In budget bind, Decatur cuts golf sponsorship
The Decatur City Council moved to stop paying $20,000 to sponsor a golf tournament with the village of Forsyth, a sensible move for a shrinking city operating on a budget deficit.
The city of Decatur will no longer pay $20,000 to sponsor a Symetra LPGA tournament in the area, after the city council was deadlocked on continuing the payment.
A 3-3 vote, with Decatur Mayor Julie Moore Wolfe out of town and unable to cast a tie-breaking vote, effectively ended the city’s payment to sponsor the tournament. The Decatur Herald & Review first reported in April that the city had not sent out the sponsorship money for the event, long called The Decatur Forsyth Classic, leading to the May 7 decision to vote on continuing funding. The event organizers dropped Decatur from the event’s title, renaming it The Forsyth Classic.
A reason cited among the three city council members who voted “no” was that – while the city is operating with a budget deficit – the council should be focused strictly on the core services of government and main budget items. That’s a positive choice for a city in need of a turnaround.
In December, Decatur passed a budget that was $3 million out of balance. While $20,000 seems small in the larger budgetary picture, the financial reality Decatur faces requires belt tightening.
Decatur’s budget deficit is no surprise when the city continuously is losing taxpayers. With a population drop of 3,400, or 4.5 percent, from 2010 to 2016, Decatur was Illinois’ fastest shrinking city over that time. In addition to the effect the population decline has had on its sales taxes, cable taxes and hotel taxes, Decatur lost $1.4 million in tax revenue from the state as well. The local government distributive fund, or LGDF, distributes shares of state personal and corporate income taxes to local governments not based on need, but on share of the state population. That means as Decatur shrinks, its handout from the state does as well.
Plenty needs to be done to bring Decatur back to a place where families and businesses can thrive. Reforming costly mandates, like workers’ compensation, that hurt the city’s once-prominent manufacturing sector would be a huge boon for Decatur, as would be getting Macon County’s high property taxes under control. But local officials reining in frivolous spending and putting forth responsible budgets would be a necessary and positive step in the right direction.