Notes from the “Lunatic Fringe”

I love being called “lunatic fringe” by a City Council member. I really do. Let them show the world how far this body has fallen in matters of decorum and discipline. Let them demonstrate how much they despise the people they are supposed to be representing. Folks ought to know exactly who’s responsible for running this city into the ground through ignorance, arrogance and denial.

My lunacy at last night’s Council meeting comes after the jump. Continue reading Notes from the “Lunatic Fringe”

City Budget: Mulling Over Police, Fire and More

In 2008, in the midst of a self-proclaimed fiscal crisis, City Council voted to allow the (former) Community Development Department to obtain a new SUV.

This is symbolic, see? The Police and Fire departments have had to put off replacing vehicles and some equipment since then. The Police Department, in particular, is getting nickel-and-dimed on old patrol cars that should have been retired last year, and the year before, and the year before that. But Community Development got exactly what it wanted.

And, as each new downtown brick paver is tamped into place, it must seem like a slap in the face. Continue reading City Budget: Mulling Over Police, Fire and More

Open Thread 5/4

Use this space as a catch-all for commenting on the city budget hearings, to give good link for the new Open Books page (I am particularly interested in a few good databases), or whatever else is on your mind.

Forgot to tell you that Norway Farms is parking at G&L’s Auto Repair on Thursdays from 11-1:30. Milt does this every year because the asparagus always needs pickin’ from about a month before the DeKalb Farmers’ Market begins. G&L is on South Fourth across from the Lehan’s-Dollar General building.

Last Thursday I bought two 1-lb bunches for five bucks and sauteed about 3/4 lb of the slenderest tenderest with green peas and thyme. Today the rest goes into soup.

The Farmers’ Market starts June 3.

City Budget Open Thread…Mayday! Mayday!

money The proposed City of DeKalb FY 2011 budget has total expenditures going up by about $5 million over last year, mostly due to increased spending on the downtown TIF, health insurance and the airport.

The budget as drafted will be balanced IF:

  • there are cuts of 25-30 staff (or, alternatively, everyone takes a 12% pay cut)

  • the State pays its full share of the income tax

  • prices of commodities such as gas and road salt don’t go up

  • revenue projections are in the ballpark

  • they can continue to keep the lid on overtime
  • Continue reading City Budget Open Thread…Mayday! Mayday!

    Comments on 4/12 Meeting

    I jumped in about 7:30 last night, in the midst of citizens’ comments so the proclamations must have taken a long time! Here’s my assessment of what I saw.

    The Bad

    The saddest part, of course, was Council’s approval of almost all of ReNew DeKalb’s wish list. With that they closed the door on the possibility of using TIF funding for the badly-needed police station expansion for the next 10 years; an option that, in light of our poor financial position, we should have held onto.

    Also, the city left out something important in its repayment calculations. It’s all well and good to ask whether we can repay the $12 million if EAV within the TIF drops another 5% or 10%, but nobody mentioned what the threshold is for real trouble. Why is a 10% drop the arbitrary worst-case scenario? Is it because we’d hit trouble at 11%? 15%? Holy cow, I can’t believe nobody asked. This is a failure of imagination that could really end up biting us.

    The Good Continue reading Comments on 4/12 Meeting

    I Got My Water Bill Today

    Dear City of DeKalb,

    I would be OK with your raising my water bill $80 this year if it were going toward something water-related like paying Water Division personnel, replacing water mains or painting towers. Instead, I know much (if not all) of the increase is going — as $500,000 from Water already goes annually — to the General Fund for nonessential stuff you still insist on giving yourselves, such as magazine subscriptions, car allowances, and reimbursed “business” lunches in Opportunity/Innovation Central.

    Blood. Turnip. Just sayin’. The borscht train is about to run off the track.

    (Yeah, I know: mixed veggies. Long day. I’ll try to do better with the property tax bill.)

    Voluntary Separation

    The agenda packet for Monday’s special City Council meeting to discuss the Voluntary Separation Program (VSP) is missing a few things:

    1) An analysis of how much this program could cost us. Surely the city must know how many of its employees are eligible, since only those with 20 or more full years of continuous service qualify. There must be a memo or some other backup material to show why this is such a good plan. To withhold it is either careless or naughty.

    2) Some mention of where the money for the VSP would come from.

    3) A provision for how long a separated employee must remain separated from the city. Otherwise, we could end up with some pretty interesting scenarios, and I mean “interesting” in the sense that we wouldn’t care for them.

    More Water Games

    Minutes of the January 12 special joint meeting of City Council and Financial Advisory Committee yielded this:

    Mr. Espiritu discussed the fund balances along with suggestions to make them sustainable. He recommended that the General Fund build up a 25% fund balance with the City setting aside 5% per year over a 5-year period. Also, the Water Fund should attain a 25% balance with rate raises over a four-year period.

    The Water Division has an FY 2010 budget of $4.8 million (PDF pp. 95-97), which incidentally matches up pretty well to the projected water sales revenues. However, it costs only $2.8 million to operate the Water Division. Where does the other $2 million go? Continue reading More Water Games

    Council Watch, January 25 Meetings

    Committee of the Whole meeting agenda includes a discussion of establishing a line of credit (PDF p. 3).

    Staff contacted eight banks located in DeKalb about submitting their terms and rates for a $2.5M line of credit for the City. We have received four quotes, of which Castle Bank had the lowest fixed rate at 4.95%, while Fifth Third Bank had the lowest variable rate at 1.75% + .25% of any unused principal. This line of credit will be necessary to maintain City operations while revenues continue to decline.

    Um, no, I think rather the idea is to maintain cash flow for operations while the city is waiting for revenues to come in, not to make up for declining revenues. The wording here is a little troubling.

    Where’s that debt policy?! Continue reading Council Watch, January 25 Meetings

    Franklin Park’s Budget Blues

    Thanks to the person who sent a link to IAFF Local 1526 representing the Franklin Park firefighters. It’s always an education to find out how other communities are coping in these times. Franklin Park is a village of 19,500 situated near O’Hare. It is contemplating laying off 6 firefighters and 7 police officers as part of a strategy to balance its budget. A rally to protest such a move is planned for January 23 and Village Mayor Barrett Pedersen is a particular target because of campaign promises he made last year to protect union jobs and to resist the formation of a regional fire department.

    Indeed: in a statement on the Mayor’s page of the Village website, Mayor Pedersen thanks the voters and lays out his priorities:

    Public safety is our first priority. Our upcoming budget will include funding to improve our public safety departments and provide an increased police presence in our neighborhoods.

    Whoa! What’s happening here? Well, for one thing, neither police nor fire departments have contracts right now so they’re on the table. Also, it’s possible the mayor’s been whacked with a reality stick since the election: Continue reading Franklin Park’s Budget Blues