Thumbs-up: To holding the line on property taxes. In DeKalb-based School District 428, school board members have voted to keep a lid on tax increases for residents. This week, the board voted, 6-1, to keep the levy flat in an effort to shield homeowners from an increase in their tax bills. That's a start, anyway. But keeping the levy flat is merely the first step – it's maintaining a status quo that many homeowners already find unbearable. The next step is to actually reduce the levy, which may require more money from the state – and possibly a legislative requirement that local property tax levels be reduced.
Thumbs-up: To planned renovations at the Egyptian Theatre. The DeKalb City Council on Tuesday voted to spend $2.5 million in tax increment financing funds to support a project that will renovate the washrooms, expand the concession stand and add air conditioning at the historic 90-year-old theater. Although there has been controversy over the city's past use of tax increment financing funds, this was a project with broad public support, as shown by petitions and letters submitted.
Millions in public and private funds have been invested in the venue, but the lack of air conditioning forces it to close for 10 weeks each summer, making it difficult to sustain. It also endangers the plaster interior of the theater, which can be damaged by humid summer air. The Egyptian is an attraction that is proven to draw people to downtown DeKalb and the council's decision to support the project will protect what's already been invested as well as make the theater viable for years to come.
Thumbs-down: To recession anxiety. The stock market is in the midst of its worst December since 1931, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average losing 12 percent in the past two months, officially deemed a "correction." Unemployment remains low, but there's fear in the air – the federal government appears headed for a partial shutdown, the trade war between the U.S. and China remains unresolved, and global economic growth has slowed. Some economists predict that 2019 will bring, if not a recession (which economists define as two quarters of economic decline) then certainly a slowdown from the rapid growth we saw in much of this year. We know the good times never last forever, but hope for a soft landing.
Thumbs-up: To nearing a holiday giving goal. Salvation Army Capt. Keith Graham says his organization's Red Kettle Campaign has about $10,000 to go to reach its $90,000 goal for this year. Several people from the community have been out ringing the bell for the Salvation Army this season, and many local stores have agreed to host the red kettles since November. Graham says the organization, which works to help needy people in the community year-round from its local base at 830 Grove St. in DeKalb, needs just one good surge of donations to put them over the top this weekend. Let's hope they get it.