Letter: People-watching cities

By on November 10, 2011

The village of Sugar Grove has become fun to watch, coming in second to “Dancing with the Stars.” As the stars are dancing on TV, the local officials are devising their next move to compete for top billing.

One day it is the Library Board’s reckless firing of their administrator, and the next day it is the Village Board doing a great big Tax Increment Financing deal. It certainly seems in the best interest of local citizens to be involved with local administrators at this time, although it is aggravating to tear one’s self away from the “Dancing.”

The new Sugar Grove Library building is something to make a person proud. The present Library Board designed and spared no cost in the construction of this beautiful facility—large parking lots, too many trees to count, bronze statutes, 11 chandelier light fixtures at $11,000 each … and failed to provide funds for book inventories. Taxpayers must have realized the real library purpose was overlooked, as noted by their continuous tax referendum rejections to increase operating revenue.

Now, the Library Board has again behaved outside the realm of good judgment. The interim director they have hired has prudently realized the library’s financial dilemma, thus voluntarily reducing her own $72 per hour salary to $50. Unfortunately, the reduced salary will not be enough with legal costs and the board’s inability to efficiently operate the library.

This last week, I was invited to Sugar Grove Village Hall for a meeting with the village administrator. The subject of the meeting was the announcement of a new Tax Increment Financing (TIF) program. The village president made a short visit to express the need for taxing district cooperation within the community. I wasn’t clear on the cooperation request other than the last Aug. 16, 2011, $128 million, 1,824-acre TIF proposal to the community, rejected by taxing districts and local citizens in a vocal display worth your TV watch time. In that meeting, the village administration and trustees took a public accusation of a conscious conflict-of-interest $9 million relationship with a local engineering firm with family ties to the village president. Cooperation and trust by all were damaged a little at this point.

The village, now two calendar months later, is presenting a new No. 2 TIF program to the local citizens. The No. 2 program will be two separate projects: the first one is called Area No. 1, and is 324 acres located along Route 30, southwest of the Aurora Airport; the second project, to be enacted immediately following Area No. 1, is Area No.2, which 643 acres located west of Route 47, to the north and south of Wheeler Road. Both of these TIF projects are scheduled to be board approved this year for (I am guessing) about $68 million in total. No matter the exact million here or million there, the local Sugar Grove property tax owner is allowing the village to self-authorize the issuance of municipal obligations up to $68 million against your ability to pay property tax for the next 23 years. The financial power that is being asserted by the village administration to its taxpayers is too big to imagine.

Again, the Sugar Grove taxpayer is being asked to cooperate by providing more money. One can only hope by trusting our present “trustees” that the community will receive the best of care and avoid any additional embarrassing historical events tied to a political group’s embellished and empirical actions. Our community is our home and our chosen safe-haven for reasonable government and taxation.

As my mother-in-law says, “If you could take some people’s brain out and put it in a grasshopper, it would soon be jumping backwards.” She wouldn’t clarify if she meant the Sugar Grove taxpayers or their politicians.

Jerry Elliott
Sugar Grove