Guest Column: Voters, beware in Stephenson Co.

Stephenson County voters are faced with four referenda this election; in all cases, the ultimate result of a “Yes” majority vote will mean higher taxes, some short-term, some for on infinitum or until the next referendum.

But can County voters afford higher tax rates? After all, revenues generally increase with inflation!

Fifty-percent of Freeport’s public school students eat free or reduced lunches—we need to support the poor. Freeport’s not rich, but median income continues to rise while job losses continue and lower-paying jobs abound. How can this be? Wealth is being redistributed among the few who benefit from paying workers less.

Earlier this fall, a few “locals” tried to petition a $20.5 million “advisory” referendum on the November ballot for widening U.S. Hwy. 20—they failed.

In Stephenson County, the Board approved a $20 million county road referendum for Tuesday’s ballot (they only have $9 million open on their credit line). The ballot reads “Stephenson County ‘Highway’ Bonds”; it does not disclose its “binding,” but all public debt is binding. It must be repaid somehow.

Voters should read carefully so they are not confused to think this is the $20.5 million “advisory” referendum. Republican County Board incumbent Gerald Harbach even seemed confused in a recently published interview.

Question: If Stephenson County has only $9 million available for general public debt per county statute and the 1970 Illinois Constitution, then would voters be approving the County to exceed their debt limit if the referendum passed?

Other Stephenson County referendum include: creating a new Veterans’ Assistance Commission levy to fund supportive services for veterans—the levy will be approved for all years thereafter; Freeport Township is looking to triple its tax rate, approving the levy for all years thereafter; and Dakota Fire Protection District is looking to build a new station with the bells and whistles for a mere $575,000.

Contributing Writer Marianne L. Garvens is a Freeport resident.

From the Nov. 1-7, 2006, issue

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