Sent this in last week and was told Monday it would be published in the Chronicle “in a couple days.”
DeKalb City Council passed a resolution June 22 authorizing the city manager to reduce the number of firefighters for Fiscal Year 2010 as a means to present a balanced budget to the community. Let me make it clear that I am no fan of the firefighter layoff option. However, a resolution is a directed plan of action, and the FY2010 budget ordinance—approved on the same day—depends on this plan of action.
Yet following a 45-minute closed session during a special meeting on June 29, Mayor Povlsen suddenly announced that the city was still in negotiation with the firefighters’ union. In short order, Council violated its own Resolution 09-41, (budget) Ordinance 09-34, and the Open Meetings Act, which prohibits decisions being made in closed session.
City government is becoming a law unto itself. Continue reading Lawlessness Letter
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
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
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.
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
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
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
The City of DeKalb could save a million dollars per year by terminating its post-retirement health plan, according to recommendations of Executive Partners, Inc. (pp. 150-152, 173, 184). EPI suggests the plan be discontinued ASAP lest we be eaten alive by it.
Has Council talked about this yet? No.
EPI also recommends one full-time position be eliminated from the city clerk’s office (p. 169). Last night, the clerk’s budget was discussed. Was this recommendation even brought up? No.
All the talk about putting “everything on the table” rings a bit hollow, don’tcha think?
The mayor complained that they were playing to an empty Chamber. He seems not to get it that people don’t want to watch the same dog-and-pony show over and over, or to be derided as the Vocal Few (p. 3).
They did it again. Last night at Council (CoW), while discussing the city’s financial outlook, it was reported that the Water Fund is operating at a deficit, and, whew! good thing they raised water rates or else it would be really out of control!
What a crock. The Water Division is a money maker (pp. 96-7). What happens is, the city transfers $500,000-$525,000 every single year to the
Black Hole General Fund. In FY2010, the Water Fund will also pay out more than $800,000 in debt service and loan payments. They siphon, then have to borrow money for–what?–repairs probably.
You know, between the debt distributed across four funds, underfunded pensions and that $29.4 million post-retirement insurance liability (which will not even be mentioned until after the budget is passed, unless one of us brings it up) we really are in hock up to our eyeballs. It’s anybody’s guess as to how long this house of cards can stand.
The level of trust we should put in city government, however, is not in doubt at all.