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Giving Residents a Voice


The City of Naperville: The buck stops…where?

Earlier this year, we wrote about the “Vote Yes for Lower Taxes” crowd running on cutting taxes by reducing expenses through consolidation of the Naperville Township and Lisle Township Road Districts through a binding referendum. One of the chief architects of that movement was Naperville City Councilman Kevin Coyne, and one of the vocal supporters of the movement was Naperville Mayor Steve Chirico. As we wrote at the time, they were advocating cutting taxes in a governmental unit to which they were not elected. If they really wanted to reduce expenses, and therefore taxes, why not look internally and reduce expenses in the unit of government to which they were elected and over which they have authority and can effect change?

Seems as if the saying ‘better late than never’ may apply here, as Councilman Coyne made a request at the October 30, 2017 budget workshop that City Manager Doug Krieger look at potential cost savings through consolidation of administrative functions of the library and Naper Settlement into the city.

It only took about a year after the Vote Yes for Lower Taxes campaign was launched, but better late than never, right?

The Mayor was quick to point out that the attempt will not affect the 2018 budget.

One would think action could have been taken in 2017 to affect 2018 had the focus of City officials been on the City, instead of the Township Road Districts, but hey, there was an election, that was a very easy and politically appealing slogan and it’s not their money, right? Who can pass up a can’t miss campaign slogan, even if it was factually incorrect?

So about a year after savings through consolidation for the Township Road Districts was supported by Councilman Coyne and the Mayor, City officials will begin looking at savings through consolidation for the City. With results to be determined, but not affecting the 2018 budget.

We’re looking forward to the results of that study from Mr. Krieger.

We recently wrote about Mr. Krieger’s statement that a lack of approval of an increased Home Rule Sales Tax would cause him to issue directives to all departments to reduce expenses across the board, including the Library and Naper Settlement. A week later, Naper Settlement hired a new Director of Innovation and Experiences, at an annual salary of $95,000 a year, plus benefits. The proposed budget presented at the October 30, 2017 workshop of course had no such spending reductions proposed. (We’ll have a thought or two on the proposed budget at a future date.)

Water rates in the City have gone up over the last several years, with the Council in May of this year approving increases of at least 3% a year through 2021. (The increases are in addition to monthly surcharges for EPA mandated improvements for phosphorus removal of $0.50 a month, increasing to $1.00 in 2018 and $1.80 in 2019 through 2021.)

Well, it seems as if those increases won’t be enough, as the Sun recently noted that the City used a rate model with several glaring errors in it, including double counting of some revenues and incorrect opening balances, resulting in a 'problem' of $3 million. Jim Holzapfel, the city's director of water and wastewater utilities, was quoted as saying “It’s not a huge jump, but it’s an increase. Those are never welcome.”

No expression of remorse or regret, or a statement to the effect of something like that should never happen. Nope, just what seems to be the verbal equivalent of a shoulder shrug. Oh well, it’s only $3 million or so. 'Not huge.'

The City Council approves a multi-year rate increase to residents, and six months later the guy in charge of the department says they screwed up and need more, but, hey, it’s only $3 million.

Would that be acceptable at your workplace? Probably not, but it’s worse in City government, because they’re not a for-profit enterprise, they’re dealing with taxpayer money. Your money.

President Harry Truman famously had a plaque on his desk which read “The Buck Stops Here,” meaning President Truman understood that at the end of the day, as the man in charge, he was responsible for the results, including the screw-ups.

In the City of Naperville, accountability seems to be conspicuously absent.

Not only does The Buck not stop, but it seems to keep going, and going, and going.

Right out of your pocket.

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