$206 million bond issue

In Meg Dickinson’s Sunday NG article, the big number of $206 million is thrown out there for a possible bond issue referendum in April 2014. The subject of the article is about the “Community Dialogues” on February 12 at the I-Hotel, and then Meg goes into more detail about the work that DeJong-Richter and Fallon Research have been doing, quoting DeJong representative Scott Leopold, Unit 4 Community Relations director Stephanie Stuart and School Board member & Steering Committee co-chair Kristine Chalifoux.

The numbers come out of the Fallon phone survey, posted on the futurefacilities Champaign schools website (cross-tabulated results in PDF, result summary). Specifically, the $206 million comes from question 19A, the $80 million bond question is 20A (where 19B and 20B ask something like “if you knew it would bump your property taxes by x amount, would you still vote for it?”). I had someone call me and question even these numbers (how much our taxes would actually go up), so that is something I want to look deeper into as well. Would a $100,000 home only generate a $251/year tax bump? Keep in mind, a $250,000 home means $625/year, right? It just seems to me that a $206 million bond issue would require a higher tax bump than that.


It is interesting when you start looking at the cross-tabulated document to see how folks responded to that question. However, I am finding it frustrating the there is no way to ascertain the correlation of 19A to 19B – for instance, how many of the 216 people who responded favorably to 19A make up the 170 people who said they were less likely to vote for it in question 19B? We don’t know. But Fallon does. And what does “less likely” really mean? Further more, I found it interesting that the vast majority of the “DK/NA” group (those who declined to self-identify themselves) voiced their antagonism towards any bond issue, yet that particular group is only about 1.5% of the 400 (about 6 people total). The older the respondent (with the oldest group having the most representation in the pool), the more likely they were to be sure of their opinion (as opposed to “unknown/undecided”).


To me, it is scary that only 400 people were sampled. That is less than 1% of the voting, tax paying population. Them’s not high numbers.


Scott Leopold challenged us (the shareholders) to fact-check them. So that is driving me. I have asked Scott for the raw data from Fallon and/or some way to correlate 19A with 19B; I have also asked for the data in a spreadsheet format because the PDF provided does lend itself to analysis very well at all. I have also followed-up with Meg about the article and I hope to learn more about these numbers and what they mean.


Finally, some might wonder why focus on money? It is my observation that when you hit people in the pocket book, they start taking notice. I have found it exceptionally difficult to get people talking about softer issues (especially when I throw in words like “social justice” *grin*). But when you drop dollar signs, people turn their heads and pay attention. On top of that, dollars are a very easy metric to conceptualize and measure. So let’s talk about whether or not you want to pay towards a $206 million 20-year loan, and what you want that money to do.


Are y’all ready for some Community Dialogues on Feb 12th? *smile*

17 Responses to “$206 million bond issue”

  1. pattsi Says:

    This proposed bond amount/referendum ought to be added to the 1% sales tax, which is basically permanent, and the recent revenue bonds. This is a lot of extra monies that Unit 4 has to work with. Each and every one of these revenue generating sources is regression. In other words, hitting the lower income citizens disproportionately to those with higher incomes. And much of the decision-making work does not have a lot of sunshine.
    In addition, the community needs to be made aware of other potential referenda during 2014, such as the Champaign County Nursing Home, County Jail, and an airport authority. Let alone the mental health needs that are not being serviced. In other words, the citizens ought to engage because this is a county-wide conversation, not just a narrow on focused on Unit 4.

  2. charlesdschultz Says:

    So if you know this is regressive and I know it is regressive, there is a very strong chance that the “Wizard of Champaign” (a collective in this case) knows these taxes are regressive. And yet we have regressive taxes. Why? Is it “too hard” to tax luxury items? Does it take too much hard work and research to only tax above a certain income bracket?

    Don’t tell me we only have regressive taxes because the people in power don’t want to pay more taxes.

  3. pattsi Says:

    Duh, of course. Look at what just happened on the federal level. The president wanted tax increases at the $250,000 level and Congress pushed this to the $450,000 level. Who actually care about the low-income individuals who have virtually no voice in any of these issues? Who makes the decisions about taxes? Those who have a comfortable window of discretionary income so they are not hurt when there is an increase. What subpopulation gets hurt the most by these small increases, but collectively large. I was just listening to the your money segment on C-SPAN this morning. Discussion in essence was that there is the beginning of economic relief as to some jobs and better income until one factors in all of the regressive increases. So now people are worse off. I reflect on my non successful comment before the Champaign City Council related to the new stormwater fee of $60/year for 6000 sq. ft. non permeable surface. Translated this means that someone living in the north end, smaller sites and houses, will pay the same as someone in SW Champaign, larger lots and houses. Where is the equity? This is just one more regressive tax/fee imposed in our community.

