Saturday, October 6, 2012

A cynical look at the Orland Tax Rebate Program

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A cynical look at the Orland Tax Rebate Program

Well, I will always be a cynic, I guess, especially when it comes to money and politics.

For example, the Village of Orland Park announced they will re-implement the tax rebate program this month (beginning October 29, 2012).

I think it is a great idea. But the timing is oh so suspicious. And I can't but help look at the motives of the village trustees. 

It's a funny thing about the word trustees. It includes the word "trust." And right now I have come to not "trust" all of the village trustees at all. Not all of the TRUSTees are TRUSTworthy in the village of Orland Park.

The Rebates will be processed beginning Oct. 29, and you can expect checks to arrive in your mail boxes in March sometime. March? You mean just before the next Orland Park consolidated election in which voters will be asked to rubber stamp the list of trustees and this time the Village clerk and village president.

The clerk, Dave Maher. is on my naughty list because of the shenanigans from the last election with his pampered son, Pat Maher. (What a mess Maher left at the Orland Fire Protection District, where I was asked to help with communications -- at a lesser cost than the one Maher had, by the way. But Maher's relatives and the relatives of the controversy-plagued former fire chief continue to twist the district's politics for their own selfish benefits.)

With the exception of Trustee Brad O'Halloran, I have never had much confidence in the trustees at all -- one in particular who is simply so hypocritical, but isn't up for election this time around.

I know Mayor Dan McLaughlin wants to do the right thing, but he is handicapped by a collection of trustees elected by little fiefdoms in the village. Each one has their political bases and alliances.

But playing politics with the tax rebate program? Come on folks. Don't you think it is transparent to people?

The rebate program was a genius idea first suggested by Mayor McLaughlin back in 2002, after the village voted to impose a .75 cent increase in the local sales tax, and after the village had their elections. McLaughlin's proposal was a good one. The sales tax would impact everyone including the large number of non-Orland Park residents who came to Orland Park to shop. To lift the burden off the backs of the taxpayers, the village offered an automatic tax rebate program so that residents would get a significant share of their taxes returned to off-set the impact of the sales tax hike.

In 2003, the average tax return was around $240 per household.

In 2008, the village decided they needed the money. The trustees thought enough time had passed and the taxpayers wouldn't remember the reasons for the rebate and the burdensome sales tax rebate. So they partially rolled the rebate back. In 2009, they eliminated the rebate. 

And in 2010 two incumbent trustees, Pat Gira and Ed Schussler barely won re-election. In fact, though they were elected, they got less than 50 percent of the vote. In fact, more Orland Park voters voted for someone else rather than them. Shameful and embarrassing performance if you ask me. (And I'll say it if you don't ask me, too!) 

The idea to re-implement the tax rebate plan came up right after that brutal election. They were concerned.

That was a shock to the Orland Machine. The bigger shock was the beating Cook County Commissioner Elizabeth Liz Doody-Gorman handed to the Orland Machine first in her re-election bid to beat down Pat Maher's feeble, crippled challenge. And then her backing that upset the cozy apple cart Maher had at the Orland Fire Protection District.

Orland's Machine doesn't like shocks and the trustees started to whimper. So, they decided let's give the voters money. Maybe that will make them happy. The economy sucks. Voters are stupid with short-memories. They'll take the money and be happy.

Well, the money being returned doesn't even come close to the money that was returned before. The trustees set a limit on how much can be returned to voters -- err, sorry, taxpayers, just in time for the next local consolidated election. They decided to return ONLY $2.5 million. If all 18,500 qualified taxpayers apply (it's not automatic this time, the village wants us to trust the trustees to make sure recipients qualify), then the average rebate will be a paltry $135.

That's about half what was returned in the past. Just estimating how inflation has devalued the dollar over the past 10 years, I would say the $135 would represent only 30 percent of the amount rebated to taxpayers in 2002 to off-set the oppressive local sales tax hike we continue to pay. That's 1/3rd of what we should be getting back compared to what we used to get back. (Don't promise something and not keep your word. The tax rebate plan was given for political reasons, and returned for political reasons.)

Yes, the economy is bad. But it's not as bad as the performance of some of our trustees on the village board.

And there is an election coming up and the village officials don't want to get b-slapped again. That election was a whooping!

The economy was the excuse, but the real issue is leadership. And when it comes to most of the village's trustees, leadership is about as watered-down as the election campaign tax rebate will be this Spring.

-- Ray Hanania

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