Naperville’s City Officials Pot Of Gold

Imagine you find a pot of gold, and you decide to use its value to enhance your community with cultural amenities. Then you decide to help others in need in the form of social services. Here’s the really cool part, at the end of the year, another pot of gold, this time larger, surfaces and you can do it all over again, with more money for more people, more groups, and more social amenities. Here’s the best part, it keeps happening year after year.

However here is where it begins to get trickier and trickier each year, because now you have more people and groups wanting more and more, and you want more and more gold to satisfy more and more people. Now you’re in a circle of ‘more and more’, and more people are needed to decide who to give what to, and more and more people get involved in making decisions to make more people happy, but also more people become unhappy because they are left out with nothing or little.

That is the situation that the Naperville city council finds itself in with SECA (Special Events and Cultural Amenities) funds and grants. The fund was established in 2004 as “a separate fund used solely for social and artistic events and entities providing cultural experiences for the Naperville community and visitors”. The fund is paid for by the city’s food and beverage tax which grows more and more.

This year city officials will spend about $2 million towards approximately 90 different cultural events throughout Naperville, including about $170,000 for Ribfest spear-headed by the Exchange Club of Naperville, and about $160,000 towards the Last Fling coordinated by Naperville Jaycees for a total of approximately 17% of SECA funds. The smallest requested grant is $863 by Naperville’s Heritage Society for the All Hallows’s Eve event at the Naperville Settlement.

Naperville’s Advisory Cultural Commission, consisting of nine members, reviews each groups application for SECA funds and then makes recommendations to the Naperville city council for a final decision and vote.

As the pot of gold increases each year, so does the debate by council members on who gets what. It’s sort of a mini-version of pushing and shoving on a local level, compared to Presidential candidates elbowing for delegates on the national level.

Naperville council members John Krummen and Kevin Coyne favor giving more money for fewer and larger events with possible long-term agreements, thereby short-changing or eliminating groups with smaller events.

Another example of the little guy, with a good cause, getting pushed and shoved out the door.

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  1. Jim Haselhorst

    Actually while the revenue from the food and beverage tax has increased every year since it was instituted, the SECA fund has actually been decreasing. You see the present Mayor and city council members remember the events leading up to the creation of SECA and the implementation of this tax a little differently then me.

    As I remember the residents were sold on accepting this tax with the understanding it that it would be used solely to fund SECA. Because they remember things differentlyl the mayor and council have had no problem voting in a series of changes to how the food & beverage tax is to be used. The first change voted was to take 25% of this revenue and earmark it to pay down the city’s contribution obligation for the police and fireman’s pension fund (you know the same fund they just enacted a Home Rule Sales Tax to pay down, the same fund that is one of the best funded in the state). Of course they limited this pension contribution to 900K per year and any remainder of the 25% was to be spent at the council’s discretion.

    The next change was to cap the amount of the food & beverage tax funding SECA to $2 million with a 3% annual increase to adjust for inflation. Any amount left over after the 25% and $2million was taken out was simply allow to remain in the general fund with no specific obligation on how it was to be spent (i.e. any city operating cost they wished). Of course before the first inflation increase could be made the council, in a “compromise” solution getting the HRST approved, change this cap to $1.9 million and eliminated the 3% annual adjustment. So SECA funding is frozen at $1.9 million annually unless council decides otherwise.

    To understand what all this means you first have to know that the Food & Beverage tax revenue for last year was somewhere north of $3.5 million ( the city does not share this information with the residents until it publishes the annual budget, which it just did a few months ago, and even then it is not made very clear what the actual revenue amount was). The estimated revenue from this tax for CY16 is over $5 million.

    You also need to now that over $1 million of the SECA funds $1.9 million funding is already obligated each year to paying for administrative costs, Riverwalk and Carillon maintenance, funding the Naper Settlement, and City Band as well as, for a few more years the Dupage Children’s Museum. This leave less than $900K, the same amount spent each year on the police and fireman’s pension fund, left to actually fund community groups seeking SECA funding.

    What this means in that without and adjustment for inflation, in roughly ten year, SECA, after paying all the it annual obligations, will only have enough money left to fund Ribfest and the Last Fling. So no other events with receive any funding. It is also worth noting that in the original agreement with the DuPage Children’s Museum, in exchange for receiving annual funding from SECA, it would not seek any additional funding from SECA to support it’s operations. Last year the Museum requested to have this restriction lifted and the city council not only did so but also granted partial funding for a request that had been denied by the SECA Commission.

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