Nauvoo Cheese Factory Article

This newspaper article from 1984 discuss the additional fees imposed by the City of Nauvoo, and the impact it could have on the Cheese factory.  In 1987 the family decided to sell, which ultimately led to ConAgra buying the plant in 1999 and closing it three years later.

Burlington Hawkeye September 13, 1984

Share

3/22/2017 Attorney General Response

The response below was received from the Attorney General’s Office in response to a request for review of the City’s response to the FOIA request submitted to it, and subsequently denied.

The response requires the City to provide all the documents requested, to the Attorney General of the State of Illniois, who will then decide if the City has any basis for stating they are not public documents.  The City is also required to state where they looked for the missing information, and who they asked about it.  We will then receive copies of all information that is not protected by privacy concerns (of the individual, not the city).

46903FIlet
Share

Results of 2013 Attempt to Increase School Tax

Prior to the current effort to impose a County Sales Tax, in 2013 a proposition was placed on the ballot to increase property tax for the Nauvoo-Colusa School District.  The results were not favorable to the District.  Efforts to reduce the cost of local education continue to be rejected.

There is no debate among Nauvoo Citizens of the need for additional funds in the classroom.  Teachers are doing all they can with the funds that finally reach them.  The challenge is not with teachers, but with the costs associated with administration.  District consolidation is a viable alternative to increases in taxes.  Illinois is already has the third largest taxes in the country, and one of the smallest students per district in the country.  The two are related.

Consolidation does not increase the work load on teachers, it adds efficiency to administration.  Read the Illinois Policy report on Consolidation.

Share

FOIA Response Documents Related to 27 February 2017 Request

Some documents received in response to the FOIA request submitted 27 February 2017 to the City of Nauvoo are included below.  Others documents related to the request were denied by the City, and the case has been referred to the State Attorney General’s Office.  As of April 11, 2017 the City of Nauvoo has been informed by the Attorney General to explain the City’s contention that the Nauvoo Tourism Office is not a part of the City.  In spite of the source of funding, statements made by the Tourism Director and the Nauvoo Hotel Motel Board President.  The FY2013 Minutes included below are missing key meetings where the employment decisions relating to the Tourism Director were discussed.  (See Delay and Deny).

These are public documents, related to the conduct of Nauvoo City business and should be available to all citizens.

 

Hotel-Motel Meeting Minutes, 2012-2016 (Note: the first three meetings in FY2013 were not included in the documents provided by the City).

 

Financial Summary Documents for Hotel-Motel Board 2012-1016

 

February 9 2016 City Council Meeting Minutes

This document was updated on April 20, 2017.
Share

Daily Democrat Article on Nauvoo Document Request

March 16, 2017. Fort Madison Daily Democrat

A recent article in the Fort Madison Daily Democrat reported on public comments related to the Document Requests currently being contested by the City of Nauvoo.

Note the comment: “one council member stated that it was a balance of the “public’s need to know, and the city government’s need to protect its financial information”.”

This is not “city government’s” financial information, it is the people’s.  The only requirement the city has is to protect personal, sensitive information.  This type of information is clearly specified in FOIA law, and relates to individual social security, email address, phone numbers, etc.  Not the financial relationship they have with the citizens of Nauvoo.

Share

FOIA Request (2/27/2017) Documents

This is the chain of documents related to the FOIA request submitted to the City of Nauvoo on 27 February 2017.  Word was that there had been requests made to the City (using the FOIA process) that had resulted in a refusal to provide the documents requested.  Specifically the contract of the Tourism Director.  There was no reason to believe there is anything explosive, or troublesome in this contract.  But it seemed unusual that it would be denied.  After contacting the Illinois Attorney General ‘s office to determine if it was a public record, and being assured that if the City held this document, it must be provided, a request was prepared.

In a recent meeting several individuals in city government had assured those present that contracts for the city were put out for bid, but no evidence could be found of it in the publication the city uses for all other public announcements.  So,this was included in the FOIA request.

Concern about receiving the contract that had been denied others, expanded the request to include the minutes of the Hotel/Motel Board where this contract would have been discussed.  This request was submitted, including the relevant statutes, and was denied.  Although some of the documents were received, (See Here) including most of the Hotel/Motel Board minutes (the only exception identified so far are the three meetings related to the contract in question).

