DeKalb Property Taxes & City Pensions

The agendas for the council meetings tonight include a public hearing about setting the city’s property tax levy, which they must think will be controversial because you must wade through 112 pages of the PDF file to get to the related items (also see page 114).

I was surprised to find out that the levy request is the same as last year, because it said in the newspaper that the rate was once again expected to go up significantly. Having to raise the rates repeatedly to keep the take the same is bad news. It reminds me of the utility tax problem. Some communities are beginning to recover, but not DeKalb, it seems.

Here’s one area where we ARE bouncing back, though:

[easychart type=”line” width=”420″ title=”Pension Fund Balances” groupnames=”Police, Fire” valuenames=”’06, ’07, ’08, ’09, ’10, ’11, ’12” group1values=”20.7, 23.1, 22.4, 20.5, 22.5, 25.9, 28.1″ group2values=”15.7, 17.7, 17.6, 16.3, 18.1, 20.9, 22.5″ minaxis=”15.5″] Continue reading DeKalb Property Taxes & City Pensions

First Reading of Housing Ordinance Changes Comes Tomorrow

The agenda for tomorrow’s city council meetings is here. Now, it finally becomes apparent* that the $6 million they’ve got stockpiled in the TIF 2 fund is mostly going to go into the Municipal Building. Of course, the use of TIF money for this purpose will bring in all kinds of new private development and tax revenues…somehow…right?

Also up for consideration at first reading are changes to the housing ordinances (see PDF pp. 39-40. As previously discussed, the main problem with the proposals (besides the costs) is the blurring of police functions with code enforcement functions. Such disregard for roles and boundaries will come to no good and I’m quite surprised the police department seems willing to risk its reputation with a mess like this.

At any rate, the DeKalb Area Rental Association (DARA) has sent another letter to the administration about these ordinances. I’ll place it after the jump. Continue reading First Reading of Housing Ordinance Changes Comes Tomorrow

Two Poodles Bring Zombie Housing Ordinance to Council

DeKalb’s Committee of the Whole agenda for Monday includes a zombie ordinance.

Enclosed is an old draft of an ordinance prepared by Klein Thorpe, and Jenkins in which property maintenance items were at one time included in a former draft of the Chronic Nuisance ordinance.

The Housing Task Force rejected the ordinance, and Council already gave direction in this matter. Nevertheless, two council members (henceforth to be thought of as “Biernacki’s poodles” due to my having drawn personal conclusions) requested it be brought back onto the agenda.

The DeKalb Area Rental Association (DARA) has responded by pointing out that the agenda addition brings building code into proposals that were meant only to address residents’ behaviors.

What’s wrong with that? Potentially plenty. It means the zombie provisions are not tweaks, but rather constitute a proposal for a MAJOR POLICY SHIFT from code enforcement being a primarily a “civilian” activity to becoming a police function.

There are a lot of implications — not the least of which is the elimination of Public Works jobs — and they deserve their own discussions on the merits.

Make the jump to read the memo on this agenda item. Continue reading Two Poodles Bring Zombie Housing Ordinance to Council

Monmouth Steals DeKalb Police Chief


The Monmouth City Council met in exec­utive session to consider filling the position of Chief of Police then returned to the council chambers to vote 7–0 to employ William (Bill) Feithen for the position of Chief of Police at an annual salary of $75,000. In a press release following the council meeting city offi­cials disclosed that Chief Feithen has spent the last 37 years in DeKalb, Illinois, “the last eleven as Chief of the DeKalb Police Department.”

Chief Feithen starts in Monmouth February 27.

[Hat tip: C.R.]

Public Safety Costs & DeKalb’s Financial Health

In last Thursday’s post I shared some preliminary observations about the latest contract between the City of DeKalb and the firefighters’ union.

Since then I’ve gotten a little feedback on it behind the scenes. The gist of the response is this: What’s the deal? Does yinn have something against well-compensated public employees?

The short answer is that I believe city employees and especially public safety employees deserve every penny we can afford.

The larger deal is that since late 2007 — despite hiring freezes, layoffs, reorganizations and attrition — the City of DeKalb has essentially been reacting continually to financial crises and deficits and in early 2010, city officials said that something drastic had to happen in order to avoid being $5 million in the hole by the end of FY2011.

