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Archive → February 20th, 2016

Illinois County Clerk Unilaterally Levies Millions Of Dollars In Extra Property Taxes

An Illinois County Clerk Unilaterally Levies Millions Of Dollars In Extra Property Taxes

Adam Andrzejewski from Forbes

I cover the “daily greed” of national, state, and local politics.

Opinions expressed by Forbes Contributors are their own.

The people are already paying enough tax to cover real needs – just not enough to feed the daily greed of government.

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In one of America’s most wealthy counties, DuPage County Clerk Paul Hinds is levying an extra 1% property tax for “loss” related to delinquent real estate taxes – potentially $65 million over ten years. But, county records show very few losses.

In 2013, the Hinsdale High School District 86 school board led by Ed Corcoran and Claudia Manley campaigned on a property tax freeze, won the election, and kept their promise by passing the tax freeze. This action was taken after a full vetting by all stakeholders: public comment sessions, truth in taxation meetings and many newspapers editorials.

But, property taxes at the Hinsdale school district continued to rise anyway — by $746,773. How could this happen? Unbeknownst to most people, some county clerks – like in DuPage County, Illinois — are unilaterally adding a “loss” tax across the entire levy, a tax to supposedly make up for delinquent payments.

Our research found that it’s completely unnecessary, and results in an undue-burden on taxpayers.

According to county financial statements, 99.8% of all property taxes were collected last year. Delinquent taxpayers face the sheriff on property sales to collect unpaid taxes – in the same property tax year.

But, despite the excellent payment record of the DuPage taxpayers, last year, Clerk Hinds levied an extra $6.543 million to cover “losses.” Hinds confirmed this fact with a series of special reports generated in response to our inquires. Over a ten-year period, this extra 1% tax really adds up — potentially to $65 million or more.


In wealthy DuPage County, Illinois, property taxes feel more and more like a rental payment. In fact, nearly 10,000 families were delinquent on their real estate taxes last year and faced a sheriff’s sale of their property. Photographer: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg

 

With minimal “losses,” local governments are receiving more taxes than mandated. According to tax records provided by Hinsdale D86 Chief Financial Officer William Egan, the district received $238,235 more than requested by their “final levy” in 2013. The board tried to stop the clerk in 2014 and passed a “zero-percent loss tax” resolution. But to no avail – Hinds refused to comply resulting in approximately $140,000 in over-tax collection. The Cook County Clerk rightly complied, zeroed-out their portion, and saved taxpayers thousands of dollars (the district resides in both counties).

It’s a sad day when Cook County complies with the law and DuPage County flaunts a lawful resolution.

This over-taxation happens to every district wanting to freeze or cut property taxes. It’s a text-book example of taxation without representation: No citizen voted up or down, or was afforded a public comment to challenge this tax. Hardly anyone even knows what’s going on…

Last year, at the College of DuPage, the second largest college in Illinois, trustees voted to “freeze” property taxes. But, unbeknownst to the board Chairwoman, tax bills actually rose by $910,767 — because of the clerk’s extra 1% ”loss” tax. Recently the colleges “Clean Slate” board majority announced a 5% real estate tax cut. But Hind’s 1% levy hike at the clerk’s office will quietly eliminate 20% of the tax savings.

What if every one of the 381 units of government in DuPage County followed the lead of COD and cut their property tax levies by 5%? Not so fast. The 1% ”loss” tax (to cover “losses” where there are very few losses) would add back up to $26 million ($2.6 billion in levied property taxes times 1%).

Here’s the message Clerk Hinds and our other elected officials need to hear from constituents: “We’re spent.” DuPage County families have paid far too high of a “corruption tax” in waste, duplication of services and taxpayer abuse over the years. We deserve a real break.

There are countless examples showing lack of local government budget discipline – driving your tax bill higher. Here are a few our organization at OpenTheBooks.com discovered:

$3.4 billion in long-term debt has been racked up by 381 units of local government within DuPage County. It’s a staggering average of $13,200 per family of four.
$2.1 million in salary flows to the top ten highly compensated DuPage County employees.
Nearly 10,000 DuPage County families faced the county sheriff’s real estate auction after being late on their high property tax bills.
Over the last ten years, property values decreased while property taxes increased. That wasn’t fair to the business community or homeowners. Now, our property tax bill feels more and more like a monthly rental payment.

