Naperville ‘Shakes Down’ Groups Using City Hall Meeting Rooms

With the recent approval of Naperville’s first-ever municipal sales tax, the city still still finds itself with a $1.8 million budget deficit. Part of the ‘deal’ with residents was that the Naperville city council was going to explore and identify cost saving measures.

The city is reviewing it’s expenses, but not as quickly as it’s trying to figure out how to extract more money out of residents. This was apparent during the last Naperville city council meeting when council members all but approved charging residents, and not-for-profit Naperville groups a fee for using meetings rooms in the Naperville Municipal Center (city hall). This is expected, in a perfect world’ to net city officials $38,000 (about 2%) towards the budget deficit. But the words ‘perfect world’ and ‘government’ in the same sentence is an oxymoron.

What this city council decision will do however, is make it more difficult for people trying to help other people; each of which have limited or no resources. It would be similar a council member taking an umbrella away from someone standing in the rain. Not so City friendly is it.

The vote to ‘take away the umbrella’ was seven for, and two against. Council members John Krummen and Patty Gustin voted not to burden residents with additional fees for the use of municipal center meeting rooms.

Watch and listen as Krummen nails it perfectly when he states, “This is the peoples’ house, and it is wrong to charge the people to use their house”.

Thomas Jefferson couldn’t have said it any better.

Councilman Krummen later emphasized his point when he said the following:

This was followed by councilman Paul Hinterlong when he chimed in with:

Councilwoman Patty Gustin responded in part with the council’s sacrifice of having no water during the meeting as a cost saving measure:

Wow, now that’s a creative cost-cutting sacrifice, giving up water for two hours.

Councilwoman Rebecca Boyd-Obarski admitted that another council member ‘set her straight’ with the following:

How disappointing it is, that another council member can so easily convince Obarski to give up on the idea of making a positive difference by doing the right thing, only because it is too difficult to accomplish.

Obarski then stated the obvious with the following:

As if giving up water at the dais was not enough.

The discussion on agenda item concluded with councilman Kevin Gallaher providing voters with a classic example of his double standard with the following comment:

So it’s OK to charge ‘the people to use their house’, but he is offended that the Park District scooted him off the lined playing field. Based on Gallaher’s ‘yes’ vote for ‘people paying to use their house’, Gallaher should have tossed in $40 to use the ‘peoples playing field’.

If $40 is free…perhaps councilman Gallaher would be willing to give two 10’s for a five.


Show 20 Comments


  1. Gerard H Schilling

    Might I suggest the city charge the council members for their offices in this building using the same reasoning as they want to charge their bosses (tax payers) for the use of same. Six hundred a month each would make a bigger dent then giving up bottled water at council meetings. Has our council really sunk to this level versus attacking the biggest cost of any organization which is its people and their benefits. Cut the fat and forget about the water!

  2. BuckNaper

    Sell the nearly bankrupt Electric Utility, pay off the debt and get Naperville financial house in order. The Utility still owes the Water Utility $13M and continues to loose millions every year. BTW, exactly where did the $200,000.00 go from the Mayor’s Golf Outing? Where is the check register? Will that account be addressed in the CAFR (Comprehensive Annual Financial Report)?

  3. wethepeople

    Or… how about thet pay for their OWN/and their families, insurance, the same way, WeThe People, have to pay. It’s a part time job, that they should be doing altruistically, not for the perks and their own self aggrandizing reasons. That would cut the budget far more than charging non profits for the use of the meeting rooms.

  4. kool-aid man

    SOME of them gave up their water! (Not ALL of them.) How much and what kind of special water were they drinking? They can replace it for FREE by turning on the tap. Or bring a beverage from home. How much was being spent if they saved that much money by cutting water? They should start drinking the Kool Aid that all the people who voted for them were drinking!

