Friday, April 16, 2010

Belvidere wrong in use of utility tax money

This guest opinion piece by  Clint Morris is from the April 16, 2010 Rockford Register Star.

As an alderman in Belvidere, I feel that taxpayers have not been fairly informed when it comes to understanding and determining whether local government is being responsible with their tax dollars.
A recent Register Star article led readers to believe that I had proposed job cuts in order to add a surplus to an existing budget surplus — not true. What the article failed to mention is that Mayor Fred Brereton is touting a balanced budget that grabs nearly $2 million collected from taxing Belvidere residents and businesses monthly on their essentials: gas, electricity and phone bills.

Click on the following for the rest of this opinion piece:  Guest Column: Belvidere wrong in use of utility tax money - Rockford, IL - Rockford Register Star

Interesting Boone County Journal Articles

The following stories are hot off the presses at the Boone County Journal:  Or pick up a free copy nearly anywhere around the county. 

Poplar Grove to Borrow More Money
By Bob Balgemann

Poplar Grove officials thought the soon-to-be-imposed
telecommunications and utility taxes would generate enough
additional money to produce a $100,000 budget surplus by
April 30, 2011, the end of the 2010-11 Fiscal Year.
But that won’t happen.
The village was forced to borrow more than $200,000 to
make ends meet during the final weeks of the current fiscal
year, which ends April 30. Officials wanted to increase the
$500,000 line of credit they had with Poplar Grove State
Bank to $650,000.
That won’t happen, either.
So the village now faces getting a tax anticipation loan
of $150,000 that, joined with the $150,000 left in the line
of credit, should tide them over for the next three weeks.
Village Treasurer Maria Forrest said the loan must be paid
off by October 2011, which will consume the $100,000
budget surplus officials hoped to have at the end of 2010-11,
plus a little more.
All of that forced members of the Finance Committee
to make more cuts in expenses Monday night, paramount
among them scrapping plans to paint the water tower, to save
$37,000, and only buying one back-up generator, heading
for the Oak Lawn lift station, a savings of $32,500.
While Public Works Director Jeff Strate would like to
have two new generators, he said one at the Prairie Green
lift station was needed more than at Oak Lawn. Poplar
Grove has no alternate sources of electricity at most of its
the Machesney Park ordinance as a model, which does
have a rebate but it’s for those 65 years of age and older
who qualify, not younger families. “We misinterpreted the
Machesney Park ordinance,’’ Fry explained.
Community Unit School District #200 also qualifies
for a rebate, but the committee recommended against that
for the time being. Though no one had a figure, Village
President Bradley Rightnowar and others were concerned
that loss of income might throw the 2010-11 Budget into
another deficit.
“Right now the new budget will have a surplus of about
$1,000 following the cuts we made tonight,’’ he said,
referring to April 30, 2011. Of the rebate for the school
district, he said, “We can always change that later.’’
While they’re in financial difficulties, committee
members still agreed to recommend paying $3,000 to
be members of Growth Dimensions for another year.
Rightnowar is hoping to work with that organization, the
economic development arm of Boone County, in bringing
commercial growth to the village.
“It’s time for their annual pitch (for money) to Poplar
Grove,’’ committee member Cliff Stetter said.
But the committee agreed it wanted one of the
organization’s board members, such as the president,
Richard Van Evera, to provide the annual update, not
someone on staff.

Special Education
Changes Draw Dist.
#200 Lawsuit
By Bob Balgemann

Special education students in North Boone Community
Unit School District #200 will continue to receive services
in 2010-11.
That’s the bottom line after a recent flurry of activity that
began Friday, April 9, when District #200 filed a lawsuit
against Belvidere Community Unit School District #100
for taking “illegal action to dismantle the Boone County
Special Education Cooperative, thereby leaving North
Boone children with disabilities without access to needed,
specialized educational programs.’’
A mediation session was held Tuesday, with Boone
County Circuit Judge Eugene Doherty helping the two
districts hammer out a settlement agreement. In the final
analysis, District #200 Board of Education Chairman
Don Ward said on Wednesday, North Boone students in
kindergarten through 12th grade will receive the same
special education services as they did this year.
The District #200 board is expected to act on the
settlement at their April 26 meeting.
The path to Monday’s settlement began March 18, when
the District #200 board, following a lengthy executive
session, retained a Chicago law firm to “
prepare pleadings,’’
including the possible filing of a lawsuit against District
#100 for hiring 57 staff members out of the Boone County
Special Education Cooperative. That organization provided
services to about 125 children, most of them from District
District #200 officials said in a statement that action
by District #100 was an attempt to “gut the cooperative...’’
In addition to hiring the 57, the statement added District
#100 “has taken actions to terminate all but one of the
cooperative’s remaining employees.’’

Attorneys filed the lawsuit in Boone County Circuit
Court on Friday, and this was an action that was “about
protecting our special needs children,’’ Ward said at the
time. “Belvidere left us with no choice but to file this
lawsuit. Without court intervention, Belvidere will destroy
the cooperative.’’
Dr. Rita Brodnax, superintendent of District #200, issued
this strongly worded statement: “North Boone’s many and
ongoing efforts to resolve this dispute with Belvidere have
so far failed, which is why North Boone is forced to pursue
this lawsuit to protect its students. We cannot stand by while
our children with disabilities are deprived of their rightful
However, District #100 Superintendent Michael
Houselog said during a coop board meeting Tuesday night
that Belvidere district’s intent was to bring the programs
Joel Moeller, District #100 assistant superintendent for
Administration and Human Resources, said previously that
the board’s action was a cost-saving measure and that there
was no intent to disband the cooperative.
We don’t believe we have done anything outside the
terms of the agreement,’’ Houselog said. “We have an offer
on the table for North Boone students to attend our schools.
It has been there since the end of March. We haven’t heard
from them.’’
Despite Houselog’s assurances, Ward said Wednesday, “I
don’t see how we could have gotten to this point without the

