The latest in the College Town Partners saga is that NIU has apparently changed its Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) policy. It now favors heavy redaction.

The following is NIU’s response this week to a FOIA request made by Misty Haji-Sheikh of the north Fifth Ward group called Preserve Our Neighborhoods.

Click on the Twitter image for the full-sized view.

Only two bits of meaningful information are left: the subject matter and the recipient of the email. The city would have us believe that its newbie city manager wasn’t really involved in College Town Partners, but now one could reasonably assume Gaura has swum in the thick of things since early in her tenure — or perhaps even before that.

Let’s look at some more. Read the rest of this entry

Were you confused that DeKalb city clerk Liz Peerboom seemed to have resigned from office last Friday, but now the city is still awaiting her resignation? Me too. Fortunately I’ve been diving into the Illinois Municipal Code as time has allowed. The answer is that the resignation is not official unless it’s signed and notarized. Email doesn’t count.

Another reason for spending time with the Muni Code is to figure out what comes next in the matter of selecting a new city clerk. This is harder than it looks because sometimes one section of the Code seems to contradict another. However, after some research I feel confident the following assertion is wrong:

Once city staff receives Peerboom’s resignation, [Mayor] Rey will appoint someone to fill the remaining two years and eight months of her term.

Nope nope nope. Read the rest of this entry

Corn Fest Financials through 2012

ear of corn
DeKalb Corn Fest’s Form 990 for 2012 is available, so we can check out Corn Fest’s final year at the airport.

There was a major drop in expenses over 2011.

Good thing, too. The revenue for 2012 is the lowest in that column, which is particularly shocking in view of Corn Fest’s takeover of the beer garden. It’s another indicator of poor attendance and probably reflects a significant loss of vendors as well.

YearRevenuesExpensesGain/LossGrants
Given
2004129,016153,600-24,584None
2005174,734140,83933,895None
2006183,392163,69819,69425,200
2007167,509156,17411,3353,000
2008160,999178,519-17,5204,000
2009183,662184,376-1,014300
2010155,804171,748-15,944None
2011133,058151,358-18,300None
2012124,786123,760
1,026None

Time will tell whether Corn Fest saved itself from a death spiral by moving back downtown.

Meanwhile, I believe we’ve amply demonstrated that the real reason for the return from the airport was failure.

I hardly know where to begin.

In response to a tenant complaint, at 10 a.m. Friday, city inspectors met building owner Pat Bragg at the Edgebrook Manor Apartments and within hours they had decided to condemn the property, requiring everyone living there to leave their homes within 24 hours.

A few years ago, a friend of mine who lived on Roosevelt Street complained to a City of DeKalb code inspector that her landlord had refused to properly clean up flood damage to her apartment. The landlord immediately terminated the month-to-month lease. My friend struggled to find a new place even though she had 30 days’ notice and, in fact, she had to couch surf for a month or two. It was horribly disruptive to her life.

So I don’t get that nobody bats an eyeball when City of DeKalb boots people out with 24 hours’ notice and no solid alternatives. Read the rest of this entry

The following is a production of StrongTowns.org.

Advisory:

Note: Strong Towns is not responsible for any mental duress resulting from repeated watching of this video. We are also not responsible for angry reactions from planners and engineers confronted with the illogic of their world view. If watching as part of a group, we recommend having a padded room or some type of physical restraint system available to keep those that develop a temporary feeling of hopelessness from doing damage to themselves or others.

As DeKalb tries to figure out how to come up with $6 million a year more to repair our neglected streets without chasing out more of our population, there are ways to put together better answers. For our city, it means a major shift away from its Edifice Complex (public spending on buildings that don’t contribute to the tax base) and development of a grownup’s appreciation for basic infrastructure.

Documents: College Town Partners NFP

For all of NIU’s having publicly “backed away” from a partnership for redevelopment with City of DeKalb et al last spring, it seems the institution had already secretly created a “charity” with a local developer and a banker in December 2013 for similar purposes.

The documents were Tweeted to me.

Read the rest of this entry

The numbers are the amounts budgeted for streets combining two line items, Street Maintenance/Repairs (8632) and Street Construction/Reconstruction (8633). It does not include alleys or permanent street improvements (e.g., Taylor Street widening).

Keep in mind, what’s budgeted may not always reflect what’s spent, either.

Fiscal YearCapital
Projects
Motor FuelTIF 1TIF 2Totals
FY200775,000980,000417,60020,0001,492,600
FY2008115,0001,650,0003,390,00020,0005,175,000
FY200901,500,000350,000100,0001,950,000
FY201001,500,000450,000100,0002,050,000
FY2011360,0001,050,000450,000100,0001,960,000
FY2012378,0001,120,000950,000100,0002,548,000
FY2013300,0001,382,000530,00075,0002,287,000
FY2014150,000635,000500,000500,0001,785,000
FY2015300,000400,000500,000500,0001,700,000
Totals1,678,00010,217,0007,537,6001,515,00020,947,600

Observations:

  • The Motor Fuel Tax Fund is taking a dive.

  • Overall funding of street repairs and reconstruction has dropped significantly.

  • TIF 2 has only just recently become a major funder of street reconstruction.

