Letters to the Editor: Election brings them out
Letters to the editor of the Galva News regarding the Feb. 2 General Primary Election in Henry County are being published here below:
Editor, Galva News:
What a decade that was.
First, it was the meltdown of the stock exchange brought on, in no small part, by the speculative nature of financing coupled with rampant fraud, a decline in building and manufacturing and the weakening of the dollar. The largest bank in the United States declared itself bankrupt, while wars being fought on global fronts were extraordinarily costly in blood and treasury. Economic times were tough, indeed.
But, if you think I am referring to the last 10 years, you would be very wrong. In fact, Iam referring to the decade of the 1870s. Back then, economic times were really tough, making current conditions pale by comparison. There was no such thing as unemployment benefits, Social Security, Medicare or insurance on bank deposits. In spite of unimaginably dismal economic conditions, the good people of Henry County dug into their pockets and built, arguably, one of the most stately courthouses in the Midwest. And, 130 years later, she still stands proudly as the jewel in Henry County’s crown.
Proudly she stands, yes, but she is in desperate need of repair. Without these necessary repairs, she won’t last much longer. Now, it is up to us to ensure this beautiful courthouse is made sound again so she can serve many generations to come.
The cost to do this is really quite modest. What is being proposed is a sales tax, not a property tax. Actually, many items would be exempt from the tax - items like groceries, medical needs, titled property, farm equipment and supplies and items not sold at retail. Only 25 cents for every$100 of eligible sales would go toward the needed repairs. That’s the cost of one gumball.
Oh, and people traveling through Henry County would contribute as well. (Much like we contribute when we buy items in Moline,Galesburg, etc.)
So I’m asking you to vote FOR the proposed public facilities sales tax referendum on Feb. 2. It’s our civic duty to future generations.
Editor, Galva News:
Our beautiful Henry County Courthouse is 129 years old. An architectural study of the building has two major findings: 1) the courthouse is a sound structure that will provide Henry County with decades of use and 2) it requires repairs that are estimated at $2.84 million. Delaying these repairs will increase the cost and will result in further damage to the structure.
The Henry County Board has voted to raise the repair money for the courthouse by utilizing a new provision of the sales tax laws called “public facilities.” The increase in the county sales tax would be .25 of 1 percent, allowing the sales tax to rise from 6.25 percent to 6.50 percent. This increase requires voter approval.
Using the sales tax to repair the courthouse is an advantage for residents of Henry County for the following reasons: 1) as specified on the ballot, the increase will be removed after 10 years; 2) a one-quarter percent sales tax increase will only cost a Henry County resident approximately $9 a year; 3) the tax increase does not apply to groceries, medical needs, titled vehicle purchases, or farm production costs; 4) visitors traveling through Henry County will pay the tax and reduce the cost to county residents, and 5) revenue from the tax increase can only be used for courthouse repairs.
We are asking residents of Henry County to vote “yes” for the sales tax referendum on the Feb. 2 primary election ballot. The Henry County Courthouse is a historic treasure that will continue to provide the office and court space needed to conduct the business of the county when it is repaired. We urge voters to provide the county with the revenue needed to repair the courthouse.
Please vote “yes” on Feb. 2.
Citizens for Henry County Courthouse Renovation
Harold Ford, Co-Chair
Gregory Peterson, Co-Chair
Editor, Galva News:
On Feb. 2, we go to the polls to vote for the Republican nominee to be the next governor of the State of Illinois. With ex-governor George Ryan already in jail and ex-governor Rod Blagojevich indicted and impeached from office, we have to find a person of character and competence to lead our state back from a deficit estimated as high as $10 billion.
There are several career politicians, both Democrat and Republican, who want to be our next governor. But is that the answer? Electing someone who comes from the political class that has brought us the problems we already have - Illinois has the largest unfunded state pension obligations in the nation - more than $60 billion dollars.
The problems we have in Springfield have been getting worse and worse over the years, thanks to the people who control the power structure in Illinois politics and government.
There is a better way. There is a new person, totally clean and fresh.
Adam Andrzejewski, 40, is married to his wife, Kerry, and they are parents of three girls.
