Boone County Board destroys future credibility

If there was ever an action taken by an elected body that eliminated any lingering trust in elected official’s credibility, look no further than the Boone County Board majority.

In order to aid the passage of a 1999 referendum for construction bonds to fund a $9.3 million dollar jail expansion, members of the Boone County Board and bond proponents promised voters, and added a clause in a 2011 ordinance, that pledged when the bonds were retired in 2018, the one-half cent sales tax would be repealed – a sunset clause.

In March, 2015, the Boone County Board rescinded the 2018 sunset clause without any input from the taxpayers, allowing the board to continue to use the sales tax to pay off other public safety operations and capital expenditures after the bonds are retired.

This action by the Boone County Board will place the credibility of all taxing bodies in jeopardy for future tax referendums with board guaranteed end dates.

Many taxpayers will simply point their collective fingers toward the Boone County Board as the typical example that regardless of promises made, all taxes will be collected for an indeterminate period because elected officials can’t be trusted.

The lame excuse given by the current board majority for rescinding the sunset clause was that “no one can promise and obligate a future board 20 years down the road.”

If that’s the case, why not let the 2018 board make its own decision on the sales tax sunset clause with voter input? It seems obvious that the current county board is the one tying the hands of future boards.

Current boards are obligated by previous board’s decisions all the time, whether the decisions are 20 year bonds, increases in staff salaries, benefits and other long term expenditures, which future boards must by law continue to implement.

The contracts signed and payments made for the construction bond, which was passed almost two decades ago, obligated all the Boone County boards elected during that period, including the current board to 20 years of debt service. It is how the system works.

Bob Walberg, Chairman of the Boone County Board recently wrote in a column stating that he believed, “the real reasons most people supported the referendum is because they saw the need for public safety as the ballot stated.”

That’s conjecture, Bob, since your board just denied the Boone County taxpayers an opportunity to voice their preference to continue or eliminate the sales tax as other districts in the area have done for their constituents.

Also, your comments concerning lower revenues and cuts by state government have affected all taxing districts in the area, not just Boone County.

Thankfully other area boards, regardless of budget constraints, have honored their sunset clauses by asking for voter input, unlike the Boone County Board rescinding their sunset clause with little or no public awareness of their intentions, using a deft sleight of hand with the published meeting agenda.

The Rockford School District and the City of Rockford have enhanced their trust and credibility, by asking their voters multiple times over the past decade to continue or rescind the various taxes for capital improvement or for operation and expenses with resoundingly successful outcomes each time after informing their voters what was to be done with the money.

The Village of Cherry Valley is also asking their voters in the April 7th election to continue their sales tax levy, which sunsets next year.

Another point to consider was that the Boone County Board could have voted to use the excess sales taxes collected during the bond retirement period to pay down the debt service faster, thus saving taxpayers some of the accruing interest, before becoming so dependent upon the sales tax for other expenditures.

After all, shouldn’t elected officials at least ask the people footing the bill?

Boone County taxpayers will have to insist in the future that their elected officials place any sunset clause directly into the referendum language or the text of the ballot before voting their approval, to ensure that their officials will not repeat this board’s actions!

It’s hard to believe that the overwhelming majority of the Boone County Board ran as Republicans!