Letter: Council Puts Taxpayers on Hook

Freshly published in the Daily Chronicle:

To the Editor:

During the March 8 DeKalb City Council meeting, 4th Ward Alderman Brendon Gallagher made a plea to the community for support during the upcoming budget preparation period. According to the meeting minutes, Ald. Gallagher “asked that the citizens be empathetic with the current financial situation facing the City. He stated that Council has delayed raising taxes, and are faced with a deficit and harsh realities.”

To my mind, most of the “harsh realities” are borne by DeKalb taxpayers whose city government still lives in 2005 when it comes to prioritizing spending.

I also question the ways this unit of government chooses to demonstrate empathy and support of its residents.

Allow me to illustrate.

That same evening, the city council voted to issue $12 million in general obligation bonds to finish the downtown beautification project, which, once again, includes the original, infamous Sidewalk to Nowhere scheme. The council voted to issue general obligation bonds instead of Tax Increment Financing (TIF) revenue bonds because the interest rate on the revenue bonds had risen sharply. The general obligation option was presented, then, as a measure to save on interest costs during the term of the loan.

One aspect that wasn’t pointed out, but should have been, is that the rising interest rate indicates the downtown TIF is not performing and is, therefore, becoming a bad gamble. The council’s vote is, in effect, a decision to transfer the risk from the TIF district to the homeowners and other property owners in town.

If the City of DeKalb gets into trouble with the repayment, it must raise our property taxes to make good on the debt – all for brick walkways, a few buried utility lines and another fountain.

To top it off, the vote was taken at the Committee of the Whole meeting, during which citizen feedback is not permitted.

Mark Twain cautioned us to support our government only when it deserves it. City of DeKalb, you’ve got a ways to go. The bid approval vote is set for April 12. You should not approve a bid under these circumstances.