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Debating Milton Township Management

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Debating Milton Township Management
by Adam Andrzejewski
June 5, 2012

Prevailing wisdom in Illinois says, “You can’t fight city hall.”

We think that’s nonsense.  But, it’s not an easy ride.  You need facts.  Starting at Openthebooks.com, you can start researching local governments.  Find out how much your government costs you.

When you start searching and asking questions, prepare for the defenders of the status-quo and their “beat-down.” A great case study is provided below.  Note how our facts help expose the truth.

Familiarize yourself with our post “What’s the Matter with Milton Township?”

Last Friday, Milton Township Supervisor Chris Heidorn responded and we answer him today.

Chris Heidorn:  What’s the matter with Milton Township?  Not much.

Adam Andrzejewski: Actually, the township is illustrative of why Illinois is going broke. Let us use this debate to illustrate why.

Chris Heidorn: It is not my custom to respond to bloggers, but a recent ‘article’ by Adam Andrzewski entitled, What’s the Matter with Milton Township, was forwarded to me by friends. It is so rife with inaccuracies, misinformation or perhaps misrepresentations that they have asked me to comment on it.

Adam Andrzejewski: When I wrote the evaluation of Milton Township, I linked every fact to a public source.  In this 1,002 word missive, Mr. Heidorn doesn’t provide a single link to a direct public source. One can disagree with our analysis, but we cite facts as they are given to us.

Chris Heidorn: First of all, at the end of fiscal year 2011, Milton Township’s combined fund balance was $1.739 million, not $2.387 million. That amount represents 36% of the previous year’s expenditures. Standard accounting practices dictate that local governments maintain reserves equal to the expenditures of between one and two fiscal quarters. At 36% Milton is exactly where it should be in its reserves. One reason for the maintenance of these reserves lies in the fact that our fiscal year begins April 1, but our real estate tax receipts do not begin to come in until mid June.

Adam Andrzejewski:
Here is the total cash on-hand by fiscal year:  $2.387 million (FY2010), $1.739 million (FY2011).

Here’s what I wrote: “Over the last couple of years, Milton Township’s fund balances were as high as $2.387”- a correct statement. With millions in the bank, while home values decreased, Milton levied an  $100,000 increase in property taxes. (Source: Annual Financial Report 2011)

Let’s review the 36% cash reserve claim of the supervisor. Here’s the math: the Annual Financial Report 2011 shows township cash reserves of $1.739 million on $4.124 million of FY2011 expenses.  That’s 42.2%, not 36%. Using the supervisor’s own “accounting standards”, the township was holding an extra $238,500 or an amount equal to a potential 6.3% cut in property taxes ($3.817 million FY2011 property taxes).

Chris Heidorn: Second, ever since the Government Accounting Standards Board issued GASB Statement 34, local governments have been required to report their infrastructure on their annual financial reports. What Mr. Andrzewski cites as $31.11 million in accumulated net assets is in fact the properly reported value of the Township’s Offices, the Highway Department’s shop and sheds and the value of 170 lane miles of road, right of way, culverts, curb & gutter, sidewalks, traffic controls, street lights and so on. In point of fact, those roads and their accessory items were not purchased with tax dollars, but were in fact dedicated by the various developers who through the years have built the homes and businesses in Milton Township.

Adam Andrzejewski: That’s a nice 116 word explanation that confirms that we are right. Milton is an asset-rich entity with accumulated assets of $31 million. We appreciate GASB Rule 34 because it provides transparency. Since our figures are accurate, it is up to citizens to decide whether these assets and taxes are justified.

Chris Heidorn: So where is the “pile of government wealth”, where is the “cash cow” that Mr. Andrzewski complains about. Better take another look at the books, Mr. A. We run a tight ship here for the taxpayers and your spin and innuendos will not change that fact.

Adam Andrzejewski: The supervisor has millions in the bank and $238,500 more in reserves than required by his own standard. Yet, property taxes are pushed even higher.

The fact is that every governmental entity is a spending machine, each taking a portion of taxpayer money to fund itself. It is perfectly reasonable to call into question the level of assets, spending, and taxes, not to mention the necessity of the particular governmental entity.

