Here’s a question that may have an easy answer
By TIM WEST email@example.com November 17, 2010 3:26PM
Updated: September 24, 2012 6:25AM
You had to appreciate the intensity of the people who went to the Naperville City Council meeting Tuesday to protest the firing of six Naperville police officers for budgetary purposes.
Well, maybe you didn’t have to appreciate it, but I did.
It was good to hear residents come out and commend the job the Naperville Police Department does and say its ranks should not be reduced. Some even argued that the force should be enlarged to the level it had before reductions started and perhaps even increased beyond that.
On the other hand, one of the councilmen, Dick Furstenau, had some things to say that were very much germane to the issue at hand — the city’s finances — and some of the members of the crowd impolitely became boo birds when he tried to explain a few financial facts of life to these folks. This was a pretty poor example to set for the kids some of them dragged along to carry signs.
Even if you don’t agree with what the city is doing, it is only common courtesy to hear out a councilman who is laying it on the line about the financial situation — not just in Naperville, but pretty much in a great many other local governments as well as our fiscally challenged federal government and bankrupt state of Illinois.
Primarily, Furstenau gave a clinic in how the growth in salaries had outstripped the ability to increase revenue. When salaries go up faster than the CPI increases and the money coming in increases, this is not a situation that can keep the city solvent forever.
This might have worked when the city was growing like gangbusters, and ever-increasing income was flowing in through increased property values, sales tax, fees and so forth.
Then the recession hit, and the fiscal house of cards that had been built, not just by Naperville but other governments as well, began to crumble.
Councilmen also tried to explain to people that because of fund restrictions, the city couldn’t just, for instance, sell the children’s museum to put a Show Me’s on Washington Street and use that money to patch the hole in the general fund. But their common sense explanations seemed to fall on deaf ears here, too.
The financial solution, at least until the construction industry rebounds and employment numbers increase, is pretty simple. Governments of all sorts can either cut services as well as the corresponding personnel who provide those services, and keep taxes stable, or maintain the service level and raise taxes, or some combination thereof.
I would have liked to have seen the council ask each protester who came to the microphone to answer one very simple question: “Would you be willing to have the city portion of your property taxes increased to maintain city services with the additional money to go for police protection?”
That also would be a good question for all of us who live here and pay property taxes to ask ourselves.
Call me cynical, but in most cases I bet I know what that answer would be.