Tuesday, November 24, 2015
LAWRENCE BAY submitted this op-ed for the Guest Columnist contest in the Dispatch/Argus. We will see if this ever gets published but the ideas expressed need to be repeated often. "Unionized government workers may wish to save this. I am actually agreeing with the position of union leaders! ..... Rock Island County administrator Dave Ross is asking the county's union workforce to forgo a 2 percent pay raise and is also recommending a 16.8 percent property tax increase. AFSCME Local 2025 president Jeff Stulir rightly said his members would reject forgoing raises until they saw the county board also making sacrifices such as giving up their pensions. ..... One RICo board member called dropping pensions "small potatoes", another called the 16.8 percent property tax increase the equivalent of a tank of gasoline. All taxpayers, including union members, don't think a 16.8 percent increase in the county property taxes added to a 4.85 to 10 percent increase in school property taxes plus increases by many libraries and municipalities is "small Potatoes". ..... Taxpayers see huge pay raises and benefits given to administrative positions and are told that's only a drop in the ocean compared to the overall budget costs of those who do the actual work. Is it any wonder that unions object to unilateral sacrifice or that taxpayers resent ever-rising taxes? ..... Everyone who seriously considers the finances of Rock Island County and the state of Illinois realizes that their current trajectories are unsustainable. Some believe the answer is simply to raise taxes to cover any shortfalls and to actually increase government spending to meet any perceived need. Others believe that raising taxes only drives residents, businesses and shoppers to states with lower taxes, we certainly see evidence of that here where Scott County has far greater retail sales and housing starts. ..... Very few taxpayers or unionized government workers trust our elected officials in any government to be wise stewards of the public money. Here are a few suggestions that might help restore that trust. ..... Until a government's finances are solvent no pay raises should be given to anyone that exceeds that given to Social Security recipients. ..... All governmental bodies should not raise taxes above the rate of inflation without specific cause. Too many local governments routinely raise property tax levies 4.8 percent every year, this quickly adds up. ..... All local taxing bodies should pass resolutions urging the Illinois Legislature to repeal prevailing wage. This would enable more construction at lower cost. Iowa has never had a prevailing wage law. ..... Rock Island County should consolidate school districts. The reduced bureaucracy would save millions that could be put into the classrooms. We don't need ten school districts plus the Regional Office of Education, with their bloated bureaucracies, in a county of 22,000 pupils. ..... Township government should be eliminated in urban areas. Why should we have both municipal and township government eating our taxes? Iowa doesn't. ..... Sell Hope Creek. For-profit nursing homes pay property and sales taxes while most are rated higher than Hope Creek by accrediting bureaus. This would eliminate the county subsidy, increase tax revenue, and the equity would add cash to RICo. ..... The Rock Island County Board should be down-sized. Scott County has five part-time board members yet has a larger population. RICo doesn't need 25 board members. Pensions and health care should be eliminated. Yes, this may be "small potatoes" but if the County Board is not willing to sacrifice why should the union members and the taxpayers? ..... These measures, if enacted, would help restore trust in our local government. If our taxpayers saw their money was spent wisely they might be more willing to accept necessary tax increases. Right now our local governments resemble very leaky buckets. ..... It would also help restore Rock Island County competitiveness with our Iowa neighbors."