lawsuit. I think both districts were doing what they thought
was best for the students, but their approaches differed.’’
For families of special needs students, he said the
settlement agreement covering 2010-11 would provide
continuity for the coming year. The cooperative will
continue to exist though it will have minimal staff. Anne
Risen is the executive director.
Ward said he wanted to thank Judge Doherty for
mediating the agreement, which is good for one year.
North Boone for many years has provided special
education programs through the cooperative, which serves
children who have significant needs due to disabilities such
as autism, developmental delay, emotional and cognitive
All of the cooperative’s programs are housed in Belvidere
school buildings, except for the early childhood program for
students 3 to 5 years of age, which is located in the Boone
County Center in Belvidere.

Changes in County
Extension Services
By Rebecca Osterberg

On April 9 the University of Illinois Extension announced
the complete restructuring of programs from fiscal changes
to locations, personnel and service areas. Earle Mailand
spoke about those changes and the future plans for the
Boone County Extension Service at the Tuesday night
Boone County Board Finance Committee meeting.
“I was at a meeting this afternoon with some of the
other county directors,” said Mailand. That meeting, he
explained, was to discuss the ramifications and time limits
that are being applied to the reorganization effort by U of I
officials. “Three offices will be incorporated into one and
of the current 76 county directors, there will end up being
30. What we are is looking for input from the county board
as to what they think. We’re under a timeline. By May 10th
we have to have proposals submitted to the regional director
as to the county reorganization.”
According to a document provided by Mailand titled
“University of Illinois Extension Reorganization 2010 –
Phase 1: April 9, 2010,” the extension service is “ever on the
alert to identify current issues and future trends that require
more research to help citizens meet changing societal and
personal needs.”
The document addressed the restructuring as an evolution
of structures and methodologies to “adapt to changes in
society, technology, and fiscal demands.”
Having had “listening sessions” in February and March
throughout Illinois, the document stated that input was
sought from the public as well as the extension staff on
“the development of a new model to better accomplish our
mission and develop a vision for the future.”
The document also explained that the Extension Service
will continue to maintain four core program areas, including
agriculture and natural resources, community and economic
development, family and consumer sciences and 4-H youth
County board Representative Cathy Ward (District 2)
noted the closure of several large offices. “Are you saying
you have some options?” Ward, asked. “I’m really surprised
to see them closing Winnebago and Springfield.”
Ward referred to a press release that announced some of
the planned changes, including maintaining the Cook County
office as a single-office operation; closure of Carbondale,
Effingham, Matteson, Macomb, and Mt. Vernon offices on
or around June 30, 2010; and the earliest possible closure
of the Quad Cities, Rockford, Countryside, East Peoria,
Springfield, Champaign and Edwardsville offices.
“That is their first move as cost-savings,” Mailand said.
“The educators would be relocated to save rental costs.”
Ward also asked who is making the decision regarding
what offices will remain open. Mailand had no answer.
“They’re not telling us,” Mailand said. “That’s why it’s
important to me that you tell us what you would like.
Because of [Boone County’s] population, a three-county
population should be enough to get us through. This is
local, not state money, but locally generated dollars.”
“Did I misunderstand that our office may or may not
be here, as we determine with our makers?” asked county
board Representative Marshall Newhouse (District 1).
“That is something that is to be determined,” said
Mailand. “If we were to try to become the hub so to speak,
certainly that would be a high priority. But, whether or not
we would be a hub for this unit...”
“It sounds like you would like some recommendation
from us,” said Ward. “Would a small county be better?”
Ward was referring to the possible partnering with other
“I think we need a melding of that,” Mailand said. “My
preference would be to take that input and try to come up
with what would be best and a combination that would serve
Boone County best.”
Discussion included what other contiguous counties
would make the best partners. Ward noted some would say

DeKalb would serve the need best. Mailand offered that a
third county could then possibly be considered.
“I think from my standpoint, the first priority is to keep
an extension office here,” said county board Representative
Karl Johnson. “I am disappointed that they are forcing
offices to combine. I guess I didn’t read this very well. I have
some concerns that as a community we kick in $250,000 as
a county for extension. You are talking that we have to
put in a $350,000… (Mailand interjected, “Minimum”).
Cook County is not the only county that deserves an office.
Boone County has one of the largest fairs. I think we should
be able to make the case that we deserve to have our own
“The dollars generated are similar but how they’re
generated varies from county to county,” said Mailand. In
DeKalb, for instance, a county that Mailand said generates
about the same amount of money as Boone County, funds
come from the Farm Bureau, the Conservation District and
other similar sources.
Mailand asked that the county board provide a
recommendation as soon as possible.
“The counties to the east of us are doing the same thing
I am today, meeting with groups and getting their input,”
said Mailand.
“I can foresee that while there might be some preferences,
if you can’t get a full unit together you are going to have to
look at ‘what is my best case’ scenario,” said Mailand. “You
might look at the demographics so when you put together
the educators you would meet the programming needs of
that county best. What is a priority in this county might not
be a priority in another. Think about that as to compatibility.
So that you would end up with a grouping that would be
going in the same direction rather than a group that’s going
in all different directions with different needs. “
Compatibility and contiguous location are both criteria,
Mailand explained. “Boone County has enjoyed incredible
support. He also said their grand plans for the future are
now being reevaluated.

To see other interesting stories, pick up a copy of the Boone County Journal or go to: