City Sales Tax, Council Members With Most To Lose

It looks as though the Naperville city council will decide whether or not to approve Naperville’s first city sales tax during next Tuesday’s city council meeting. If the tax is approved, most likely it will be for 1/2 %. The vote could go either way, with possibly one vote making the difference.

Nobody wants a sales tax, especially elected city officials, and especially those city council members who are up for re-election in less than two years. Those council members include Judy Brodhead, Kevin Coyne, Kevin Gallaher, and John Krummen.

Voters are not happy with incumbents. We are seeing it at all levels of government, federal, state and municipal. The top three candidates for the GOP (Trump, Carson, and Fiorina) are not establishment candidates. On the Democrat side, Hillary Clinton is fading behind Bernie Sanders. At the State level, new-comer Rauner defeated Quinn, and at the municipal level, only three council members were re-elected to the Naperville city council (new mayor Steve Chirico, along with Paul Hinterlong and Judith Brodhead.

Incumbent Judy Brodhead was out-voted by four council members including Becky Anderson, Patty Gustin, and Rebecca Boyd-Obarski. Brodhead’s base has eroded, and by voting for a city sales tax, she may be sealing her defeat in the next election.

John Krummen came in 7th place out of eight. Krummen’s Achilles’s heal for re-election will be another increase in electric rates. Krummen was a ‘mouth piece’ for the previous Naperville city council when he ‘carried’ the smart-meter flag,  and was the bugle boy for smart meters. Residents have yet to see any savings in their electric bills after forced installation of ‘Krummens’ not-so-smart meters. If Krummen votes for the tax, he may also be remembered as a one-term council member.

Last week I called the City of Naperville and asked if they could tell me when my smart meter was installed. The staff member said it was installed January 24, 2013. I mentioned that I haven’t noticed any savings on my electric bill, and it was my understanding that I would see a savings. The answer was, “the savings come from no need to use meter readers”. That’s it. That’s the savings.

Considering council members Judy Brodhead and John Krummen voted for the forced installation of smart meters, and with electric rates increasing, if they vote in favor of a city sales tax, their two-year terms may be their last terms in office. If Brodhead and Krummen don’t vote for a city sales tax, and Naperville’s financial situation continues to deteriorate, they would become the ‘poster’ council members for doing nothing when action was necessary.

Show 9 Comments


  1. Gerard H Schilling

    The solution is to cut wasteful spending and sell unnecessary assets instead of doing nothing. By taking increased taxes off the table they could actually get down to the business they were elected to do. To provide reasonable city services in a fiscally responsible way and being honest, crony free representatives of the tax payer.

  2. John Damusis

    Increasing taxes is an easy out for politicians . A lot of talk about taxes but very little on cost reductions .
    The only comment I heard is $1.8 Million but where are the details ?
    Before tax increases are implemented ,let’s see cost reductions by the Staff

    • If you had read the entire package provided by city staff (available on the city website) you would know all these details. The list of cuts is very specifics, is several pages long and also provides an analysis of expected impact on services provide by the city for each cut. The total list of cuts is just over $1.9 million.

  3. The city has cut it’s budget every year for the last seven years (over $50 million in cuts)! The idea that further budget cuts can be used to keep raising costs in check only works if you want our city to become like Chicago; poor services, high crime rates and streets with pot holes big enough to sallow cars. The city’s budget in 2009 was $110 million, after cutting just over $34 million dollars in expense (mostly by reducing staffing). This fiscal years budget is around $120 million, only a $10 million dollar increase in seven years while inflation over this same time has been just over 11%.

    The largest cuts usually require personnel cuts because they are the single largest cost of any organization. These cuts mean increased delays in providing services (FOIA requests, inspections, response to resident’s emergency and safety needs, etc) or elimination of services (which are not possible in some of the more costly areas, police and fire, because of certification and national standard requirements).