Elected officials like Hinsdale D86 board members Ed Corcoran and Claudia Manley, and the College of DuPage “Clean Slate” trustees took action. They understand that the moment is right to slap a hard cap on — or even cut — property taxes.

In DuPage County and across Illinois, the people are already paying enough tax to cover real needs – just not enough to feed the daily greed of government.

See the sources below.

FY2014 DuPage Clerk report showing the actual final, extended levies with 1% ”loss tax” for 381 units of government:

FY2014 DuPage Clerk report showing the actual final, extended levies with 1% ”loss tax” for 381 units of go…
FY2014 DuPage Clerk report modeling a “zero-percent loss tax” extended levy for 381 units of government:

FY2014 DuPage Clerk report modeling a "zero-percent loss tax" extended levy for 381 units of gove…
Adam Andrzejewski is the founder of OpenTheBooks.com – the world’s largest private repository of public spending.

Source: Will County News

Lockport is safer than people think

Police chief: Lockport safer than people think

Frank VaisvilasDaily Southtown

Lockport is among the safest places in Illinois despite what some people may post on social media, said the city’s Police Chief Terry Lemming.

“This is a very safe town,” said Lemming during a City Council committee meeting last Wednesday night. “People make it seem worse than what it really is.”

Lemming gave a presentation at the meeting showing that serious crime was down by more than 21 percent in 2015 from 2014 in the city.

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He said some people had posted comments recently on social media pages expressing serious concerns about safety in the city.

But Mayor Steven Streit said those concerns were mostly based on two dramatic alleged crimes that later turned out to be false reports.

“Everyone got riled up,” Lemming said.

Last month, a woman was charged with making a false report for alleging that she had been attacked and robbed while walking down a street in Lockport.

Around the same time, Lemming said a juvenile had falsely reported that a man was in her house with a gun.

“As reports of this type of falsely reported crime are circulated, there is also an unjustified sense of panic that may spread through the population in the area of the reported crime,” read a Lockport police statement on Jan. 15.

Lockport was recently ranked the 81st safest place in Illinois out of 298 communities with populations over 5,000 by ValuePenguin.com, which uses FBI crime data.

The city ranked just below Shorewood and just above New Lenox in safety. Lockport’s neighbor to north, Lemont, ranked 122nd but its neighbor to the east, Homer Glen, ranked 21st.

Lemming said serious crimes, such as thefts and burglaries, decreased in 2015.

But six criminal sexual assaults were reported in 2015 compared with three in 2014. Lemming said the cases usually involve the victim knowing their attacker.

Motor vehicle thefts decreased to six in 2015 compared with seven in 2014. Lemming said 20 years ago there might have been as many 50 vehicle thefts but he said modern cars are virtually theft-proof. If they are stolen, Lemming said it usually involves the vehicle owner lending their car to someone who did not return it.

There were no homicides reported in the city, which does not include the unincorporated Fairmont neighborhood, in 2015. Homicides were reported recently in Fairmont.

Less serious crimes, such as identity theft and marijuana possession have increased slightly in the city.

Traffic citations also have increased from 4,490 in 2014 to 6,492 in 2015.

Lemming said the increase in traffic enforcement is part of a concerted effort by police.

“Having an aggressive traffic enforcement program does not endear police officers to the community but it is proven to reduce serious and fatal crashes and pedestrians being struck by vehicles,” he said. “It is also a proven way to prevent and lower the crime rate.”

Lemming said the increase in traffic violations also led to an increase in marijuana violations.

He said increased patrols also help prevent crime. One example, Lemming said, was that 250 open residential doors were located by officers in 2015, which might have prevented burglaries.

