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Northwest Herald|Woodstock, Huntley expect to get home rule status after special censuses

President and founder of Taxpayers United of America (TUA), Jim Tobin, was quoted by Northwest Herald about home rule.


The number of home rule municipalities in McHenry County could grow after the city of Woodstock and village of Huntley get the results of their special censuses certified.
In Illinois, communities can become home rule by referendum, or automatically when reaching a population of 25,000. The designation gives local government more control over anything from taxing to licensing to regulating the protection of the public health, according to the Constitution of the State of Illinois.
There are more than 200 home rule municipalities in Illinois, according to the Illinois Municipal League.
Home rule municipalities in McHenry County include Lake in the Hills, McHenry, Crystal Lake, Prairie Grove and Algonquin, according to documents from the Illinois Secretary of State’s Office and the Illinois Municipal League.
While advocates say home rule gives more power to the people who know the community best, the thought of a local body having more options to raise taxes without a referendum worries some residents and taxpayer advocacy groups.
Woodstock City Manager Roscoe Stelford said the special census will give a more accurate reflection of the city’s population, and more revenue because the city receives $151 in shared state revenue per person for the city.
When the city does qualify for home rule status, benefits could include the city’s ability to license landlords and create ordinances to require crime-free housing standards, increase the fees to license video game machines and improve the city’s bond rating, he said.
“Our council members are constantly in the community, constantly getting feedback on what’s good and what’s bad, and I think having local control is not a bad thing,” Stelford said.
Woodstock City Council members have emphasized at council meetings the city’s history of keeping taxes low for residents by not taking the property tax extension limitation law, a limitation that would not apply if the city became home rule.
Information about the special census and home rule status posted on the city of Woodstock’s website references a 2011 policy profile on home rule in the U.S. from the Center for Governmental Studies at Northern Illinois University.
The study cited in the profile found that few communities across the U.S. use their home rule powers to increase property taxes or levy sales tax to the statutory limit for home rule cities.
The profile also said that, overall, the presence or absence of home rule had little effect on the government performance variables of most interest and concern to citizens.
Jim Tobin, president and founder of Taxpayers United of America, said the taxpayer advocacy group based out of Chicago is opposed to home rule in Illinois, because home rule status gives officials the power to raise taxes and avoid voter input.
“The people who like home rule are government employees, or people who plan to be government employees or get contracts with the city and profit off the taxpayers,” Tobin said.
He said that while residents can repeal home rule status, very few people have done it because it takes an “enormous amount of work and an enormous amount of money.”
City officials from both Woodstock and Huntley have said that if home rule status is reached, any discussions on what home rule powers the municipalities may take advantage of would be brought before the City Council or Village Board.
Huntley Village Manager Dave Johnson said in a statement the village has not yet discussed what home rule opportunities it might take advantage of, but, “Based on the continued unfortunate conditions surrounding the state of Illinois and the uncertainty created by these conditions, greater local control of the village’s future by the Village Board of Trustees is important.”
The city of McHenry conducted a special census in 2008, and it became a home rule municipality when that census was certified in 2010 with a population of 27,525, City Manager Derik Morefield said.
The only tax the city implemented after reaching home rule status was a 0.5 percent sales tax increase, from 7 percent to 7.5 percent, which went toward capital improvements and to help cover police pensions, Morefield said.
“My opinion is that the city of McHenry has been responsible in having their own home rule authority,” he said. “We haven’t certainly exercised it to the extent that we could.”
After being with the city for nearly four years, Morefield said discussions about adding more taxes or new ordinances with home rule powers do not come up with elected officials and staff.
Nadav Shoked, associate professor of law with Northwestern University, said becoming home rule is “not a complete revolution” for a municipality.
Shoked said it is important to note that even while under home rule, Illinois governments never have full autonomy from the state.
It’s tough to predict if taxes will go up when home rule status is reached, Shoked said, and whether people support home rule or not comes down to whether they trust their elected officials and neighbors who vote.
“These are debates between communities because people, for good reason or for no good reason, some people do not trust their elected officials,” Shoked said.

