DeKalb might be doing some juggling with fire department budget

Below is the year-to-date expenditure report for fire operations for December 2020. Two things are startling about it. First you see that overtime expenses reached $1.1 million for the year, which exceeds the budget for o.t. by $688,000. Then see how DeKalb failed to make a final pension contribution of $708,000 on time, which was not the case for the other years I checked (2019, 2018, and 2017).

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Do you remember my post about the city taking chunks of first responder pension contributions out of the fire and police departmental budgets and disappearing them into General Fund Support for 2021? (If not, or if you want a refresher, check it out here.) The amount removed from the fire budget was $746,000.

I alerted you to the change, but we never talked about the why. The city manager said at a budget meeting that separating property tax allocations from non-property tax contributions for the pensions was a way to highlight how much of the pensions the property tax revenues fail to cover. But obviously, the most practical goal in removing hundreds of thousands from a departmental budget is to create a surplus or to erase or diminish an anticipated deficit from that budget.

Looking at it this way, and particularly with o.t., missed or late pension payment, and the wholesale removal of pension obligations from the FD budget all hovering in the neighborhood of $700,000, these unusual activities start to look like a juggling act to hide a deficit of that amount.

Additional resources:

Portion of FD ops from city expenditure report for November 2020, one month before the one I showed you at the beginning of the post.

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Portion of FD ops from city expenditure report for December 2019.

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