers were forced to pay $923,382,825 into the government pension fund
• In fiscal year 2014, local and county government employees paid $351,089,445 into their own pension fund
• The net return on investment for IMRF in fiscal year 2014 was only 5.8 percent, or $2,001,440,028
• As of the end of fiscal year 2014, IMRF had an 87.3 percent funded ratio with a $4.8 billion unfunded liability
Tobin and other pension reform advocates support changing public pension systems from the current defined-benefit system to 401(k) style retirement savings accounts.
“But this type of positive, sweeping reform cannot occur without first amending the Illinois Constitution by removing the government employee pension protection clause,” Tobin stated. “However, the Illinois General Assembly could immediately require that all new government employees be placed in a 401(k) style defined-contribution plan, which would eliminate additional unfunded government pension liabilities immediately.”
He said that taxpayers are forced to pay $2.63 for every $1 that pensioners pay into their own IMRF fund annually, or 263 percent.
“I can’t think of a single private sector employer who does that,” he stated. “Social Security payments by the employer are an equal match to employee payments.
“Today’s taxpayers should not be required to pay for services rendered years ago, just as bureaucrats and politicians should not be allowed to balance today’s budgets on the backs of tomorrow’s taxpayers. Let’s make necessary reforms that will benefit all of Illinois economically and finally do something that actually is ‘for the children.’”
A pension reform bill passed by the state legislature in 2013 was struck down by the Illinois Supreme Court last year when it sided with public unions in ruling that the state was obligated to protect public worker pensions.
And ever since Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner was elected in 2014 on a reform platform, Democrat lawmakers, who control both branches of state government, have resisted his proposals to transform the state’s under-funded pension systems.
Legislation introduced by Republicans this session would give retired government workers a choice in collecting benefits over several years, or cash out immediately but with a smaller lump sum.
Two bills on the subject were discussed during a testimony-only committee hearing last week – House Bill 4427 sponsored by State Rep. Mark Batinick (R-Plainfield) and House Bill 5625 sponsored by State Rep. Mike Fortner (R-West Chicago).
As reported by Illinois News Network last week, under one scenario in Batinick’s plan, it would take the state a $700,000 up-front investment to fund the pension of an employee projected to draw $50,000 annually.
The legislation would offer workers essentially three options: Accept the $50,000 annual pension; take an immediate payout at about 75 percent of $700,000; or take an immediate, partial amount and still get an annual pension payment — although smaller than $50,000, according to the report.
Chairperson of the House Personnel and Pensions Committee Elaine Nekritz (D-Northbrook) said the state should not force workers into reduced, lump sum payouts.
That decision, Nekritz said, “would have to be completely voluntary and only at the whim and desire of the participants,” the Illinois News Network report stated.

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Taxpayers United Of America: (TUA). is a nonpartisan, 501(c)(4) taxpayer advocacy group. Founded June 27, 1976 in Chicago, Illinois by activist and economist Jim Tobin, TUA works on behalf of taxpayers to reduce local, state, and federal taxes. In the past forty years, TUA has saved taxpayers more than $200 billion n taxes and has become one of the largest taxpayer organizations in America. Check All posts. s.

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