DeKalb’s TIF Irregularities Expose Problem

DeKalb County State's Attorney, Rick Amato

DeKalb County State’s Attorney, Rick Amato, has written another letter to DeKalb Mayor Jerry Smith expressing concerns about the way the City Council is addressing the accusations of TIF fund irregularities over the years.

While acknowledging some progress in the City Council’s discussion of the issues brought up in his first letter during their November 26th meeting, Amato and his office were not satisfied with the proposed actions by the City’s governing body.

In his second letter to Mayor Smith within the last month, Amato brought up several concerns:

  1. The City of DeKalb is still making spending decisions with TIF money without consulting the other taxing districts, such as DeKalb County, School District 428, DeKalb Township, DeKalb Park District, Kishwaukee College, and others.
  2. The DeKalb City Council is resisting the States Attorney’s recommendation to have an outside forensic audit conducted in order to determine exactly how funds from the TIF districts have been allocated in the past.
  3. The City is continuing to spend these TIF funds, even as they are being called to put them in escrow pending an investigation.

In his response, Mayor Smith acknowledged that the City has been “overly reliant on use of TIF to cover administrative expenses,” and that “the City’s past actions…failed to meet current expectations of the Council, the public, and our partner tax districts.”

This issue is very similar to what we’ve seen with the State of Illinois government and their continued raids of state pension funds to cover their budget deficits. Likewise, it appears that the City of DeKalb has consistently used the TIF funds, that are supposed to be used for development of blighted areas, in order to cover their own administrative shortfalls. To make matters worse, the (former) Interim City Manager, Molly Talkington, was recently caught trying to move $250,000 from the City’s pension fund to their general fund in order to balance the City’s 2019 budget.

This is the same sort of shell-game financial “management” that has gotten the State of Illinois and the City of DeKalb into this mess in the first place, and it needs to stop. Kicking the can down the road by shifting money from one fund to another and not addressing the real budget shortfalls has always been bad governance, but it became more apparent after the 2008 recession.

Our government officials now need to bite the bullet and make the tough decisions that we pay them to make—including opening up the books and exposing what’s been done in the past. The public has the right to know everything and it will help us decide what actions to call for and how to vote going forward. The government officials need to stop covering for people and protecting their own private interests, and begin truly representing the best interests of the taxpayers in these very important matters.

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  1. That’s ridiculous, to oppose an outside firm to audit their spending from past years would expose how they are misusing the money that’s why they don’t want it done, as a taxpayer I think they should get rid of all the people that are in the committee. Have people determine where the money goes…. education, keep Dekalb safe and maybe fix the roads. Good grief!

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