  5. During the discussion of this agenda item the use of these meeting rooms were often referred to as an amenity. Many of the groups using this facilities also have a cultural impact on our community. This would make these facilities a Cultural Amenity, something the cost of which is suppose to be covered by SECA.

    The Food and Beverage tax was implement to cover the cost of Special Event and Cultural Amenities in our community, which is just what the use of these facilities by these groups is. Ironically, earlier in this same council meeting, they voted to further divert revenue from this tax to funding city operations and expense instead of these kind of Amenities.

    The last report I read indicated the Food and Beverage tax was on track to bring in $4.7 million in revenue. Under the promises make by city council when this tax was created all of this should be going to SECA, but earlier in the evening council voted to limit this amount to $1.9 million ($1 million of which the council has mandated will be spent annually on maintaining the Carillon, River walk, City Band, etc as well as promote downtown business and cover SECA admin costs) without an annual adjustment for inflation (CPI). So with an inflation rate of 3% (the number most economist agreed is normal in a healthy economy) in 10 years time, so much of this $1.9 million well be spent covering the council mandated items that the remaining amount will barely be sufficient to cover the projected costs (inflation adjusted requests from last year) of the Ribfest and Last Fling grant requests. This vote was basically a vote to slowly kill city funding of special events and cultural amenities.

    After subtracting the $1.9 million from projected revenues of $4.7 million there will still be $3.6 million of this revenue left. A previous council mandate requires spending $900K of this revenue on the city pension funds, which will make these the most funded pensions in the state. The remaining $1.9 million is to be spent at city council discretion. Hmmm…$1.8 million budget short fall and $1.9 million in discretionary Food and Beverage tax revenues, what will they do?

    The $38,000 in annual expenses for providing this cultural amenity (free meeting room access to small nonprofit groups) is less than 0.9% of the project $4.7 million in Food and Beverage Tax revenue. Any member of council that voted to charge these groups, in sight of what they earlier did to SECA, should be to embarrassed by their actions to show their faces in public.

  6. S.

    I thought ALL the NEW council people pledged multiple times not to take medical benefits. Did some go back on their pledge, taking benefits yet raising others taxes due to city budget concerns? Who?

  7. Jim Haselhorst: for once I agree with your recommendation: Use “extra” SECA money to cover this downfall. Then let’s get down to a real look at not only the expenses of the City of Naperville, but also the Park District and the Library and the Schools. The last three have a large impact on the property tax bill of Naperville property owners. For instance, I have been told that the Park district’s attitude is “ask residents if they would like something” and of course, people will say sure! and then the Park says “it will only be another $10 on the property tax bill.” So how many of these $10 hits have been made without oversight by this Watchdog. Watchdog, how about starting to look more closely at the Park District.

    OK: I then recommend a turn around firm be hired to look at the City departments. Doug Kreiger and his staff are the rooster and the hen and the chicks guarding the hen house. They have a vested interest in keeping the status quo. We need an outside opinion.

    The budget that has been under discussion since last Fall has now been funded by this new City Council with their sales tax. This budget included new hires. It was approved by the prior City Council and this new Council at the recommendation of the current City Administration. So what City Council member had or has the time or the expertise to ask the appropriate questions and dig into the corners of the current City Administration? To the best of my knowledge: no one.

    So who will fund the expense of this firm? Perhaps some of the “extra” SECA money could be used for this effort. After all, residents who drink and eat at establishments in Naperville that collect this money have already paid for this type of endeavor. SECA is tax money that any politician loves to spend because it is already being collected. And of course, we already know, the politicians and city staff managed to find places to spend this money once they had it in their coffers.

    As in my campaign, I recommend that we tighten our budget to only cover the basics: public safety, public works and the electric and water utilities.

    Watchdog: it is time you stopped making personal attacks on the City Council people. It is very difficult to get elected, although you stated otherwise in one of your articles, and they are essentially volunteers. Their paychecks are pretty small for the amount of time and effort they put into the position. Many have volunteered for several years in the community and deserve respect, not derision. The voters who care enough to stay on top of the proceedings will make their feelings known at the next election. Unfortunately, this is not a large number.

