Public gets first peek at city’s proposed financial plan on Monday

Officials to look for ways to grow revenue


Patrick Murphy

City of DeKalb is working to rework and improve The 2025 Strategic Plan.

DeKALB – The City Manager’s office is preparing to unveil a new financial plan to the public at the DeKalb City Council Meeting on March 14 at the DeKalb Public Library. This plan will be the first step toward replacing the DeKalb 2025 Strategic Plan which is nearing its end. 

“The city has a strategic plan nearing the end of its time frame,” said Bill Nicklas, City Manager of DeKalb. “It’s been out of touch for about five years.”

The DeKalb 2025 Strategic Plan was created in 2016 to be a ten-year guide that would present goals for the city to follow. Their mission statement was to “deliver high-quality municipal services to those who live, work, learn in or visit our community,” according to the full strategic plan

Among the goals was to fulfill five visions: Sense of Place, Community Vitality and a Vibrant Downtown, Inclusiveness, Accessibility and Efficient, Quality and Responsive Services. 

The plan was running smoothly with 70 out of 82 action items being achieved in 2017, according to an End-of-the-Year report for the 2017 Fiscal Year. However, the plan became very out of touch around 2018, which can be attributed to its too-large timeframe. 

“The first two years are reasonable because you have to think beyond the four walls of 12 months,” Nicklas said. “If you go beyond three years, you may as well print the phone book.”

The plan was finally abandoned when the COVID-19 pandemic created a whole new environment of problems for the city. 

“No one could have predicted COVID-19,” Nicklas said. 

Now, new plans are being drafted to improve DeKalb’s fiscal stability and safety. The end goal of these plans is to “promote economic development by diversifying the tax base, new businesses, career jobs, and having people stay here to find jobs,” Nicklas said. 

Instead of having people leave DeKalb for good job opportunities, they will instead stay in a vibrant community that is kind to new businesses, has reliable public service and contains a feeling of security.

“We want people to have services that will be there tomorrow,” Nicklas said. 

To realize this vision effectively, three different plans will be announced this year to be put into motion after community input and a city council vote. 

“We know we don’t have the final word,” Nicklas said. “There’s lots of public discussion.”

The first of these three plans is the Financial Plan, which will be unveiled on March 14. The Financial Plan will address the economic growth of DeKalb and how it can create more revenue for the city. In 2021, $16.5 million was raised in sales taxes and $6.5 million was raised through property taxes, according to the DeKalb City Budget for the 2022 Fiscal Year

“We live and die by sales taxes and property taxes,” Nicklas said. “If people aren’t buying, our revenue is affected.”

Following the Financial Plan, a Land Use Plan is scheduled to be revealed in May and a Strategic Thinking Plan in the summer. While all of these plans are expected to gain public interest, some are going to be more popular. 

“(The Financial Plan is) not exactly popular unless you’re an accountant and love numbers,” Nicklas said. “The Land Use Plan is more sexy.”

With new plans for DeKalb in motion, Nicklas is hopeful that this will be more effective than the 2016 plan. 

“This new plan will make lots of progress and be more forward-looking,” Nicklas said. “We’re going to engage people and ask, ‘if you like this now and what would you like to be better.’”