A fresh look at “old” financial advice for DeKalb

At a recent budget meeting, DeKalb city manager Anne Marie Gaura (AMG) stated that she references the “EPI reports” frequently in financial planning.

Because the city’s finance advisory committee might likewise like to revisit EPI findings when it (the committee) reconvenes in 2018, I’d like to introduce EPI to our newer readers (and help refresh memories).

EPI stands for Executive Partners, Inc., which is the former name of an organization of financial consultants who, in 2009 and 2013, tried to help DeKalb think more strategically about its finances.

Here’s EPI’s Larry Kujovich in the spring of 2013, talking about DeKalb’s gigantic financial hole.


Because of EPI, we now have a debt policy.

Because of EPI, we’ve dodged the worst consequences of a very bad health insurance plan for retirees (though we may not be out of the woods yet – more coming in a separate post).

Does AMG really use the EPI reports? Yes and no. She, and others before her, have heavily utilized the sections devoted to advice for revenue generation. And it was under her that accumulations and payouts of comp time were eliminated. On the other hand, AMG’s desire to raise the local sales tax next year shows she has ignored or forgotten EPI’s specific warning against raising this particular tax; and she does not seem to be making much progress on suggested long-term strategies for cost savings in the areas of procurement, airport, and Information Technology (IT).

Furthermore, EPI has twice recommended a ”lean process analysis” of core staff functions to find and eliminate waste, as would probably prove particularly helpful for discussions in 2018 of operational and structural changes in the city organization. But if any movement ever happened in this arena, it’s obviously been erased by the hiring spree.

It’s been a selective process of implementation, is what I’m saying, and there are several good selections remaining.

EPI, by the way, also agrees with my recent assessment of the use of motor fuel tax funds, saying in 2009:

Transfer of Funds from Motor Fuel Tax Fund: EPI recommends that the City stop transferring Motor Fuel Tax funds to the General Fund, except to cover actual engineering costs for maintenance projects. It appears that the increased use of MFT funds has subsidized the General Fund while limiting the ability of the MFT Fund to address longer-term maintenance of streets and other infrastructure needs. The MFT Fund needs to keep its revenues to fund proper maintenance of streets in the City.

And, finally, the very recent “springing” of a proposal on us for a two-cent rise in the local fuel tax reminds us that DeKalb has yet to develop an actual process for consistent stakeholder participation and collaboration – yep, another recommendation from our friends at EPI.

There’s a pile of work yet to do, and though it’s been a few years, we can still comb the EPI reports for makings of an agenda.