    • I agree watchdog should not make personal attacks on elected officials and I also agree they should watch the Park District, which has some serious transparency problems and has consistently raise it’s tax levy by the maximum allowed (without a ballot referendum) for the last 10 years.

      • PG

        Jim and Nancy thank you. We are blessed to have both of you discussing the issues and share your thoughts. That is what makes Naperville great. As a person with a disability thank you for requesting the personal attacks stop. We tell our children not to bully, call people names, make fun of their differences this is no different. What personal attack will be next hair color, clothing, sex, race. I hope not. Thank you again and I will continue to do my best in servicing Naperville.

  8. Gary K

    Maybe we could stop sending 6 police officers and 3 vehicles (at taxpayers expense) to funerals for policemen in other cities.

    • This is a rare event and the officers are not on duty (non-pay status) when they volunteer to perform this honor.

      • Gary K

        That’s what I thought until I checked with Bob Marshall — they are paid straight time. I recognize this is not a big deal but it reflects the overall culture of spending. Just like the Park District bleeding us at $10 for this, that…….

        • Seriously! When did this policy **expletive** change!? You are right the amount involve is not great, but at the same time it is excessive and should not be happening.

          • Gary K

            Following is the response to my inquiry on the policy:

            The response is as follows-

            For police officer funerals our dept will send representatives out of respect for the police officer’s public service. Typically we send officers from our honor guard on straight time. On many occasions officers attend funerals off duty and are not paid. That was the case with the funeral of the Fox Lake lieutenant. Police officers attended off duty and we also sent members of our honor guard on duty in Naperville Police vehicles.
            Bob Marshall
            Police Chief
            City of Naperville
            Thank-you for using the City of Naperville Citizen Support Center.

    • Gerard H Schilling

      Maybe not having fire engines following routine ambulance calls would save vastly more then a few police honoring their fellow officers who have fallen in service to the citizens? Go for the big money not the nonsense even though all of it should be cut out. Nancy’s suggestion for an outside consultant to evaluate savings across all areas is wise and thoughtful. Having the foxes watching the hen houses means chicken for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

      • Gary K

        I agree with the idea of conducting an audit. However, the city needs to develop a culture that cuts it all out — seems like management has become an enabler of entitlements, There should be some creative tension between the Council, City Manager and department heads.

      • During my 9 years working for the federal government with the USDA, we had outside consults come in frequently to do audit of operations and expenses. They were a joke! A waste of taxpayer funds.

        The first problem is that if they conduct and audit and find nothing wrong they are afraid of encouraging an attitude that would discourage spending money on future audits, so they always found something that is being done that “is not in compliance with industry standards” but would rarely recommend changes to comply with these standards.

        Which brings us to problem two, a concern by the auditing company that if they do recommend a change, which is implemented and increases costs or negatively impacts operations, they will be the ones everyone points a finger at and will hurt their chance of getting repeat business or future business from other municipalities. (Naperville example – the rate study that created the present situation with the electrical utility – that organization has lost all credibility with the city and other municipalities)

        The only time these types of audits produce any significant changes is if the organization is so seriously dysfunctional they are desperate for changes to fix the situation. While the City of Naperville does have some issue they are a far cry from problems serious enough to make the city dysfunctional (like Chicago or the State).

  9. Kevin Piket

    The City Council is dead wrong on this issue. It’s petty to charge NFP’s for room rentals on a building we already paid for through our property taxes. I can’t imagine the rental income will make a dent in the city debt.

  10. PG

    On October 6th the City Council meetings lasted almost 6 hours between Closed Session, Workshops and Council meeting. That evening Councilwoman Brodhead was kind enough to offer her water to others on the dais. The City did not and will not be providing water to the Council. I hope helps.

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