Jean-Baptiste Colbert Understands Naperville City Officials

If you really want to understand how government works, all you have to do is watch and listen to Naperville city manager Doug Krieger.

It doesn’t matter what the issue is. If it involves money (and doesn’t everything) the answer is always the same; extract it from residents and taxpayers. It’s the simple solution. It doesn’t take any thought or creativity by city officials. They discuss the issue (problem), they then say why they don’t like the answer (taking it from residents), they then vote on it, it’s approved, then adjourn the meeting, and its off to a downtown pub to celebrate. It happens over and over again.

There are numerous issues the Naperville city council is facing including what to do with the old Nichols Library building, what to do with the Carillon and Moser Tower, what to do with lawsuits piling up at the doorstep, what to do with the 5th Avenue Development Project (Watchdog’s next posting), and what to do with the financial hole the City of Naperville finds itself in again.

Each time after extracting more money from taxpayers, city officials say their plan is working so residents should feel good, everything is under control, and all is good. Just keep moving on folks, there’s nothing to see here.

The current financial problem:

Money needs to be extracted from taxpayers to fund a $2 million increase in city contributions to the public safety pension program and to provide $2 million annually for road maintenance improvement so our roads can be kept in the same pristine condition they are in today. Additionally money is needed for personnel and health care increases.

The proposed solution by the City of Naperville’s Financial Advisory Board (FAB) as presented by the city’s finance director, Rachel Mayer:

Double the home rules sales tax and eliminate the $2 million property tax abatement which was approved last year. The municipal sales tax is currently .5% which was due to ‘sunset’ (stop) this year. The ‘solution’ is to not only keep the .5% tax, but to double it to 1%.

When city officials pushed through the .5% municipal sales tax last year, they tried to appease residents with a $2 million property tax abatement (reduction), knowing that would lessen resident push-back for the sales tax. Taxpayers reluctantly bought into the falsehood, the Naperville city council voted for the sales tax, and off they went to their favorite pub to celebrate another victory over residents.

Some council members, including mayor Chirico and councilman Kevin Coyne would like to see more of an effort to find ‘efficiencies’ (cost cutting measures) before reaching for the simple and quick solution of raising taxes. However two council members does not make a majority.

When the city council gets done bloviating at the dais, residents and taxpayers will again be on the hook to bail out city officials proving again that city manager Doug Krieger is correct.

Another person who truly understands Krieger and other city officials is Jean-Baptiste Colbert, French politician, (1619 – 1683) when he said, “The art of taxation consists in so plucking the goose as to get the most feathers with least hissing.”

Show 5 Comments


  1. Jim Haselhorst

    The members of city council and staff have been looking for “more of an effort to find ‘efficiencies’ (cost cutting measures)” since 2007. In 2008 the city did the most to cut cost by eliminate roughly 100 city positions and kicking several cans down the road. They did this again in 2009 (with much less effectiveness, since there was little left to cut), 2010 ( even smaller return for same reason, i.e. diminishing returns), and on and on until we get to today when I challenge anyone to look through the city’s budget and find a cut that will not have residents screaming in anger at losing something they have taken for granted. That just leaves a bunch of cans kick down the road for the last 10 years to deal with which all need money to fix and only get worse each year they are ignored. Ask the city of Chicago how well that works out!!

    So what should council do? Keep kicking these cans down the road and make them someone else’s problems (after they have left council for higher office)? Or bite the bullet (risk not getting the support and votes needed for higher office) and do the unpopular things required to get rid of these cans once and for all? Me personally, I would like council to eliminate the Damocles sword and get rid of these cans, but to each their own.

    As to other means of funding. I happen to know for a fact the city staff and council members work really hard to find government and private funds available to cities to help pay expenses. They are doing a great job at leaving no stones unturned in this area, but these effort go mostly unnoticed by those that only want to see the bad in any government. When they can not find any other means to cover costs the only options left are get it from fees and taxes or borrow it (which eventually has to be paid off with future fees and taxes).

    Fees (permits, inspections, utility rates, etc) come 100% from residents that benefit from the services or resources provided. But some of what the city does benefits all residents to some degree and it is hard to access who benefits most or how to collect an appropriate and proportional fee for these benefits. Things like snow removal, police patrols, mosquito abatement, etc. provide undeniable benefits but no good way to pass the cost on to residents except for taxes (property,sales).

    All of these taxes can be placed in one of two groups, those that are paid 100% by residents and those that are not. Property taxes are 100% from residents while sale taxes (HRST, food & beverage) come partially from residents and partially from visitors to our community. Some place the percentage of sale taxes paid by residents at only 50%, but this really depends on how popular a community is as a shopping and recreation destination. Me, again, I prefer the sales taxes because they at least provide some relief to residents.

    In the end it is undeniable that city government is needed (a necessary evil if you must) and just like any organization is going to have operating costs that have to be paid, requiring some sort of revenue stream. Who should pay for these costs other then the people that are provided benefits resulting from these costs, the resident of the city. I am all for cutting city expenses but I have gone through every page of every city budget for the last 5 years and I can not see anything that does not benefit our community. So the question is, if you want the city to cut expenses, what benefits are you ready to lose?

  2. Ha! I talked to Lunatic Larry, the one that posts the hate Obama signs on Modaff, he wanted to get rid of the trash cans in city parks that are dedicated to dog poop because he doesn’t use them.

  3. Grant W.

    Naperville could always shut down a lane of a road and switch lanes every other year. Double the lifespan of the lanes and a perfect choke point for tolls, DUI and seatbelt checks

  4. John

    Raze the Carillon and save at least $3Million . Renegotiate the IMEA contract and save Millions .
    Charge for parking in the garages

    • Jim Haselhorst

      There is no contract with IMEA to renegotiate, Naperville is one city of a consortium of around 2 dozen cities that own IMEA. The controversy about the Prairie State Campus a few years back has been solved and these facilities are now running at 100% of designed capacities at the level of saving anticipated, but they only supply around 25% of the power that IMEA provides it owners. The 75% remaining comes from contracts with other power generating facilities including winds, solar, natural gas, etc. The rates negotiated in these contract rival anything other large municipality are get in this state (economy of scale – 2 dozen cities equal one Chicago in buying power). All the articles and posting about the rate increase in Naperville were comparing our city’s rate with those of other cities the year prior, all of which also had rate increasing coming into effect. When Naperville’s new rate is compare this the new rates of these other cities we are still among the lowest paying electrical consumers in the state (note: it is difficult to make these comparison because companies like ComEd have both usage and flat fees they add to the bill but are not “quoted” as part of their rate, Naperville resident do not pay these added fees so our “quoted” rate is actually what you pay). If you take the time to google it you can find the website that provides rates compares with rates adjusted to include any additional fees.

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