Adam grew up in the small rural Illinois farm town of Herscher as the oldest of seven. His dad taught government and civics in public schools for 38 years, and his mom stayed home to raise the family.
After working his way through college at Northern Illinois University,Adam and his brother built a small town telephone directory publishing business from scratch, creating hundreds of jobs and $20 million in annual sales.
After selling shares of the business in 2007, Adam founded the government transparency organization named “For the Good of Illinois” that helps local units of government post their spending on public Web sites so taxpayers can locate waste and misspending and work to zero it out. More than $1 billion in government spending has been uploaded so far.
Adam is pro-life, pro-traditional marriage and supports the individual’s right to gun ownership.Adam also is opposed to new taxes, preferring to cut waste, fraud and abuse of tax dollars out of the budget while making government more accountable for how they spend our money.
There is much more to learn about Adam Andrzejewski at his Web site, www.adamforillinois.com, including many videos of his speeches and more than 15,000 words of public policy so you know exactly what Adam will do if we elect him governor.
Adam knows whereHenry County is on the map. He has spoken in Cambridge and Woodhull and two top members of his leadership team are from our county.
We believe Adam Andrzejewski is the best choice for governor.
Jason DeSplinter, Annawan (Henry County Board District 3)
Rich Nordstrom, Galva (HenryCounty Board District 2)
Editor, Galva News:
Henry County is back knocking on the door. For the third time, they are trying to pass a local-option sales tax. This time, it is to repair the courthouse, a building they are responsible to maintain.
However, from their obvious neglect, they now wish to transfer this responsibility for the cost of repairs to the shoulders of our local merchants. The county trusts these entrepreneurs will generate enough in retail sales to pick up the tab.
When individual cities create a sales tax or raise their existing tax, it does not create a negative effect on neighboring communities. However, if a larger government entity (county) with the capability to impose a sales tax “district-wide” should do so, it in fact, is taking money out of all the downtowns in the area.
Yet, Henry County indicated it would like to see growth in population, economic development and job creation as priorities. That thought seems to have little substance. By pursuing this revenue, for this specific purpose, it harms communities in Henry County by affecting their tax base and could have a boomerang effect for the county.
Sales tax is vital to the local governments who provide many important services to their commercial area. Thus, if for no other reason than courtesy, local officials seek and respect business commentary on such matters.
Our cities, towns and villages supply the infrastructure necessary for growth. For water, they provide the wells, treatment plants and distribution lines. Sewage services also require an extensive treatment facility and sanitation lines along with storm-water distribution. Just to build streets with the above utilities can easily cost a million dollars a mile, and the city has a lifetime of maintenance and replacement.
Thus, communities with these services are a nucleus for schools, medical centers, libraries, telephone, Internet providers, and, of course, the necessary business district. They provide a venue for participation in the arts, local customs, festivals and a host of other social activities.
People looking to relocate and people who want to invest in a business require the above. They will not even give Geneseo a second look if these facilities are not adequate and up to standards.
It is evident that for Henry County to grow, it is the cities “that will determine”if they want the responsibility of financing the debt, management problems, liability and a lifetime of maintenance and replacement of infrastructure.
To cover these expenditures, there is no way property tax can do that and still provide venture capital for future growth. Geneseo is one of 10 property taxing districts in the county. Property tax on a house with an asset value of $250,000 according to the county would be $6,200 per year. Of those 10 taxing districts, education is first in line and receives the largest share. The county is second in line for $745.14 per house and Geneseo is fifth, for a meager $414.19 per house.
History shows a major part of the solution lies in two taxes - sales tax and hotel/motel tax.
Sales tax is historically a grandfathered major revenue source for cities. The county, by failing to recognize this fact, chooses to compete for a portion of this revenue stream. Geneseo is at 6.75 percent but will have to collect the county’s .25 percent tax should it pass, pushing the city’s tax level to 7 percent. The same is true inKewanee and Colona.
The county tax will take tens of thousands of dollars out of area business districts every year. In a period of six to 10 years, the total will exceed $2.5 million.
The county has not invested one dime in the creation of our retail centers, and they have no expenses involved in maintaining or enhancing our downtowns. Plain and simple, this is skimming the cream off the top of the milk.
