When Naperville council member Judith Brodhead begins talking about money, you’d be wise to hold your wallet very tightly. It happened again during the last Naperville city council meeting, when council member Brodhead said, “if this ($5,500) were a huge amount of money, I might have some problems with it”. The “it” is SECA funds, which the Naperville city council voted 5 to 3 to approve for temporary traffic controls for a Harry Potter Book Reveal Party event in Naperville on July 30 and 31st.
On the surface it seems like a worthwhile event, however a lot of things sound like good ideas, hence making it easy to approve all those ‘good’ ideas. The problem is that the Naperville city council is playing too loose, spending taxpayer dollars for purposes in which they were not intended.
SECA is an acronym for Special Event and Cultural Amenities Fund, a tax approved in 2004 “to establish a separate fund used solely for funding of social and artistic events and entities, providing cultural experiences for the Naperville community and its visitors”. OK, so far, so good.
The sponsoring organization “must be a non-profit organization”, and funds “will only be reimbursed for what was approved in the application”. Oops, there’s the problem. The application originally approved was not for purpose of this event, hence SECA funds should not have been approved.
Council members voting to approve included Mayor Steve Chirico, Kevin Coyne, Kevin Gallaher, Rebecca Obarski, and Judith Brodhead. Those voting not to approve the diversion of SECA funds included, John Krummen, Paul Hinterlong, and Patty Gustin.
Remaining council member Becky Anderson recused herself from the discussion and vote. She is the one council member who would directly benefit financially from a vote to approve, since she owns Anderson Book Store in Naperville.
The vote to approve this ordinance is wrong on two levels; first it did not follow SECA guidelines. Secondly, council member Judith Brodhead’s comment that $5,500 is not a ‘huge amount of money’, whereas Mayor Steve Chirico acknowledges that it is a $5,500 decision without downplaying it.
When it comes to taxpayer dollars, every dollar is important to the folks paying those tax dollars, and council members should acknowledge the importance of every dollar spent.
A dollar here a dollar there pretty soon it adds up to real money like a 120 million for the city and 1/2 billion when you add all the other things like schools, electric company, park district, bell towers etc.annually.
SECA is just a slush fund doled out by the city council to bribe votes and support from organizations thus gaining reelection and staying in power.
It is taxation with literally no representation, applied to only a fraction of tax payers frequenting a fraction of businesses and with a city as rich as this one all these events can easily be paid for by those sponsoring and attending them.
It is long past time to scrap this needless tax and help clean up the corruption it engenders by the very nature of its existence.
For someone who doesn’t have $ 5000.00 laying about, it is quite a lot of money. Pottersville’s voters ought to remember that cavalier attitude next elections.
This is not a precedence, City Council has, in the past, granted SECA funds to cover expenses specifically stated in SECA policies as not expenses SECA funds are to be spent on. Unfortunately, City Council has the authority to authorize obligation of these funds for expense that most of us would agree falls outside the SECA mandate. I agree that council should not have this kind of discretion, but because all SECA funds pass through the city’s General fund rather then going to a specific SECA fund account, council has unrestricted authority over it’s expenditure.
Ideally the SECA funds, or more specifically the food and beverage tax implement to obtain these funds, should have been originally setup to go directly into a special SECA fund account. Then by law council would not be able to direct expenditure of these tax dollars in ways not originally discussed when this tax was established to fund SECA.
But as of today roughly only half of these tax funds actually end up in the SECA fund. Most goes go to pay-down the city’s police and firefighter pension obligation, city bonds issued and whats left can be spent at city council discretion (by ordinance enacted a few years ago by city council).