A bucolic college town in the heart of Illinois, Normal is a creative and cosmopolitan town home to Illinois State University (Go, Redbirds!). The area offers more than 50,000 residents ample access to active recreation, such as rails-to-trails cycling conversions, the Illinois Shakespeare Festival, and a children’s museum and planetarium. The economy is also robust, offering residents access to quality employment through the local universities, Bloomington-based State Farm, and an electric-vehicle manufacturing plant. In 2020, the Rivian factory received a contract from Amazon to build 100,000 custom delivery vehicles. Truly, Normal is a Midwestern town on the rise.
Everything looks rosy in Normal on the fiscal front, too. Like most mid-sized American cities, the Great Recession took its toll, but through careful financial footwork from a team headed by Mayor Chris Koos, in office since 2003, Normal has managed to weather well the storm. “We recognize that a strong local economy is the cornerstone of good government,” Koos reflects. And it shows. His team’s prudent management and careful planning have allowed Normal to invest in constituent-focused projects while also shoring the community up for rainy days. Part of that smart fiscal management includes constant vigilance over the equity and accuracy of its tax-assessment and fee collections—especially with regard to utility-user taxes.
However, for a town Normal’s size that likes to run a lean operation, the trouble was how to balance resource allocation and potential financial rewards. Koos and company didn’t want to fund a full-time, on-staff auditor, but Normal did want the additional transparency and funds, and to hold utility providers accountable for errors.
So Normal turned to a reputable partner with a long and storied track record in local-government revenue reviews: Azavar. For more than 25 years, Azavar has conducted municipal audits in conjunction with governments on tax topics such as electricity, food and beverage, fuel, hospitality, natural gas, short-term rentals, telecom, waste, and more. But more than just Azavar’s experience, Koos was pleased that the firm’s contingency-based fee structure met Normal’s needs. "It was a no-risk proposition for us,” says Koos, “we would share any savings or new revenue that we realized, but if nothing was discovered, we would not owe Azavar any money.”
Recovered Each Year
AAA Fitch Rating and Improved Stability
Azavar went to work, employing its team of local-government experts combined with specialized software. Through careful analysis of thousands of address records and reams of data, Azavar produced a comprehensive findings report for Normal that the town leaders loved. Due to address-coding errors on the part of local utility companies providers Ameren and Nicor, Normal was owed significant past revenues. These funds would add to community coffers retroactively and fixing errors yielded an additional $5k per month. Plus, Azavar confirmed that Normal’s sales-tax collection efforts were equitable and accurate.
Both of these findings helped shore up Normal’s reputation as a government with a solid financial future. Through the combination of the municipal team’s efforts and Azavar’s results, Normal earned a coveted AAA rating from Fitch in 2016. Congratulations, Normal!
Prudent financial leaders need to double-check all sources of revenue frequently to reassure constituents. But it’s incredibly challenging to allocate in-house resources for these tasks. That’s why the Azavar team stands ready to use rich expertise, peerless services, and advanced technology to help local governments succeed.
Azavar offers a risk-free means for municipalities to ensure the complete and equitable collection of taxes and franchise fees.