  4. Karen Says:

    How are property taxes regressive? They are not uniform. Property taxes are an effective means of redistributing wealth from higher income groups to lower income groups.

  5. Karen Says:

    Also, why would lower income people have ‘virtually no voice’ in a referendum?

  6. charlesdschultz Says:

    I cannot answer for Pattsi, but it seems to me that those in substantially higher income brackets have exponentially more discretionary income. Yet property taxes are linear, are they not?

    One thing I think is important to point out is that we are not trying to glorify “Robin Hood” – it is not about exacting some kind of vigilante justice upon the rich. Rather, it is the crucial need to take care of the entire system. I firmly believe that so many things are connected. For instance, low literacy rates can lead to low self-esteem and poor job selection, which can lead to a desire to “keep up with the Jones’s” by nefarious means, which can lead to crime, incarceration and broken homes. Homes in which a new generation of children with low literacy rates, thus starting the cycle all over again. This is not to say that this always happens – Laura Taylor and Ellen Dahlke exposed us to Tupac’s “The Rose That Grew From Concrete“. But the concrete just makes it so much harder for those roses to grow. The way I see it, we must bust up the concrete and stop pouring so much of it.

  7. Yes you can « A citizen’s blog about Champaign Unit 4 Says:

    […] has made it quite clear on a few occasions (some private, some at Houlihans, and finally in a comment) the need to consider the “gestalt” of our taxes and even the mental health of our […]

  8. pattsi Says:

    Karen, please explain why property taxes are not regressive and how such taxes allow distribution from the higher income to lower-income residents. There are very few taxes/fees that are not regressive, especially in this state. Examples–state income tax, 1% sales tax for schools, gas taxes at all levels, utility, phone and cable taxes, stormwater management fee, shopping taxes, any hidden taxes, hotel/motel tax, restaurant tax, cost of bonds, to name a few. None of these redistribute from higher income to lower-income citizens.

  9. pattsi Says:

    I forgot to address the issue of being able to vote on a referendum. Every registered voter can do so. But every registered voter has virtually no chance of influencing the out come of Congressional decision making. This relates to amount of taxes and what level of income the taxes apply to. It is the lobbyist who influence these decisions. I am not aware of a lobbyist who works for an organized group of low-income individuals. I am now reading the book, Bailout. This is an excellent read to learn just how badly Wall St. dissolved low-income individuals from providing how loans to blocking provisions to help mitigate foreclosure.

  10. Karen Says:

    Where are the data showing how much ‘discretionary’ income people have per level of income? Owning a home is not a liquid asset (you can’t just sell off a few square feet with every new tax increase) and I have yet to see money trees growing in any homeowner’s backyard. So many assumptions and stereotypes. For many there is nothing to cut back on/out. They have already cut back on/out everything possible in order to ‘afford’ their home. I guess people in such situations would be expected to sell at a loss when market conditions are unfavorable, just to be fair?
    The higher the property value, the higher the property tax (akin to the higher the income, the higher the tax rate = personal income tax = progressive tax ). The taxes are proportional to the value of the property, no? Those paying minimal get to attend the same schools (SES is, by social design, a weighted factor in Controlled Choice), have the same police and fire services, use the same roads, etc. as those paying far more. Are you saying the money ‘rich’ homeowners pay is not benefiting those who pay very little in property taxes (yes, it may be a lot to them, just as paying 10x as much is a lot to the person a few income brackets up)? I would say many are getting far more out than what they put in (nothing wrong with that, it’s what we do to help take care of others). Could communities of persons of low-income sustain themselves? No. They depend on access to the ‘wealth’ of others (via taxation) to survive. But, as is being seen in places like California and France, there comes a critical tipping point at which redistribution of wealth is going to cause redistribution of people (along with their money). The very money others depend on for sustenance.
    ‘Linear property values have nothing to do with real estate.’
    Registered voters have a say in the upcoming schools referendum. How are any lobby groups going to take that away from them? As for lobbyists representing low-income invidiuals, for starters I think ACORN is still around in the form of breakaway groups under different names. http://dailycaller.com/2010/05/11/acorn-lobbying-efforts-continue-in-washington-under-communities-united-name/ Aren’t there many Social Justice non-profits groups that do lobbying?

