Flood-Prone Home Buyout Thread

Acceptance of a “pre-disaster mitigation grant” for buying more flood-prone homes is on the agenda for Monday (.pdf p. 33). Questions:

1) We’re broke, except for TIF. Where do we get the the $289,507.00 for our share?

2) What is the cutoff for number of years of home ownership required for a buyout? In other words how do we ensure the people helped are the long-term residents whose floodplain woes have made it demonstrably impossible to sell their homes?

3) Is there a requirement that the buyout homes be owner-occupied, primary residences?

4) The first round of buyouts included the home of a city employee, which was not disclosed publicly by city officials. What steps is the city willing to take in the interests of ethics, transparency and full disclosure, to eliminate the perception that “connected” people are unfairly benefitting from the buyouts? Continue reading Flood-Prone Home Buyout Thread

Fire Fighter Open Thread

From Monday’s City Council meeting agenda:

2) RESOLUTION AUTHORIZING THE MAYOR OF THE CITY OF DEKALB, ILLINOIS TO EXECUTE A VARIANCE AGREEMENT TO THE COLLECTIVE BARGAINING AGREEMENT WITH THE DEKALB INTERNATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF FIREFIGHTERS, LOCAL 1236, AFL-CIO FOR THE PERIOD OF JULY 1, 2008 THROUGH JUNE 30, 2011.

The City and IAFF Local 1236 have reached a tentative agreement. As part of this agreement, IAFF members agree to an eleven month wage freeze in year one and a six month wage freeze in year two during the remaining two years of the agreement. Members also agree to waive their carrying fee compensation through the term of the contract. In return, the City agrees to offer reinstatement to the three laid off firefighters and to hire an additional recently vacant position. The City also agrees that any firefighter that retires on or before September 5, 2009 shall be eligible for health insurance premiums that were in effect prior to June 29, 2009 but shall be subject to any changes that may occur in the future. Additionally, the City agrees not to lay-off or furlough any Union member through the term of the current contract (June 30, 2011). The terms of this variance agreement will result in approximately $350,000 in savings over the remaining two years of the agreement. Please direct questions about this item to Assistant City Manager Rudy Espiritu.

L. REPORTS – COMMUNICATIONS

M. RECESS FOR CLOSED SESSION

DeKalb needed to save $500,000 citywide this year. Does the two-year agreement help them meet this milepost? Has anybody done the math? Bueller?

The First Step

One of the citizen commenters at the council meeting last night brought up the City of DeKalb’s Management Pay Plan. She was scandalized by the leap from Step 1 to Step 2. It is easy to see why. Grade One starting pay, for example, is $18.158 per hour but on the first anniversary it jumps to $21.199. That’s a 16.75% increase. After that, annual increases are a more modest 2% per year and in fact they call it the “Two Percent Pay Plan.”

What the commenter seemed not to know is that all city contracts take a big jump from Step 1 to Step 2 (or Step A to Step B).

In 2008, the Police Contract (p. 35) started a patrol officer at an hourly wage of $26.69, which increased to $29.08 at Step B.

The AFSCME contract schedule (p. 40) pays a Building Supervisor at a rate of $28.291 the first year and $33.20 the second.

A new fire fighter makes $23.979 hourly to start, then goes to $29.524.

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

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.

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

School Transparency Legislation

SB2270 passed the Illinois Senate last month and is now being considered by the House. So far:

Requires school districts to post on their Internet website an itemized salary compensation report for every employee in the district holding an administrative certificate and working in that capacity, including the district superintendent. Sets forth what the salary compensation report must include. Requires the report to be presented at a regular school board meeting, subject to applicable notice requirements, and submitted to the office of the district’s regional superintendent of schools, which shall make copies available to any individual requesting them. With respect to a requirement that a school district post the contract that the school board enters into with an exclusive bargaining representative, requires the school board to provide the terms of that contract online.

Be still my heart.

Sen. Burzynski voted yea (pp. 253-254). Might we expect Rep. Pritchard to support it too? I’ll ask and get back to you. [Update: Yes, he does support it.]