City of DeKalb E-News November 2023
DeKalb Earns Bond Rating Upgrade
DeKalb has earned a bond rating upgrade reflecting the City’s strong financial health resulting from responsible financial policies and transformative economic development successes.
The upgrade by Moody’s Investors Services, one of the three leading rating agencies, increases the City’s bond rating to A1. Among the City’s credit strengths, Moody’s cites notable growth in the City’s economy from larger scale economic development projects in the ChicagoWest Business Center on the far southside.
In its opinion released Oct. 4, Moody’s credits more than $2 billion in investments from Meta, Amazon, Kraft Heinz and Ferrara Candy for positive trends in both sales and use taxes and property taxes, the City’s main revenue sources.
“Strong development trends will continue to support a stable financial profile going forward,” according to the credit opinion.
Along with economic development, Moody’s credited a strong and improving financial profile for the upgrade. In the review, the City received high scores for available fund balance and liquidity. It is expected the City will end the current fiscal year with general fund reserves of more than $30.4 million.
The City presented to the ratings agency ahead of the issuing of bonds for construction of a fourth fire station to better serve residents and businesses in the southwest quadrant. City Manager Bill Nicklas said the upgrade will likely save taxpayers money, and the benefits extend further.
“The rating upgrade should mean better pricing for the Fire Station #4 bonds,” said Nicklas, “but it also sends an important message to business prospects and state agencies: DeKalb is fiscally strong.”
Other factors cited by Moody’s in the upgrade were the City’s home-rule status and the presence of Northern Illinois University as an anchor of the regional economy. The credit opinion can be viewed here.
Council Supports Continuing Trend of Lowering Property Tax Rate
The DeKalb City Council will continue its commitment to using the rapid economic growth on the southside to reduce the City’s property tax rate.
The 2023 property tax levy estimate supported by the Council on Oct. 23 would lower the City’s tax rate by 9.2 percent from the previous year to 81.4 cents per $100 of equalized assessed valuation (EAV). That continues a multiyear trend of lowering the City rate, resulting in a nearly 30 percent drop since 2019.
The City is using the new construction in 2023 as an opportunity to further drive down the tax rate. At the same time, the growth from projects including Meta, Ferrara and Amazon is so large that it also provides additional revenue for meeting the City’s state-mandated annual police and fire pension obligations.
“So, we are benefiting as a City from this, but we are also able to lower the tax levy enough that the public is benefiting from this unprecedented EAV,” said Mayor Cohen Barnes (second from right in photo). “That seems like really responsible government.”
All taxing bodies in the City are being encouraged to follow this trend through a series of tax summits convened by Mayor Barnes. Over the next few years, the goal is to lower the combined tax rates of all the taxing bodies, which was over $11 in 2021, to less than $9, providing property tax relief.
“Through this process, the City of DeKalb has tried to provide leadership, and the people sitting in front of me have provided leadership, trying to show that we can grow, we the taxing bodies which would be the beneficiaries of this, but we also have to keep in mind what’s our purpose,” said City Manager Bill Nicklas. “Our purpose is to serve the taxpayers.”
The Council will hold first reading on the tax levy ordinance at its meeting on Nov. 14.
Wessels Welcomed Into DeKalb
Wessels Family Farm Market is being welcomed into the City of DeKalb with a business-friendly approach to its annexation.
Annexation of the property at Sycamore Road and Greenwood Acres Drive was approved by the City Council Oct. 23. It was requested after improvements were made to the building on the site.
Instead of requiring several additional improvements before allowing the annexation, City Manager Bill Nicklas said the business will be allowed to grow into other expenses including a private fence, a more defined parking area and connecting to water and sewer. Mayor Cohen Barnes has been impressed with the investment that has already been made to the property.
“To see how beautiful it looks now, the new roof and the new siding, I think it’s absolutely wonderful and it helps spruce up that corner,” Barnes commented to the Wessels family. “On behalf of Council and City staff, we really appreciate the investment you’re making in our community.”
The Wessels, who have been selling farm-fresh produce and other seasonal items at the property since 2001, brought new life to a building that had been vacant after it has housed a restaurant and then a Harley Davidson dealership.
East Side Business Receives Support; Restaurant Closer to Opening
DeKalb is helping a business on the eastside make exterior improvements while a new downtown restaurant moves closer to opening.
The City Council on Oct. 23 approved a Fund 400 Architectural Improvement Program (AIP) Economic Incentive to Proven Winners for their building at 1600 East Lincoln Highway, which formerly housed a Farm and Fleet store and is now home to several locally-owned businesses.
The business is using an expansion of the AIP program made by the Council to assist businesses outside the TIF district, particularly those on East Lincoln Highway and South Fourth Street. The incentive of $13,935 will help fund new paint on the exterior of the main building, vestibule awnings, additional exterior lighting, and an AED device.
“(Proven Winners) spent a lot of money continuing to invest in that particular property,” said Mayor Cohen Barnes. “It’s nice that we can help make further improvements with them.”
The Council also approved a liquor license for the Flame, a new Greek restaurant planned downtown at 209 East Lincoln Highway. Owner Foti Pappas said the restaurant will add to the dining options that are helping to make downtown DeKalb a destination.
“(It brings) another twist of food to the downtown area,” said Pappas. “The downtown area now has a lot of different varieties of food, which is amazing.”
The Flame will follow this fall’s opening of Burger Naan, an Indian fusion restaurant on North Second Street.
Investment Into Barb City Manor Continues
The City of DeKalb continues its investment in Barb City Manor.
The City Council Oct. 9 approved a $50,000 allocation to repair the boiler at the independent retirement community in the former hospital on South First Street.
City Manager Bill Nicklas said the funding is part of the most recent lease agreement between the City, which owns the historic building, and Barb City Manor, the nonprofit which operates the center.
“We’ve been so lucky to have the management and the volunteer boards which, over the years, have done such a good job of keeping things up,” said Nicklas.
Under the ten-year agreement, the City provides $50,000 annually for capital improvements through 2028. In previous years, the City funding has gone towards replacement of the facility’s two main passenger elevators and modernization of a third elevator.