The Opaque Finances of the Freeport Park District

Much attention has been focused on the Freeport Park District as of late, and rightly so, in Tutty’s informed opinion the park district has taxed far too much while at the same time shutting the real owners of our parks out of any official decision making. All the multi-million dollar capital improvements over the past few decades and not a one tied to a referendum decision is proof enough.

Tutty was very happy to see so many individuals practicing civil engagement with the Freeport Park District Board of Commissioners and the work they went to gathering information and organizing a large group of concerned citizens. They should be applauded for their efforts.

What still concerns Tutty, always the fiscal conservative, is the park board’s agenda from their February 4th, 2020 regular meeting. Agenda item B was an ordinance “providing for the issue of approximately $360,075 in General Obligation Limited Tax Park Bonds, Series 2020A” The ordinance would also be “providing for the levy of a direct annual tax to pay the principle and interest on on the bonds“. Here is a picture of the meeting agenda.

park bina01

What Tutty can’t understand is why the Park District–apparently–does not have to comply with the Bond Issue Notification Act, 30 ILCS 352/1…can anyone get Tutty an authoritative answer to this publicly important query?

The Bond Issue Notification Act provides that Illinois’ units of local government provide published notice (beyond and agenda) and hold an official public hearing before borrowing money (bonds) and creating a new tax (levy). As far as Tutty can recall there was not any published notice, nor do the park district’s written agendas and meeting minutes suggest that an official public hearing was ever held.

Does the Park District and their five commissioners actually have the power to borrow money–money that many of us have yet to earn without even telling us they are doing it, much less what they are borrowing it for? The Bond Issue Notification act, it would appear, was meant to prevent this very thing. One paragraph of the act would require the “governing shall explain the reasons for the proposed bond issue.” Here is a picture of that part of the statute.

Park bina

So why does this Illinois statute not apply to the Freeport Park District? How can five-commissioners decide to borrow money and not even officially give notice that they raising your property taxes to do it? Where is our States Attorney? Who is charged with making sure these statutes are followed? Is a private citizen expected to hire an attorney?

Tutty believes these question (and others) need to be put to Stephenson County States Attorney, Mr. Carl Larson as well as our two representatives to the Illinois General Assembly, Senator Brian Stewart and Representative Andrew Chesney. The citizens of the Freeport Park district deserve an authoritative answer to the questions posed above

Is it too much for citizens to ask that units of local government be transparent when it comes to public financing?

Why can’t we expect that here in northwest Illinois? Gentlemen?

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

Re-printed with permission. This and other articles are available at https://tuttystown.blogspot.com/

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