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“Worst public policy in Illinois history”

Wednesday, Apr 9, 2014

* Bob Grey is the president of the Citizens Club of Springfield and sits on the city’s Citizens’ Efficiency Commission. He sent this out today…

An initial finding of the [Citizens’ Efficiency Commission] was the discovery of a 2% tax on out-of-state companies selling fire insurance in Illinois.

This Foreign Fire Insurance Fund, which the state does not call a tax and does not collect, generates dollars that the Illinois Municipal League collects for downstate fire departments and distributes (after taking several thousands in fees) directly to a committee of firemen with no oversight, review or accountability by any public officials.

The [Springfield Fire Department] ’slush fund’ totaled about $1 M over the past 4 years. This would rank with the worst public policy in Illinois history.

* That’s definitely a biased interpretation. But what is the Foreign Fire Insurance tax? The Municipal League explains on its website

The Illinois Foreign Fire Insurance Fund is distributed by the state of Illinois Muncipal League. The Municipal League collects insurance taxes from companies outside of the State of Illinois. Those funds are distributed to fire departments across the state to provide for the needs of the departments as the department sees fit to compensate for what is not provided by the municipality.

* The firefighters are trying to shed some light on how much is distributed to municipalities each year and how much the Illinois Municipal League’s cut really is, so they have a bill

Any entity that maintains a website and that is charged with the collection of a tax or license fee and the rendering of the tax or license fee to the treasurer of the foreign fire insurance board or fire protection district secretary must publish to its website by the first day of August of each year the following information for the year ending on the preceding first day of July:

    (1) the total amount of the tax or license fee collected on behalf of each municipal fire department or fire protection district;

    (2) the total administrative fees, if any, charged to each municipal fire department or fire protection district;

    (3) the aggregate amount of taxes or license fees collected on behalf of all municipal fire departments or fire protection districts; and

    (4) the aggregate amount of administrative fees, if any, charged to each municipal fire department or fire protection district.

The bill hasn’t moved yet, but it may advance later in the session.

- Posted by Rich Miller        


21 Comments
  1. - OneMan - Wednesday, Apr 9, 14 @ 11:29 am:

    Seeing who gets what would be interesting…

    HS classmate of mine who works for a suburban FD that if I understand what he said on FB right use that money to pay for a rehab of the living area of one of the firehouses (did a nice job judging by the pictures)


  2. - Formerly Known As... - Wednesday, Apr 9, 14 @ 11:33 am:

    Sounds like it resembles the IHSA discussion we had yesterday in some regards.


  3. - Bluefish - Wednesday, Apr 9, 14 @ 11:36 am:

    The firefighters seem to have omitted putting a line in the bill requiring reporting on how the fire department spends the “barcalounger fund”.


  4. - Ahoy! - Wednesday, Apr 9, 14 @ 11:39 am:

    Shouldn’t these funds pay down the municipalities fire pension costs until the 90% threshold is obtained?


  5. - Jake From Elwood - Wednesday, Apr 9, 14 @ 11:48 am:

    This bill is a direct slap at the IML.
    If you read the Municipal Code, there is the formation of a separate “foreign fire tax” board that is responsible for budgeting and spending the money that would otherwise go to the municipality. I guess the firefighters want to make sure they get the tax for fire department purposes rather than to public works or the police. It is rather ridiculous that we need yet another layer of bureaucracy, particularly in the single-purpose fire protection districts.


  6. - Anyone Remember - Wednesday, Apr 9, 14 @ 11:53 am:

    I have no problem with the $ being used to furnish the firehouses. Before that happened, in Springfield the furniture in the firehouses was “was so dilapidated it was rejected by charity” .

    http://articles.chicagotribune.com/1991-08-22/news/9103020503_1_fire-safety-issues-local-fire-service-fire-department


  7. - Anon - Wednesday, Apr 9, 14 @ 11:56 am:

    The IML “collects” (pockets,skims..whatever you call it) almost ONE MILLION DOLLARS A YEAR from this..


