My View: 10 reasons why Boone County public safety sales tax failed
By Cathy Ward
Wonder why Boone voters defeated the public safety sales tax? Here’s my opinion as a longtime resident and board member. I think there are at least 10 major reasons that led to this defeat.
But first let me say that I truly believe all of us want excellent public safety to be a priority. Second, I do not believe the defeat of the referendum is any reflection of the leadership of Sheriff Dave Ernest or newly elected board chair Karl Johnson. Third, I believe that some taxpayers will vote no on any tax increase. However, it’s not true that our voters always say no to tax hikes. Our people approved a tax hike for schools, our veterans and our animal shelter in the past few years.
Here’s a summary of what I have seen our people find unacceptable and why they voted no on the public safety sales tax referendum on April 4.
1) A majority of board members a few years ago erased the sunset date of the current public safety sales tax, which was supposed to end when the jail bonds were paid off in 2018. Now that tax, about $1.4 million a year, will continue forever. Many considered that a major broken promise.
2) The majority of the board approved a huge property line setback that eliminated the chance of a multi-million dollar wind farm project that would have brought millions of new tax dollars to our people, schools, villages and townships.
3) The majority of the board voted to break a longtime Belvidere/Boone planning department agreement. That meant taxpayers would pay more than twice as much for half the staff and further weaken city/county relationships. It’s no wonder why no city officials endorsed the sales tax proposal.
4) The majority of the board worked really hard to ignore the pleas of hundreds of residents who asked us to help “Stop the Train.” Former chair Bob Walberg said the board would never even discuss it, but then he backed off that stance. It took weeks before the board would even pass a resolution opposing the train.
5) The majority of the board fought tooth and nail to refuse to give our veterans any assistance. Finally our veteran leaders took it directly to the voters who approved the assistance with a referendum win.
6) The majority of the board tried every trick in the book to ignore the requests of animal lovers who wanted to replace a deplorable animal shelter. That, too, went to referendum and our people approved it. It should have been built years ago when it would have been much cheaper, but we still hear those same board members who opposed it moaning about the cost.
7) Many members keep saying we are “broke,” yet approved raises as high as 5 percent a year and a few years back did nothing to stop raises as high as 55 percent in the health department. Retirement bonuses of tens of thousands are still being given.
8) Despite requests from hundreds who ask us for more stop signs and more reduced speed signs, many board members keep ignoring those requests and try to block them.
9) The majority of our board members allowed former chair Walberg to replace on committees and board anyone who did not agree with his goals. He then appointed friends and relatives of friends to those boards.
10) Finally, many board members refuse to sit in regular board seats so visitors can hear better.
I don’t believe it was any one of these items that caused the defeat, but the cumulative effect was that dozens of our residents left our board room in the last few years under the leadership of Walberg with the opinion that they were being totally ignored. They saw lots of arrogance or indifference.
Our voters had their chance in the ballot box to show their displeasure.
Cathy Ward is a member of the Boone County Board.