COMMENTARY:

Thinking About Assistance

by Fred Cederholm
Der Spinmeisters have been out working their magic, “informing” us how well we are progressing out of the the recession. But I don’t see anything to write home about. Locally we are being hit, and hit very hard.

I’ve been thinking about assistance. Actually I’ve been thinking about the economy, unemployment, the equity markets, oil, School District 161, community agencies, and Rod Blagojevich. So much has surfaced since I wrote about schools just a week ago. Der Spinmeisters were out working their magic in full spin mode “informing” us how well we are progressing out of the cooled economy, the recession, or the depression. Call it what you will, but substantively I don’t see anything to write home about. Locally we are being hit, and hit very hard now.

You see last week the trumpets were sounded that 162,000 jobs were “created.” You’d TH*NK that the MILLIONS of jobs (with benefits) lost in the past two plus years were all reinstated and that happy days are here again! Nice try, but the lion’s share of the “created jobs” reflected the impact of the 1,200,000 TEMPORARY jobs “created” by Uncle $ugar to follow up on the 2010 Census. These will last, what, a month of so? Will the June unemployment figures reflect the lay offs which will fall like some guillotine when the follow up and door to door interviews cease to continue? I’d suspect those terminations will not make the reporting because they were “only temporary” besides they’re negative.

In a similar reporting to that of the parting of the Red Sea, we have watched the equity markets edge upward. The DOW, for example, fondled the 11,000 benchmark ceiling on Monday. Other markets progressed in regaining the losses since 2008. WOW! To these gains I reiterate --- where are the substantive reasons and explanations for these current rises? Have I missed something in the fine print?

In like fashion, crude oil is back at $87 a barrel. The increase is being spun as the result of our growing economy and greatly increased consumption of oil and distillates. Russia’s Putin was in Caracas making “nice nice” with Venezuela’s Chavez Frias. Deals and joint ventures will undoubtedly be coming. It's doubtful we will learn any of the details in the near future. Our mainstream media looks the other way and doesn’t report any developments in our THIRD largest oil/distillate provider. We will soon learn that energy, distillates, and water have become new strategic weapons of choice. Don’t worry... President Obama just rescinded the ban on offshore oil drilling here along the US coastline!

The big news for me (and the other Creston locals) was that our beloved Creston Grade School District 161 made the State Board of Education’s “WATCH LIST” of the 29 most financially troubled districts in the whole state. The “LIST” is mostly comprised of the truly financially blighted in minority districts. This is a patently absurd state of affairs as our school district is consistently ranked in the TOP ten grade schools for performance based upon standardized test scores. I point out that 161’s district has one the highest ratios of equalized assessed valuations (the property tax base) per student in the entire state. Yeah... go figure. I can guarantee that we are NOT getting a tax pass on our real estate property. Creston’s score was a 1.95. I looked at the reporting of the complete listing of all districts. There were two with ZERO, and one with 1.85. So, does that make our school district FOURTH from the bottom?

From 1981 thru 1986, I spent my summers in Springfield working on the audit of the Illinois State Board of Education. The WATCH LIST is a big deal The “Honorees” are pretty much given the choice of passing a property tax referendum, being consolidated into another nearby school system, or having the State come in a say “your property taxes will cover the deficit and will increase to...” I’d be willing to bet that Creston’s sudden financial mess is due to the state’s closing their check books to the schools months ago. Last night, I learned that my cousin’s son David was terminated from his teaching position for fall along with 700 other school employees in his Chicago suburban district. This is gruesome.

At last thursday’s State of the Community Dinner in Rochelle, the 70 attendees listened to presentations from Sinissippi Center, Rochelle Child Care Center, Hope Domestic Violence, and Focus House. Those in the area are well aware at how important these service agencies are to their client base. Each talked about the increasing request for assistance and services. The number of clients is growing. Last year these agencies failed to receive 10 to 15% of their budgeted revenues. It would appear that the coming year will be more of the same. Last year, salaries were frozen, there were no replacement hires, and there were days off without pay to meet the shortfall(s). Next year, how will they cover more hits?

Sunday night, we saw “the Donald” issue his “YOU’RE FIRED!” to impeached Illinois Governor Rob Blagojevich. The Guv’s celebrity value had clearly run out and his criminal trial will begin shortly. (YES!!!)

I’m Fred Cederholm and I’ve been thinking. You should be thinking, too.


Copyright 2009 Questions, Inc. All rights reserved. Fred Cederholm is a CPA/CFE, a forensic accountant, and writer. He is a graduate of the University of Illinois (B.A., M.A. and M.A.S.). He can be reached at asklet@rochelle.net.

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This story was published on April 5, 2010.