Downers Grove Township Democratic Candidates Website

Thanks to all our candidates and volunteers for their dedication in the DG Township elections. While we didn't win we informed voters about many issues and we will continue to hold the current officers feet to the fire. Watch this space for updates on our efforts to get the Downers Grove Township officers to do their jobs transparently and according to Illinois state law.  

An Open Letter to the Current Downers Grove Township Elected Officials.

At the Township Meeting Thursday night March 19th the new illegally appointed Trustee Kathleen Abbate  asked how the real estate tax levy is calculated. None of the sitting elected officials, who all happen to be Republicans and who have been in Downers Grove Township government for an average of 17 years, could answer her question. So Chris Hotchkin Democratic candidate for Trustee was kind enough to write this little primer explaining it for them.

How is a RE tax levy calculated?

A taxing body determines the amount of funds it needs to operate. This is it's levy. This levy amount is divided by the total assessed valuation of all the property in that body’s taxing district (in Downers Grove Township this is the property's actual value equalized by multiplying it by about .33). This determines the rate: levy/EAV.  So, if the township needs to levy $4,000,000 and the total equalized assessed valuation (EAV) of all the property in the township is $8,000,000,000, the tax rate for the township would be .0005 or $.05 for every $100 of equalized assessed value of the property. This rate is added to the rates of other taxing bodies (school districts, county, village, library district) to create the aggregate property tax rate for a property owner.

In DuPage County our taxing bodies are subject to the tax cap. This means that the taxing body cannot increase its levy by more than 5% over the previous year or by more than the previous year’s cost of living increase, whichever is lower.

The question you have to ask yourself is why would you want to reelect Officials to the Township Government who after all these years don't even know how to figure out how they get most of their money?

The following is some background on Downers Grove Township, it's government structure including it's elected body, the Downers Grove Township Board and the duties it performs.

Township government is grassroots government, the closest level of government to the people. Our township, Downers Grove Township (DGT), is the southeastern corner DuPage County. If you live in Burr Ridge, Clarendon Hills, Darien, Downers Grove, Hinsdale, Lemont, Oak Brook, Westmont, Willowbrook or Woodridge from County Line Road on the east to Woodward Avenue on the west, from 39th Street to the north to the Des Plaines River on the south you live in DGT. Altogether DGT is the largest township in DuPage with approximately 148,000 residents covering 54 square miles, 128 precincts and 9 incorporated towns.

By statute, three services have to be provided by township government: a general assistance program to qualifying residents, property assessment, and maintenance of township roads and bridges. General assistance at the township level provides immediate help to the destitute, depending on local standards using local dollars. Property assessments provide the basis for real estate tax levies that fund all local governments. The township highway commission is directly responsible for maintaining 74 miles of township roads. Beyond these mandated functions, the township offers a variety of social services for township residents, including senior citizen and youth programs, transportation, and cemetery maintenance. The DG Township government had 36 full time and 11 part time employees and an annual budget of over $4.7 million dollars in 2008 to carry out these tasks.

Township Elected Officials include a Supervisor, a Clerk, an Assessor, a Highway Commissioner, and four Trustees. All of these positions are up for election every four years and the next election is on April 7, 2009.

 Here in Downers Grove Township we have a tiny government, sort of an vestigial appendage left over from the days of the Northwest Territories when there were few villages, towns or counties let alone cities to provide services. DGT government has less than a $5 million dollar budget and mainly serves to take care of roads in unincorporated areas and make property assessments. There's a few ancillary duties like help for the qualified destitute, some senior and youth services, & old cemetery maintenance. To give you an idea of how small it's duties are the Village of Downers Grove itself has over ten times the number of employees, yet the Village of DG is only 1 of 9 municipalities in the township.

Republicans, as far as anyone knows, have held every position in DGT township government since there's been one, or at least since the Whig party died. They run a very sloppy ship. Lately they screwed up appointing board members. Their own handpicked auditor said their last year end financial statement didn't follow accepted procedure and wasn't accurate enough to present a fair picture of how they spent our money. We'll have more on that later. The Highway Commision takes half the budget and is a microcosm of Streets and San in the city with all the reputed nepotism there. This careless compliance, slipshod accounting, and cronyism are hallmarks of bad government and ought to raise red flags.

Recently several members of the Downers Grove Township Government chose to retire. Edward P. Smith, the Highway Commissioner left office on December 31, 2008. Supervisor Barbara Wheat proffered her resignation letter effective January 16th. It appears rather than serve out the last few months of their elected terms they left early so their appointed successors could run as incumbents with the attendant advantages.

Illinois statutes (60 ILCS 1/60-5) say that's a legal maneuver, the Board is charged with filling vacancies by appointment, but let's look at the way they did it.

Those same Illinois statutes (60 ILCS 1/60-20) also say  Whenever they (the Board) accept a resignation, the township clerk shall make a minute of the acceptance upon the township records. Nowhere in the minutes published over the last 6 months does it show the Board made a motion to accept the resignations of either Smith or Wheat. There was no motion made to accept the resignation of Frank Wurster as Trustee. The December 4th minutes show the clerk did read a resolution  honoring Highway Commissioner Smith for his many years of service  which was passed by vote along with a mention that his successor, Lawrence Anderson would be appointed in January. A resolution honoring someone is not the same as a motion to accept a resignation.

During the January 22 meeting Clerk Diane Konicek acknowledged receiving Barbara Wheat's resignation letter on January 16, 2009. Clerk Konicek slso informed the Board Trustee Frank Wurster had tendered his resignation effective January 22, 2009. Trustee Rita Carlson then made a motion to appoint Kathleen Abbate as Trustee to fill the remaining term of Mr. Wurster which was seconded by Trustee Robert Del Sarto with "all" voting aye.

The next order of business was the appointment of Frank Wurster as Supervisor. Trustee Carlson then made a motion to appoint Frank Wurster as Supervisor for the remainder of Wheat's term, seconded by Trustee Del Sarto, again with "all"  voting aye.

In order for Wurster to be appointed Supervisor he first had to resign his Trustee position (as he did), he's not allowed to hold two voting positions on the Board simultaneously, however briefly. In order for Abbate to be appointed Trustee Wurster also could not remain in that position, the seat had to be vacant.

There are five voting positions on the Board, the Supervisor and the four Trustees. Neither Supervisor Barbara Wheat or Trustee William Swanston  were present at that meeting. That left three voting members, one of whom was Wurster who had resigned his position to be appointed to Supervisor,  thus leaving only two qualified voting members.

Two qualified voting members of the Board do not constitute a quorum. According to the Illinois State Open Meetings Act (5 ILCS 120/1.02) (from Ch. 102, par. 41.02)   for a 5-member public body, 3 members of the body constitute a quorum and the affirmative vote of 3 members is necessary to adopt any motion, resolution, or ordinance .  Thus the appointment of Frank Wurster to DGT Supervisor and  Kathleen Abbate to succeed him as Trustee were not legally done under Illinois law. Neither is any action the Board has taken during or since that meeting as they don't have a legally constituted Board.

Now this might seem like nitpicking to some. But appointing successors for elected officers is a pretty rare occurrence and serious business, especially right before an election. The law is very specific but also flexible, there were any number of ways they could have done this correctly and stayed within the law. But the all Republican Board, many of whom have been there for years if not decades, and really ought to know better ignored the statutes and instead made sloppy and ultimately illegal appointments. If that's how they conduct very rare business like this in open meetings when it's bound to attract attention, how are they conducting the people's business when nobody is watching their everyday activities?
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