  8. - Bluefish - Wednesday, Apr 9, 14 @ 12:12 pm:

    Anyone Remember - Thanks for reminding everyone that municipalities could be put the money into the pension funds prior to the legislative change.


  9. - OneMan - Wednesday, Apr 9, 14 @ 12:12 pm:

    I have no problem with the $ being used to furnish the firehouses

    I am ok with that too, but lets make how it is spent and who gets what known.


  10. - LincolnLounger - Wednesday, Apr 9, 14 @ 12:43 pm:

    I’m inclined to agree with those who call these “slush funds.” I suspect there should be restrictions on how these funds are spent, but there should AT LEAST be complete transparency.


  11. - Anyone Remember - Wednesday, Apr 9, 14 @ 12:45 pm:

    OneMan

    The receipts and expenditures are shown in the City of Springfield CAFR. Which means there was some sort of audit review.

    http://www.springfield.il.us/images/2013CAFR.pdf


  12. - OneMan - Wednesday, Apr 9, 14 @ 1:26 pm:

    Anyone Remember

    You know how many entities get that money? A lot of entities get that money. Don’t think having to check each one of them individually to see how much they get (not even that curious how the spend it) seems wrong.

    Seems to me if a single entity gives the money out, they should be able to show easily who gets what and how much they keep and why. Also if the money is for local fire departments, lets see how much is held back by the IML and what are they using it for. Seems reasonable.

    Unless I am wrong (might be) the Illinois Municipal League is not a government agency. So if the state is handing over a tax/fee/whatever for them to administer they should have to say who gets what and who holds on to what.


  13. - Demoralized - Wednesday, Apr 9, 14 @ 1:27 pm:

    These people don’t have a clue about what this is. Maybe they should understand what they are talking about before pontificating.


  14. - Demoralized - Wednesday, Apr 9, 14 @ 1:34 pm:

    @OneMan:

    You see a list of everyone that receives money on the IML website. This isn’t some big secret program. Once again this is people overreacting to something they are unfamiliar with.


  15. - Anyone Remember - Wednesday, Apr 9, 14 @ 1:38 pm:

    OneMan

    I have no problem with IML having to detail how much they receive, how much they allocate, how much they keep. In fact, sounds like a good idea.

    My “concern” is the baby will get thrown out with the bathwater. And while I cannot speak to other cities, Springfield specifically reduced the Fire Department budget by the amount of foreign fire tax receipts when the law changed in 1990.


  16. - Demoralized - Wednesday, Apr 9, 14 @ 1:39 pm:

    ==committee of firemen with no oversight, review or accountability by any public officials==

    That is also BS. The funds are AUDITED and must be audited by statute.


  17. - OneMan - Wednesday, Apr 9, 14 @ 1:43 pm:

    So taking the Citizens’ Efficiency Commission language out of it…

    Does anyone think the proposed legislation is a bad idea?


  18. - Demoralized - Wednesday, Apr 9, 14 @ 1:50 pm:

    @OneMan:

    I think it just centralizes all of the information available on each department’s website, so I don’t see an issue, and apparently neither do the firefighters since it’s their bill.


  19. - downstate commissioner - Wednesday, Apr 9, 14 @ 1:51 pm:

    Another BS law that will help nothing, especially downstate. The Foreign Fire Tax money goes into our general operating funds, and is spent to cover needed expenses of the Fire District. And yes, it shown as income on the Budget, and audited at the end of the year.
    Just another unnecessary form that we part-time trustees will have to fill out and send in.


  20. - downstate commissioner - Wednesday, Apr 9, 14 @ 1:56 pm:

    Oh, missed the part about the Website: another good reason not to have a website…


  21. - Cogito - Thursday, Apr 10, 14 @ 2:07 pm:

    Related to Rich’s comment about a biased interpretation, and as someone who is aware of the Citizens Efficiency Commission’s recommendations, I can tell you that the comments reported are not representative of the opinions of that Commission — past members or current — and none of them were consulted. I’m not even certain that they reflect the opinions of the members of the club Mr. Gray is president of, and would doubt it. It’s one person’s opinion, not that of any of the organizations mentioned, as far as I am aware.


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