Champaign Co. (ECWd) -
Most people understand the financial condition of the State of Illinois and most other public bodies in this state. To say it's bad is an understatement, and even though most know this, rarely do we see any steps taken in the right direction to reduce the burden on the taxpayer.
The Champaign- Urbana Public Health District is yet another example of how broken our system really is. While most people are cutting back and making do with less in these tough economic times, this public body is full steam ahead and you, the taxpayer, are the one taking the hit.
A recent Freedom of Information Act request produced some very troubling financial transactions. For example, when a public body spends money on gifts, we know they have lost touch with what their public purpose is. Buying gifts IS NOT a legal option for public bodies. Our tax dollars are to be used for a public purpose and only in accordance with established laws. There is no law authorizing gifts to be purchased with tax dollars.
As if buying those gifts is not bad enough, they have no clue who received them! Yes, when asked for the names of the recipients, they had no records to support who received them, which compounds their problem. Illinois laws requires a recording of all expenditures as the public has a right to know where our money is being spent.
(5 ILCS 160/3) (from Ch. 116, par. 43.6)
Sec. 3. Records as property of State. (b) Reports and records of the obligation, receipt and use of public funds of the State are public records available for inspection by the public, except as access to such records is otherwise limited or prohibited by law or pursuant to law.
Their response to my request for the names of those who received the gifts: "No list of recipients were kept."
So, what you have here is an agency that bought gifts and has no clue who received them? Who is in charge of this operation? How is it that public money is spent buying gifts and no one knows who received them? For all we know they are buying gifts for themselves.
I asked for the names of those who received gas cards, which is another item that has nothing to do with public health according to the statute. Their response in this case is more than interesting. "These cards went to CUPHD clients and their names are protected by HIPAA privacy and security regulations"
So now, if you are a client of the health district, they can give you a gas card and never have to tell the public who that money was spent on? Where in the Public Health Act does it authorize gas cards for clients and gifts to be purchased with public funds?
As if those purchases and excuses are not enough to get under your skin, we now see how easy it is for this public body to waist your money. They simply take more from you!
Our tax levy laws outline guidelines that must be followed when increases in tax's exceed 105% from the previous year. "The purpose of this Law is to require taxing districts to disclose by publication and to hold a public hearing on their intention to adopt an aggregate levy in amounts more than 105% of the amount of property taxes extended or estimated to be extended, including any amount abated by the taxing district prior to such extension, upon the final aggregate levy of the preceding year." (Property Tax Code)
This public body went all in on their property tax increase and hit the taxpayers with a 31.07% increase, and that is not a typo. That is a $734,867.00 dollar increase on the backs of the taxpayers.
There may have been some reluctance from at least one board member as they deferred any action at the hearing and the following regular meeting. However, it passed unanimously at their study session meeting which had one agenda item. (Click here for the agenda)