The most repulsive but effective use of TIF in DeKalb

Rants and Raves of Mac McIntyre
Rants and Raves of Mac McIntyre

A drive around the residential streets of DeKalb reveal few neighborhoods spared the blight of a prolonged recession. DeKalb is not unique with this condition.

Declining EAV tax revenue puts a strain on school and other property tax revenue dependent districts just to meet payroll. But debt bonds, pensions and other obligations compete, often with the advantage of mandates, for those depleting funds.

Business failures tend to accelerate due to prolonged recessions. Such failures result in jobs lost, defaults and foreclosures as well as move outs to find a living wage.

Whereas the City of DeKalb is a Home Rule community the municipal government has exclusive powers to broaden its tax base by creating taxes and fees other taxing units must get taxpayer approval via referendum. For decades municipal government has been paid for primarily through sales tax augmented by license, permit and usage fees with a shot in the arm from state and federal grants and programs.

That formula works great when the economy of the city is bustling. When its not the path of least resistance to additional needed revenue is the stick. The council creates ordinances that begin with “Whereas the City of DeKalb is a Home Rule community” and then charge fees and fines for compliance and especially the lack thereof. As the need for alternative revenue grows because of a declining community due to a prolonged recession the fines and fees become more obsessive.

People quit shopping. They quit fixing. They quit paying. They move.

There are people who can afford to move because they have or got hired for a good paying job. Trending demographics indicate that currently more than 50% of District 428’s enrollment qualify for a free or reduced fee lunch.

Good paying jobs in the community is a treasured commodity. If they live here they shop here more often and with more money. They buy higher end homes and that helps reverse the trend in EAV.

In DeKalb and in many other communities in the county local government (including NIU) generally produces the highest paying jobs — especially administration. For whatever reasons (and they’re not good ones) the top administrators and senior staff choose to live outside of DeKalb.

Some have suggested that if they lived in DeKalb they would have to admit that taxes really are high here.

DeKalb needs to incentivize the higher ups in government to purchase a home in the city and live in it. Since such an arrangement is not contained in an employment contract a carrot is needed to entice them to live here. What a shot in the arm for the city’s median income!

Don’t laugh. A successful incentive program aimed at government workers in DeKalb earning in excess of $100,000 could bring hundreds of well paid employees house shopping.

Don’t cry. Don’t get mad. Maybe administrators wouldn’t be so sour if they didn’t have to drive so far between work and home.

Government by carrot beats government by stick any day of the week.




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