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Letter to the Editor: Here's What FACTS Group Is All About

Bob McQuillan: "Perfect storm" of declining property values makes the need more urgent for a tax watchdog group in Geneva.

To the Editor:

Since being formed by four Geneva residents in August 2008, many people have called For Accountable Controlled Tax Spending () a variety of things.  What is this group really about? Very simply, it is a group of like-minded local taxpayers who want to educate the community on how local taxing bodies develop their operating budgets.

Listed below is a portion of our first e-mail to every member of every local taxing body:

I wanted to take this opportunity to inform you of a new community group being formed by Fox Valley residents. The mission of the group is to work with local taxing bodies to learn and understand how they operate, especially in terms of budget development and revenue generation. 

Several outside factors have led to the creation of FACTS, including the slowdown in the real estate market, the continued increase in property assessments and the continued increase in property taxes. The most recent assessment in Geneva Township reflects the average value for the years 2004, 2005, and 2006. If the current downturn in the housing market continues, the assessment received in 2009 will reflect the loss in property value in the years 2006, 2007 and 2008. Clearly, each taxing body’s revenue is directly related to home assessments. A decrease in assessment, which appears very likely, will mean a decrease in revenue for each taxing body. 

It is the group’s goal to be proactive to this potential “perfect storm” and avoid the possibility of homeowners paying more taxes on property that has less value than today. The next 18 months provides an opportunity to discuss and develop a plan that will not negatively affect the entire community. We are in the process of reviewing the budgets focusing on the various expenses and revenue streams. Our next step will be to open a dialogue with each taxing body and inform the public of what we have learned and what can be done to avoid the “perfect storm” causing financial hardship throughout the entire community.  

That e-mail was sent Aug. 22, 2008. Clearly, we knew the potential problem that all of us now live with. We focused on the because it is the largest portion of everyone’s taxes and we didn’t have many “boots on the street.”

Have we been aggressive in speaking out? Yes, because we had to say things that board members didn’t want to hear. Have we been successful? You need to answer that question.

Do you understand more about your taxes than you did in 2009? We now have 123 taxpayers on our e-mail list. Please join by sending an e-mail to taxfacts@sbcglobal.net. It is free, because we use zero-based budgeting! 

I will end with a quote from a Geneva School Board member from the Oct. 24, 2011 meeting about the $325 million debt problem. “It is not a desirable position. We’re just trying to do the best for the long term.”  FACTS realized the problem three years ago; Why didn’t they?  

 
Bob McQuillan
The Dialogue Company, MidWest Region Manager

Rick Nagel (Editor) November 01, 2011 at 06:32 PM
My view is that a community needs tax watchdogs, in part because so many of us don't keep tabs on local government, or vote in local elections. As Jeff Ward said in his columns, Bob has at times gone too far and brought emotion and personalities into the dialogue, which is too bad. The thing to remember is that all of these folks—School Board members, administrators, citizen activists—are good people who really do have Geneva's best interests at heart and deserve applause from the rest of us for caring enough to take part in the process.
Bob McQuillan November 01, 2011 at 06:59 PM
Rick I take offense to your comment. I have never said, or even hinted, that any board member is a bad person. I have never singled out any person except to support certain candidates for the board, which is everyone's right. I have never started rumors that can't be backed up ($20,000 in FOIA's in less than a year). I have never said that I consider the teachers my colleagues and friends as one board member has. To disagree with someone doesn't mean that they are a bad person. For 10 years I have followed the actions of the Geneva School Board and have seen some excellent board members. I also have Geneva's best interests at heart and that is why I have spent hundreds of hours doing my own research on what is happening with our tax dollars. Palaces with $17,000 marble in-lay floors don't help educate a child. This is just one of many, many questionable expenses. I fear that OUR schools have become a place where the real focus is on the "social and emotional problems" that some students have. The average students are falling through the cracks. As I said before, the time to be a cheerleader is at sporting events not at school board meetings. Just because people are graduates of Geneva High School doesn't mean they should wear rose colored glasses and bleed blue. But I guess I'm going to far and being emotional, especially about the 325 million dollars in debt that is looking us in the face. We need to wake up and get involved on how our money is being spent!
Rick Nagel (Editor) November 01, 2011 at 07:11 PM
Bob—I think it's possible you might have misinterpreted my comment, which was meant as a compliment. What I just said was that the community needs tax watchdogs like you and that you are among the folks who deserve applause for having Geneva's best interest at heart.
Jim J November 01, 2011 at 07:25 PM
Rick- Read the middle sentence of your original post, it wasn't complimentary in the least. Jim James
Bob McQuillan November 01, 2011 at 10:53 PM
Rick Without the comment about Jeff Ward's article, yes your comment could be read as complimentary. But based on the fact that you "loved' your buddy Kurt's comment that called for board members to yell at the public, I read it exactly the way it was written. Born & raised Genevans need to take their rose colored glasses off and realize that all Geneva residents have the right to live in this town. Geneva has it's problems, just like every town does, and ignoring them will lead to a less desirable. Unless of course, the goal is to have only the 1%'ers live here.
Mark Cox November 02, 2011 at 12:12 AM
I support and applaud Bob's efforts, today and in the past, to inform Geneva residents of the facts surrounding the D304 budget and ongoing debt crisis. I can only hope that more citizens will get involved and participate by letting the school board know how they feel about the district's current direction. Mark Cox
Ed November 02, 2011 at 12:31 AM
I personally find the FACTS group to be way over the top. He feels that the board should not think of teachers as colleagues? Really? I guess he see's them as enemies? Wow that is progressive. I agree the schools shouldn't be given a blank check but the FACTS groups is a little ridicules. They make it seem like the board members are out to bleed the community. These people work long hours without getting paid just to improve our community. With the attacks like FACTS uses is it a wonder why we don't have more people running for elected office.
Rick Nagel (Editor) November 02, 2011 at 01:03 AM
Genevian: Appreciate your comment but please log in using your full name.
Bob McQuillan November 02, 2011 at 01:37 AM
When a board member is responsible for negotiating a contract for teachers to consider them as colleagues & friends is a conflict of interest. Teachers shouldn't be enemies to anyone but they should realize that the current economy does not support automatic salary increases just for another year of service via the step program. Paying them 20% of their last year's salary on the day they retire to cover their "future medical premiums" is also non-sustainable. Teachers & Administrators are employees paid by the taxpayers, not the other way around. Read the current three year teachers contract and then ask a teachers what they have to complain about. Geneva is in the final year of their teacher's contract, the next contract will go a long way to shaping future school budgets. Salaries and benefits are at least 70% of the operating budget. Ask any school board member their stance on the next contract, you might be surprised at their non- response. Some seem to have forgotten their campaign promise of fiscal responsibility. I realize that "these people" work long hours without getting paid but they knew this before running for the position. I have also worked long hours without getting paid to find out the issues that the board doesn't like to discuss in public. I always use my real name when writing or speaking in public, wonder way some people don't do the same. By the way there are now 130 members of FACTS, not 123.

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