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  • An Illinois Department of Transportation truck runs a red light on eastbound Lake Street at Barrington Road in Hanover Park three months ago. The citation was dismissed, but police did not say why.

    How IDOT truck escaped red-light ticket Aug 28, 2013 12:00 AM
    Hanover Park police have only dismissed one red light camera ticket in two years. That ticket was issued to the driver of an Illinois Department of Transportation truck but cancelled after an IDOT worker sent police a note on agency letterhead saying the truck was on state business at the time. Now, IDOT and others are investigating. “To me, it's highly unusual,” Hanover Park Mayor Rodney Craig said.

  •  This is just one of the 10 or so stops 14-year-old William Walker and his mom Kristine made recently during freshman orientation at Geneva High School, where they also paid $135 for registration.

    Registration fees on top of taxes? Schools vary in suburbs Aug 21, 2013 12:00 AM
    Registration fees at public school districts can costs parents hundreds of dollars on top of the property tax revenue they're already paying. They run the gamut from $28 for Glen Ellyn first-graders to $435 for Maine Twp. high school students. “Then there are fees for band and sports. They pass everything on to parents,” Susie Johannesen said of Cary Elementary District 26.

  • Hainesville's reserve fund has enough money in it that the village could forgo levying property taxes for at least three years and still have money left in the fund.

    Some suburbs keep more money in reserve than needed Aug 7, 2013 12:00 AM
    The majority of suburban municipalities are carrying more in reserves than necessary based on budget recommendations of the Government Finance Officials Association. Some, like Hainesville, Inverness and Green Oaks, keep more than a year or two in expenses. “I do think (the village's reserve fund) is too high,” Hainesville Mayor Linda Soto said.

  • Scores of Illinois police pension fund board members will attend a regional conference in October in Lake Geneva, Wis.

    Why will our police pension boards be in Wisconsin? Jul 31, 2013 12:00 AM
    Readers's tips and suggestions have the Suburban Tax Watchdog looking into Illinois pension fund board members attending a conference in Lake Geneva, property tax battles in Lake County, and Cook County Treasurer Maria Pappas' online warehouse of government agencies' financial data.

  • Huntley Village Manager David Johnson received a $10,108 raise this year.

    Municipal administrators are getting big raisesJul 24, 2013 12:00 AM
    After years of pay freezes, most suburban municipal administrators are receiving raises this year, according to an analysis of 74 suburbs in six counties. In fact, 55 suburban administrators are averaging a 3.7 percent average pay hike, with Huntley's village manager getting a $10,018 raise, Aurora's getting $10,586 and Prospect Heights' getting $10,000.

  • Jeanne Ives

    Where is your town hiding its salary report?Jul 3, 2013 12:00 AM
    Of all the information available on a municipality's website, salary details for most department heads should be one of the easiest things to find. After all, a state law dictates that current compensation records for highly paid employees “must” be posted online. So why are the reports so hard to find? “There was an absence of guidance in that regard from the legislature,” said Ray Keller, Gilberts village administrator.

  • Of the more than $1 million spent by 97 Batavia Unit District 101 employees using district-issued purchase cards last year, almost $25,000 was spent on food, according to district financial records.

    Why $25,000 in food on Batavia school charge cards? Jun 19, 2013 12:00 AM
    Batavia Unit District 101 purchase cards were used by employees 253 times last year to buy almost $25,000 worth of food and other goods totaling more than $1 million. District officials signed off on all the purchases and contend checks and balances are in place to make sure use of the 97 cards is justified, but one taxpayer disagrees. “They're not really being good stewards of the taxpayers' dollars,” Carl Dinwiddie says.

  • Bacteria levels in Woods Creek Lake at Indian Trail Beach in Lake in the Hills were so high last year that the beach should have been closed for 10 days, but because of lag times in testing the beach was closed for only eight days.

    How you could swim in filth at suburban beaches Jun 12, 2013 12:00 AM
    Due to a lag in the time it takes the state to test water samples, beachgoers may be frolicking in filth. Illinois Department of Public Health officials said it can take as much as two days for test results on water samples with dangerously high bacteria levels to be discovered. “That's one of the flaws in the system,” said Melaney Arnold, IDPH spokeswoman.

  • Taxpayers in 27 suburban school districts paid salaries of teachers and staff attending a union conference, and paid some or all of the costs of substitute workers, as well.

    Union teacher conference costs some taxpayers twice Jun 5, 2013 12:00 AM
    Taxpayers in 57 suburban school districts spent more than $200,000 on the salaries of 276 teachers and other employees for days spent attending a union conference in April. In some of those school districts, taxpayers picked up the cost of substitutes, as well, while in others the union covered those costs.

  • State Rep. Elaine Nekritz, a Northbrook Democrat said of the provision “It sounds preposterous. i don't know how you get that and a survivor's annuity. This is the first I've heard about this.”

    How a retired teacher's pension adds up to $400,000May 29, 2013 12:00 AM
    A provision so obscure it caught several of Illinois' top legislative pension experts by surprise allows survivors of some former public employees to take over their deceased spouses' pensions as well as receive survivor benefits. “It sounds preposterous,” said state Rep. Elaine Nekritz, a Northbrook Democrat. “I don't know how you get that and a survivor's annuity. This is the first I've heard about this.”