    Operating the city of Naperville with the idea of not increasing the budget in the presence of ever increasing costs is what has created the financial situation the city is presently in, a situation were we have no plan in place to restore reserves or pay off bonds when they mature. Not addressing this debt and leaving it for someone in the future to take care of is the type of thinking that created our monstrous national debt. Do we really want this to become Naperville’s legacy? The HRST helps get the city back on firm financial ground with a debt free future insight and studies indicate that only around 50% of this tax burden will fall on Naperville residents.

    It is true that a lot of voters a dissatisfied with elected official because of increases in spending and as a result taxes increases. But while the federal and state governments have been increasing spending and taxes over the last seven year Naperville’s government has actually effectively reduced spending (when inflation is taken into consideration) and actually cut taxes by 5%.

    Anyone who takes the time to become informed on these matters will not be upset or angry with any of Naperville’s officials and will realize they have used their authority and position to keep costs in check and minimize costs to residents while maintaining the community lifestyle they have grown accustom to.

    • Scott

      Out of curiosity, why did we need to spend $5.5 million on the Knoch Knolls Nature Center. Granted, there was a “A $255,693 grant from the Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation is assisting with green building costs, while a $400,000 Open Space Lands Acquisition and Development grant from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources is helping fund other park improvements.”
      Let’s see, $5.5 million less $255,693, less $400,000 = $4,844,307 of borrowed money PLUS …..
      It’s ” Naperville Park District’s first staffed nature center”, which means, employees, benefits, insurance, lifetime health, retirement or something along those lines.

      I don’t want to hear drivel about how, “Operating the city of Naperville with the idea of not increasing the budget in the presence of ever increasing costs is what has created the financial situation the city is presently in, a situation were we have no plan in place to restore reserves or pay off bonds when they mature.”

      How about not spending money we don’t have on projects we don’t need just to feed the ego of the elite of Naperville. If we “needed” a nature center, the funds should have been raised by donations and fundraising, not by increasing city debt.

      Until the city concentrates on “core” costs necessary to provide basic public services, instead of the continual crap projects that increase our taxes and costs of living, the problems will continue REGARDLESS of approval or disapproval of a city tax.

      Respond if you want, I wont be reading it. I will be at work and spending money outside of the city limits whenever possible.

  4. Gerard H Schilling

    Work expands in direct proportion to the people available to do it. Note the word productive is missing from the statement. So cities like ours start with business managers who over a period of time create deputy city managers, as do major sub department leaders create their deputies to fill in for them when they are bored or take extensive vacations and on down the pecking order until we get to the janitor.

    Eventually you end up with a bureaucracy which has a life and objectives of its own and which is unmanageable by part time government officials like city councils. For example community communications and public relations has how many employees? While major functions like police and fire also have communications people. The Park District has it’s own police force why? Shouldn’t the Fire department have its own police department to go alone with the ambulance service? You get the point, I hope?

    A previous poster indicated the city has cut 50 million in costs over the last 7 years on a base budget of 110 to 120 million during the period. If I ask for 120 million and council only approves 100 that’s not saving a dime it’s appropriately managing income and expenses.

    Another favorite trick of bureaucracies is to hire through subcontracts casual employees that do not show up on city employee rolls and are disguised as some type of service providers. Long story short there is plenty of fat that can be cut before a tax increase is warranted or even needed.

    • Again the Park District is a separate government organization and not part of the city so it has no authority over city police force. The decision by the park district to have it’s own force was something City officials had no voice in. Bringing the Park District into a discussion about the City budget only serves as a distraction.

      Having worked for the federal government I understand your point about “empire building”. Yes, this is a risk with any bureaucracy (no matter the form of government), but the city staff count is less then a thousand for a city with a population of 145,000. That is one employee per 145 resident. When compared to other city in the US with populations over 60,000 this ratio is very low, the average being around one per 110 resident. While this ratio can provide some indication of how efficiently or productively a city is being managed other factors like population density (higher density=> greater infrastructure demand/costs), climate (more moderate the climate the lower infrastructure maintenance needs), Proximity to other large metropolitan communities (closer => greater likelihood of bleed over criminal activity meaning greater law enforcement needs), community affluence (higher => lower crime rates), ratio of city to county (and/or state) owned infrastructure (more county owned => less city costs), amenities provided by city (a lot of cities do not provide refuse collection, this is an expense residents contract for separately), standard of living and so forth.

