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UPDATE: Lakeland College…Print Shop…Tax Objections…

September 30, 2013   ·   10 Comments

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MATTOON, IL (ECWd) –

Updated at the bottom on 10-1-2013…

After learning that there were potential real estate property tax objections, either filed or ready to be filed, related to Lakeland College (LLC), we decided to find out why a property owner would file a tax objection against LLC, our local community college.

What we found was that it was business owner(s) filing the objection, claiming LLC was in direct competition with them for local business. This competition comes from LLC’s operation of a “print shop” that accepts and fulfills orders from both LLC, and from locals that want those services. Just so you get this straight; business (property) owners pay real estate taxes, which in part go to LLC, and then LLC effectively takes their potential customers by providing the same services the business provides.

Let’s Start With The FOIA Request

We submitted a Freedom Of Information Act Request (FOIA) to LLC seeking public records, and here was their response:

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This will confirm Lake Land College’s receipt on September 7, 2013 of your attached request pursuant to the Illinois Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA) dated September 7, 2013. The records sought by your request are listed below, followed by the College’s response to each item.

1.      Copy of the Print Shop policy on soliciting/providing print shop services to non-governmental agencies/individuals.

Response:     The College has no documents responsive to this request.

2.      Copy of the Print Shop policy on soliciting/providing print shop services to governmental agencies/individuals.

Response:     The College has no documents responsive to this request.

3.      Copy of the Print Shop policy on soliciting/providing any work, other than LLC work.

Response:     The College has no documents responsive to this request.

4.      Copy of all invoices/receipts of all print shop work performance for non-LLC agencies/individuals since Jan 1, 2013.

Response:     The College has 604 pages of documents responsive to this request. See attached PDF file “Documents Responsive to Item No. 4.”

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 Who Uses The  LLC Print Shop?

Normally it wouldn’t matter to us where people or businesses purchase items they use, but when a public body is in direct competition with private businesses it makes a difference (see the list here from Jan-Aug 2013). The LLC Print Shop invoiced and received well over $100,000 just in the first 8 months of 2013. Their “customers” were local churches, local businesses, individuals, photographers, private graphics businesses, and local organizations that purport to “further the interest of business” such as the Mattoon Chamber of Commerce, Mattoon Rotary, Sullivan Chamber of Commerce, and the East Central Illinois Development Corporation (ECIDC) just to name a few.

I would urge each and everyone of those using this service to re-think what you are doing – governments should not be in competition with private business!

Why Does It Matter?

Money to the local economy, employees to local businesses, sales taxes, and income taxes just to name a few. All taken from private businesses by a tax supported public body.

What Does The Statute Say?

The Illinois Community College Act does not give a community college the authority to operate a business in direct competition with local businesses. How can they think it’s OK to tax a person, and then compete with them?

Now we must bring up Dillon’s Rule again: Dillon Rule,” which states that municipal governments only have the powers that are expressly granted to them by the state legislature…” The state legislature grant powers thru statutes, and the applicable statute here does not give LLC the power to compete with private business.

Two emails seeking input from the LLC and its President have gone unanswered for 5 days, so they must not have any comments to provide. What I asked was for their comments and specifically any comments on which statute allows them to do what they are doing. We would still love to hear from them.

 

Download (PDF, 6.34MB)

Spreadsheet developed by Judy Pufahl of Paris, Illinois…

UPDATE: 10-1-2013

More statutoral references…

Paragraph 1(a) of 11o ILCS 205, Board of Higher Education defines Public Institutions of Higher Education as:

(a) "Public institutions of higher education": The University of Illinois; Southern Illinois University; Chicago State University; Eastern Illinois University; Governors State University; Illinois State University; Northeastern Illinois University; Northern Illinois University; Western Illinois University; the public community colleges of the State and any other public universities, colleges and community colleges now or hereafter established or authorized by the General Assembly.

Statute 110 ILCS 115, University Credit and Retail Sales Act specifically prohibits sales of certain items if those items can reasonably be expected to be in competition with private retail merchants in the community:

Sec. 1. Prohibition; exceptions.
    (a) The governing board of a State institution of higher learning may not permit or authorize a retail store carrying any line of general merchandise to be operated by that institution or to be operated on property held or leased for the use of the institution when such an operation can reasonably be expected to be in competition with private retail merchants in the community, unless the goods sold by that store are unavailable in quantities sufficient to meet the reasonably expected student demand, are unavailable on a year round basis or were commonly sold by the institution or on such property before January 1, 1980. The governing board of a State institution of higher learning also may not permit or authorize any person to conduct a business of selling goods, services, or a combination thereof to the general public on property held or leased for the use of the institution when such an operation can reasonably be expected to be in competition with private retail merchants in the community unless such merchants have the opportunity to compete for the operation of such a business on such property. "Person" means an individual, corporation, business trust, estate, trust, partnership, association, cooperative, or any other legal entity. This Act does not prohibit the sale by such an institution or on such property of items commonly sold by such institutions before January 1, 1980. "Commonly sold" means exclusively those lines of products sold in the regular course of business prior to January 1, 1980. This Act does not prohibit the sale of goods which are the result of technological advances since 1980 and are required for assignments or classroom activities.

