Following a Belleville News-Democrat investigation into Venice School Superintendent Cullen Cullen’s spending habits that uncovered over $5,000 spent on fast food and nearly $18,000 on lavish hotels since September 6, 2013 using taxpayer funds, a further investigation uncovered even more wasteful spending in the years since Cullen took over as the school’s superintendent.
From June 26, 2009 to August 29, 2014, Cullen used the school’s taxpayer-funded credit card to spend $23,532.89 on food purchases, including many fast food lunches. For the same period, Cullen also used the school’s credit card to spend $55,345.56 on lavish hotel stays in downtown Chicago. Most of this happened while the Venice School District was under financial oversight due to the school’s spending problems and performance.
“It’s a shame to uncover more wasteful and abusive spending under Cullen’s watch at the Venice School District, especially since the school was under financial oversight for most of the time period,” State Representative Dwight Kay (R-Glen Carbon) said. “With a salary of nearly $110,000 a year, one would think Cullen could afford to buy his own fast food lunches without having the taxpayers foot the bill.”
From 2003-2012, Venice Community School District #3 was under financial oversight by the Illinois State Board of Education. The oversight panel was tasked with developing an emergency assistance and recovery plan for the troubled school system. Fast forward to 2014, the school district is still the second worst performing school in Illinois even though the school spends $17,000 per student all while Superintendent Cullen repeatedly abuses school district funds to pay for his fast food meals and lavish hotel stays.
Rep. Kay added, “I believe all the taxpayer money spent on fast food and lavish hotels would have been better spent in the classroom helping the student’s achieve the educational success they deserve. I once again call on Cullen to refund the school district for his fast food lunches and to stop wasting taxpayer dollars on himself. If Cullen really cared about saving his school district money, he should have thought twice about buying fast food and should have drove to Chicago instead of flying and he should have chose cheaper hotel accommodations.”
To view Cullen’s Credit Card Purchases since 2009 click on either of the three links:
This week, Illinois State Representatives Dwight Kay (R-Glen Carbon) and David McSweeney (R-Barrington Hills) introduced a Resolution opposing an educational pension cost shift that would force local school districts, community colleges, and public universities to pay the cost of pension benefits earned by their employees.
According to the Illinois State Board of Education, 67 percent of school districts in Illinois are operating without the funding they need, while already covering a large share of the pension costs.
“Metro East school districts, SIUE, and home owners simply cannot afford this added expense,” Rep. Kay said. “The State made a promise to pay our hard-working teachers and faculty members the pension benefits they earned and it must be committed to fulfilling this promise rather than shifting the blame and costs to our already-maxed out schools and colleges. Shifting the pension debt to our schools would result in higher property taxes.”
Over the last several months, there have been multiple proposals that would shift pension costs from the State of Illinois to local schools, colleges, and universities in order to fix Illinois’ pension system. A pension cost shift would result in higher property taxes and higher tuition rates. Under this proposal, schools and colleges would have to pick up an estimated $10.2 billion in pension benefits over a 10-year period.
Rep. Kay continued, “With our schools already underfunded, and burdened with many unfunded mandates, this additional expense would result in further cuts to classroom budgets which would be harmful to our students. Schools would be unable to afford the necessary textbooks, supplies, and technology that are essential in making sure our kids receive the best education possible.”
Not only would the pension cost shift hurt local school districts, but it would also be detrimental to Illinois’ public universities, including SIUE. The cost shift would likely lead to a 2 percent hike in tuition at all Illinois universities, according to representatives at Northern Illinois University.
“Higher education in Illinois is already unaffordable for many families,” Rep. Kay added. “Metro East families deserve to send their kids to college, but with these added costs to universities resulting in an increase in tuition, many families would be unable to do so.”
Rep. Kay concluded, “I oppose the pension cost shift proposal because it would be impossible for our schools, community colleges, and universities to take on the full pension costs while also ensuring the best educational opportunities for our students. The State must fulfill the promises it has made.”
The Resolution is House Resolution 1267.