A sales tax conference with 35 Illinois cities attending was held in the Chicago area in 1997.I was invited to participate and one mayor stated, and I quote from the minutes, “If it means sharing revenue and not costs, we never would approve a mall, because there are many costs associated with it.”
Sales taxes make the payments on our bonds. Our sales tax provides venture capital so we and the county can grow. Sales tax can provide the 20 percent of the funds we need to obtain most grants. On a million dollar grant, based on 80/20 percent, we would need $200,000 in the bank.
The present county board cannot commit future county boards to honor a sunset clause. Such clauses and lock boxes are media sound bites and nothing more. Their tax will live forever.
When the economy went south, the panacea for revenue became the local-option sales tax. Around the U.S., the “go green movement”wanted sales tax revenue. Davenport’s “promise”was to send every student to college from sales tax revenue. Historical societies want sales tax revenue. A humane society sought sales tax revenue. Quad-City school districts wanted the tax for building repairs. Henry County wanted local-option sales tax revenue for a “public safety tax” and now for the second time for “courthouse repairs.”
The 2010 census is predicted to again show a loss of population. What has been tried for decades in the past has not worked. Henry County communities are on the move. There have been some failures, but also many successes. I trust you will vote no at the polls on Feb. 2.
Editor, Galva News:
Please vote “Yes” on the Feb. 2 ballot to approve a .25% sales tax increase from 6.25% to 6.5% for repairs to the Henry County Courthouse. The courthouse building has been damaged by the effects of rain, snow, ice, and wind. As roof and 3rd story window repairs are made to stop further damage, the historic exterior features of the building constructed in 1880 will also be repaired and preserved for another 25 years or more. The State’s Attorney, County Clerk, County Recorder, County Treasurer, Supervisor of Assessments, Clerk of the Circuit Court, County Administration, various other departments, and the data processing offices all operate in this building.
$2,840,000.00 of bonds will be issued to pay for the project. Using a 5.75% interest rate and a 10 year term, an investment banking firm calculates a maximum yearly payment of $397,631.00. Analysis indicates the .25% sales tax increase could generate as much as $600,000.00 per year which would pay the debt in full in 6 years. The Henry County Board is committed end the sales tax rate increase after 10 years, to have all money from the tax paid on the bond debt, and to cancel the rate increase before the end of the 10 year term when the bonds are paid in full.
The sales tax rate will not increase on motor vehicle purchases, food purchases from grocery stores, or medicine purchases. In my opinion, a general list of items purchased that would have a sales tax rate increase would be gasoline, food and beverages purchased at restaurants, and items other than medicine and grocery store food purchased at your local retailers. What you will pay in additional sales tax depends on what you spend in Henry County. If you purchase $50.00 of gasoline per week locally, purchase $20.00 of meals per week from local restaurants, and $40.00 per week of items from other local retailers (not medicine or grocery store food), your annual purchases total $5,720.00 and your family’s additional annual sales tax is $14.30.
Please note that Henry County residents pay only part of this tax. For example, non-residents of Henry County traveling through the area on I-80, I-74, and Route 150 who purchase gasoline and purchase meals in Henry County will pay the additional sales tax and help us pay the debt. In my opinion, the total additional sales tax a Henry County family would pay is reasonable, and the 6.5% tax rate that must be assessed by our businesses is competitive with communities adjoining Henry County.
I am a member of Citizens for Henry County Courthouse Renovation. This group plans to include an information insert in the Jan. 27 issue of the Henry County Advertizer which will be delivered to a significant number of Henry County homes. Limited funding does not allow the committee to include the insert in every copy of that edition of the Advertizer. If you do not receive the insert in your Advertizer edition (or do not receive the Advertizer) and want a copy for review before you vote on Feb. 2, please send an e-mail to email@example.com (My personal e-mail address). There are other committee members who would be happy to share their views concerning the referendum. Please contact Bill Philhower, Everett Swanson, Bernard Francque, Tim Wells, Todd Sieben, and Harold Ford from Geneseo, Danny McDaniel from Colona, Greg Peterson from Galva, Jim White from Cleveland, Tom Weston and Larry Lock from Kewanee, Bill Schehl from Cambridge, Byron Carlson from Orion, and Jens and Judy Rehder from Andover.
