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Finance committee budget recommendations weighed

DeKALB – Ahead of a joint DeKalb City Council and Finance Advisory Committee meeting next week, city staff and council members discussed the budget recommendations made by the committee during Tuesday’s Committee of the Whole meeting.

DeKalb Finance Director Molly Talkington said there have been advisory committee meetings since August to discuss various items, including the use of tax increment financing dollars.

Although the advisory committee did agree to the creation of a new TIF district upon the expiration of the city’s two current areas, they failed to recommend a multiyear phaseout of interfund transfers of the TIF funds to the City’s General Fund, which was proposed in the budget.

“Do you want the city to gradually wean off TIF to free up more money to be used in capital or are you more content with supporting TIF in the General Fund?” Talkington asked.

Some of the other items brought up during Monday’s meeting did receive a favorable recommendation from the advisory committee, such as the closure of the Peace Road interchange contract agreement.

Opposing viewpoints from the advisory committee, however, included the allocation of $1 million in TIF funds for road maintenance instead of the proposed $500,000 and a $1.5 million in budget balancing measures that isn’t currently reflected in the budget.

First Ward Alderman David Jacobson voiced some criticism and said budget discussion used to go line by line to determine actual city spending but now the City Council is not being given an accurate depiction of where the money is going.

He added that the budget process has been a shell game of moving money from various accounts for years and it has gotten to the point where the city is out of money and there’s a zero possibility that continuously increasing taxes will be a reality.

“The community can’t afford to pay anymore,” Jacobson said.

Fifth Ward Alderwoman Kate Noreiko and 6th Ward Alderman Mike Verbic agreed that budget considerations don’t necessarily have to go line by line, but changes in policy should be made in future presentations.

The council also heard matters that there was not enough time to discuss during Monday’s meeting. Community Development Director Jo Ellen Charlton detailed some of the budget changes in her department. Although there would not be an increase in staff members, there were a few requests to change part-time employees to full-time employees.

There was also a proposal to replace an inspector position from a full-time contractual position with HR Green, which has been hired by the city to provide building inspection services, to a full-time city-employed position, a move that would save more than $44,000.

Although there have been a number of revitalization projects underway in DeKalb, Charlton said one of the big struggles in the department is how to deal with the growing tax rates resulting from decreasing assessed values on properties.

“It’s not only for residents who are paying for that and the tax bills, but it makes it difficult for us with new prospective businesses to market ourselves,” Charlton said.

The joint DeKalb City Council and Finance Advisory Committee meeting is tentatively scheduled for 5 p.m. Nov. 16 in the council chambers of the DeKalb Municipal Building at 200 S. Fourth St.

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