Now, let’s look at the Top 10 Employees costing taxpayers $1 million.

Chris Heidorn: Insofar as top compensation packages are concerned, you are invited to go our website, miltontownship.net and take a look for yourself. On the Town Clerk’s page click on PA 97-609 Disclosure for a listing of all individuals with compensation packages totaling $75,000 or more. Pursuant to Illinois statute, that information has been posted since our budgets were passed in March. I suggest Mr. Andrzewski go to the source and not extrapolate his own numbers.

Adam Andrzejewski: The Top Ten Salaries have total taxpayer cost of $1 million. We stand by our numbers, click worksheet.  Readers should notice how government officials use partial transparency to make government spending look smaller than it is. This is intentional.

The Milton Clerk’s website only covers the top seven employees and doesn’t compute total taxpayer cost of each employee. That’s probably why the Supervisor didn’t link to it- click direct link here.

Please note: the taxpayer cost regarding the pension payment, Medicare, FICA/Social Security, workers compensation insurance, unemployment insurance, expense accounts, and a monetary value on the vacation, and sick/ personal day benefits are all missing.

So, Milton’s Top Seven Employees have total base salaries of $530,347 but total cost to taxpayers of approximately $781,306 (+-5%)- see worksheet.  Again, this doesn’t include the monetary value of 92 vacation, sick and personal day benefits for four of the seven eligible employees! Nor are we including expense accounts.

Chris Heidorn
: Now we move on to the much maligned Ralph Hinkle. Since Ralph started for me he has reported to me on a daily basis, in person, about his daily activities. We discussed daily goals and accomplishments and set agendas for the coming day, days or weeks. I have never required time cards or activity reports of any of my salaried, full time employees. All five (5) of my employees work under my direct supervision. Furthermore, all Township employees are employees “at will.” That means we do not have employment contracts with any of our employees. They can be terminated at any time and there are no golden parachutes so common in other areas of business and government. Insofar as a job description is concerned, that is a valid point. Since the issue was brought up by a Board member I have prepared Ralph’s job description. It is fully four (4) pages long and available for FOIA should Mr. Andrzewski care to do that.

Adam Andrzejewski: We appreciate that the Supervisor admits to the same weak “management controls” with all five employees in his charge. We take this as an example of laxity in government employment, and appreciate that with greater scrutiny the supervisor has taken incremental steps to improve controls.

However, the Supervisor should start showing respect for taxpayers. His rude statement that “you can FOIA the job description,” again illustrates the attitude of entitlement. Why wouldn’t a respectful official pro-actively post the job descriptions of employees online? Why should any citizen need to FOIA this information?

Chris Heidorn: Mr. Hinkle’s compensation is another point that has been misconstrued. Mr Hinkle has only been entitled to the usual employee benefits since becoming full time in early 2007. Since that time, his salary has increased with his responsibilities. His total increase since 2007 has been 17.04%; in that time frame the C.P.I. has increased 11.229%. Adjusting for that inflationary factor, I have “heaped financial benefits” on Hinkle to the tune of a 5.81% increase. Is this extravagant?

Adam Andrzejewski: We will let our graph of Mr. Hinkle’s salary speak for itself, click here. The Supervisor admits that he increased Mr. Hinkle’s pay around 52% faster than inflation, not the illusory 5.81% he uses. This is the same type of math used by the promoters of the Illinois income tax increase. A tax increase from 3 to 5% is not a 2% increase, Mr. Supervisor. It is a 67% increase.

We think the taxpayers should be the ones to decide what constitutes “heaps” of financial benefits. Taxpayers know one thing. Heaps of their dollars are going to heaps of Hinkles at rates that outstrip inflation – not to mention their falling property values.

Now we have an actionable question for you:  Provide the Township board authorization or notification that Ralph Hinkle became a full-time employee in 2007.  On April 2nd, we asked for all memos, board minutes, and employment records in regard to Hinkle, here. We didn’t receive a single document indicating any such thing. We have your 2004 hiring memo.  We have your 2010 “morphing” memo- an admission that no previous conversation took place regarding Hinkle’s employment status.

