The Public Side of Life

In a previous post I gave everyone a little history about my past private life and work experience.  I think it is important to some people that they know that side of a candidate’s life.  I think this says a little about how a person’s character is developed.  In this post, I would like to share a little about my history as it involves the Village and public service.

About Mike…

  • Lifelong resident of Crete
  • Married 27 years, no children
  • Associate’s Degree in Fire Science
  • Bachelor’s Degree in Industrial Mgmt. Purdue Univ.
  • Retired Postmaster with 35 years of service
  • Currently a P/T Project Manager, CET Inc. Engineers

My Experience

  • Village President from 1985 to present
  • Volunteer, Crete Fire Dept. 44 years, Assistant Chief 14 years
  • Chairman, Plan Commission from 1977 to 1985
  • Chairman, Eastcom Dispatch Center Board of Directors
  • Chairman, Eastern Will County Council of Mayors
  • Member, Will County Governmental League
  • Member, Metropolitan Mayors Caucus
  • South Council Rep. to CMAP Executive Council of Mayors
  • Member, South Suburban Mayor’s & Manager’s Assoc. Executive Committee & Transportation Committee Chairman
  • Board Member, Laraway Communications Center

Being involved with these organizations means that there are numerous meetings that I attend on a regular basis.  To get the most out of what these groups have to offer, attendance and participation is a must.  I make every effort to be as involved as possible, not just by attendance but by being an active and vocal participant.  That is the only way to have a positive influence on the outcome of important issues that can affect Crete and the region.  Several of these positions come as a result of my knowledge, expertise and ability in dealing with difficult issues and the interaction with other elected officials.

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Through My Leadership We Have Accomplished Much

As an incumbent Mayor, I have a record to defend against my challengers that claim I have not done enough to move the Village forward.  The following is a partial list of my accomplishments during my terms as Village President.  While some use the “we need a change” slogan to try and capture votes and create confusion and doubt in voters, I assert we have constantly changed and it is called “progress“.  Through my leadership we have accomplished much! 

* indicates personal responsibility

  • Downtown Street lights – $220,000.00 grant *
  • Land plan layout for Fairway Sub-division *
  • Reed Ekal property acquisition *
  • Woodlands of Merioneth Subdivision deal w/park *
  • Bike trail over the trunk sewer line *
  • Richton Road project – Approx $7,100,000.00 grant *
  • Station #2 water tower grant $273,000.00 *
  • METRA Southeast Service –my original proposal in 1986 *
  • Water main extension to Walt’s
  • CDGB in Enterprise Sub. – $2,000,000.00 in grants
  • Main Street & Milburn intersection improvements *
  • Well 8 & 9 Grant -$200,000.00*
  • Three major trunk sewer lines installed
  • New hydrant flushing program
  • Land plan for Village property*
  • Drainage improvements – old Lincolnshire
  • Commuter rail parking lot land purchase $25,000.00*
  • Downtown TIF plan
  • Two Motor Fuel Tax major road programs – $2,000,000.00*
  • 500-acre industrial park  along Burville Road*
  • Walt’s Food Store and Ace Hardware projects*
  • Comprehensive plan with and without airport $40,000.00 grant
  • Holland Co. TIF project *
  • Techn-O-Tape TIF project *
  • North American Stone TIF project
  • DTE Crete Energy TIF project
  • Many downtown TIF projects leveraging private investment
  • South Holland Bakery Supply Project
  • $1.2M Road Grand for the C-M School District
  • CenterPoint 1,100 acre annexation and plan
  • Retail on IL 394, Kohl’s*, Culver’s*, GoLo*
  • Silliker Labs project
  • M&M Roofing
  • McDonald’s on Steger Road
  • Strip stores on Steger Road at Cottage Grove
  • Universal Steel America project
  • Well Built Equipment project
  • $368,000 paving project grant for Burville Road
  • Sewers to the properties on North Main
  • Al-Amin Brothers Transportation Project ($5.0M)
  • Holland Company office expansion project ($5.0M)
  • St James Senior Estates
  • New water tower by the high school*
  • Leveraged the power plant project to build Hartmann Dive*
  • Veteran’s Plaza project grant for $175,000
  • $160,000 grant to improve the village hall
  • Dutch American Foods development*
  • Al-Amin Transportation development*
  • Drinking water iron removal grant*
  • Road construction grants for Crete Road and Burville Road*

New Talent “Officially” Comes To The Village Staff

Recently the Village Board voted to formally provide an official title for a person that has been helping our accounting functions.  Her name is Maria Alexeychuk and her new title is Finance Director.  We have been using Maria on a part-time, as needed basis, for the last two to three years.  She is a Crete-Monee grad with a degree in accounting, a CPA with an additional MBA degree.  She replaces our former auditor/accounting consultant Pete Skinger, who retired in late 2010 after over 40 years of faithful service to the Village.