Source: Will County News

The end of an era

By Jason Stutman | Saturday, February 20, 2016
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Earlier this week, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted to begin crafting a new set of rules poised to put yet another dent in the already struggling cable industry.

According to the FCC mandate, cable companies would have to share all necessary information with third-party manufacturers of cable boxes — effectively ending the industry’s long-standing monopoly over set-top hardware.

According to FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, the average American household spends over $230 a year renting these boxes from cable providers. The lawmakers argue that the new rules will open the market to competition and increase consumer choice as a result.

Of course, what’s good for consumers isn’t going to be good for the cable oligopoly in the slightest. According to Reuters, companies like Comcast and Time Warner make an astonishing $19.5 billion a year from rented cable boxes.

Needless to say, that’s a lot of revenue suddenly up for grabs.
Not too surprisingly, the new FCC plan has been spearheaded by young tech companies like Alphabet Inc. (NASDAQ: GOOG), while being starkly opposed by aging television providers such as AT&T Inc., DirecTV, and the National Cable & Telecommunications Association (NCTA), which represents firms such as Comcast.New Kids on the Box

Cable companies argue that the new rules will allow rivals to unfairly profit by selling ads and viewer data from shows. While they might have a point, the lobbying power of a tech giant like Alphabet has so far proven too much to overcome.

On top of suddenly putting nearly $20 billion of revenue at risk, the new rules being proposed signal a significant turning point in how regulators are influencing, or at the very least speeding up, the fate of cable companies in the U.S.

As a senior research analyst at MoffettNathanson puts it:

The commission’s proposal is very consciously aimed at turning traditional pay-TV providers into dumb pipes, and forcing them to compete on a pure commodity basis for the delivery of content.

The new rules closely reflect the thinking behind the FFC’s recent net neutrality decision. Cable providers are no longer being treated by regulators as television companies, but rather as utilities that provide Internet service.
Before you start celebrating what this will mean for your cable bill, though, the benefit might not be as direct as the FCC has implied. According to NCTA president Michael Powell, the new rules could take between four to seven years to fully implement, with costs ultimately falling onto consumers.The Real Monetary Benefit

Opponents to the plan also contend that the proposal disrupts the natural, IP-based migration by operators who are already seeking to replace set-tops with apps. As Powell argued in a recent statement: “The problem with the FCC chairman’s proposal is that it perpetuates cable boxes at the center of the video universe.”

Putting all these arguments aside, the investor takeaway here is pretty straightforward: third party set-top providers are going to benefit from these rules while established cable providers will take a hit, whether it be through lowered revenue or increased prices.

Likely the biggest beneficiary, of course, is none other than TiVo Inc. (NASDAQ: TIVO), a company that would have dramatically increased access to the set-top box market if the FCC gets its way.

Today, there are approximately 1 million consumers using TiVo-owned boxes, each of which pays around $7 a month (compared ~$15 a month for cable-provided boxes).

For every consumer that switches over from cable-owned set-tops, TiVo would be able to replace the current ~$2 a month it’s getting from domestic mid-tier operators with $7 a month. For Tier 1 operators (where TiVo doesn’t have relationships), the benefit would be full upside.

For perspective as to how big the opportunity really is for TiVo, consider that the top four MSOs (multiple-system operators) alone currently rent out set-top boxes to over 75 million subscribers, or 75 times the size of TiVo’s current customer base. Not to mention, TiVo is one of the only companies currently positioned to fill the void.

Of course, alternative streaming providers such as Apple, Amazon, Netflix, etc. are expected to see some tertiary benefits as well should the FCC move forward with its set-top box plans. Comcast, for instance, has long refused to support Netflix’s app on its own set-top box, while third-party OEMs like TiVo and Roku treat apps tantamount to conventional pay-TV bundles.

In other words, by allowing consumers to opt for better set-top boxes, the cable oligopoly doesn’t just have $20 billion in annual rentals to lose, but a large pay-TV subscriber base as well. If you happen to have Comcast or Time Warner in your brokerage account, now might be a good time to reconsider those holdings.

Until next time,

JS Sig

Jason Stutman

Source: Will County News