  • Now I’ll explain what has happened in three parts.

    Part 1: The Motor Fuel Tax Fund used to hold both the state and local (home rule) motor fuel taxes, but the city was having trouble keeping up with other infrastructure needs and began placing the local portion into the Capital Projects Fund, where it has to compete with other projects besides road-related ones. (DeKalb has also dedicated some local motor fuel tax funds to the Public Safety Building Fund.)

    Part 2: The city doesn’t dare budget more for streets from the Motor Fuel Tax Fund because it doesn’t know how much is in it. Here’s the explanation from the FY2015 budget narrative:

    This fund has some outstanding obligations due to outstanding bills from past construction projects in the amount of approximately $1.0 million dollars. The City will also receive $198,673.00 from the Illinois Jobs Now Capital Bill. The balance in this fund is attributed to the outstanding obligations of projects that have not been closed out. These outstanding obligations amount to an estimated $1,888,455.73. Once the Illinois Department of Transportation completes the audit of this fund a greater understanding of the actual amount available will be determined.

    Part 3: TIF 2 can be used to catch up/make up for/cover up for the lack of funding to streets now that the fund has accumulated a $7 million nest egg for remodeling the city hall building.

    Related posts:

    So DeKalb Has a Streets Problem — Is TIF or a Sales Tax Hike the Answer?

    FAC Using the Faulty Street Repair Numbers Too

    Last night DeKalb’s Financial Advisory Committee began the work of figuring out how to pay for the claimed need of an additional $6.6 million per year for street repairs.

    Unfortunately, they are still using the same faulty numbers — faulty in the ways I explained here.

    If the FAC is working with bad numbers, so is the Chronicle. Here’s what they’re saying today:

    This year, the city will use $1 million in TIF funds to pay for street repairs, City Engineer John Laskowski said. TIF districts allow the city to divert property tax money into a special account that is used to rehabilitate blighted areas. Another $400,000 to be spent on street repairs will come from the local gas tax. The city dedicated another $100,000 to pay for sidewalks and alleys.

    The Central Area TIF district, which covers downtown DeKalb and Sycamore Road, will get $500,000 in street repairs this year. It expires in 2020. A second TIF district that covers a portion of the city between Lincoln Highway and Taylor Street is responsible for $500,000 and expires in 2018.

    Again, as pointed out in the earlier post, the Chronicle is not distinguishing between maintenance/repairs and road construction/re-construction; TIF 2, for example, doesn’t even have the line item for the maintenance portion (and, until last year, the city rarely budgeted for street reconstruction in that fund and never to the tune of half a mil). Also, there’s no mention of the state motor fuel taxes going to roads (Fund 10), just the local taxes.

    Now I’m going to show you what’s in the city budget for the current fiscal year (FY2015). The table comes from data found on pp. 144-155 of the PDF file.

    Fund (No.)Line Item 8629:
    Alleys
    Line Item 8632:
    Maint/Repair
    Line Item 8633:
    Reconstruction
    Totals
    Capital Projects (50)50,000300,0000350,000
    Motor Fuel Tax Fund (10)00400,000400,000
    TIF 1 (13)00500,000500,000
    TIF 2 (14)00500,000500,000
    Totals50,000300,0001,400,0001,750,000

    There’s also approximately $40,000 tucked into the Public Works budget for streets and alleys.

    At any rate, I don’t get it. If you’re talking strictly from a repair/maintenance standpoint there’s a mere $300,000 budgeted for it. If you’re including street reconstruction, you have to include the amount of the Motor Fuel Tax Fund as well.

    I’ve got another table for you, coming up sometime later today.

    In July 2013, the city council of DeKalb approved the DeKalb City Center plan, an update of the 2007 Downtown Revitalization Plan.

    One of the key components of the plan is:

    Leverage TIF to study the feasibility of and potentially promote the development of additional City Center traffic generators, such as a hotel/conference center, children’s museum, bowling alley, movie theater, or additional dining and entertainment options[.]

    Except that by the time the plan was approved, DeKalb had already begun leveraging TIF to study the feasibility of a downtown hotel and convention center.

    And had already begun negotiating with a developer.

    And was already talking about helping to close a “feasibility gap” with public funds.

    Why haven’t you heard about this? It’s because of the city manager’s spending authority. The city manager can authorize up to $20,000 in spending without going to the city council for approval. In the case of the hotel/convention center, the first study — dated January 2013 — cost $12,000. A supplement was completed this year for $7,500.

    How convenient.

    You can look at some of the documents, obtained through the Illinois Freedom of Information Act, at the City Barbs Blog Facebook Group.

    This week’s number: $33 million

    The city’s streets could need $33 million in repairs over the next five years, but a key funding source for the work will dry up by the end of the decade.

    That has city leaders considering options including increasing the sales tax to generate more revenue.

    Of the $1.5 million the city plans to spend on streets this year, $1 million comes from the city’s two tax increment financing districts. TIF districts allow the city to divert property tax money into a special account that is used to rehabilitate blighted areas.

    However, one of the city’s TIF districts expires in 2018, while the other will expire in 2020, meaning the only source of funding left will be the local gas tax.

    The above account is incorrect and incomplete. Let me count the ways. Read the rest of this entry