This will be a part-time position, because we currently don’t have the need for a full time person, but I felt that it was proper and necessary to give her an official title and specific job duties and functions within our accounting operation.  Everyone on the Village Board agreed, except Mr. Gaffney.  Most towns around us have full time Finance Managers.  Maria has a wealth of knowledge, having worked in several areas of accounting and she is familiar with our accounting software.  She has already used her knowledge to update our entire chart of accounts to DECO standards, which was necessary to fully utilize all the features of our accounting system software.  Her immediate assignment will be to begin work on our pre-audit schedules and documents.  The audit process begins in June.

I personally spend a great deal of time working on and watching our finances, and I intend to slowly transfer some of what I have been doing to Maria.  This will free me up for other issues.  Standard and Poor’s Rating Service has recently raised the debt rating for the Village to AA+, their next to highest rating and provided very positive comments about our financial condition and management.  I am extremely proud of this accomplishment and it is a testimonial to the attention I pay to finances.  This rating increase should also lower our interest rate, in the event we desire to borrow money in the future.  I have always been conservative in money management, without going to extremes.  Unlike the State of Illinois, our problem is revenue, not spending.  Also, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the help I receive from Trustee Mark Wiater.  Mark is the Finance, License and Ordinance Trustee and also has a degree in finance.  He and I discuss financial issues on almost a daily basis.  Mark feels like I do, that Maria will continue to be a valuable asset to the operation of the Village.

TIF’s, Facts Not Fiction

The purpose and function of a TIF (Tax Increment Financing) District is to use the real estate tax increment generated by increasing property values within the district to help bring more value to the area by reinvesting the increment back into the district.  There is no hard and fast requirement for any TIF project to produce jobs, additional revenue, or anything tangible.  TIF has also been described as a “but for” incentive, meaning, “but for” the investment of TIF dollars, the project or property would not be done or the improvement would not be made.  Every single TIF deal is first reviewed by the TIF Advisory Board before it is referred to the Village Board for approval.  Public comment is taken at both meetings and rough guidelines have been set up to avoid abuse of the funding process.  Not all TIF funding goes to private property projects, public projects can also be funded.  As an example, we put sewers on N. Main Street, because there will be no future development in that area “but for” sewer being available to a new building or project. 

Today’s post by Mr. Seehausen regarding the private meeting recently held with property owners bordering the alley on the west side of Main Street between Exchange and Cass is nothing short of incredible.  First of all, the meeting was private for a reason.  We were trying to be sensitive to the opinions and circumstances of all involved.  If there was an owner that could not, for whatever reason, get on board with this project, we were not interested in having that become a public issue.  Pardon us for being sensitive.  The public will have ample time to review and comment on the plan once it is closer to being finalized.  This entire issue should not be a political football.  We have looked at this project several times in the past and have not acted in favor of making the improvement, because frankly, it wasn’t justified.  Just after the park district announced their dance studio and purchase of the building, we received an inquiry from a local business owner expressing concern about the parking situation.  We had no idea how many folks could possibly be using the new studio, so after checking, we decided to review our previous plans and have a preliminary meeting.  Because the plan anticipates using a layout that disregards property lines and treats the area as one large piece, buy-in is needed from all owners.  My personal observation of parking in this area is, that with rare occasion, adequate parking is available, especially in the evenings when the bank is closed.  It should also be pointed out that back in 2003 Mr. Seehausen sued the Village of Crete in an attempt to force us to close the fitness center, because some of its patrons parked in his lot.  He lost the suit, because he had a remedy, that being, to tow the vehicles, which I believe he did.  To help remedy the situation, we took over the Methodist Church parking lot as a public facility, intended for use of employees of the downtown area, but it seems he has heartburn with that also. 

To answer directly his other allegations, it should first be noted that I have never voted for a TIF project.  The projects are not “the Mayor’s”.  They are projects of various origins that have been brought to the Village Board for consideration and are all handled and reviewed for their own distinct merit.  No two are alike or treated alike for that reason.  No one has been “forced” to do anything except follow the codes as they relate to what they are trying to accomplish, like turning a house into a business.  Businesses have different requirements than homes, and we have not used TIF funds for any private single family residence.  We have purchased vacant run down property, which is an allowable expenditure, with the intention to assemble property when it becomes available, to avoid being held hostage by a future owner.  In both cases it was property within the Metra Station planning area and could be used as parking until the need changes, once the final station location is selected and designed.  This is called vision and planning ahead and acting not reacting.  All of this was discussed in open session.  The Village Board is very thorough and deliberate in their evaluation of all TIF projects.  You have to make your case to receive funds. 