Now, for the first time, you claim Hinkle went full-time in 2007?  This is why we need radical transparency.

Chris Heidorn: Lets see. Mr. Andrzewski does not recognize that through Ralph’s initiative and dogged determination Milton has received $148,388.69 in FEMA grants for our Citizen Corps program and has another $15,000 in the pipeline for the coming year. He has saved thousands of dollars for CERT training by obtaining free training facilities with groups such as Morton Arboretum, CDH/Cadence Hospital, C.O.D., Wheaton Fire Department, Winfield Fire Protection District, and many others. Through his personal efforts, he saved the Township between $50,000 and $62,500 in rent during our recent office renovations by working out an intergovernmental agreement with DuPage County for our ten month stay in Naperville. Again, he saved the Township approximately $54,672 in moving expenses (required by prevailing wage law) by arranging for and supervising the Sheriff’s SWAP Team to perform that function. Not to mention the tens of thousands of dollars saved in his oversight of the construction.

In sum, besides performing his regular duties admirably, his actions have enriched the Township coffers by over $268,060.

Adam Andrzejewski: Here’s the problem with your narrative: Hinkle saved the township $268,060 while costing the taxpayers $320,000 since 2004.  When confronted with questions as to the use of taxpayer dollars, the political class nearly always brags about how some employee expanded the use of taxpayer dollars gleaned from state or federal taxpayers. “He’s great at spending other entity’s money” seems to be the common refrain whenever we look at local government salaries.

Chris Heidorn: Mr. Andrzewski, in his article, links to what he refers to as “Milton Township docs here & here.” Those linked document are not actually Township documents. Those brief spreadsheets are not records ordinarily or regularly used in the Township’s business but were requested by and provided only to James Flickinger. While copies are resident on the bookkeeper’s computer, those are Flickinger documents, not Milton Township’s. Perhaps Mr. Andrzewski should consider his sources and their motivations and agendas.

Adam Andrzejewski: Is this an intentional effort to confuse citizens? I had a couple sources for those documents.  1. Here’s your own email memo that you provided responding to my foia request.  2. Here’s the township bookkeeper’s email.

Chris Heidorn: Finally, Mr. Andrzewski displays a certain ignorance of Township government when he makes reference to Mr. Hinkle’s personnel file. The Town Clerk, not the Supervisor, is the custodian of Township records. If I need access to personnel or any other files, I must ask the Clerk for them.

Adam Andrzejewski: I’ve been accused of “ignorance” by lax township officials, big spending school superintendents, and every other manner of Illinois official who wants the government spending gravy train to continue. The fact is that we’re opening the books on decades-long wasteful practices that have destroyed the economic vitality of this state. Everything we learn, we bring to taxpayers.

I’ll just reproduce your entire email to Gail Hinkle, Township Clerk (wife of Ralph Hinkle) of March 26, 2012, right here so people can judge for themselves…

“When Arlene was the clerk, she kept the files under lock and key.  Do you still have personnel files? If so, do you have one for Ralph? I need to provide same to our good friend Jim Flickinger this afternoon. Please let me know. Thanks.”

Arlene DeMotte retired as clerk effective May of 2008!  My reading of this: Chris Heidorn didn’t know whether or not Ralph Hinkle’s personnel file even existed.  Click for original email

Chris Heidorn: If Mr. Andrzewski is really interested in Milton Township, he should come and see me and I can show him what we do and why it works so well and so cost efficiently. I would enjoy the visit and Mr. Andrzewski would learn a good deal. I am at his disposal for such a fact finding visit if he would like to contact me. So, in answer to the question “What’s the matter with Milton Township?” Not much.

Adam Andrzejewski: I look forward to my visit to Milton Township.  In fact, I’m inviting every elected official in DuPage County to join us on the fact finding mission.

Supervisor, please let me know how many you can accommodate.

PS - In our next regular edition of “What’s the Matter with Milton Township?”, we will cover the job performance of this previously unaccountable and nearly undocumented employee, Ralph Hinkle. Stay tuned.

 


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