Please vote “Yes” on Feb. 2.
On election day, Feb. 2, a referendum will appear on the Henry County ballot again to create a special sales tax for the purpose of courthouse repairs.
Just this past year the voters rejected this idea by a clear margin. I was one of the “no” votes because I do not trust the Democrat majority on the county board to make fiscally prudent decisions with our tax dollars.
The majority of Democrats on the County Board supported destroying a children’s ball field next to the courthouse to make room for a parking lot. This expenditure was estimated to cost $250,000, and it was heavily opposed by the people and elected officials of Cambridge.
Why wasn’t the Democrat majority putting courthouse repairs higher on the priority list than a parking lot pet project?
Why didn’t the Democrat majority keep a regular and effective schedule of maintenance over the last 20 years to keep the courthouse from getting into a condition of disrepair? They have spent approximately $60,000 over the last decade for an unnecessary public relations position. That money could have been much better used, as several Republicans on the board have said when voting no on the PR job, on priority needs.
If the referendum passed, the cost of financing this project over time, due to interest, would be expensive. We should pay for these courthouse repairs with spending cuts. We need to open up the books of the county to full and complete online transparency, in real time. Governor candidate Adam Andrzejewski founded a non-profit group called “For the Good of Illinois” that shows local governments how to do this without cost to the taxpayers. If we can see the wasteful spending, we can cut the spending and pay for more essential county needs.
The Democrat leadership recently passed a $500,000 deficit budget, hired, then fired, an underqualified relative of one of their members to run Animal Control, and selected an Iowa resident to serve as county administrator. This employee has struggled to secure large dollar grant monies to address the historic courthouse’s needs.
I agree with Geneseo Republican board member Bill Preston’s take on this issue and suggest that the voters of Henry County vote “no” on the sales tax increase and require the Democrat majority to go back to the drawing board and make tough cuts and tough decisions, which is what all of us have to do with our homes and businesses in this difficult economy.
Jon A. Zahm
Henry County Board District 2
Editor, Galva News
In his viewpoint letter, Henry County Board member Tom Steele is correct in stating I was the only dissenting board member to oppose the latest sales tax referendum. Going back to April 2009, I again was the only dissenting vote for the sales tax referendum.
When the vote was cast, 57 percent of the voters opposed it. Going back to November 2008, another sales tax referendum was placed on the ballet by the Henry CountyBoard. Again, the voters of Henry County rejected it. The purpose of that 1/2 of 1 percent sales tax referendum was for “public safety.” No mention was made of the need to repair the courthouse, not even a whisper. Tom Steele was a supporter of that referendum.
Now, 14 months later, Mr. Steele would have us believe the courthouse will fall into a pile of dust if we don’t pass his latest version of a sales tax referendum. That won’t happen.
With reference to my statement regarding deficit spending, I stated in my letter that Henry County’s general fund reserves will be depleted in 2011. Mr. Steele’s response was, “No. Not one person on the board has ever indicated such a scenario. To make such a statement is
a wild distortion of the facts.”We have a $1 million reserve in the general fund; $500,000 will be depleted in 2010.
Lisa Hammer had an article in the Nov. 13 issue of the Geneseo Republic pertaining to the Henry County budget deficit of 2010. In that article, she quotes finance committee board member Jerry Thompson as saying, “If you think it’s bad this year, unless we get some
income, it’s going to be tougher next year.” He made that statement at the November 2009 board meeting. Mr. Steele was present at that meeting.
Mr. Steele’s “fact letter” needs some rework.
Mr. Steele voted for the 2010 budget that has a $500,000 deficit. I’m sure that he will also support the 2011 budget that will deplete all of the reserves in the general fund. If you like higher taxes and deficit spending, then continue to support Mr. Steele. He will be happy to help you.
The voter needs to look past the “soft sell approach” and remember the referendum will impose a $3.9 million liability on Henry County.
