Niles, Morton Grove Have Less Debt Than Many Other Towns

While some burbs have gotten into 10 percent debt by spending on big ticket items such as golf courses, according to an in-depth Chicago Tribune analysis, Niles and Morton Grove have kept debt down to tightwad levels.


South suburban Glenwood thought it would be a moneymaker to build a municipal golf course. However, it has left the town with an 11.7 percent general obligation bond debt rate, according to the Chicago Tribune. 

That's money that its homeowners and residents are on the hook for.

The newspaper did an exhaustive analysis of a trend towards suburbs taking on increasing amounts of debt. Some suburbs have rates as high as 20 percent.

Evanston didn't build anything flashy, but it did fund infrastructure improvements and an early retirement program at a time its tax base was declining, resulting in general obligation bond debt of 5.6 percent, the newspaper said.

At Morton Grove's village board meeting Monday, Mayor Dan Staackmann waved a copy of the newspaper article during his President's report, proudly noting that Morton Grove's debt level is well under the old state limit, no longer in effect, of 5 percent. The Tribune said Morton Grove's debt is 2.9 percent

In Niles, Finance Director Scot Neukirch said, "Niles has very low debt relative to other communities."

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The Tribune calculated Niles' debt at 1.6 percent, but Neukirch's calculations place it even lower. 

Niles' total general obligation bond debt as of Fiscal Year 2012 was $18,780,000, he noted. Niles' tax year 2011 total equalized assessed valuation was $1,370,675,000.  

"The article refers to debt as it relates to the property tax base," he wrote in an email. "So the Niles percentage would be $18,780,000 divided by $1,370,675,000 which equals 1.37%."

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