3/17/09

From the diary on my campaign site:

Getting tired of the whole “we have a balanced budget” and “we have a surplus” talk…Tell you what -– let’s go with that. Let’s just say we believe the surplus is real, on condition that if it disappears right after the election, the city manager is held responsible and dismissed.

Nobody’s been held responsible or dismissed yet, except for 3 firefighters.

Caving?

Good for AFSCME. The union did its job.

AFSCME members voted Wednesday night on a proposal where they will take a wage freeze for one year, and in return, the city will not lay off any workers through the remainder of the contract, which expires Dec. 31, 2010.

I think it would have been fairer to the rest of us if the no-layoff period and the wage freeze period had ended up the same, considering how this affects flexibility in dealing with the financial crises; but, at least they’re holding firm on th — oh, wait.

In addition, AFSCME’s health insurance premium costs will not go up in 2010, Biernacki said. Currently, employees pay 15 percent of the premium, which was supposed to increase to 20 percent on July 1, 2010.

How does the city’s continuing to pick up that 5% of the premium for 70 employees affect the purported $480,000 in FY2010 savings achieved with a citywide wage freeze? The question must be asked and answered before Council can vote on the proposal. I tried to look at Monday’s meeting agenda online to see if it is addressed in a memo but not only did the agenda not load properly, it messed up my browser.

City of DeKalb to Honor Contracts When It Feels Like It

Last night I once again spent four hours in Bizzaro World. It was very hot inside and about the same hot outside, yet the exit from the city council meeting felt like a breath of fresh air.

Well, it did until a certain city official tracked me down as we stood outside in little groups to process what had happened. He wanted to take me to task for “not providing context” to my gym membership figures when I spoke at the last council meeting. Seems he felt I should have gone into detail about which portion comes from payroll deduction vs. how much from the city, etc.

[rant on] Continue reading City of DeKalb to Honor Contracts When It Feels Like It

Rally for Human Services Tomorrow

DeKalb Community Coordinated Child Care (4C) is planning a rally at Rep. Bob Pritchard’s office Thursday (tomorrow) at noon. The reason: social service agencies expect to be funded by the state this coming fiscal year at half the usual levels.

If this happens, agencies such as Children’s Learning Center daycare, which serves many low-income families with subsidized childcare, would have to close its doors. This would affect the livelihoods and well-being of hundreds of families.

Now, I’ve never visited Rep. Pritchard in his local office because he is just so very good about responding to e-mail, but I see it is listed as being at 2600 DeKalb Avenue in Sycamore–oh! I do believe that’s also where the DeKalb County Community Foundation is headquartered.

FY2010 Budget Thread

City of DeKalb is thinking of cutting Re:New DeKalb’s funding.

The second change is a reduction in funding to Re:New DeKalb from $50,000 to $45,000 annually.

“This is in consideration in both a reduction in human services funding and as a first step for Re:New DeKalb to be fiscally independent from the city by Fiscal Year 2012,” Espiritu said.

Currently, Re:New is funded by the economic development fund, which relies solely on hotel-motel tax revenues.

If this budget is approved as it stands so far, human services funding will be cut 25%, not 10%. That’s not a very good start on Re:New, then, especially if they indeed propose to phase out the allocation completely within three years. Let’s also make clear that Re:New will never be self-sufficient of tax dollars in any real sense, as its raison d’etre is to spend TIF dollars and its staff enjoy benefits through NIU. Continue reading FY2010 Budget Thread

Municipal Morality

If you peruse the city’s check registers you start getting a feel for certain patterns. Based on a sample of five months over the past 15, DeKalb on average pays out about $5000 per month on cell phone service, $600 for locks and keys, maybe up to $1000 or so for janitorial supplies and sometimes more than $1000 for janitorial services.

Some entries bespeak the good life on our dime. A few jump to mind: the $145 framed photo of “B Foster” that you will have to visit the airport to see; what appears to be the entire Wogen family getting into great shape to the tune of $299 per annual gym membership; and several happy TIF Fund recipients, not the least of which are the venerable Hitchcock Design Group. I have not spotted a payment to Hitchcock for less than $14,500 (yes, for a month) and they frequently bill for much, much more.

But there’s no money for an additional police officer, nor enough to go on supporting the homeless shelter.

EPI Letter

Appearing today in the Chronicle:

To the editor:

In a controversial action late last year, the city of DeKalb hired a financial consultant, Executive Partners Inc., to analyze our finances and make recommendations for putting the city on better financial footing.

EPI’s evaluation, “Strategic Financial Evaluation & Planning Process,” was distributed to council members May 1. (It can be picked up at the Municipal Building or found online at www.cityofdekalb.com.) The report contains an analysis, an action plan and a list of 10 priorities meant for implementation as soon as possible.

You’d think the priority items, at least, would have been placed immediately on the DeKalb City Council agenda for consideration due to the potential for substantial savings in fiscal year 2010. Instead, a backroom decision was made to defer discussion until after the budget was approved. Continue reading EPI Letter

State Employee Database

Pantagraph.com has compiled a database of State of Illinois employees using information obtained through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). It includes salaries. It does not include university employees. You can search by agency, by county of residence or both. DeKalb County lists 383 residents who are state employees such as tollway workers, correctional officers, child welfare workers, and agricultural inspectors.

That’s a lot of neighbors who could be affected directly by a “doomsday” state budget. Many–most?–work here, too.

Budget Workshop Open Thread 2

Last night the Engineering budget was scrutinized. There were some good questions, I learned a thing or two, and there was much less shouting at the TV. However, I observed a fundamental error in thinking and that is the tying of salaries to permit revenues. This is one reason we got into such a mess in the first place, by trying to match up fixed costs to variable revenues. Sure, there’s a relationship but it can’t be as direct as saying we will hire as many people as will match the current revenue level, because then we have to cut ruthlessly when revenues are down–and as you can see we are quite terrible at it. There’s a better way. Continue reading Budget Workshop Open Thread 2

Police Station Letter

An LTE sent to the Chronicle last week made it in today:

To the editor:

During the municipal election campaign I remarked publicly that DeKalb’s Police Facility Advisory Committee (FAC) was not allowed to consider any police station options other than a brand-new station built on the Lincoln Highway commercial site that had already been purchased. Then-alderman and FAC member Donna Gorski took issue with my statement in a letter to the editor. Continue reading Police Station Letter