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Local Government – Putting the “Statist” in Statistics

A few days ago, we showcased 13 City Managers who were taking in over $200K/year “managing” their suburban fiefdoms. The top dog on our “big dogs” list was one Mike Ellis, of Grayslake.

This prompted a defender of these out-sized pay packages, one Tim Perry, to write a comment on that post, an edited portion of which is below.

I served on the Grayslake Village Board from 1996 to 2009, including two terms as Mayor, 2001-2009. During my 13 years, …his performance and pay was reviewed by the full board of trustees annually. Salary recommendations were made and voted on without any controversy. …

The proven value of his efforts and knowledge the Village of Grayslake taxpayers were obvious. … If “For the Good of Illinois” really wants to help uncover bad financial situations in municipalities and taxing districts, you should use the performance of the Village of Grayslake as the benchmark to measure other communities.

Really?! I see Grayslake as the benchmark for why Illinois is going bankrupt, not to mention why our property taxes are skyrocketing. I can tell you why because For the Good of Illinois has just added even more functionality to openthebooks.com.

We added a is new section of data called “Financial Data Statistics.” This section aggregates spending data for 1000s of taxing districts in Illinois. It quickly illustrates why you are being taxed out of your homes.

Before you look at the data and graph below, let’s continue with Mr. Perry’s apologia for local government bloat…

Outsourcing of services using independent contractors has saved Grayslake tens of millions of dollars since Ellis instituted this philosphy 28 years ago. Instead of using this easy headline grab about salary, why don’t you analyze the rising costs of service in communities, or in the case of Grayslake, the declining cost of services to residents, look at budget performance, spending per capita, etc. etc.

Groups like yours are always paying lip service to the phrase “pay for performance” … Look deeper into the financial situations of the communities that employ the other high paid village managers. That is where the real headlines are.

Yes, the real headlines are indeed in the deeper data. Now look at the graph below.

Mr. Ellis has presided over an explosion of spending in Grayslake. While defenders of his high salary point to a reduction in full-time employees, they ignore the explosion of part-timers. Further, if the FY 2000 $3,046,222 had grown only by inflation, it would be $3,817,839. Instead, it is an explosive $5,192,139.

This phenomenon has taken place all over Illinois, as spending interests have purchased legislation to expand pay, payroll, pensions, benefits, and perks, all at your expense. The Tim Perrys of the world have one answer for you…”Shut up and pay.”

For the Good of Illinois has just supplied you with a new set of tools. Go to OpenTheBooks.com and take the new Statistics section for a test drive. When they ask for more money, print the graphs for local school district, township, or village, and distribute copies for your neighbors. You now have the data to tell the big spenders, “You shut up! We’ve paid enough!”


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2 Responses to "Local Government – Putting the “Statist” in Statistics"


  1. Comment by Colleen on June 6, 2012 at 2:50 pm said:

    Normally, I would have agreed with For The Food of Illinois, but I know first hand Mike Ellis is rare. He really does work 24 -7. I know because I used to work with him. We are not friends, nor even associate any longer. I have over 15 years of municipal government experience, from various villages. I will tell you that this man takes DAILY drives throughout the village to make sure neighborhoods are taken care of, streets are clean and safe, construction projects are on time, and that tax payers are getting what they deserve, etc, The list goes on. He works weekends and late hours. He lives in the village and truly loves the village. He cares enough about managing the budget so well that they are debt free.

    As far as temporary employment/part-timers…Mr. Ellis has put together a strong core team of management so that these individuals can do the work. There is a swimming pool, summer projects and winter plowing that account for some of the increase in part time employment expenses. He operates a smooth running machine.

    As far as taxes…The Village receives approximately 4.9 cents of every property tax dollar you pay. Only 14% of this year’s budget is paid for with property taxes (excluding revenues for a separate Police Pension Fund). Taxes are too high in Lake County as a whole – you should already know that.

    Other village boards and managers contact Mr. Ellis to learn his style of management – keeping employment numbers down and outsourcing (among other things).

    I know of no other Village Manager like this in the Chicagoland area…do you? $350K annual salary…I say good for him! I may not have agreed with him on many things nor do I necessarily agree with the $350K, but I do not disagree either because I know what I know.

  2. Comment by Bruno Behrend on June 6, 2012 at 3:36 pm said:

    Colleen,

    We are going to have to differ. While I’m sure Mr. Ellis is dedicated, as all his friends are quick to tell me, the fact is that spending in GL has outstripped inflation by a good margin. While Mr. Ellis may be more dedicated than others, it is clear that local government in IL has been on a spending binge financed primarily by property tax payments.

    We have plenty of pools, conventions centers, rebuilt schools and town centers, all part of a mindset that no dime goes unspent, and every levy must be maxed out to the highest degree.

    This is not a personal attack on officials. It’s a reminder that their largess, well-managed or not, comes out of the hide of property tax payers and citizens that are stretched to the limit. We need hard caps on local government.

    If there is a person who can do Mr. Ellis’ job for $100-150K, you have a duty to find them and employ them. The 25 year ride on the property tax financed gravy train is over. Time to cut back, cut again, and then cut some more.