I-TEAM: Your taxes. Questionable spending.

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SHELBYVILLE, Ill. (WAND) – Small units of government around Illinois are rarely covered on a regular basis by the media and often their meetings are not attended by the public.  It allows for questionable spending practices until the public finally catches on.

The Edgar County Watchdogs, run by John Kraft and Kirk Allen, have documented spending across the state.  Their stories include everything from an Illinois water district holding a Super Bowl party charged to water consumers, to a township in northern Illinois spending $500 of taxpayer’s money at a casino.

Their research even found Shelbyville Township was over taxing its citizens and then doling out excess money to various groups.

“I think they have reserves, give or take, of a million dollars plus,” State Representative Brad Halbrook, (R) Shelbyville, told WAND’s Doug Wolfe.  Halbrook sponsored legislation to put an end to the practice.  “Different funds have 20, 30, 40, 50, or more times their average annual expenses.  So, they are clearly over taxing the taxpayers to build these fund balances.”

Shelbyville Township also had a practice of making “donations” according to fiscal reports to youth sports groups, senior citizens and organizations connected to religion like the First Christian Church, Salvation Army and Catholic Charities.  Those donations in recent years were more than $93,000.

“No, we don’t hate Catholics.  But the fact is the constitution forbids that type of transaction,” said Allen.  “In some cases they were just sitting on it.  In other cases, they were giving it out to just about anybody that asked.”

Decatur Township assists individuals with no-income with $100 a month in General Assistance payments.  Those payments are used to pay for things like rent, water and utility bills.  If the entire $100 is not spent then the township will provide those individuals with Walmart gift cards for the difference to purchase essentials like cleaning supplies and toilet paper.

Documents obtained by WAND News show Decatur Township spent $22,000 in gift cards at a now closed Decatur Kmart and more than $123,000 for Walmart gift cards just in the 2016-17 fiscal year.

Township Supervisor Lisa Stanley says the use of those cards will be reduced as the General Assistance (GA) budget has been cut from $419,000 to $200,000 along with salary cuts. 

While GA expenditures have been slashed by 50% the tax levy has not been cut.  When asked if the levy could be reduced for taxpayers Stanley responded it is something the township board could talk about.

“We have found it to be the number one means of fraud across the state,” according to Allen referring to the use of gift cards by government bodies.     

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