As far as naming a ground up development in the downtown, I guess Mr. Seehausen forgot about Matt’s Printing.  Building an actual structure is a prohibited use of TIF funds, but in Matt’s case his funding was used for utility work and site preparation.  Remember that one of the main purposes of TIF is to provide façade restorations, especially in older areas, which we have promoted and funded by teaming with willing owners.  Mr. Seehausen has also apparently forgotten that the Edge has addressed their rear entrance area and the Park District will be doing the same.  No other TIF projects have been proposed for buildings that have alley area exposure.  And, as far as street lights are concerned, the luminaries are different in the Main Street decorative lights than in the lights on the side streets.  The State of Illinois has strict lighting standards that prohibit brighter bulbs at lower levels along state highways, such as IL Rte 1/Main Street.  That is why there are tall overhead lights mixed in along with the decorative lights on Main Street.  Everything that has been done regarding TIF has been straight forward and transparent.  I guess it takes running for office and not paying attention to justify second guessing the last 20 years of TIF work. 

Leadership, vision, planning, cooperation and compromise are what it takes to make TIF work, along with some problem solving abilities thrown in for good measure.  This is what a mayor understands and does along with a talented and educated staff of professionals.  I hope residents consider this when they go to the polls on April 9th.

Goals: Near Term

Crete is a great place and it is on its way to becoming even better. We have lots of assets that are yet to be realized and fully developed. We have an abundance of open space, a large amount of Village owned property, the IL 394 corridor, heavily forested areas, the potential for an extensive trail system, a well defined downtown area, abundant land for industrial development, a wide variety of housing options, including senior housing, the possibility of a Metra station and excess sewer and water capacity. Not many towns can make these claims. My goal is to develop and utilize these assets in the best way possible for the long term benefit of our residents and in keeping with our planning objectives that have been defined with citizen input. This is a process not an event.

You will hear about what other candidates are dreaming about, what they claim they are going to do without regard to reality or costs involved, using comments intended to create suspicions that something is wrong or something has been mismanaged. They will also bring up items that have already been effectively handled and are really old news. The governance of the third airport, Illiana Expressway and the intermodal facility are prime examples. I will tell you what I want to accomplish, at a minimum, during the next couple of years, and I have a “wish list” of several other things that would be nice to accomplish if the funds are available.

  • Assist in the completion of the Holland Company’s major office expansion and the Al-Amin Brother’s refrigerated warehouse development totaling an $11M investment in Crete.
  • Implement a new parking plan on the west side of Main between Exchange and Cass.
  • Encourage more property owners to do façade changes in the downtown area, such as Aurelio’s and Cal’s.
  • Finish the downtown “Time Square” project so that area is completed.
  • Investigate the possibility of making major changes to the east side of Main between Cass and Exchange that will open up more Main Street retail opportunities.  We need new retail space in the downtown area if we expect to attract any additional new businesses.
  • Create a new street off of N. Main Street across from Speedway that would go east.  This would create an access point to a new mixed use area that could provide new retail opportunities.  The traffic count at this location is double that of properties south of Burville Road and the land is less expensive.
  • Build Old Monee Road east through to Hartmann Drive to open up more industrial property ready for immediate development and create marketing plans for the TIF #3 industrial area.
  • Build on our successes in the 394 corridor.  We did well even during a down economy, so as the market turns we should do even better.  There are users out there; we just need to identify them.  One retailer I have identified is currently reviewing the area for a possible project.
  • Encourage CenterPoint Properties to consider redefining their focus to include a wider variety of potential users.  This project needs to move forward.
  • Create an easy to use property inventory list on the Village web site featuring available residential, commercial, retail and industrial development sites.
  • I will again explore the creation of a train horn quiet zone, if we can secure a funding source.  It appears that I have just identified a possible condition change, which could reduce the overall cost to a point where it may be possible.
  • Work with the park district on finalizing the master trail plan for the entire village.  I drew one up several years ago and presented it to the Crete Park District.  Because they are under funded, it has never been finalized or been officially acted on by the district.  This will give everyone a vision for what needs to be accomplished as the village grows.

All of these items are realistic, attainable, and within the area of responsibility of village government operations. All of these items will move our economy ahead, provide growth opportunities and enhance our quality of life.

Mike Einhorn, Village President

Understanding The Real Estate Tax Issue

Lately it seems that I am spend a good amount of my time educating the residents about the finer points of municipal government so they can understand the misleading and false promise that they have made by my opponents.  Unfortunately, I am also educating them at the same time on subjects they should already be fluent with if they are going to run the Village. 

