Challenging year for first responders and city finances highlighted in year-end Decatur City Council reports
Total violent crimes were up 30.4%, the number of fires was the highest in 10 years, and the city ended with a $500,000 general fund deficit were among the findings provided to the city council in advance of Tuesday’s Decatur City Council meeting. The findings are derived from reports from Decatur’s Police, Fire, Economic and Community Development, and Finance Departments that have been released in advance of the next Decatur City Council meeting, as well as available on the city’s website. Below are some additional observations from various departments.
Decatur’s total violent crimes increased 30% in 2020 compared to 2019 with 489 violent crimes committed in 2020 compared to 375 in 2019 (Crime Statistics - City of Decatur Police Department (decaturil.gov)). Shootings increased 104% with 169 in 2020 and 83 in 2019. Homicides rose with 13 in 2020 and 11 in 2019. Decatur’s total property crimes decreased 1% with 1,963 crimes committed in 2020 vs. 1,986 in 2019. This is the fewest property crimes in Decatur since at least 2017. In addition, traffic accidents decreased 22% from 2,849 in 2019 to 2,214 in 2020. The number of calls for service decreased 4% from 54,480 in 2019 to 52,236 in 2020.
The Decatur Fire Department experienced an increase in the number of alarms and fires in 2020. The number of alarms increased 1% from 10,968 in 2019 to 11,115 in 2020. The number of fires increased 18% from 333 in 2019 to 393 in 2020, the highest number of fires in 10 years. Given that the city has been without fire inspectors and investigators for several months, I am concerned about the rising number of fires and the lower number of city personnel dedicated to fire prevention.
COMMUNITY AND ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT - NEIGHBORHOOD REVITALIZATION
The city demolished 50% fewer delipidated properties in 2020 (30 houses) compared to 2019 (60 houses). The number of properties on the demolition list grew from 165 at the end of 2019 to 183 at the end of 2020 (11% increase) and the number of properties that were boarded up increased 11% from 155 in 2019 to 174 in 2020. The number of properties declared unfit for human habitation decreased 8% from 268 in 2019 to 247 in 2020. I continue to be concerned that the citywide neighborhood revitalization effort is not keeping pace with the rate of blight.
The city ended 2020 with a general fund deficit of $500,000 with revenue of $67.2 million (5% below original budget) and expense of $67.7 million (4% below original budget). The original 2020 budget projected revenue of $70.5 million and expense of $70.3 million with a $200,000 general fund surplus. Cash reserves ended at $7.6 million, a 39-day cash reserve.
Of note, food & beverage tax revenue was down $0.3 million [8% below original budget projection], video gambling revenue was down $0.4 million [-8%], state ($0.2 million) and local ($0.6 million) sales tax were down a combined $0.8 million, which was partially offset by state use tax (online sales) up $0.3 million [+25%]. Expenses were down primarily due to not replacing positions ($2.3 million in savings). Given the significant financial uncertainty the city faced, a budget deficit of <1% is noteworthy.
DEPARTMENTAL REPORTS AND AGENDAS FOR CITY COUNCIL MEETINGS ARE AVAILABLE ONLINE
An agenda and information about each agenda item for each city council meeting can be found at: https://www.decaturil.gov/mayor-and-council/council-meetings/.
CITIZENS ARE ENCOURAGED TO PROVIDE FEEDBACK TO CITY COUNCIL MEMBERS
If you would like to discuss this or any other issue with a city council member, phone numbers and e-mail addresses for each council member can be found at the following link: https://www.decaturil.gov/mayor-and-council/council/.
PLEASE EXPRESS YOUR VIEWS AT CITY COUNCIL MEETINGS
Meetings take place at the Theater located on the second floor of the Decatur Civic Center (1 Gary K. Anderson Place). Free parking is available in the lot immediately south of the entrance. Citizens are encouraged to attend meetings and express their views. Citizens are allotted 3 minutes per person near the beginning of each city council meeting. In addition, citizens can provide comments regarding one regular agenda item per meeting for up to three minutes provided they notify the city in advance (and prior to the start of the meeting). You can request to speak on a particular agenda item at a council meeting by filling out an on-line form at: https://www.decaturil.gov/mayor-and-council/advance-request-to-speak-at-council-meeting/.