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August 12, 2022

Lemont School District “Removes The Toilets” From Farm Ground –

By John Kraft & Kirk Allen

On May 29, 2021

Lemont, IL. (ECWd) –

Lemont School District “Removes The Toilets” From Farm Ground – OK, it was a reference to Governor JB Pritzker’s house where he removed his toilets to obtain real estate tax breaks, but this one is similar in that the school district uses a highly questionable, and possibly unlawful, method with its farmland to keep from incurring real estate taxes on it.

History

A short history of Lemont-Bromberek SD113A‘s farm ground:

  • As early as 1988, there have been leases on this real estate, and Alex Wojciechowski had signed annual leases for the district’s farm ground, with a payment to the district of $340 per year
  • The lease, under Item number 6, specifically required Wojciechowski to pay all applicable real estate taxes
  • At some point starting around 2003, the real estate taxes were not being paid on some or all of the property
  • Cook County sold the property taxes
  • School District purchased those taxes back in 2013, totaling around $100,000.00
  • We do not know if the district recouped the tax payments from Wojciechowski or anyone else

All relevant documents located: (HERE)

In 2014, the district was still interested in permitting Wojciechowski to farm its farm ground – and it continues today as the most recent “agreement” was approved during their April 2021 school board meeting.

Instead of continuing its lease and receive cash rent, the district decided to use public funds to pay him to essentially do what he was previously paying them for.

The Illinois School Code authorizes a school district to lease out its real estate. (See Sections 5-22, 5-28, 15-3 (farm lease), and 32-4) – nowhere in the school code does it distinguish between public or private lease, except in Sec 10-22.11 where it discussed the term length of a lease and the number of votes required under those specific conditions.

The “Contract”

Since 2014, the district has entered into a “contract” with Wojciechowski to pay him $100 per year under a “Noxious Weed Agreement” purporting to comply with the Illinois Noxious Weed Law, Section 3, which reads:

Sec. 3. Every person shall control the spread of and eradicate noxious weeds on lands owned or controlled by him and use such methods for that purpose and at such times as are approved and adopted by the Director of the Department of Agriculture.

School Superintendent McConnell responded to my questions with this statement:

I am responding on behalf of the District 113A Board of Education.  As you are aware the District has a responsibility to maintain its land and properties.  This includes compliance with the Noxious Weed Law (505 ILCS 100/3) and the maintenance of property to avoid nuisances and other liability traps.  The agreement the district has in place allows the district to accomplish this with essentially no cost to local taxpayers. Without this relationship, the District would have to pay a commercial company to maintain the land at an annual cost of tens of thousands of dollars.”

There is absolutely no possibility the district would have to pay “an annual cost of tens of thousands of dollars” to “maintain” the land in compliance with the Noxious Weed Law if they simply chose to offer it up for farming as they have for decades. So I responded to him and am awaiting his reply.

Imagine if every farmer in the state used that same lame excuse: Dear Department of Revenue, I am no longer farming my land, I am instead ridding it of noxious weeds “through any means I deem appropriate.”

This is nothing more than a school district granting favorable treatment to one person at the financial expense of the taxpayers.

FOIA - R - Derby Road Leases - Noxious Weed Agrmt - Corres - Response - 3 Hours-2

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6 Comments
  • Golden Country
    Posted at 19:47h, 29 May

    I dont see how the tenat can have the taxes put in his name. So as i see it the school district is receiving revenue in the form of having the taxes on the land paid for it.

    If the revenue is over $40,000 shouldnt the farm lease be bid out?

    • John Kraft
      Posted at 20:00h, 29 May

      there are no taxes being paid (school district claims it is exempt – will be the subject of the next article), and the “contract holder” is planting and selling the crops for his own personal financial gain

  • Tec Parker
    Posted at 21:54h, 31 May

    There are so few farmers left around that area it would be impractical to put in out for bid.. We used to milk cows a few miles from there and it is not a favorable place to farm at all with all the urban sprawl. I really think this is a pretty ticky tacky thing to go after one of the few farmers left in the neighborhood over such a small amount of really bad farm land……..

  • PK
    Posted at 00:38h, 01 June

    On the internet, it looks like the Cook County Clerk finally recorded the exemption in 2015.

  • Al Malley
    Posted at 16:01h, 02 June

    Not Everything is at is appears. While I have voted “No” each time this contract has come before me., nothing malicious was done or intended by those voting “yes”. There’s more to the story and I will reach out the the authors to fill in the missing information.

    Al Malley-Member of the Board

    • John Kraft
      Posted at 08:09h, 04 June

      I have tried calling your phone number twice, both times said it was unavailable.

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