When I was in college, and dirt was new, there were many times that money was tight. I would collect bottles and aluminum cans to redeem them for money at the local Super Value so I could buy a quart of milk, and Oreo cookies for my Sunday night meal, or have enough quarters to call my girlfriend from a pay phone. I realized rather quickly that this was not a long term strategy, and something needed to change, so I found a part-time job. It worked. I also learned that I better budget my money, so when the time arose that I needed the money, I’d have it. That worked too. Very simple concepts. Plan ahead, live within my means, and be prepared. It doesn’t appear that Naperville city officials incorporated those simple concepts in budget planning.
Now word comes out officially, that the City Of Naperville’s fiscal situation is not healthy, in fact, it’s nearly on life support. It’s no surprise for those who keep informed. What is surprising is how city officials thought they could keep a lid on it for as long as they did. They probably hoped it would stay under the radar until after the election, but with 23 candidates running for office (4 for mayor, and 19 for council), that wasn’t going to happen.
Naperville’s portfolio of investments, along with cash reserves is diminishing at a rapid rate, while heavy debt piles up, and borrowed balances are sky rocketing. Not an efficient formula for sustainability.
Naperville city manager Doug Krieger said, “We have a structural imbalance in our budget that needs to be addressed”, and “the course we’re on right now is not a successful long-term strategy”.
Furthermore, Krieger said, “I believe that we can cobble together dollars for the coming year”. That’s not exactly what you want to hear from the person in charge of Naperville’s financial health. ‘Cobbling together dollars’ is like searching for coins in your sofa cushions.
Watchdog has long said that Doug Krieger is in over his head. His short-term answer is the same as his long-term answer; look for hand outs, and squeeze more dollars out of residents. Creativity, thinking critically, managing execution and driving change are not in Krieger’s wheelhouse.
Since it appears Krieger’s position within the city is protected, it is all the more important that Naperville’s next mayor needs to outweigh Krieger’s shortcomings. Naperville needs a mayor with firm footing in the business world with a focused understanding of budgeting, best management practices and a clear vision for labor negotiations. Additionally Naperville’s new mayor needs to exhibit leadership dimensions including:
- Communicating effectively
- Maximizing relationships
- Building trust
‘Cobbling together dollars’ might work for some communities as part of a business plan, but Naperville deserves better.