Thoughts on Property and Sales Taxes in DeKalb, and Where We Go from Here

The City of DeKalb is close to setting its property tax levy for the year. It is requesting the same amount as last year. I read in the paper that 2nd Ward Alderman Tom Teresinski is saying we will pay the same amount in property taxes as last year because even though the rate will go up to fulfill the levy, assessments are lower. Well, that might work in theory but, even with some 6% drop in my assessment last year, my property taxes paid to the city were about $30 more for tax year 2010 than they were for 2008, the final year of the infamous “we’re keeping the rate at .60 again, you lucky ducks.”

The theory may work in fact for Mr. Teresinski himself, whose assessment was lowered 19%. But not everyone can get that deal, and the ones who can’t are no doubt the folks who can afford the rate hikes the least.

Of course, DeKalb is almost a non-factor in the property tax arena when you consider what the local school district is gonna do to us this year, with its latest bond issue and its operational budget deficits. But I digress.

So anyway I was reading about which communities in Illinois are changing their local sales tax rates for the coming year. The big news here is that Cook County is lowering its rate by .25.

This got me to thinking about DeKalb’s sales taxes. DeKalb raised its sales taxes in 2008 in an atmosphere of near panic, but according to city officials the budget crises are over. There is beaucoup money for city services plus redevelopment projects, shiny new vehicles, police station construction and nice raises for all. What better time, then, to begin walking back the emergency increases?

My instincts tell me to look first at utility taxes, because utilities are necessities and this would really help the folks who are unemployed or who simply haven’t had raises in four, five years or more.

However, there’s something also to be said for stimulating the local economy; a rising tide lifts all the dinghys, right? Therefore I am proposing to start the rollbacks with a 50% (one-cent) cut in the restaurant and bar (R&B) tax.

Expected R&B revenues at the current rate for FY2012 are projected to be $1.6 million. Can we afford to cut them in half? Assuming a carefully crafted, conservative budget and a cooperative State of Illinois, yes we can.

C’mon, DeKalb, put our money where your mouth is.