With that said, it is my understanding, and we have a letter written to Chapin Rose a few years back, that the print shop at EIU used to do the same things that LLC is doing now – and Rep. Rose was instrumental in getting it stopped. The same thing needs to happen in this case.

 

 

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Readers Comments (10)

  1. Tired old guy that left. says:

    How is this any different than them cleaning my teeth at the dental college at a much reduced rate? I went to LLC because it is a teaching college that frankly did a much better job than the local dentist. I guess the correct question would be does LLC employ or use students to teach them the printing business. If a teaching school can not compete with local businesses then there will be no such thing as a teaching school. Someone will always complain that someone else is cutting into their business.
    “Old” you bash Wal-Mart, that is your prerogative. I remember when Wal-Mart came to town. KMart was there and nobody complained. Kmart was dirty, overpriced, and did not have a good selection of products. When Wal-Mart announced they were coming, what did Kmart do? They cleaned their store from floor to ceiling, and tried to compete by adding products they had not carried in the past. The same with many of the local small retailers. Why did they not care if their stores were dirty and had no selection before? I do not mind competition. That is what this this Country was founded on, someone making a better widget than they guy currently selling widgets. I go to wal mart when I want something cheap and replaceable. When I want something that lasts, I get it on the internet.(Tax free) Should we stop the internet cause it is cutting into a local person’s business? I have really liked the Watchdogs since they came on the scene, but now it really seems that it is all negative all the time. Not all criminals who say they are innocent are. not all politicians, well most of them are, but I still have hope that there are one or two politicians who are not crooked. I was really let down when I saw the Watchdogs linking to an article from the “Huffington post”. Gee, no agenda there. I fear the Watchdogs are becoming what they hate, an overbearing power hungry beast (ie. Government) that must crush anyone who does not believe what they say or immediately drop everything and answer their demands. Everything is couched in innuendo that the world is out to crush the Watchdogs. I will still come on and read what is interesting but that really is becoming less and less as time goes on.

     Reply
    • jmkraft says:

      You are entitled to your opinion.

      Dental work is not retail sales.

      We did check the class lists to see if there were any classes related what a print shop would produce and did not find any.

      I sent two emails to the president, his executive assistant, and the FOIA officer asking for their input. You would think if there were a reason, like “students use the print shop in conjunction with the class on xxxxxxxx”, that an answer would have been had. No answer.

      I agree that IF the print shop was included in classroom cirriculum that it should be allowed to operate with limited outside work orders, provided the work was performed by students and was part of the classwork. That makes for a better learning environment. I think more than 600 workorders and over $100,000 in eight months is pushing the envelope a bit, but I could be wrong. Which is why I sent the emails to the president and two other people at LLC seeking comments.

      Also, if you took the time to look at the list of people/organizations using the print shop, it is quite obvious that some of them are making money off of the LLC print shop. I could be wrong on that too, maybe they are all selling it to their own customers for the same price they paid LLC to do the work for…highly unlikely.

      We linked to the Huffington Post, Fox News, WCIA-TV, Chicago Tribune, National Review, and Computer World Magazine. We did that because they either wrote about things we have been writing about, or they mentioned the Edgar County Watchdogs and our work in their articles. I don’t believe we can get more diverse (in political term) than that list. I fail to see any agenda implied with linking to the above.

       Reply
    • cyan says:

      very well said

       Reply
  2. old says:

    there are those type of people who will check out other businesses see what the customer traffic is do some firuring and if they think they can make some money they will open a business. they do not care how they hurt they other person finanially because its all about them. to many spoons in the pot will ruin the stew and the original business will suffer and die. the businesses and individuals who allow llc to process their services are really hurting themselves. small business means tax money to the county the less business in the county the less tax dollars will be generated and the effect will be higher taxes passed to the tax payers. sounds a lot like walmart trying to ruin the economy and business of the community.

     Reply
  3. charleston says:

    Eastern Illinois University was doing the same thing through “Panther Print and Copy.” The office of the Illinois Executive Inspector General investigated them and found the practice illegal.

     Reply
  4. jmkraft says:

    We found that out yesterday and are working on it…

     Reply




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