Coles Co. (ECWd) -
While the taxpayers of Mattoon take their property assessment case against Coles County to the Federal Courts, a question that comes to mind is what other matters are being overlooked as it relates to the performance of your local government elected officials.
As it relates to the City of Mattoon, who knew their financial condition was so upside down? Their Equalized Assessed Value of all property is $192,469,579.00. Their total debt? $102,994,788, of which over $70 Million is made up of police pension liability of $35,767,579 and Firefighter pension liability of $35,970,439. With $36,413,406 in annual expenditures, which is $718,008.00 over their annual revenues of $35,695,398.00, one must wonder, how do you make up $102 Million dollars of debt when you are spending more than you bring in through revenue streams? Raise the EAV?
As it relates to the Mattoon School District #2, who knew they were ordered to complete a financial reduction plan in the 2015-2016 School year by the State Board of Education? Is there any wonder they pushed so hard for the 1% tax last year? What other solutions could bring more revenue into their financial coffers? Who knew that new growth EAV is especially important to a school district in such financial straights? Clearly the administration at the school knew, and we quote from their presentation:
"New growth EAV is especially important. This is because the Property Tax Extension Liability Law (PTELL) limits the amount of the aggregate extension of a school district. The new growth is not limited by the PTELL language, thus a school district can realize the extension amount that is a direct result of new growth EAV." (PTELL is actualy Property Tax Limitation Law but we quoted what they had in their slid)
How do you crawl your way out of a financial hole? Raise the EAV?
As it relates to the city of Charleston and their financial situation, although not as bad as the City of Mattoon, they are sitting on $65,646,095.00 of debt with $45,472,030.00 of it made up in pension obligations (See page 21 of the audit). Their Comptroller filing reflects annual expenditures of $24,670,248, which exceeds their revenues of $23,143,445 by $1,526,803.00 and interestingly, the reported debt to the State of Illinois is incorrect as they only reported a debt of $16,279,617.00.
So how do you crawl out of $65.6 Million of debt while spending $1.5 Million more than you bring in? Threaten to sue the County, of course, and focus on ........EAV?
"This entire reassessment has been a disaster for years and Kyle and I saw this train wreck coming many many years ago. It's finally happening, and while we warned the county for years (and even threatened to file a lawsuit), they never seem too willing to listen to either or us. It's too bad. If they would have done their jobs to begin with, NONE of this nightmare would have occurred at all."
Well, of course, you can lead them down a path of doing their job, which turns out to be pretty much what the City did as it relates to the assessment mess they are now in.
From the City Presentation:
- Divide County into four assessment districts
- Software consultants to help use the information turned in this year before the assessors' information is stale
- Contract help
So what did the County do? They divided the county into four assessment districts, illegally hired a consultant that mandated certain software must be used for him to perform his obligations and they contracted him to do it. One must ask, who is running the County?
Looking at their presentation to the County it appears the EAV is just as important to them as the Mattoon School District. Charleston points out a higher EAV provides a higher debt limit (is more debt their solution?), and the fact that bonds are tied to a five-year EAV average; a higher EAV makes it easier to obtain bonds, which again points to the appearance the city solution is more debt on the backs of the taxpayers.
So who knew the debt burden of only two units of government in Coles County topped $168,640,883.00 in a County of 53,320? Realizing this debt total is ONLY for two units of government, that equates to $3,162.81 for each person in the county. That equates to $12,651.20 for a family of four and this number will rise considerably once other debt obligations for schools and other units of government are added to the hopper.
So who knew the debt for each person in the county was no less than $3,162.81?
Ben Franklin was asked; What kind of Government did you give us?
His response: "A Republic, if you can keep it".
If people don't get involved and hold local government accountable to fiscal spending, you will not keep it! Many will argue we have already lost it. I tend to agree as looking at these numbers and the actions of elected and appointed public officials actions that put us in this mess, there is no crawling out of this debt no matter how much you raise the EAV and take from the people.