Through the use of Home Rule powers, East Dundee’s finances have gotten out of control. Over the past decade, spending and debt have both grown exponentially. Total East Dundee spending in 2007 was $3,961,411 and in 2017, it reached $12,187,614. That’s a 300% increase in expenditures while inflation only grew 18%. Likewise, village debt has reached a whopping $33 Million. Considering population has remained essentially stagnant, this is a gross misuse of hard-earned taxpayer dollars. What follows are my recommendations to set East Dundee’s finances back on track.
First, immediate liquidation of superfluous properties should to be a priority. Currently East Dundee owns and maintains numerous properties for non-governmental use. These properties are a double drain on the budget since we’re paying to maintain them and they do not bring in any tax dollars. For example, the Summit School property has been on the market for over two years because the asking price does not reflect market value. The asking price should immediately be reduced for as fast a sale as possible. Selling these unneeded properties, even for pennies on the dollar, gives the village much needed income and puts the properties back on the tax roles.
Second, establishment of additional TIF districts should be off the table. Forever. Many of the TIF redevelopment deals have contributed to the financial trouble the village faces today. Even with the current eight TIF Districts, East Dundee lost a large source of sales tax revenue with the closing of Walmart, proving that they do not deliver any sort of ROI to speak of.
Third, other more prudent water reclamation options should be explored. East Dundee’s current waste water and sewage plant was designed when the village had a water park and now has too much capacity. Joining the Fox River Water Reclamation District, selling that plant or trading services with FRWRD should be a priority.
Fourth, the village’s business development arm should be severed. According to the Comprehensive Annual Financial Report, East Dundee’s economic development budget was more than the suggested $1,900,000 property tax hike by not abating bonds. Additionally, the village has done a poor job using TIF funds responsibly. In the past ten years, the redevelopment deals have been a net loser for village residents yet lined the pockets of developers, consultants and failed would-be business owners. For example, a $4 million municipal building was built with TIF money, $2 million was gifted to the fire district with TIF money, Dundee Township’s new facility is being subsidized by East Dundee TIF’s, and numerous other lackluster schemes, none of which generate any income to compensate for the millions doled out.
Last, a reduction in staff is in order. Walmart was the largest source of petty crime in the village and with it gone, savings in public safety should be used to offset the loss in revenue. East Dundee employs both part time and full time police officers. Since full-time employees are subject to the collective bargaining agreement and are more costly than part time officers, the village should employ more part time officers and reduce the full-time staff by at least one. Additionally, with fewer resources devoted to TIF ventures, business development deals and running the excessively large water reclamation plant, further staff reductions would be appropriate.
A municipality does not exist to fund business development, facilitate fancy tax deals, take part in risky real-estate ventures, or to build buildings and staff beyond the needs of its residents. East Dundee has done all these things to the disservice of the residents and we are now in very deep debt. I urge immediate implementation of the recommendations above and get our village back on a path towards solvency as soon as possible.
Furthermore capital expenditures need to be limited to just streets and maintenance. No new buildings should be approved for a decade or more.