Township moves toward setting levy to $0, but calls for returning surplus to taxpayers resisted

By John Breslin | Nov 30, 2018

Collinsville Township Board of Trustees is moving towards a levy of zero next year, but a majority of its board members are resisting calls to deliver surplus money back to tax payers.

The board met Tuesday to further discuss the 2018 tax levy as one of its members continued to highlight fund surpluses above legal limits.

Trustee Derrick Keith Cox, first elected to the board last year, has waged a campaign at meetings, and on social media, to "give the money back to the people."

Cox also was among a group of area residents who supported a referendum to dissolve the Collinsville Area Recreation District, a measure that passed Nov. 6.  

Derrick Keith Cox  

Under Illinois law, municipalities cannot hold a surplus of 2.5 percent. Cox said four of the township's funds exceed that limit, one by as much as eight percent.

By his calculations, from information provided by township officials, the surplus averages approximately $100 per parcel.

"It appears although I am unable to get the others to agree on a refund they are going to levy $0 for four funds that are well over per the 2.5 law," Cox told the Record. "This will again lower Collinsville Township taxes by a nice margin."

Cox, who quickly posts excerpts of Township meetings on Facebook - they do not appear for some weeks on its own website - characterizes himself as a lone voice against entrenched interests among the leadership in the community, which he claimed is largely unchanged in 40 years .

Township Supervisor Terry 'Bones' Allan told the Record that the rate has not yet been set, but it could happen at the next meeting in early December.

When pressed on Cox's claims over the surplus, and the possibility of returning money to the citizens, Allan said, "Not unless there's something real serious, we just don't have the money to give."

Questioned further, Allan suggested calling on the day after the next meeting, set for Dec. 11. 

Since his election, Cox has asked questions about the surplus in the accounts, and has repeatedly called for the money to be returned to the taxpayer.

"I keep doing the numbers, and this has been going on for over a year, and I was told by our lawyers you have to return the money," Cox said. "We have too much money in the accounts by law."

Cox claims the surpluses are not because of particularly prudent management, more to do with too high taxes in the past.

He suggested that the extra money is intended to be used to fund employee wage increases. While stating he is pro-union, Cox said he was disturbed to hear of a vote by employees to join a union, a move that was done without the board being informed.

"We have been overtaxing the residents and holding on to (their) money," Cox said. "We are not a bank, and cannot spend and do what we want over the tax."

He added, "But the board is not going along with returning the money. They want to keep lowering the level so in maybe in four or five years times within the law."

Cox believes his noise making has made it "impossible to raise the levy."

The trustee, one of five members of the board, including the supervisor, believes money will also be spent on unnecessary expenses.

The outspoken critic of what he believes is the status quo said, "They believe it is their money. I am saying it is the taxpayers money."

While the township may be holding extra money, there is no actual sanctions for doing so, according to Cox.

"The only sanction is that if a resident wants the money, they would almost certainly win," Cox said. "And it is not worth an individual pursuing, it needs to be a class action, and the law says you cannot have a class action."

In the meantime, Cox will continue to argue: "Give the residents their money."

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