Gary, Indiana School Board Member Refuses to Pay $566,000 in Delinquent Property Taxes


They say unpaid property taxes are one big reason why the Gary, Indiana school district is struggling financially.

It turns out one of the guilty parties is Marion Williams, an elected member of the Gary school board.

Williams has refused to pay more than $566,000 in taxes and penalties on several abandoned or dilapidated properties in the city, opting instead to allow them to go to a public tax auction later this summer, the Kokomo Tribune reports.

Williams acknowledged the tax debts, “but said some of the properties he owned were divided among his ex-wife and children,” the newspaper reports. “Williams doesn’t plan on paying the taxes, saying he’s a victim of the city’s profoundly depressed real estate market.”

What a wonderful example for the city’s taxpayers. As a community leader, Williams sends the message to city residents that if they don’t want to pay their taxes, they don’t have to.

The sad part is Williams seems aloof to how his actions impact the school district he’s elected to serve. The Tribune reports that the Gary school district’s $23.7 million budget deficit is in part driven by the city’s abysmally low 42 percent tax collection rate.

To make matters worse, Williams and other members elected to the school board in 2012 based their campaigns on fixing the district’s chronic budget problems, although Williams ran unopposed, according to the Northwest Indiana Times.
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Grand Rapids Unionized School Employees Get a Bonus for Declining Student Enrollment!


The Grand Rapids, Michigan public school district has a $13.5 million budget deficit.

District officials say the state is at fault, for not keeping up with the rate of inflation when tabulating aid to public schools.

But we suspect it could be an in-house problem. The district has a long history of being overly generous with its unionized labor force, and the following is a perfect example:

Declining enrollment has been a problem for the district, since it gets so much money from the state for each student enrolled.

So how do the knuckleheads on the school board react to this challenge? Last year they added an “enrollment compensation incentive” to all of the union contracts, according to a report from the Grand Rapids Press.

It does not promise a raise if enrollment actually increases and brings more money into the district. That would be too logical.

Instead it promises a raise if enrollment declines less than it did the previous year. GRPS expects to lose around 400 students this fall, compared to about 700 last year, so union workers will be paid an extra $1.9 million.

We suppose they will just tack that extra cost onto the existing deficit. What the heck.

Employee incentive programs are supposed to reward the workforce if the employer makes money. In this case the employees are being rewarded while the employer continues to lose money. What an absurd waste of tax dollars.

If GRPS were a private business, it would have hit the financial rocks a long time ago.

Michigan needs full school choice (more charter schools and a private school voucher program) so that poorly run districts like GRPS will be forced to conduct business wisely or shut their doors.

Taxpayers were better off when local governments were closely watched by local newspapers


ST. CLAIR TWP., Ohio – News reports tell us that the Ohio State Auditor’s Office has put St. Clair Township, a small local government unit, under the status of “fiscal emergency” because it has a budget deficit approaching $200,000.


(St. Clair Township Fiscal Officer Douglas Wheelright), who was elected to office in April of 2012, said the township’s former fiscal officer failed to pay some bills, including some electric payments, and payments owed to the Internal Revenue Service. That – combined with a slow economy and dwindling tax collections – forced the township into a deficit.

This is hardly unusual. Local governmental units across the nation have been struggling with their budgets in recent years. A total of 22 local governments in Ohio are also experiencing state-declared fiscal emergencies.

But a major factor in this particular instance was allegedly sloppy work by the former fiscal officer. That makes us wonder if this is yet another example of what happens when local government is not being monitored.

By monitored, we mean covered on a regular basis by a reporter from a local newspaper. It wasn’t so long ago that nearly all local governmental bodies – city councils, township boards, school boards – pretty much all had a regular reporter assigned to cover their meetings, ask tough questions and shine a light on their activities.

Those lone watchdogs probably did more to guarantee honest and efficient government at the local level than anybody realizes. Local officials watched their step, because they didn’t want to get burned in the newspaper.

Unfortunately the Great Recession killed a lot of newspapers across the nation, and forced the downsizing of most of the others. Veteran reporters were laid off, and if they were replaced, it was usually by inexperienced, low-salary kids just out of college. As a result, few local governments are covered the way they were covered before. The newspapers can no longer afford to assign watchdogs to every little municipality.

But every little municipality handles millions of dollars in tax money every year. With nobody watching, waste and abuse are bound to occur. Was this part of the problem in St. Clair Township? We have no idea. But it will be a growing problem across the nation in coming years, because the Fourth Estate is no longer watching.

Authored by Steve Gunn