A Resolution Abating Property Taxes on Real Estate Owned by Con-Way Freight, Inc., was approved, but not without resistance.
Con-Way requested the 10-year abatement as part of its $5 million expansion project on 26 acres. The company has also promised to increase its workforce from 57 to 67 employees.
Referring to abatements as corporate welfare, Pete MacKay (R-5) cast the only vote against the measure.
You want to take one of the wealthiest companies in the United States and rip-off Winnebago County taxpayers by allowing these people to keep from paying real estate taxes, MacKay charged.
The rest of the board, however, agreed the abatement was a fair price to pay for Con-Ways investment.
Sales, property tax relief nowhere in sight
The Republican-led Resolution Expressing Intent to Incrementally Reduce the Public Safety Sales Tax was also approved, but with considerable Democratic opposition.
With its passage, the resolution will now be voted on every two years by future boards.
The plan calls for no reduction of the 1 percentage point sales tax until bonds are paid off in 2024. Any revenues in excess of estimates are to be used to pay down the bonds early, resulting in lower interest. A year ago, Democrats fought unsuccessfully for a quarter-percentage point reduction of the tax.
Doug Aurand (D-3) called the non-binding resolution a feel-good measure to support GOP re-elections, and a waste of the boards time. He suggested, instead, letting the voters decide between sales and property tax relief.
Republicans were not alone in standing accused of political maneuvering. The Democratic argument favoring a reduction of property taxes set the tone for a number of partisan clashes during budget debates throughout the evening. Their plan would have reduced county property taxes on a $100,000 home by about $9, which GOP leaders called political posturing.
Republicans said Democrats should look to their Democratically-controlled state government if they want tax relief.
MacKay and Paul Gorski (D-5) noted the board is more than willing to offer tax breaks for wealthy corporations, like Con-Way earlier in the evening, but not to citizens.
Although MacKay sided with Democrats on a number of key budget issues, Karen Elyea (D-11) helped Republicans defeat the proposed amendments. Democrats unsuccessfully attempted to fund more programs out of the Public Safety Tax, and less from the General Fund.
Democrats argued funding for two particular projectsa law enforcement helicopter and a new juvenile detention centerare legitimate public safety expenditures that should be paid for out of the sales tax.
Mary Ann Aiello (R-9) argued voters were promised the sales tax would only be used for particular purposes, not for just anything related to law enforcement. Those projects will instead see allocations from the General Fund, whose source is property taxes.
Noting the countys portion represents only about 7 percent of a total tax bill, Republicans argued it would be fiscally irresponsible for the board to reduce property taxes. Democrats hoped, however, their small decrease would encourage other taxing bodies to also try to get by with less.
The $217 million fiscal year 2008 budget will mean a slight increase on property tax bills.
Alternative programs to receive $2 million
After a night of voting in line with Republicans, Elyeas request for an additional $400,000 to fund alternative programs was unanimously approved. Democrats, who were stymied the rest of the night, are hoping the extra dollars will be used for prevention programs to intervene in the lives of children before they turn to a life of crime. Alternative programs are aimed primarily at combating repetition of crime.
No decision has been made yet as to which programs will be funded.
Thayer, now a constituent, leaves county with a new insurance plan
In the wake of a recently-dismissed defamation suit against her, Patti Thayer (R-9) attended her final county board meeting Sept. 27.
Thayer was presented with a plaque for her nearly seven years of service on the board. Chairman Scott Christiansen (R) called her a loyal board member and friend.
On the night she resigned, Thayer was able to see the countys new health insurance plan come to fruition. Thayer was given the responsibility of evaluating the performance of the previous plana process which landed her in the defendants chair, accused of damaging the reputation of the countys previous insurance broker. The case was dismissed in May.
We were able to successfully, as a team, stabilize the health insurance plan, Thayer said with satisfaction, which created transparency and saved the taxpayers a considerable amount of money.
In her departure, Thayer offered words of advice to colleagues: When a member has an opinion that is different from yours, that does not make them an enemy.
Differing opinions, Thayer added, can make this body stronger. We need to encourage and welcome debate. Keep your word. Integrity to the taxpayers starts with integrity that you show to each other.
Thayers successor will be considered by Christiansen in the coming weeks. The most likely choice for the Republican appointment, subject to board approval, appears to be Fred Wescott.
Board approves resolution supporting Second Amendment rights
Board members passed a Resolution Supporting the Second Amendment and Opposing Further Restrictions on Legal Gun Ownership in the State of Illinois. Wisconsin and Illinois are the only two states without some form of legislation permitting lawful gun owners to carry their firearms.
Chicago Mayor Richard Daley (D) is largely blamed, or praised, for the lack of such a law in Illinois. Jim Webster (R-2) noted 44 other counties in the state have passed similar resolutions.
Proponents argue allowing law-abiding gun owners to carry their weapons has resulted in measurable crime reduction in other states.
Other resolutions passed
Resolution Authorizing the Execution of Professional Services Agreement with W. Dale Scott & Associates for Real Estate Appraisal Services
Resolution Authorizing Notice of a One-Month Extension for Alternative to Jail Program Agreement
Pearl Hawks (D-6) to the Board of Health for a one-year term expiring October 2008
David Helland, Louise Hoover, Dr. Steven Lidvall, and Inara McGroarty to the Board of Health for three-year terms expiring October 2010
Jack Packard to the Loan Review Committee for a four-year term expiring October 2011
Abraham Liebling and Leon Rosenzweig to the Rockford Hebrew Cemetery Association for three-year terms expiring October 2010
Bob Kinnison (R-10) was not present.
from the Oct. 3, 2007, issue