Thursday, October 19, 2006

Rockford School Taxers Top $100,000

Following in the footsteps of more-than-amply financed Carpentersville School District 300 tax hikers are the Rockford School District tax hikers.

For years Rockford schools were under the control of the Federal courts.

It didn’t seem to make much difference, except in the amount of money extracted from local taxpayers.

This year’s referendum is to keep a temporarily approved 58-cent tax rate on the books. Loss of the referendum would force paring $14 million from its budget.

Or would it?

McHenry County State Rep. Mike Tryon (R-Crystal Lake) says the wrong question is on the ballot.

He told the Rockford Register-Star in late September,

They have the wrong question on the ballot if they wanted their rate to be the same for five years in the future because that is not going to happen.
School board lawyers Hinshaw & Culbertson LLP must be the folks who didn’t figure out how to avoid the problems that Huntley went through with a similar referendum, which attracted Tyron’s attention.

To make matters worse, Hinshaw & Culbertson also represents Huntley School District 158, where the problem surfaced.

To make matters still worse, District 158 hired the same law firm to lobby for the passage of Tryon’s bill.

And that law firm screwed royally in Rockford by not correctly advising its other client about how to word this fall’s referendum.

The law firm contributed $2,500 to the campaign. I wonder if that is enough to make up for the mistake. Maybe the firm should just refund its legal fees and suggest other counsel.

And, I wonder how many other school vendors are on the list.

Rockford’s establishment clearly thinks defeat of the referendum would harm its morphing into a Chicago suburb.

So far, I’ve found $101,000 available for the “Kids Win” campaign, which will include TV, radio and newspaper ads, yard signs and billboards, plus literature for door-to-door distribution. The goal is $150,000, which is about what District 300 spent. (District 300 had $41,000 left over.)

At least this school tax hiking political action committee is reporting its contributions. One this past spring in Winnebago County did not.

“Vote for this referendum and your taxes will stay the same,” has to be the message. (Don’t laugh. McHenry County College successfully used that pitch to raise its tax rate when a bond was paid off.)

I can understand how one can spend over a hundred grand in a television district. District 300, of course, had no over-the-airwaves TV advertising.

The biggest contribution--$30,000--is from the Rockford Area Association of Realtors.

The teachers union kicked in $5,000. The same came from the Northern Illinois Construction Industry Advancement Program and Cedric Blazer, President/CEO of Zenith Cutter.

The establishment’s favorite meeting place, Cliffbreakers River Suites Hotel Inc., contributed $5,000, too, as did a retired man named Daniel Nicholas, whose connections perhaps someone more familiar with Rockford than I can provide. $4,100 came from the Title Underwriters Agency.

And, of course, there’s a developer in the mix. Can’t sell many homes if people think the school system is no good. County Homes of Illinois kicked in $2,500.

Compared to McHenry County developers, they got a deal.

Amcore Financial, Inc., contributed $2,000, as did retiree Edna May Taylor.

And there are bunches of smaller contributions from hospitals, the principals association, a Com Ed exec, banks, architects, community influentials, the homebuilders association ($490, hoping not to be identified before the election?), law firms, non-certified employees, even the Boys and Girls Association.

If there is opposition to the referendum, it’s hard to find on the internet.

The Register-Star quotes school board member David Kelley, an active member of the Libertarian Party, as saying,
"If the referendum fails, we will reduce the levy by the 58 cents. We will honor the outcome of the referendum."
Larry Snow, who knows this subject as well as anyone, says if the referendum fails, the school district would have to levy less money, which would result is less state aid to education.

= = = = =
I had to run the picture to the right of Jay Kadakia, one of the leaders of the Sun City anti-tax group, pointing out to State Senator Pam Althoff the importance of getting a legislative fix to the Huntely school tax rate hike referendum debacle.

This is the kind of problem Rockford politicians could face, if things work out as they did in Huntley.

State Rep. Mike Tryon appears in the top photo. The billboard is from the Rockford Register-Star's web site. The head shot at the bottom is of Rockford School Board member Dave Kelley.

Always more on McHenry County Blog. From two days ago through Sunday featuring news on why the Chicago Crime Commission turned over investigative information on the Huntley School District to the U.S. Attorney's Office.

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