      Over the last seven years the city’s debt service expense has increase, cost of materials (salt, asphalt, electricity, etc) have increased and infrastructure maintenance demands (due to aging infrastructure) has increase. These are increasing expenses that can not be eliminated by budget cuts. Yes they can be balanced out by eliminating other budget items (scrub pickup, leaf collections, etc) but they will simply reoccur next year and have to be dealt with all over again. If you continue to solve this issue in this manner you eventual reach the point were there is no budget left to cut. At some point you have to realize all the savings that can be gained by budget cutting have been realized and stop cutting the budget. The city’s past and present financial practices have not included any means of building up reserves or the capital needed to pay the principle due on city bonds when they reach maturity (meaning they have to be refinanced at a greater interest rate further increasing the city debt servicing costs).

      I have heard some say lets cut the Library’s budget or Naper Settlement’s budget. If you totally eliminated the Naper Settlement budget, less than $4 million you would still be over $4 million short of what is needed to right the city’s financial ship. Over 90% of the library’s budget come from property taxes, so in order to free up any of these funds you would first have to make changes to this levy (it is a violation of federal law to spend tax funds earmarked for one budget item on a different item) and even then you would need to cut this budget by 50% to meet the city’s financial needs.

      I have looked over all the available budget information and have come to the conclusion that the time to admit, all the saves that can be realized by budget cutting has been reached and that existing revenue sources have not been sufficient to meet the city’s financial needs for at least the last 5 years. The only way to fix the city’s financial situation is through additional revenues. So were, or more precisely who, should this needed revenue come from? The HRST spreads this burden out over the greats number of community members with and estimated 50% coming from non-residents and ever with a .5% sale tax increase, Naperville’s sales tax will still be among the lowest in our area.

      Do I believe the residents of Naperville would be better served if the Park District were part of the City? Yes, there would definitely be synergies and cost savings if these two organizations were merged. But this can not be done by the city. If it can be done the burden lies with the voters. First, a ballot initiative requiring the Park District to become part of the City would be required to be past by the voters. Then there will be legal challenges to be over come (remember you would be eliminating several elected officer positions).

  5. Gerard H Schilling

    The state of IL has 7,000 plus government institutions and agencies many of which are elected and have taxing authority. This is twice as many as any other state and is bleeding the businesses and residents to death. We have met the enemy and it is us for allowing this to continue. We are taxed enough already and it is way past time we put a stop to it. Say no to any tax increase!

    • Yes, Illinois has way to many government organizations. In other state I have lived in the city, township, parks and schools were all under one, sometimes two different governments. The situation in Illinois has made it impossible to keep track of what governance is happening in our community and enforce government transparency, which has made it easy for some elected officials to behave badly without being held accountable for their behavior. This does not mean that all the government organizations in our community have acted less out of what best for the community then what was best for the organization.

      Naperville’s city government is the most transparent in our community and one of the most transparent I have encounter out of all the communities I have lived in. To punish this organization, which has not only resisted tax increased over the past seven years but has actually acted to reduce these taxes, because of dissatisfaction over the behavior of other government organizations that effect our city sends the wrong message to all elected officials. A message that we will punish the good and bad equally. The first thing they teach in management is “You get the behavior you reward”. If we do not reward the good elected officials by treating them with greater respect and trust then neither they nor the bad behaving elected officials will have any reason to behave better.

      The City staff and council have presented a very good case for the need of an HRST and have provided lots of information about the city’s financial situation for voter review on the Internet. I have yet to hear a good argument for why this tax should not be enacted. No, I do not consider a simple desire not to want any tax increase a good argument, none of us what to pay more taxes. But the city, just like any resident, has made financial commitments that good faith requires them to honor. We as community members do not respect individuals that fail to honor their financial commitments. Why then should we demand this behavior from our city government?

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