Marc's thoughts on the Koos campaign flyer
Yesterday I received a Chris Koos campaign flyer in the mail. Here’s a few of my thoughts on what it contained. Feel free to share this...
“A steadfast commitment to the highest caliber of public services.”
“Strong public safety, quality basic services such as road work, waste pick up, snow removal, high quality water. The first and foremost responsibility of local government”
- Street resurfacing dropped from $2.8 million in 2016 to $600,000 in 2017. This is a reduction of 79%. (page 69 of The Town of Normal Operating & Investment Budget)
- Similarly, money allocated for concrete patching and sidewalk repairs has been cut in half. (page 69)
- Meanwhile, $750,000 is being spent to study whether we should do an Uptown underpass and $600,000 is being set aside to buy property south of the railroad tracks. Doing so makes it tax-exempt, shifting more of the burden onto everyone else.
“Growing economically while sustaining services only happens with thoughtful fiscal stewardship.”
“While there have been many bold and exciting developments in this town, they have always been undertaken with clearly identified sources of funds to pay for them. It is why the Town has an AAA credit rating. Less than 3% of American municipalities have this esteemed rating. Our local economy needs to grow, creating and maintaining jobs and opportunities for our residents”
- The town has accumulated debt at an astonishing rate. We currently owe $94 million--all of it accrued under the Koos administration. (page 214)
- We throw away $4 million a year on interest alone. (page 72)
- We are beyond our borrowing limits. (Town of Normal Financial Trends Report 2016, p. 31) The town’s financial manager has clearly said we cannot borrow any more money without identifying more revenue.
- The AAA rating is merely a recognition by the rating agency that because Normal is a home rule community, it can raise taxes whenever it wants by however much it wants, and therefore will not default on the debt. The rating makes no judgement on whether our debt is too high. It applies only to the bonds themselves. Even the State of Illinois, with the poorest credit in the nation, was able to issue a AAA bond last August because it had a clearly defined funding stream.
- The projects financed through these enormous debts do not pay for themselves. A few years ago, the Town implemented a 0.25 percent sales tax increase--then in 2016 the Town had to implement yet another sales tax increase of 1 percent. These came on top of new taxes on fuel, food, beverages, and entertainment, just to pay the bills.
- In already tough economic times, the Town’s debt has forced taxes to rise sharply leaving residents with far less to spend on the goods and services that truly drive our local economy. We need to promote development by lowering taxes and accelerating our debt payments so that we ultimately have to pay less interest--every extra dollar we pay now saves fifty cents in interest down the road.
“Without quality education, we will fail as a community.”
“We are beginning a new partnership with Unit 5 School District to assist where we can in helping them through tough State financial issues. Our partnership with Illinois State University has never been stronger and we will continue to build on this partnership.”
- Many of Unit 5’s current financial problems are attributable to the current administration. Poor planning ended up pushing the schools to the outskirts of our community, burdening them with expensive transportation and logistical problems.
- Unit 5 can raise taxes only through referendum. The voters in the community have to approve it. The Town Council has no such restrictions. They can raise taxes at their pleasure, and they have.
- Recently, the County proposed a one percent sales tax increase to benefit the schools. That measure was soundly rejected. The Council then passed their own one percent sales tax increase to be used for non-essential spending items such as a $2 million sales tax rebate to the Portillo’s developer, a $100,000 Uptown traffic study, and $1.4 million to study the underpass project.
- As one citizen stated at a recent School Board meeting, the Town has “poisoned the well” for Unit 5 in terms of finances.
- Any other referendum by the school to raise more funds would surely also be rejected. Add to this the fact that the Uptown TIF District has frozen a large portion of Unit 5’s property tax income for the last fifteen years. These measures have greatly contributed to Unit 5’s financial difficulties. To make matters worse, the Council’s November work session revealed that the current administration is devising ways to keep the extra property tax money when the current TIF expires--in effect breaking the promise that the benefits of subsidized development would eventually flow back to the schools. Mayor Koos’s own policies have been and continue to be detrimental to the financial health of Unit 5 Schools. That is hardly the basis for a strong partnership.
14 years with Mr. Koos is long enough. It’s time for change in Normal--change for the better. Please vote on April 4th.