Madison Record|Taxpayers' advocate trounces Illinois Teachers Retirement System: 'Nothing compares to its fraud, waste and abuse'

President and Founder of Taxpayers United of America (TUA), Jim Tobin, was quoted by Madison Record about the recent Teacher’s Retirement System pension data release.


Former O’Fallon Township High School Superintendent Russell Clover who earns $185,465 in retirement is among the highest paid beneficiaries of the Teachers Retirement System (TRS), according to the Taxpayers United of America (TUA).
The TUA on Wednesday released results of its updated analysis of the state’s educator pension system, including the top 200 pension payees.
Clover, who lands near the bottom of the list in the 197th spot, retired in 2006. So far he has collected $1,387,769 in pension benefits, according to the TUA.
He contributed $189,621 into TRS over the course of his 35-year career, and earned $192,369 as his final salary.
If he lives to age 85, he will have collected $4,556,681 in tax-payer funded benefits, says the TUA.
“In forty years of fighting government fraud, waste and abuse, nothing compares to the Illinois Teachers’ Retirement System (TRS),” stated Jim Tobin, TUA president.
“This group of government employees use our children as pawns in their demand for higher wages and benefits and yet there is no accountability, no measure of what makes a good teacher, and no way to get rid of the bad ones.”
Tobin said that all of the annual pensions on the TRS top 200 list are greater than $185,000.
“Illinois overpays its teachers in the classroom and in retirement,” he said. “80 percent of all of those property tax increases, home rule taxes, and burdensome local fines go to fund government employee salaries and benefits. Clearly, it is not for the children.”
The TUA analyzes all Illinois public pension funds. Late last month, it pointed to conflicts of interest in its harsh criticism of the Judicial Retirement System.
Regarding the teachers retirement program, the TUA found:
· The total number of TRS pension beneficiaries is approximately 114,434
· 8,507 collect pensions in excess of $100,000
· 56,717 collect pensions in excess of $50,000
· The average annual TRS pension is $52,752
· The average amount that employees contributed to their own pension fund is $74,470, or 4.1 percent of estimated lifetime pension payout
· The average estimated lifetime payout is $1.5 million (based on life expectancy of age 85)
· The average age at retirement is 58
· The average years of employment are 27
· In fiscal year 2015, taxpayer contributions to the fund were $3,523,256,530
· In fiscal year 2015, teachers’ contribution to their own pension fund was $935,451,049
· The net return on investment for TRS was only 4 percent, or $1,770,549,533
· As of the end of fiscal year 2015, TRS had a 42 percent funded ratio with a $62 billion unfunded liability
“These are not poor civil servants,” Tobin stated.
He said the average Illinois government teacher salary is $69,538, an average which includes part-time teachers.
Tobin also said that nearly half of the top 200 TRS pensioners collect more in retirement than their final salary while employed.
“Consistent with our findings of JRS and GARS (General Assembly Retirement System), taxpayers have already paid more than their fair share of retirement benefits for these government teachers,” he said.
“Taxpayers made their payments on time and in good faith and yet these government employees expect us to pay again, and again.”
According to TRS data analyzed by the Chicago Tribune in May 2015, O’Fallon Township High School District 203 has been assessed $69,389.92 in penalties for violating a 2005 law intended to restrict salary increases above 6 percent to retiring educators.
The Belleville News-Democrat later reported in June 2015 that about half of the penalty amount – or nearly $35,000 – was due to Clover’s retirement. He was paid for unused vacation time, which in effect raised his salary above 6 percent, the paper reported.

State Data Lab|The Ruling Class: Judges’ Retirement System

State Data Lab, a project by Truth In Accounting, featured Taxpayers United of America’s recent JRS data release.


Includes “… “Our analysis of JRS reveals more of the same taxpayer abuse that we have found across the state’s government pension system. Not only do these judges benefit from the redistribution of taxpayer wealth, they also rule in their own favor to protect the Illinois pension cabal when practical, necessary reforms are challenged in the courts. This system is ripe with conflicts of interest and corruption and it is protected at every level of a government that chooses to serve itself rather than the constituents it was intended to protect…”

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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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