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The opinions expressed on the Rants and Raves of Mac McIntyre are solely those of its author and are shared for the purpose of encouraging dialogue about life and issues in DeKalb County, Illinois.

Timing is Everything

Timing is everything. On April 1 of each year, going back to the birth of DeKalb County Online, I publish a spoof story. The central figure of each story is always the fictional Oslay Paliford, which is actually April Fools Day spelled sideways, sort of. I like to stir the stick so it’s the funnest time of the year for me.

One year I had Oslay Paliford posing as a corporate farmer who purchased a ton of farm land just south of the Tollway because he needed plenty of space to raise his giant meat eating cock roaches. Former DeKalb Mayor Bessie Chronopolous sent me an email that said, "You got me." Another time Mr. Paliford somehow found a loop hole in the law and got himself elected as Mayor of Ellwood City, which was formed when he merged the communities of DeKalb, Sycamore, Cortland and Malta. He was a popular mayor because he saved taxpayers $1.4 million per year in administrative salaries.

I have a story that just cannot wait until April 1, 2007. And besides, it doesn’t qualify for an April Fools Story because this story is true. It’s almost humorous if it didn’t frost my butt so much.

Oslay Paliford’s alter ego is Northern Illinois University. They just released a Request For Proposals (RFP) to build a “subdivision” of homes specifically designed for, and marketed to, students with children. NIU is the first developer to officially step forward with a residential project since DeKalb lifted its moratorium on new homes and raised the impact fees on a 4-bedroom home to some $22,000. About ten grand of those impact fees will go to the DeKalb School District.

But NIU isn’t subject to property taxes much less impact fees. Maybe the school district should have accepted that free grade school from the proposed Savannah Green project. Then we wouldn’t have to pay to bus those new students to Wright Elementary School.

I wonder how this project would fare in one of the Fiscal Impact Studies NIU’s Center for Governmental Studies does. I wonder if the “Naperville Formula” would accurately project the number of new students that will be generated for DeKalb schools. I wonder how many votes a private developer would get from the DeKalb City Council on such a proposal with a request to waive impact fees. But then again, NIU doesn’t need city council approval.

Now I know I shouldn’t be such a hard case about this. After all, a college student with children probably needs about every financial break s/he can get. And I must say that District #428 is improving in its ability to cope with a large percentage of economically challenged students since 31.8% of last year’s enrollment is considered low income.

Despite my bad attitude, I still love NIU. It’s the best thing since sliced bread for DeKalb and has been since 1895. As grows NIU so grows DeKalb  It’s our largest employer and our largest consumer of local goods and services, including those offered by our local governmental units. NIU current and retired employees are good citizens. They volunteer. They get involved. They vote. They serve in public offices in almost every unit of local government. They provide valuable technical assistance to the DeKalb School District. The partnership between NIU and District #428 at Wright Elementary School is already paying big dividends in student performance.

But NIU wouldn’t fare well in one of their own Fiscal Impact Studies. Especially on the financial burden their recent growth has placed on the DeKalb School District. NIU purchased the former DeKalb Genetics (Monsanto) property last year to expand its role in health care education and services. Their new acquisition fits well in the burgeoning health care corridor developing along Bethany Road and the entire community will benefit. But that property was the 5th largest property tax payer in 2003 with an equalized assessed value of more than $5 million.

The local governmental units will all share in the approximately $400,000 annual loss in tax revenues but the school district will take the largest hit at almost 70% of the taxes lost. NIU’s “tax abatement” never expires.

Timing is everything. Now is the perfect time for the City of DeKalb and NIU to make an intergovernmental agreement that would create a Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILOT) program for the university to help the school district with the financial burden that their residential project will create.

Now I must give credit where credit is due. The PILOT program was suggested to me by Dr. Herb Rubin, my favorite professor emeritus. I told you NIU employees were good citizens.

It’s a great idea. DeKalb should consider instituting a PILOT program for all local governmental units that take private tax-paying property off the tax rolls. They should make haste so they can calculate what their PILOT payment should be for taking the Axe in Hand property, and $39,000 in annual property tax, off the tax rolls for its new police station ten years down the road. DeKalb taxpayers should demand it.

But that is the subject of another rant.

Mac McIntyre

Comments: 2

Date: Thursday January 26, 2006
Time: 04:15 PM -0500


By legitimately linking me to the PILOT idea, a program that is in place in many cities with colleges though usually private colleges, you might have to make room in the witness protection program for your favorite professor emeritus as well as yourself.

Your serious point is worth considering. We do have many studies of the positive economic impact NIU has on the entire county, and it is huge, but it would be also nice to see some studies on the imposed costs.

I've made the argument for full benefit cost analyses of housing and commercial developments and consistency dictates that it should also hold for the university.

I hope if they hide us in the witness protection program they do so in some place where I can continue my bird photography something that is getting harder to do as DeKalb County grows..

Herb Rubin

Editor: Thanks for the response, Herb. I really appreciate your time and expertise in informing me about PILOT programs. Maybe we can avoid the witness protection program by purchasing one of those two-for-one sunglass sets at Wal-Mart. :-)

Date: Thursday January 26, 2006
Time: 06:01 AM -0500


You really hit the nail on the head on this one. I certainly agree that assistance should be offered to young families wishing to further their education, but the entire burden should not be place on the DeKalb tax payers! Furthermore, as a longtime Westside property and business owner, I couldn't agree with you more on the proposed new police station. Not only is the school district losing the current tax dollars, but also the future dollars that development site would had generated after buildout. The land was the last remaining retail small shop development site on West Lincoln Highway and the City of DeKalb has lost the future sales tax dollars as well. Good Proposal!!

Mike Carpenter, Carpenter Commercial Real Estate

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