The most common complaint that I hear from residents is that the real estate taxes are too high.  I believe I can identify with that since I pay about $14,000.00 in taxes each year.  High taxes affect me just like everyone else.  However, the Village of Crete is only responsible for about 12.6% or one eighth of the total real estate tax bill, about $2.4 million dollars per year.  While this may seem like a lot of money, it only represents about 23% of all the dollars the Village uses to operate in a year.  It is the only predictable source of income the Village has.  In the coming year, your tax dollars will be collected in the following amounts for the purpose shown:

  • General Operations                    $540,000.00
  • Street Lighting                            $  46,000.00
  • Police Protection                        $300,000.00
  • Police Pension  Fund                 $230,000.00
  • Public Benefit Fund                    $  18,000.00
  • Ill Muni Retirement Fund        $120,000.00
  • Social Security                           $150,000.00
  • Bond & Int. Debt Service          $  94,250.00
  • Fire Protection                           $650,000.00
  • EMA                                             $  61,000.00
  • Auditing & Accounting               $  36,000.00
  • Liability Insurance                     $225,000.00
  • Crossing Guards                         $  28,000.00

All spending not covered by the real estate tax collections shown above are covered by revenue generated from other sources.  The amounts shown above, for the most part, are equal to or less than what the yearly expenditure will be in the fund.  As an example, we spend just over $28,000.00 to pay the crossing guards that assist children cross streets on their way to and from school.  Our Liability Insurance bill is right around $225,000.00 per year.  On the other hand Police Protection costs about $1.9 million per year, with the additional dollars coming from a variety of other sources to make up the difference.  If you are going to cut real estate taxes, which of the above items can actually be cut, and if you do cut the tax collections by lowering the rate, where will new revenue come from to replace the loss?  Keep in mind that currently every penny of tax rate is equal to roughly $18,000.00 in tax dollars to the Village.  That same penny in tax rate, viewed as a reduction in the tax rate, on a house valued at $150,000.00 will produce a $5.00 reduction in the tax bill.  Put another way, you have to drop the levy request (as shown above) by $18,000.00 to see just a $5.00 reduction in the tax bill of a $150,000.00 home.

Note: This illustration applies only to the Village portion of your real estate tax bill.  Similar calculations could be performed for all taxing bodies listed on the tax bill to illustrate what affect a penny reduction would have for each.

As one can see, cutting taxes is a difficult task, because it takes a certain amount of money to cover all the village funding needs, and the costs of operation are always increasing.  Funding municipal government is a complicated and difficult task that requires skill, planning and knowledge of where money comes from and flows to.  My superior knowledge of this subject allowed me to skillfully guide the Village through the last very financially difficult years.  My management has produced a good bond and financial rating, a small reserve fund and a very conservative approach to spending.  No other candidate for Village President has anything close to this experience and record of successful operation.  There is no room for error in finance.  It’s so easy to spend money when you don’t have to be responsible for where it comes from.

IT’S NOT SPRING, ITS’ SILLY SEASON

In his latest letter to the editor Don Seehausen proposes to eliminate the “unnecessary vehicle sticker” road tax.  As so often in the past, Mr.Seehausen is promising something he knows little about.  He is again making misleading comments aimed at fooling the voter into thinking the present administration is doing something wrong, and he will singlehandedly make it right.  The following is the reality of vehicle stickers.  The devil is in the details, as they say.

While eliminating the vehicle sticker sounds like a great campaign pitch and something every vehicle owner would love, including me.  However, he does not explain how he expects to fill the $260,000.00 hole that action would leave in the Road and Bridge fund.  The sale of vehicle stickers accounts for about 45% of the total revenue for the Road and Bridge fund.  The remainder of the roughly $570,000.00 in total yearly revenue comes from the Road and Bridge real estate tax levy that is made by Crete Township.  This money is used to pave, patch and fix roads, curb repair and replacement, handle drainage issues, trim trees and bushes along road sides, road side mowing, salt, crack sealing, snow plowing, all storm sewer maintenance, street lighting maintenance, vehicle purchases, equipment purchases, vehicle maintenance, leaf pick-up and branch chipping.  Knowing that all of these functions are a necessity of operating and maintaining the Village and assisting the residents, it is easy to see that eliminating the vehicle stickers would be an irresponsible action without a way to replace the revenue.  While the majority of our roads are in “ok” condition, none are what I would call great, and that is because, if anything the Road and Bridge fund is underfunded.  We have a need for more revenue not less, to properly service the 50+ miles of roads in the Village of Crete.  So the $64,000.00 question still remains unanswered; how will Mr. Seehausen fund the elimination of the vehicle sticker?  Does he intend to raise our taxes to pay for his promise?  It has to come from somewhere. 

I believe we do a tremendous job of stretching every dollar of the limited funds we have.  Mr. Seehausen’s proposal is a perfect example of what many call “silly season”, where challengers say anything they can to get elected.  They throw anything at the wall and hope something sticks and hope they fool the voter into believing that the current administration is doing something wrong.  I can assure you that nothing could be further from the truth, and I believe the voters are smarter than Mr. Seehausen thinks.