Documents received will be posted.

Notice in the response the items that were not provided, and no reason given (expense reports in particular).

This has been referred to the Attorney General’s Office for review.

FOIADocuments2017
Share

Update on Recycling

From the March 15, 2017 meeting held by John McCarty:

“We’re back in the recycling business.”
The agreement with Great River Recycling “we pay $1 per household, $484 per month.”
“The whole city is not for recycling, they should be.”
“We added one dollar…for administrative fees. Probably didn’t run a dollar. That extra dollar is now enough, more than enough, to cover the cost of recycling.”

These statements are confirmation that for years the City has been charging an administrative fee that was not being used to provide ANY services. As stated previously, the citizens have been overcharged.

The city’s position is that these fees pay the people who are having to process the payments and pay KolhMorgan. We already pay these employees. And, the Constitution of the State of Illinois directs the collection of fees:

Article VII, Section 9(a) restricts the collection of fees, and states that they cannot be used to pay the salaries of any employees.

Every single household is paying for a service (recycling), that the city officials know from past experience, the majority do not want. And, has collected fees from the citizens for years for a service that was not provided, to pay for labor the citizens have already paid for.

Share

What Transparency Looks Like

At a recent public meeting, city officials stated several times that the annual report published by the city “is the minimum required by law.”  This is what it looks like. It’s hard to sort through, and really difficult to know what the expenses are for, since only a vendor name is listed:

NauvooFinancialReport2016

 

In contrast, not too far away, in Carthage, the city has decided to do a little more, and publishes an annual report with more detail.  Not only is it easier to read, but the purposes of most transactions are included with the expense or revenue item:

CarthageFinancialReport2016

 

And finally, our neighbors in Burlington can go even further.  Not only do they not wait for the annual report to be published once a year, but they can access detailed financial information about their city, at any time:

Click on the image to go directly to the Burlington site and browse their data on your own.

 

Share

Recycling and Trash Removal Fees

Response and Analysis of Mayor McCarty’s public comment:

After checking with Kohl Morgan, I have a clearer picture of things.  In about 2003, the City entered into a contract with Kohl Morgan to do trash pickup.  This included a service to pick up recycling in separate yellow bags that citizens could use to place their recyclable material.  These bags were picked up by Kohl Morgan, and when the trucks arrived at the transfer station, inmates from the prison would pull the bags and process the recycling.  This service was provided by Kohl Morgan at no additional cost, until Corrections withdrew the Inmates (after 3-4 years).  The City added a fee to each household, it was not paid to Kohl Morgan.

The recycling service was discontinued in 2007.  A monthly additional fee, has been charged every month since the contract was put in place. So, in one sense, John is correct, the new trailer is not a new cost.  The City has been charging the citizens for 10 years for some service they were not receiving, were already paying for or did not need. So, significant funds have been collected for some additional fee.

The city water, sewer and trash bill is already so high, perhaps getting a reduction would have been a good thing, even 10 years ago. As it turns out there are two locations in Keokuk to drop off recycling for anyone interested, and Great River is open from 8-4 Monday thru Friday, and 9-Noon on Saturdays, at no additional cost.

This information came directly from the vendor who is providing the service, Kohl Morgan.

So, the question remains, if we are able to add a $9,000 cost now for a service, and say it’s not a new cost, then we have been paying extra when we weren’t receiving the service (Whether it is termed an administrative fee or a recycling fee, or whatever else).

In a follow-up response, John posted the following:

This history is helpful in understanding how we got into this relationship, but doesn’t address the initial statement that adding a new recycling cost, does not constitute a new cost, because the citizens have already been paying for it.

But it does raise another potential conflict.  There is a question regarding a city charging an “administrative fee” for this service, that is provided by someone else.  John suggests that it is related to billing, but we already pay city employees to perform these billing functions, so why an additional cost?  This very subject has been hotly contested throughout the country, and has resulted in numerous lawsuits filed by citizens, against city governments for just such a practice.  One in particular focuses on the city charging more for water services than they actually cost to provide (since again, the city cannot charge more than a service actually costs to provide).  See this site for more information on one case that resulted in potential overcharging of $27 million dollars to citizens.