  11. Karen Says:

    As for ‘mental health of our community’ I think not almost defending a keeping-up with-the-Jones’ as a reason to illegally obtain material STUFF would be a good start. You are referring to adults? Choices. Values. Priorities. Respect for others (you don’t get to just take what you want from others). Self-control and self-discipline. No literacy required. It never seems to be anything cultural that needs shifting. I agree that literacy is important, but, the self-esteem movement (in our schools) has been as oppressive to kids as anything else allegedly ‘societal.’ Social promotion (to allegedly preserve self-esteem) does kids no favors when it comes to literacy and if schools were (more) effective they would have kids reading at grade-level by school year’s end. Mastery. It does a kid good.


  12. charlesdschultz Says:

    I am also against social promotion, but you have not yet provided an alternative. Not just a theory, but what actually works in Champaign. Does social promotion work for local private schools? If so, why? I am not aware that private schools are holding back children who do not master academic topics, but it is also possible that private schools simply lack in low-performers. I cannot say for sure since I have no exposure into that context. What are the facts?

  13. pattsi Says:

    Karen, I am not totally following your arguments. But I will take a stab at a response.
    Back to property taxes, you are accurate that the property tax rate is the same for those properties within the boundaries of said rate. The assessed value of property, however, is a non constant since there are various determinants that are factored into this assessed value, such a property sales in an area, block equalizer, state equalizer, and then any appeal one might do. In other words, an aging individual, now on a fixed income, who has lived in the property for decades, has to pay higher and higher property taxes as the rate increases and property assessment also increases; yet, the individual has no more income to off set these changes. Fortunately, in Illinois there are two opportunities for a bit of relief when one is over 65 and at certain income levels. If these offsets did not exist, the regressiveness of the property tax would be even more apparent. And an older individual probably would not be able to have the choice to age in place.
    Next to the argument that property taxes are used for the greater good. In theory, this is accurate. In implementation, this is not always the case. In the urban planning literature there are many research articles covering the inequities related to use of the monies generated by property taxes. Right here we have examples–the north end basically has been cut off from fire protect when a train is on the tracks, there are no curbings or sidewalks in the north end so child and walking safety are issues, because of the growth toward the SW until the 1% sales tax was passed, another regressive tax, the schools in the north section were treated with benign neglect, repair and condition of streets varies within the community, the area of 5th and Hill has flooding and contamination issues–I could go on.
    As to groups that watch out forf issues affecting the low-income population, indeed, there are some. That said the percentage chance of effectiveness when matched against the big gun lobbyists is a sling shot v. a bazooka. Again, read the book, Bailout. This book covers in detail how the wall street giants controlled/wrote/influenced the criteria of any of the TARP associated programs to benefit themselves at the total cost to the taxpayer. Where was ACORN while this was going on?
    You use mental health and self esteem basically in the same posting. Are these not separate issues?

  14. charlesdschultz Says:

    Can someone explain this editorial to me:

    Instead of this “dire warning”, how about an objective look at the facts? First provide a link to the proposed amendment, then fill me in with the discussion that has already occurred and the justification that the supporters are using. Then show me how it is supposed to work. Do all that using the extensive vocabulary of a 5th-grader.

    I’ll have to go read this a few times in an effort to wrap my head around it.

  15. charlesdschultz Says:

    Meg published a correction in the Thursday NG. Since corrections are not online, I cannot post it, but it essentially copies the edited verbiage found in the online Sunday article:

    In a question following that, 4.6 percent said they’d be more likely to vote for that amount knowing it would raise property taxes about $250 per year for each $100,000 of property one owns. Answering the same question, 42.7 percent said they’d be less likely, and 48.1 percent said it would make no difference in their decision.

    Thanks to Meg for clearing that up.

  16. charlesdschultz Says:

    I spoke to Scott Leopold yesterday; both he and Paul Fallon want to delay in disseminating the raw data so they can build up excitement for yet another “big reveal” in two weeks (Feb 25th). Again, I do not agree with this approach.

  17. Feb 25th Board Meeting | Citizen4: A citizen's blog about Champaign Unit 4 Says:

    […] Yes, we can look at the summary reports we have now, and we can questions based on that, but the questions most pressing on my mind are answered by the raw data that I cannot see. For […]

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