Column: Freeport Park District, Taxation Without Representation

No one will dispute that Freeport has excellent park facilities, that’s not a matter of debate. God blessed this area with geological beauty and we’ve managed to maintain some of it for our collective enjoyment. However, how much money does the Freeport Park District actually need from our pockets to maintain our parks and keep them in a respectable state of repair?

And that my fellow Freeporters is literally a multi-million dollar question.

In the last 30-years the Freeport Park District has bought land and constructed a new district headquarters, have completely redone both Krape and Read Parks with a maintenance garage in Krape that resembles a hangar for aircraft, and let’s not forget the new restroom facilities to the tune of more than $400k. The district has bought and torn down houses near Read Park to expand parkland holdings while the population is shrinking. At their October 22, 2019 meeting the park district’s five commissioners voted to create new position of “Park District Assistant Director.”

Clearly, while Freeport, Illinois shrinks, we probably have more empty square footage of big box stores than we have occupied, the Freeport Park District continues to spend like drunken sailors.

And now, at tonight’s meeting, park district commissioners will more than likely vote to raise our taxes and borrow money from us that we have yet to earn. This action will result in a direct increase to property taxes paid to the park district. All you have to do is read the agenda on the Freeport Park District’s web page.

The Freeport Park District should only be collecting enough in tax dollars to adequately maintain our parks in a respectable state of repair. The fact that they can do all of the above listed capital improvements and more without coming to the taxpayers for a referendum proves that they are collecting too much of our money.

If they had a choice would local taxpayers rather see the public money the park district is voting to borrow tonight used for something more necessary. Say the Walnut Acres (formerly the Stephenson County nursing home). Perhaps the Freeport Public Library Board could use the additional tax rate the park district will likely approve at tonight’s meeting to reinstate Sunday hours.

Tutty feels it is terribly sad that the Freeport Park District has money to burn but we can’t have our library open on Sunday’s during the school year? Why is the park district getting fatter and has the money for every little thing the commissioners want to do while our other local taxing bodies are forced to make cuts and struggle to provide, arguably more important, basic services?

Where is the outcry from local officials? The park district is borrowing money without a referendum, published notice or a public hearing and no one says a damn thing? Tutty thought Stephenson County was a Republican stronghold? How can the park district’s actions be termed as anything less than in-your-face socialism?

The Stephenson County GOP always has plenty of opinions to share on Facebook regarding national issues but when it comes to things that actually mean something to the bottom line for local taxpayers they are strangely missing in action.

Recently our Republican representatives to the Illinois General Assembly weighed in on actions the that Freeport D145 School Board had taken. While this was an issue driven by emotions it had little to nothing to do with pubic necessity or expenditure.

If the local Republican party is as adamant about tax issues as they claim why are they not speaking out about the Freeport Park District issuing non-referendum, non-noticed debt upon their constituents? They can’t write or speak about how much they want reduced property taxes while at the same time ignoring (or perhaps being ignorant of) the Freeport Park District’s actions which will result in a direct property tax increase for their constituents.

Oh, and in case anyone missed it, the Park District is really not too keen on being accountable to the public they are alleged to serve. Besides handing out free golf passes to themselves (ethical issue?) do park district commissioners hand out additional free golf passes to other officials, while heavily subsidizing Park Hills Golf Course with general taxes?

For decades the Freeport Park District Board of Commissioners has existed with far too little public scrutiny. This is why commissioners were able to expend good money on a “Commissioners’ Garden” in Krape Park. Here, all this time, Tutty thought it was only in monarchies or communist countries where leaders collected public funds build monuments to themselves.

Tutty knows this, nary a Republican “leader” around here had better utter a word about high property taxes or socialism unless they show up at the Freeport Park District Board of Commissioner’s meeting tonight and oppose blatant taxation without representation.

As always, yours in honesty, Tutty Baker, tutty.baker@gmail.com.

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Published Tuesday, February 4, 2020 on Tutty’s Town.

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