$30 ticket if you back into Palatine garage parking space
Every time police spot a car backed into a space at downtown Palatine's Gateway Center Parking Garage, the driver gets a $30 ticket.
It happens more than 200 times a year and netted the village nearly $12,000 in fines between January 2014 and April 2016, according to police records.
Some drivers say the number of tickets shows the village's attempt to ban the practice isn't working.
Complaints about the tickets, an update on library spending and slightly good news on the municipal pension front are in this installment of something we call watchdog kibble. It's where we can answer reader questions or provide new details on earlier investigations. Let's dig in.
Back it up
Ten signs -- four at one entrance and three at each of the other two -- warn drivers heading into Palatine's Metra station parking garage not to back into any of the hundreds of parking spots inside.
But what puzzles Palatine resident Myles Snyderman is why those warnings aren't in the parking areas of the garage.
"When you pull into the garage there are several signs telling you all sorts of different things, and these get lost in all that," Snyderman said. "The entrance I pull into, the signs telling you not to back into the spots are even behind a tree branch. If they were really serious about not wanting you to park like that, they'd put those signs inside the garage where you're actually parking."
The fact that the village is consistently ticketing more than 200 cars a year proves the current warning system isn't working, he complained.
Snyderman was one of the 55 commuters ticketed so far in 2016 for violating the village's ordinance that specifically prohibits backing into parking spaces in that garage. But he's also the only one this year to have that ticket voided, according to police records.
Police voided only three of the 427 backed-in parking tickets issued in 2014 and 2015.
"I was the squeaky wheel," Snyderman said, adding it took two trips to the police station to get out of the ticket. "I didn't actually back in. I drove through an open spot and parked in the spot connected to it."
Village officials said the ban on backing into garage spots solves problems the village has dealt with inside the garage.
"We've had a couple accidents and some other issues with people backing into spaces," said Palatine councilman Brad Helms. "And if someone stops to back into a spot, it stops the flow altogether."
Snyderman says traffic flow is more disrupted during the evening rush because drivers have to back out of spots to exit the garage, which hold ups other cars.
"It's actually probably worse in the evening because everyone gets back at the same time," he said.
Helms said he's spoken with village officials about adding signs inside the structure but said there are no plans to revoke the ban.
According to police records, 82 percent of those ticketed for backing into a parking spot at the deck paid the fine in 2014 and 2015. Seventy tickets are unpaid. Four drivers fought the tickets in court; two won and two lost.
Some local governments might be getting a small break on pension obligations next year.
That's because of marginally better-than-expected investment income and cost reductions from lowered benefits for recent hires, said Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund Executive Director Louis Kosiba.
Late last year, Kosiba suggested the pension fund's investment portfolio would lose money by the end of 2015.
But instead, investment income barely increased with reported growth of 0.44 percent, or $220 million after expenses. The fund's portfolio is valued at roughly $34.5 billion.
Kosiba said the rate of contributions made by employers -- taxpayer-supported government agencies -- will go down on average to 11.34 percent of payroll in 2017 from 11.73 percent this year. Employee contribution rates are stable at 4.5 percent.
Newer hires also cost less because there's a limit on the amount of wages that can count toward their pensions and it takes longer for them to be vested and collect the benefit.
The so-called tier 2 employees "will continue to reduce pension-related costs for units of government and taxpayers," Kosiba said.
Kosiba also warned that the rate decrease might be short-lived since the fund assumes a 7.5 percent return on investments each year. That hasn't happened since 2013 and Kosiba doesn't believe it's going to happen in 2016.
"We're looking at another challenging year," he said.
Books or people?
A few weeks ago, we told you suburban libraries were more likely to increase spending on staff than on new materials last year.
Missing from that analysis of 54 library districts and municipal library systems was the Itasca Community Library. Attempts to get access to the 2015 audit were unsuccessful until this week. The library does not maintain a copy of current or previous audits on its website.
Last year, the library spent $873,283 on staff. At 67 percent of total expenses, that's below the Illinois Library Association's maximum recommended level of annual personnel spending. It's also down 1.5 percent from 2013, according to records maintained by the Illinois State Library.
Meanwhile, spending on new books, magazines, electronic materials, music and movies totaled $97,291 last year.
That's just 7.4 percent of total expenditures, which is less than the 12 percent minimum spending on new materials recommended by the Illinois State Library. That's also a 43.2 percent decline from 2013, according to state library records.
The investigation revealed that slightly less than half the libraries increased spending on both materials and personnel. Only five libraries decreased spending on both materials and personnel.
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