Arguments Against New TIF Districts in DeKalb


Because somebody’s got to do it.

Here are the general reasons DeKalb should not open up any new Tax Increment Financing Districts at this time.

Pensions. DeKalb’s property tax levy is applied only toward pension costs, and pension costs have been accelerating. Every penny that gets swallowed by the increment has to be made up somehow. As it is, DeKalb’s been losing ground on pension funding progress despite raising its tax rate more than 20% since 2009. Another TIF is something we can ill afford from the standpoint of the city property tax.

Waste. The city is prone to adding “shopping therapy” kitsch to the downtown, and to granting corporate welfare as is being contemplated again now.

Misuse. Dekalb’s been cursed by TIF abuse from about Day One. TIF is supposed to fight blight. Sycamore Road retailers were among the first TIF recipients, but Sycamore Road has never been blighted; first it was corn fields and now it’s a thriving commercial district. Moreover, TIF is generally not intended for public buildings, but Barb City Manor, the Municipal Building et al are perennial dependents of TIF.

Zero Accountability. City manager Mark Biernacki approved almost $53,000 in TIF money to be paid to a DeKalb alderman without council permission. Then, he couldn’t seem to understand why the public had a problem with his actions. And at this moment, staff are building a $6 million reserve in TIF 2 for who-knows-what. Have you ever seen a newspaper article about a TIF Joint Review Board meeting? Me neither. I have seen some of its meeting minutes, though, and the conclusion I drew from them was that the board met once a year for maybe about two minutes.

Does this mean I’m against TIF in all circumstances? Of course not. But DeKalb has a long way to go before I could support another one here.