As we gather more information concerning the water costs in Nauvoo, additional documents will be posted.

 

 

 

 

Share

Home Rule in Nauvoo

Response to Mayor McCarty’s Comments on Home Rule:

In a public Facebook post, Mayor John McCarty stated that prior to Home Rule, the City was already collecting a Hotel/Motel tax, and was restricted in its use.  It could only be used to promote tourism.  With the approval of Home Rule, an additional 2% tax was levied on guests who visit Nauvoo.  What was not said, was that due to the arrangement made with the Hotel/Motel Tax Board, 50% of these funds go to the Tourism Office.

This became particularly clear in discussions related to the Utility Tax (more on that in a moment) last year. When alternate suggestions were made for increasing City revenues, by increasing the Hotel/Motel tax base, the comment made by the Mayor was that “increasing Hotel/Motel Taxes doesn’t help the city. Most of that money goes to the tourism office.”

Additional context is provided in the statement made by Bob Soland, Alderman (and Chairman of the Finance and Personnel Committees) at the time Home Rule was approved.  He indicated that “they formed a committee of 3 citizens to sell the Home Rule to the community. These 3 citizens had public meetings, did all of the research, placed the issue on a ballot, and successfully sold Home Rule to the community. The main basis was to generate income for the police department and roads due to the increased costs based on tourism. They made a promise to the community that if Home Rule was granted, that other than the 2% increase in hotel/motel tax, which was being done, again, to raise money for the police department and the roads predominantly used for tourism, no other taxes would be imposed without referendum.” It might be helpful to know that Mayor John McCarty was a City Alderman at the time.

In spite of this promise, made by the city officials seeking to pass home rule, additional taxes have been passed, without referendum.  When asked, in a City Council Meeting, why a referendum was not being used to gain approval for the Utility Tax last year, the Mayor stated “we couldn’t get anyone to vote for it.” So, the council voted, unanimously (as is true the majority of the time), to implement this tax without referendum, even though there was an upcoming election where the electric utility aggregation measure would be placed on the ballot via referendum.

In this same communication, the Mayor once again focused his attention on the LDS Church, and the fact that the decision was made to remove their properties from the tax rolls.  First, it was not the County and State that allowed these properties to be removed from the Tax rolls.  It was the Constitution.  No churches in Nauvoo pay property tax on their property.  There is no mention in his communication about the Catholic Church, the Community of Christ Church, the Presbyterian Church, the Methodist Church, or any other faith.  In those cases, the properties never were on the tax rolls to begin with.  They in fact own much less property in Nauvoo (although that is not true nation-wide), but it is then a matter of degree, not principle.

The Payment in Lieu of Tax (PILOT) payment is used throughout the country, and the State of Illinois places restrictions on its use, as John McCarty stated.  What he did not say, however, is that the State also restricts discussions of continuation of PILOT programs until the last year of the remaining agreement, and there is no reason to believe (based on past performance, or its use in other locations by the LDS Church), that the LDS Church would discontinue the program outright.  Other than the fact that the Utility Tax that was implemented was structured specifically to impact the customers like the LDS Church more significantly.  Why would the LDS Church choose to pay this higher tax, and still continue to make PILOT payments?  The attack by tax seems very ill-advised.

When pressed in a City Council meeting last year, relating to the Utility Tax, the Mayor finally acquiesced that the real issue was the insecurity about the status of a budget from the State of Illinois, and the payments that could be coming from the State.  In all likelihood, a valid concern.  So, the suggestion was made to await this decision, and then tax the citizens if no other solution could be found.  This suggestion was dismissed, because “we’ve already spent too much time talking about this.” No time to keep the promise to the citizens about using a referendum.

And. what will happen if the LDS Church does renew the PILOT agreement in a couple of years, and the State of Illinois does meet its commitments, will the citizens receive a refund of the taxes collected?

The most ominous statement made by the mayor in relation to this issue came just Tuesday, February 28, 2017.  In it, he said “We are stair stepping the percent of the tax over a 2 year period to help residents and business owners adjust.”  In essence, raise the heat slowly, and they won’t notice they’re being cooked.

Share