We are already on the path of deficit spending; we can’t afford to incur more debt. We can make repairs in a timely manner when funds become available. We can start by using the $240,000 in the restricted fund that Mr. Steele’s administration committee originally intended for construction of a parking lot.
Henry County Board Member
Editor, Galva News:
In his letter to the editor, Henry County Board member Bill Preston states he was the only member to vote against placing the one-quarter of 1 percent sales tax increase on the Feb. 2 ballot. That is correct, but he was the only dissenting vote because all other board members understand the need to repair the 130-year old magnificent structure.
Mr. Preston is incorrect in the other points he presents.
First, the 2008 referendum was not rejected by a 57 percent margin. Instead, it failed to pass by an 8 percent margin. By representing the vote in such a twisted manner, Mr. Preston sets the stage to present further distortions concerning the issue of repairing the courthouse.
Let me correct his errors by addressing the questions he raised.
Will the sales tax increase provide the revenue needed to repair the courthouse?Yes. The county needs to raise $397,000 annually to meet our bond obligations. Estimates from the bonding company project the annual revenue from the tax to be $600,000 to $800,000 annually.
The average Henry County resident will pay only $9-a-year toward the repairs because the tax does not apply to titled vehicles, groceries, medical needs, farm production or items sold privately. And, because it is a sales tax, visitors traveling through the county will be helping to pay for the repairs, too.
Is scaffolding cost a large part of the project?Yes. Safety requires such a cost and is one of the reasons the repairs cannot be done piecemeal. Dissecting the repairs into what Mr. Preston calls “individual projects’would cause us to pay the scaffolding cost over and over again.
Does the project require $550,000 in lead paint abatement? Yes. State and federal law demand the abatement occurs.
Divide the repairs into “individual projects” and we would be paying much more for the necessary repairs. In addition, “individual projects” would require a constant rotation of highly skilled workers, again, increasing the cost of the repairs.
Will the revenue from the sales tax increase be used to make the necessary repairs? Yes. As stated on the ballot, the monies must be directed toward the public facility.The ballot also states that the sales tax increase will end after a 10-year period.
Is Henry County following the path of deficit spending akin to the State of Illinois? Absolutely not. The General Assembly has caused our large state deficits by “funding” programs without having access to the revenue to pay for projects they created. Passage of the sales tax
increase establishes the mechanism to pay back the$2.84 million bonds and the$1.1 million interest. It is a responsible method for meeting the cost of the repairs.
Will Henry County’s general fund reserves be depleted in 2011? No. Not one person on the county board has ever indicated such a scenario. To make such a statement is a wild distortion of the facts. Actually, Mr. Preston makes so many inaccurate assertions they cannot all be
addressed in one letter.
So, let me finish this letter by stating that your friends and neighbors serve on the Henry County Board. It is my experience they are all fiscally accountable public servants.
In asking voters to pass the Feb. 2 referendum, the board has been joined by a citizens committee made up of highly reputable people who understand the wisdom of repairing the courthouse now rather than passing the cost and the responsibilities to future generations.
Repairing the courthouse is the right thing to do. Funding those repairs through a one-quarter of 1 percent increase in the sales tax is the smart and responsible way to do it.
Tom Steele (Henry County Board Member)
Editor, Galva News
Once again, the voters of Henry County will be asked to vote for the Public Facilities Sales Tax Referendum, which is being proposed in order to finance the much needed repairs and restoration to the Henry County Courthouse.
While serving as the former director of the Cambridge Main Street program, I learned a great deal about the need to maintain and renovate our existing historical buildings. I also gained a better understanding and appreciation for the integrity of the historical structures located in many of the small towns in Henry County and throughout Illinois. More importantly, is the fact that this program promotes historic preservation in our downtown business districts.
The Henry County Courthouse is part of a main street district and delaying repairs at this time could cost more than one realizes. Some have suggested waiting to make the repairs, but waiting could jeopardize many of the historical qualities and unique features of the building. More delays and deterioration might also make it more difficult to preserve and refurbish some of the existing original architecture and design as well as materials of the structure.
I hope that voters in Henry County will support the referendum this time so that the damages to this American Treasure may begin in time to preserve its beauty.