Water is the new TIF

This is second of a series. First one is here. For years, DeKalb bailed out its general operating budget with tax increment financing (TIF) funds. TIF administrative fees helped soften the blows following the 2008 market crashes and assisted the hiring spree after that. Now the enormous “TIF 1” district is gone, replaced by the…

DeKalb taps into water trends

First of a series. The Better Government Association recently published an article about Joliet’s ambitious and controversial mayor, who plans to buy Lake Michigan water from Chicago. [Water scarcity] tensions have arrived in northeastern Illinois, which, despite its proximity to the world’s fourth-largest source of fresh water, faces a coming water crisis. Among the first…

A look back: DeKalb and its radium water

25 years ago, residents of DeKalb organized to pressure the city to reduce the amount of radium in our drinking water. The city, which already had obtained a variance that allowed it to exceed EPA limits for radium, required a second variance in 1996 to obtain permits to extend water mains for new construction. This…

Charging the Water Fund for salaries in other departments is a masterpiece of nontransparency

*Note: “Departments” as used in this article should be read as shorthand for “departments, divisions, and offices.”* Take a look at this budget from DeKalb’s Finance Division: Seems pretty straightforward, right? Well, it’s not. It does not show all the wages the Finance employees get paid. This is a budget that accounts only for the…

Correction: Pilots, PILOTs & Water

In a recent post about the latest Executive Partners, Inc. (EPI) involvement with the City of DeKalb as its financial consultant, I expressed anxiety about a proposal to privatize the city’s water. Turns out, that’s not the EPI proposal for the Water Division, and I’m sorry to have led you astray. It’s a PILOT (not…

I Got My Water Bill Today

Dear City of DeKalb, I would be OK with your raising my water bill $80 this year if it were going toward something water-related like paying Water Division personnel, replacing water mains or painting towers. Instead, I know much (if not all) of the increase is going — as $500,000 from Water already goes annually…

More Water Games

Minutes of the January 12 special joint meeting of City Council and Financial Advisory Committee yielded this: Mr. Espiritu discussed the fund balances along with suggestions to make them sustainable. He recommended that the General Fund build up a 25% fund balance with the City setting aside 5% per year over a 5-year period. Also,…