Responses from Lake Metroparks

By Brian Massie, A Watchman on the Wall

Any tax is immoral that, if unpaid, causes a citizen to become homeless. If you doubt us, stop paying your property taxes. Property ownership is a foundation of liberty! Home ownership is just an illusion – you are merely renters from the government!

We have discovered a common theme with all of the Lake County taxing authorities. They all adhere to a “spend down” business model. By that I mean they ask for an astronomical amount of property taxes, much more than they need to operate for the next 3- 5 years, from the citizens when they initially put a levy on the ballot. Their goal is to accumulate vast sums of cash that can be invested, earn thousands/millions in interest income, and also they will not have to return to the taxpayers for 10 – 15 years after they have “spent down” their reserves. There is no incentive to be good stewards of the taxpayers’ money. Their “piggybank” is always full!

Another deceptive tactic is to ask the voters to support “continuous levies” or “C.P.T. levies” (continuing period of time). This means that you will pay the tax forever without the tax authority being accountable to the voters. Just on principal, we would suggest that voters always vote NO on continuous levies.

The issue we have with all of the taxing authorities is that they fail to recognize that they must justify their existence to the taxpayers every 3 – 5 years by demonstrating that they are responsible stewards of the taxpayers’ money. In the period of rampant inflation, such as the one we are in right now, their cash reserves are losing buying power. Deepwood, the Crime Lab, ADAMHS Board, Lakeland Community College, Public Schools, etc., are all sucking the lifeblood out of the community.

Excess cash must be returned to the taxpayer so that the money can be saved or spent in the local economy.

Unfortunately, Lake County has lost their checks and balances against excessive taxation because of the Supreme Court ruling that does not allow the Budget Commission to adjust outside millage property taxes, if they deem that the taxing authority do not need the cash. Until that is fixed by the State legislators, if citizens continue to vote for any new property tax levies, many homeowners will start pricing themselves out of their homes. We suggest that you learn what the Housing Affordability Threshold is all about. It will help you determine if you can afford a property tax levy that is on the ballot.

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After reviewing the financial statements provided by Mr. Paul Palagyi, Executive Director of Lake Metroparks, we sent him an email with several questions. His responses are provided in bold print. It appears that Lake Metroparks will NOT forgo any of the property tax increase windfall resulting from the sexennial revaluation. They will gain more revenue without a vote of the taxpayers. We thought that they would be more responsive to the needs of the taxpayers in light of their massive cash reserves, but sadly, we were mistaken.

Our question: “Who in Lake County is looking out for the financial interests of the average citizen?” Our answer: “NO ONE!”.

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Mr. Palagyi,

Thank you for your transparency and prompt response to our public records request.

After reading the the auditor’s report, I do have some questions and comments:

  1. When I reviewed the Lake County Auditor’s Schedule A’s for 2021 – 2022 and 2022 – 2023 for the estimated property tax revenue from the inside and outside millage, it was quite a bit different than what I saw on the financial statements.  I’m sure there is an explanation, but I would appreciate the opportunity to review the numbers with someone at Metroparks.

Response:  The difference is between the estimate provided from the county and the actual amounts received.

  1. On page 50 of the Financial Statements ended December 31, 2022 it mentions the inside and outside millage being 3.20 per $1,000 of assessed value.  That is not 100% complete since HB 920 reduced the number of mills to an effective rate of 2.423648 for Class 1 and 2.983839 for Class 2 and 3.  Perhaps it is not important, but with such a detailed report I thought that would be mentioned.

Response:  Our financial statements, including page 50, are built upon providing the required information but I understand your point and we’ll look at adding that in the next report.

  1. The sexennial revaluation taking place in 2024 and collected in 2025 will create a windfall of approximately $163,534 – $173,972 at an estimated 30% in market value for Class 1 property because of the .1 mills of inside millage.  Is that money needed?

Response:  Yes.  Over the next eight years we are committed to continue to provide clean and safe parks for our visitors which continues to cost more to accomplish each day.  As we stated in 2021, we do not intend to propose any tax increases until at least after 2032.

  1. Lake Metroparks as of 12/31/22 had a cash balance in governmental activities of $25,619,209.  I would like to know Metroparks current cash balance.  If there continues to be increased cash balances, are there any plans to give money back to the overburdened taxpayers?

Response:  The 2023 carryover of all funds is $30,111,722.  As is illustrated on page 14 of the budget summary, we expect that this carryover will decrease substantially over the next eight years as continue to provide clean and safe parks and develop the park amenities we promised the voters of Lake County we would do.

We are VERY worried that if we stay on the path of ever-increasing property taxes, we will tax seniors and those living on fixed incomes out of their homes that they have worked all their lives to achieve. We also believe that any tax is immoral, if unpaid, will cause the citizens to be homeless.

We see a disturbing trend in Lake County that should cause everyone to be alarmed.  There are no checks and balances in our system to ensure that excessive taxation does not take place.  We have written to the State House Ways and Means Committee about this problem. (copy attached) 

The taxing authorities are accumulating tens of millions of tax dollars with a “spend down” mentality.  That is, everyone seems proud that they do not have to go back to the taxpayers for 10 or more years for a tax renewal.  That is not in the best interests of the taxpayers.  We want to be sure that everyone is being good stewards of our money. Accumulating these funds that are losing purchasing power due to inflation is not helping Lake County economically.   The money should be in the hands of the taxpayers so that they can spend it in the county to spur economic growth.  Government is growing at a pace that is exceeding the private sector’s ability to pay.

I have also attached two schedule A’s and our worksheet that calculates the increased revenue for Metroparks due to the sexennial revaluation.

Thank you,

Brian Massie
A Watchman on the Wall
Truth Conquers All
Lobbyists for Citizens
a 501 (c) (4) Non-Profit

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Here is the pay structure for the Lake Metroparks management:

Executive Director: $147,657.54
Deputy Director: $123,366.46
Chief Financial Officer: $117,117.10
Director of Park Services: $103,850.24
Chief Ranger: $101,764.00
Director of Operations: $ 101,070.94
Chief of Human Resources: $93,636.82
Chief of Technology: $89,428.98
Farmpark Administrator: $88,203.86
Ranger Captain: $87,972.35

Benefits in addition to salary:
OPERS mandated employer contribution rate of 14%
Paid leave bank accruals of personal, sick and vacation days
7 paid holidays

Health Insurance Options:
No coverage – $0 employer monthly contribution
Single coverage – $526.44 employer monthly contribution
Family coverage – $1,670.51 employer monthly contribution

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If you want to join our movement to eliminate property taxes, please send us an email to the following address. The path were are on is not sustainable. We need to build an “army” to stop ever increasing property taxes. Property ownership is the foundation of liberty. We must stop the communist “You will own nothing, and be happy” movement.

STOPPROPERTYTAXES@gmail.com

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Categories: Community Activism, Lake County - General

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