We noted with interest Crain’s coverage of news related to the Fitch rating of DuPage County. Far from being “over,” or the homogeneous land of “ranch houses and ranch dressing,” DuPage is a vibrant, attractive, diverse county with residents who speak more than 70 languages and who hail from all over the globe.
What is unique about DuPage is our emphasis on, and success at, living within our fiscal means. And that’s really what’s at the heart of any financial rating. For the past eight and soon-to-be nine years, the DuPage County Board has not raised the county portion of its property tax. In FY 2017, the levy remains flat at $66.9 million. Our countywide elected officials and department heads have made a science of living within their budgeted amounts while providing outstanding service to citizens. We’ve been aided by our Accountability, Consolidation and Transparency Initiative which challenges us every day to reduce the size, scope and cost of local government. We can catalogue $100 million+ in projected savings due to collaboration, consolidation and streamlining operations. What’s frustrating is that rather than reward our outstanding fiscal management and prudent use of taxpayer resources, Fitch moved DuPage’s rating to AA+ from the AAA rating it bestowed just months before in January. This action was taken largely because we are not home rule and cannot unilaterally raise taxes, unlike Cook County. Under the new Fitch criteria, no non-home rule county in Illinois will be able to meet Fitch’s AAA standard. So instead of scoring in the top 1.5% of all U.S. counties, DuPage’s strong fiscal performance now ranks among the top 2.5% of all counties (71 out of 3,000 counties). We can’t help but wonder whether the taxpayers would rather have us score one small percentage point higher on a rating scale, or every year, dig deeper to pay higher property taxes? Given our collective experience with DuPage taxpayers and business owners, we feel fairly certain we know the answer. And we’ll sleep quite well at night helping our county “stay the course” we’ve set for meeting our obligations and squeezing every drop of value out of each hard-earned taxpayer dollar we receive. Dan Cronin Chairman DuPage County Board