Possible Waste and Fraud in Affordable Care Act Advertising and Promotion
The process used to put the federal Affordable Care Act, often called “Obamacare,” into operation in 2013 left many controversies in its wake. One especially questioned move was the use by the federal Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) of taxpayer dollars to advertise and sell the program in order to encourage uninsured American residents to sign up. Reports of HHS waste and overspending were widely circulated, and the Department’s then-Secretary, Kathleen Sebelius, left the agency in June 2014.
Today, the Illinois House of Representatives debated and voted on the House Democrats’ proposed budget. State Representative Dwight Kay (R-Glen Carbon) voted against the state budget citing the fact that it was an increase in spending and would result in the January 2011 “temporary” income tax increase becoming permanent.
On March 6, 2014, the General Assembly approved House Joint Resolution 80 which estimated Illinois would have a revenue level of $34.5 billion. Today, the Democrats’ budget set spending at roughly $37.3 billion, almost $3 billion more than the state is expected to bring in. The only way to match the proposed spending with revenue numbers is to extend the income tax increase of 2011.
“I couldn’t support the Democrats’ budget because they broke their promise that the income tax increase was a temporary solution to pay off old bills,” Rep. Kay said. “Not only will the tax hike become permanent, but Illinois is still left with billions in unpaid bills that were supposed to be paid off with the increase. Instead of allowing families and businesses to keep more of their hard-earned money come January, the Democrats’ decided to spend more in order to tax more.”
Since the tax hike in 2011, Illinois’ economy has continued to suffer thanks in large part to the tax and spend policy of our Democratic leaders in Chicago. Illinois has the third highest unemployment rate in the nation, has seen 5 downgrades in our credit rating, and is among the top states in terms of people fleeing the state for better jobs and lower taxes.
“It is time that our leaders realize that we need to refocus our energy on reviving Illinois’ economy and that an increase in taxes is not going to do that,” Rep. Kay added. “This budget is the worst thing that could happen to our economy, especially at a time when we rank at the bottom in most economic categories in the country.”
Illinois State Representative Dwight Kay will be hosting a town hall meeting to discuss the Illinois Gaming bill and issues concerning Fairmount Park racetrack this Saturday morning.
The town hall meeting will take place on Saturday, May 17th, from 8:00 a.m. until 9:00 a.m. at Fairmount Park racetrack, on the 3rd floor of the 'Top of the Turf' located at 9301 Collinsville Rd. in Collinsville.
Rep. Kay will be discussing gaming expansion legislation being considered in Springfield and how it affects Fairmount Park.
If you are interested in attending the town hall meeting this Saturday, please RSVP by calling 618-391-0625. No RSVPs are necessary but appreciated as space is limited.
Rep. Dwight Kay (R-Glen Carbon) has filed legislation in response to efforts by House Democrats to sneak through what amounts to a legislative pay raise among the dozens of state budget bills being hurried through committee this week. The legislation, House Bill 6235, specifically calls for a continuation of furlough days and rejection of the automatic cost of living adjustment (COLA) to legislative salaries.
“First, Democrats broke their promise by going back on their pledge to let the income tax hike expire,” Rep. Kay said. “As if that wasn’t enough, they’re rushing through budget bills to spend more than the bipartisan revenue number we agreed to earlier this spring – to the tune of $2.7 Billion and climbing. Now, on top of that, they’re using an unprecedented series of politically-motivated budget maneuvers to slip in a pay raise for themselves before they go home for the summer. As usual, their priorities are in the wrong place. It’s beyond reckless and irresponsible. ”
The Democrats’ budget requires zero furlough days for legislators and accepts the COLA for FY 15; amounting to a salary increase of approximately 4.6%.
In contrast, Rep. Kay’s plan would require the General Assembly to maintain 12 furlough days in FY15, at a rate of one a month. In addition, it eliminates the FY15 COLA and continues the per diem and mileage reduction that is in place for FY14.
The savings from the 12 furlough days for legislators would save the state approximately $618,000.
“It’s obscene,” Rep. Kay added of the Democrats’ pay raise ploy. “Taxpayers are being asked to pay more; and Democrats want to give themselves a raise. I am acting to give every legislator the chance to join us and stand up to say this is wrong. We should be responsibly reducing spending and prioritizing the state’s limited resources on education, public safety and vital services for our seniors, disabled and veterans; NOT raising legislators’ pay.”