Hold the Line on Budget Poker

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

Editor’s note: This rant’s more caustic than usual but deservedly so. My dander is still up over the carpetbagging website deal much less the closed session browbeating of council members to get management pay raises reconsidered approved in an after the cameras were turned off BS session. But then when the Chronicle’s report on the new tax increase proposal included the obligatory statement that Matt Duffy was not available for comment it made me wonder why I paid chamber dues and got me all worked up again.

The altogether not so shocking news coming from City Hall in DeKalb is that if taxpayers want any of the streets repaired or infrastructure fixed they’re going to have to swallow some tax increases approved by their elected alderpeople. The millions already collected through sales, gas, utility and city real estate taxes plus fees, fines and debt obligations from people who live, shop and do business in the city is just barely enough to cover the payroll, pensions and soft money costs.

There may be new geniuses working as senior staff but the strategy remains the same. Spend more. Raise taxes. Form a snapshot in time consensus among the city council for increased spending plans in the fall and winter and then give them no other choice than to raise taxes and fees in the spring.

The three tax increase proposals include an increase in the city sales and natural gas taxes plus the creation of an entertainment tax smorgasbord for the council members to choose from as they reconcile the bottom line of the proposed budget with behavioral preferences and which entertainment service to tax.

Sixth ward alderman Dave Baker wouldn’t want to tax bowling and gym memberships but would like a cut errr tax on ticket sales at the Northern Illinois University Convocation Center.

Whereas DeKalb is a home rule community the municipal authority can approve across the board tax increases and/or precision taxes on preferred behavior all without the public vetting a referendum requires.

While city manager Anne Marie Gaura assures the council and public that the proposed budget is indeed balanced there is a need for funding sources for fleet and equipment costs as well as needed streets and infrastructure repair/replacement.

Of course the proposed budget assumes Gov. Rauner can’t truly be serious about cutting municipal units’ funding proportionate to the reduction in revenue from the rollback in state income tax. If he’s not joking or bluffing then the home rule city of DeKalb is going to need all of the above taxes and then some more.

It’s interesting that Gov. Rauner is withholding a tax on services proposal to replace revenue lost from the income tax rollback. The DeKalb proposed entertainment tax has similarities but is far from as all encompassing as the governor’s. Rauner said that proposal won’t come forward without some reform measures approved first by the General Assembly.

If he isn’t joking Gov. Rauner said he would restore most of the local government funding cuts if the revenue needed is replaced.

Meanwhile back at 200 South Fourth Street in DeKalb the fiscal year budget must be approved in time for it to kick in July 1. The council with two newly elected members — Mike Marquardt (3rd ward) and Kate Noreiko (5th) — have to reconcile the impact the local economy and taxes have on the people they were elected to represent with the spending proposals in front of them plus play budget poker with the Governor.

Perhaps the better gamble is to hold the line on expenses by matching them to actual eggs hatched. That would of course zero fund the additional new administrative hires proposed and likely result in a serious reduction in so called soft money expenditures.

2016 is no longer of a year than any other. We’ll just have to make do with what we’ve got.

That would be the prudent thing to do.

Below are the members of the DeKalb city council. Send your alderperson and your mayor your thoughts on the budget and the process. They need to hear from you.

  • 1st Ward: David Jacobson David.Jacobson@cityofdekalb.com
  • 2nd Ward: Bill Finucane Bill.Finucane@cityofdekalb.com
  • 3rd Ward: Mike.Marquardt@cityofdekalb.com
  • 4th Ward: Bob.Snow@cityofdekalb.com
  • 5th Ward: kate.noreiko@cityofdekalb.com
  • 6th Ward: dave.baker@cityofdekalb.com
  • 7th Ward: Monica.Oleary@cityofdekalb.com
  • Mayor: John.Rey@cityofdekalb.com

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