Then DeKalb ended up with a $6.3 million audited surplus for FY2011.

The question is, does this surplus reflect real recovery and growth? Or will we, in the midst of hiring and giving generous raises a couple years out, be forced yet again to lay off and reorganize due to personnel costs outpacing revenues? Continue reading Public Safety Costs & DeKalb’s Financial Health

CCEC Disapproves of DeKalb’s New Police Cars

Citizens Community Enhancement Commission members are upset their logo was totally rejected as the new design for the police cars, so now they want a do-over:


1. New Police Squads

[Assistant City Manager Rudy] Espiritu distributed pictures of the new police cars. A survey was done with Police personnel, and the staff selected the logo in the pictures, he said. The logo recommended by the CCEC
received no votes, he added. However, he said, it is placed on the bumper.

Mr. Barnes disagreed that the logo selected was the best choice. He added that police cars market the image of DeKalb.

He suggested that in the future, the voting be open to all City staff, residents and the CCEC. Mr. Rasmussen agreed and added that the logo looks garish and needs to be subdued. Continue reading CCEC Disapproves of DeKalb’s New Police Cars

The Vehicle Maintenance & Acquisition Fund That Isn’t

In “Council in the Twilight Zone,” I lauded 7th Ward Alderman Monica O’Leary for questioning this part of the July 11 meeting agenda:

The Police Department was awarded a Grant through the Illinois Criminal Justice Authority Board (ICJIA) to purchase a replacement for the Police Shift Command Vehicle. The award amount is $20,000 and the city is required to provide the remaining funds. The Police Departments portion will be taken from the Vehicle Maintenance and Acquisition Fund.

Ms. O’Leary said she couldn’t find this fund in the budget, and with good reason: It doesn’t exist.

There’s a Q&A about the fund/vehicle funding after the jump. Continue reading The Vehicle Maintenance & Acquisition Fund That Isn’t

Last in Line

As predicted in Sunday’s post, suddenly DEKALB’S FIRST RESPONDERS ARE #1 PRIORITY AND OMG WE MUST BUILD THE POLICE STATION RIGHT NOW, according to our city council.

It offends me deeply, because the The NUMBER ONE PRIORITY statement is a BIG LIE. The people who really have made public safety the priority are the folks who have protested new SUVs, serial land acquisitions, and ReNew DeKalb’s insatiable appetite for baubles ever since the first of the budget troubles appeared three-plus years ago.

If first responders were really the NUMBER ONE PRIORITY, Council would have insisted one or two of them be hired instead of a central purchasing person and an economic development person/company.

If public safety were really the NUMBER ONE PRIORITY, Council would have found a way to squeeze a couple more cops out of the $400,000 freed up from the debt restructuring.

They should knock it off already. The real story is probably some combination of a) the City being shamed by recent events, and b) the banker overlords requiring a new infusion of tax dollars now that the downtown project is winding down. Continue reading Last in Line

Special Meeting on Muni/Police Building & Financing

A special meeting Monday of the DeKalb City Council and the Financial Advisory Committee is set to examine two Municipal Building remodeling/building options with emphases on police station space needs and improved access for people with disabilities.

The Good
One of the options presented includes a proposal to sell off city property worth $2.2 million to help finance a renovation and addition.

The Bad
We don’t know where the rest of the money will come from. Perhaps some bucks have been “freed up” by the debt restructuring. After paying some employees twice for not working and having the General Fund balance dip to $22,000 recently, it’s uncertain whether they can make a solid case for it, though. Continue reading Special Meeting on Muni/Police Building & Financing

City Layoffs

Here is a comment that popped up in another post this afternoon:

Well as of today start to look for your own way of provideing some city services. Twenty employees got laidoff today, and 10 others were taking the early retirment package, and reportly 2 got terminated. So what does this mean no one left to do the blue collar work.

At this moment the Daily Chronicle states that a news release with the specifics is expected about 4 p.m. It is 3:40 as I type this.

The budget hasn’t been finalized yet, but some contracts — AFSCME comes to mind — require prior notice for layoffs, in case the unions can come up with an alternative plan in the interim.