The taxpayers of Kendall County have spoken. Nearly three-fourths of the voting public has said that the raising of property taxes needs to stop. Although some feel that society demands more services - there is a large portion understanding there is a limit. It doesn’t mean that they don’t have compassion for those less fortunate but it does say the time has come to analyze what people want and what people can afford.
Some have tried to label the KCPTR group as lepers while others have just referred to us as their crazy uncle - simply ignore them and they will go away. I’m not convinced either is correct. I think it is obvious that taxpayers are at the tipping point and we expect the leaders to find solutions. The leaders ask the taxpayers to step up and give them the solutions. The taxpayers simply say, “We elected you – you wanted the job – now give us some options.” What’s so hard for these leaders to understand?
Most of the leaders say the taxpayers are unrealistic. There is no way to cut 20% without destroying life as we know it. Usually the leaders make dramatic statements such as: “It’s for the children.”, “Less police means more crime.”, “Without bike paths, Rec Centers, and Park Boards our kids won’t have anything to do.” and other blanket threats. Many of us know better but most people seem to buy into this rhetoric out of the leaders.
What I have found over the years through experience is that most people are glad to have some of us champion their causes. What most people don’t seem to realize is that the champions for their causes aren’t much different than the leaders they protest to. Leaders and champions both want to do what the people want. It is in the “balance” that is where the arguments begin. The leaders and the champions both get tired after awhile. There is only so much energy available. Many of the leaders are younger and wanting to make their mark on society. Many champions are older but were the leaders when they were younger. The major difference is that the champions have “been there – done that” and realize the mistakes they made and are trying to influence the young leaders to do a better job this time around.
I read an email from another champion today. This champion puts my current feelings into perspective and asks the body of the KCPTR group to step forward. Here is a sample of that email:
“Can you get a large group of taxpayers to speak their minds at the 5:30 PM Oswego Park Board meeting this coming Thursday, November 15? 20 or more would sure make an impact. The public is invited to speak for 5 minutes each, at the very start of the meeting (5:30 PM sharp). It is held at South Point, 810 Preston Lane (adjacent to & south end of Southbury Elementary school), Oswego, Illinois 60543. The 2013 tax levy is the main and most important topic for that Board meeting. I would be happy to discuss this matter ahead of time with anyone who wishes to do so…I look forward to a strong citizen turnout next Thursday. Voting for the tax levy decrease is one thing--ensuring elected officials follow that mandate is another. I'm offering a great opportunity for voters to start implementing that mandate, not just to forget about it after they leave the voting booth.”
So it seems the leaders complain that the citizens don’t attend meetings so their absence proves the status quo is acceptable. The champions plead for these same people to attend the meetings to prove the status quo is unacceptable. Who is correct? Like watching the storm hit the east coast a few weeks ago, the water level is key. For some, the water kept them from taking their kids to soccer practice. For some, it kept them from their jobs and incomes. For some, it meant bailing water from their basements. For some, it meant wading out to safety from their destroyed home. For some, it meant treading water until someone stepped up to save them. For some, who couldn’t swim, it meant losing their lives. For all, it meant pain and suffering because those government services were overwhelmed and couldn’t react. We have become a society who seems to be incapable of managing our own lives. We expect someone else to do it. We don’t always want someone else to take care of our problems - we demand it.
As I read that email from a taxpayer champion I realized my own energy has waned. I realize that if the people expect change to happen then they better step forward and demand it. The energy of a half dozen people is very limited. The energy of hundreds can make change. The ideas from hundreds can change the course of history.
For those who say it can’t be done let me give two basic ideas that could make a huge tax reduction but not curtail services dramatically. One is to update our education systems to utilize technology rather than adding expensive bricks and mortar. Take the upper-class honor role students and trust them to telecommute rather than attend daily school. They have shown for 10-12 years that they are ready for this. Is this a leap of faith? Yes but these kids are capable. Can we reduce teachers for this peer group? Probably. Within a year or so these same students will be shipped off to a college already versed in telecommuting and large class groups. Does home-schooling work? Many have found it works great. So why not give these people and Seniors a break from these taxes? A second concept is to reduce police forces. Could municipalities and county police forces form mutual aid groups? Fire departments did for years. Cities and counties working together for the benefit of people – what a novel idea! The only thing holding them back from having the same service with much less manpower is the protection of budgets and protection of jobs and the power over those jobs by managers and unions.
What reducing tax burdens boils down to simply is uncertainty of funding. With uncertainty the leaders add more to budgets in case funding doesn’t live up to expectations. If funding does come through they find a way to spend that extra windfall and add even more the next year because the people expect it. It has become a vicious cycle that nobody seems to want to break - nobody but those who can’t afford it anymore.
Seems the leaders and the champions are both looking for the same thing. People must step up and take ownership or the taxpayer will get exactly what they are asking for – the status quo.