  • Lisa Madigan

    Appeals for public information spike 22 percentMay 15, 2013 12:00 AM
    Illinois residents have the benefit of new laws aimed at opening up more government records — and when they don't get the information they want, they're raising a stink about it. Appeals to the Illinois attorney general's office for denied Freedom of Information Act requests jumped 22 percent last year. Most of those came from members of the public.

  • Taxpayers covered more than $7.7 million between 2006 and 2012 to compensate retiring Illinois State Police officers for unused time off.

    Unused state police time off cost taxpayers $7.7 millionMay 8, 2013 12:00 AM
    Taxpayers spent more than $7.7 million to cover unused time off for 134 former Illinois State Police troopers who retired between 2006 and 2012. Money paid for unused sick time and vacation time made up the bulk of that total, along with funds for personal, compensatory and holiday time that went unused.

  • Illinois collected nearly $6 billion more in taxes and fees in 2012 than it did the previous year, thanks in large part to the income tax rate increase.

    Illinois nets almost $6 billion more in taxes in 2012 Apr 24, 2013 12:00 AM
    Nearly $6 billion more taxes and fees were collected by Illinois in 2012 than the year before. That's the greatest increase of any state in the nation, according to the U.S. Census Bureau's annual State Government Tax Collections report that was released a few days ago. The increase from $30.6 billion to $36.4 billion represents a 19.1 percent spike in the state's total tax haul.

  • Analysis of suburban school districts shows there’s no significant financial benefit for teachers who have retirement contributions paid for them by the district versus teachers who cover those costs themselves.

    Does it matter if districts cover teacher contributions? Apr 17, 2013 12:00 AM
    Illinois teachers are supposed to put 9.4 percent of their salaries toward their pensions. Yet teachers in at least 27 suburban school districts have some or all of their retirement contributions paid on their behalf by the district. But it's not as nefarious as it sounds. Those districts are among about 600 school districts or education cooperatives across the state that provide a similar benefit, according to an annual salary study by the Illinois State Board of Education.

  • More than 60 percent of the 2,100-plus local races in Tuesday's election are uncontested, according to an analysis of ballots in five collar counties.

    Uncontested races likely mean status quo on local taxesApr 3, 2013 12:00 AM
    A lack of ballot competition in Tuesday's election means many homeowners aren't likely to see much in the way of policy change when it comes to property taxes. While voters will make key choices in some local races, more than 60 percent of the 2,100-plus races that will be decided in suburban Cook, DuPage, Kane, Lake and McHenry counties are uncontested

  • Taxpayers' pension fund contributions up 172% in 10 yearsMar 13, 2013 12:00 AM
    Pension obligations for local government employees cost Illinois taxpayers $500 million more than it did 10 years ago. The state's 3,000-plus municipalities, counties, libraries, park districts, townships and other local agencies that pay into the Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund spent $800,804,253 in 2011 to cover retirement benefits for 175,844 employees. That's up 172 percent.

  • More than 42 percent of the former educators who have retired from Palatine-Schaumburg High School District 211 receive pensions of more than $100,000 a year, while statewide less than 4 percent of retired educators receive six-figure pensions.

    Pensions top $100,000 for 42% of District 211 retired educators Mar 6, 2013 12:00 AM
    In Palatine-Schaumburg High School District 211, 42.5 percent of retired educators receive pensions of more than $100,000 a year, according to state retirement system data. Other suburban schools, including Stevenson High School District 125, Leyden High School District 212 and Fenton High School District 100, aren't far behind. Across the suburbs, 7 percent of retired public school educators get six-figure pensions, compared to less than 1 percent downstate.

  • Batavia Unit District 101 taxpayers covered a $1,929.75 tab at Morton's Steakhouse in Chicago during a November conference when a vendor didn't pick up the bill as district officials had hoped.

    School conference hotels, food, travel cost taxpayers $277,086Feb 13, 2013 12:00 AM
    Come for the conference, stay for the hotel room, $57 steak dinner, valet parking and laundry service. Those are just some of the extra costs taxpayers in 89 suburban school districts covered for board members and administrators who attended a November conference in Chicago. The districts racked up $277,086.17 in hotel, food, travel and incidental costs over the weekend-long conference.

  • Naperville Unit District 203 Superintendent Dan Bridges was among 19 administrators and board members who attended a Chicago conference last year, costing taxpayers $17,183.58, the most of 92 suburban districts analyzed.

    Area schools spend $574,197 during weekend in city Feb 6, 2013 12:00 AM
    It cost suburban taxpayers $574,197.48 to send 735 school board members and district administrators back to the classroom. The price tag for a weekend-long conference last November includes rooms at downtown Chicago hotels and many free meals, but the heftiest portion of the tab comes from the nearly $300,000 spent on registration fees for seminars, workshops and classes.

  • A hotel employee said the $20.15 in-room movie charge for a Fox Lake Elementary District 114 board member was for the movie “Ted.”

    District's tab for weekend in Chicago: $13,756Jan 30, 2013 12:00 AM
    Taxpayers in Fox Lake Elementary District 114 paid for movies, a limo ride and nearly $1,600 in parking fees that were part of a $13,756.20 tab racked up by school board members and administrators at a conference in Chicago nearly three months ago. “The days are filled, so it's not like we're going down there and goofing around,” said Superintendent John Donnellan. “Do I think they abuse it? No.”

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