Tort ruling may bring tax hike
By The other shoe drops Thursday for Attorney Mike OBrien. At 9 a.m., the Illinois Supreme Court will deliver its verdict on the use of tort funds as practiced by Rockford District 205.
By Joe Baker
The other shoe drops Thursday for Attorney Mike OBrien. At 9 a.m., the Illinois Supreme Court will deliver its verdict on the use of tort funds as practiced by Rockford District 205.
If we lose then were done–finished, OBrien said Tuesday. If we prevail the case will be sent back to the trial court to determine the refunds, he said. There are some procedural objections, but Im not too concerned about them.
The ruling will have a direct effect on the upcoming referendum to replace tort taxes. If OBrien wins, the referendum is a tax increase, Mary Hitchcock of R.E.A.CH. said Its how benevolent you want to be to the school district. Im not going to vote for it.
OBriens anti-tort arguments have been upheld by the local trial court and by the appellate court before going to the state supreme court.
I think we will prevail, OBrien said. If we lose there will be an insidious effect on our political system in the long term. I think there will be more lawsuits.
Should the courts ruling favor OBrien and the referendum is approved, the resultant tax hike would be about .1225 cents per $100 assessed value. The savings to taxpayers works out to about $1.05 per $100. If the lawsuit wins and the referendum fails, the taxpayer savings would be $1.175 per $100 assessed value.
If the courts ruling on the lawsuit is against OBrien and the referendum is successful, the taxpayers would see a savings of .0817 cents per $100 assessed value. If the referendum loses in addition to losing the court case, there would be no change in the districts total tax levy.
Both OBrien and Hitchcock are critical of efforts to sell the referendum. If I win, it will become more evident all that stuff you read in the paper … people will come to understand it isnt accurate, OBrien said.
This is a scam theyre running, Hitchcock said. Theyve deceived the public. They keep saying its a saving. Its a tax increase. The group leading the referendum campaign has not been honest. In order to get a $15 million [state] grant they have to take on $29 million in debt.
OBrien said, If were able to end judicial taxation, voting for the referendum is a vote to increase taxes. If the district doesnt have judicial taxes then it will have to pay for COPS (certificates of participation) from the general educational fund. Thats at the maximum levy.
He predicted a political debate and a financial crisis for the district would ensue in that event. I think the people who vote for it [the referendum] to avert a financial crisis should get a pat on the back, OBrien commented.
He said he intends to suggest that the school board, if he wins, pay the tax refunds from next years tax levy and not get involved in litigating procedural objections.
I think people could be convinced to rally in support of the referendum to avert a financial crisis, OBrien said.
How much money are you going to give em, Hitchcock asked. They havent used my [tax] money wisely. The debt increases every year. Im not going to vote myself a tax raise.
School Board Member Stephanie Caltagerone said she remains in the undecided column where the referendum is concerned. I dont want to trash the referendum, she said. I dont know what Im going to do.