DeKalb’s $10 Million Budget Hole

I’ve had a preliminary look at DeKalb’s FY17 budget.

The proposed operations (General Fund) budget, which begins in January, has $2.8 million in additional spending for personnel alone when compared to the FY16 budget that ended June 30. (I am ignoring the current six-month “FY16.5” budget at this time.) Biggest jumps:

$743,000 more in regular wages
$485,000 more for health insurance
$1,712,600 more for police and fire pensions

Total operations spending from the General Fund (GF) is projected to be up $3.3 million as compared to revenues, which are expected to increase by only $2.5 million.

How are they bridging the gap? I’ve spotted three ways so far: Read the rest of this entry

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Hit the “city clerk restoration” tag for posts about this action.

Just yesterday, we were comparing the positions of city clerk as practiced in Sycamore and DeKalb.

You can see from that post that Sycamore and DeKalb treat their city clerks very differently, though this was not true in the past.

To continue the comparison: Sycamore’s municipal code follows the applicable Illinois statutes, while DeKalb’s differs from state law in several ways.

To show this, I’m bringing back a table I published in April that describes how DeKalb’s municipal code differs from Illinois statutes in four important ways. DeKalb began deviating from the statutes following the resignation of clerk Steve Kapitan in 2012. Read the rest of this entry

Once upon a time, City of Sycamore and City of DeKalb had duly elected, full-time city clerks. Sycamore still has one. DeKalb’s, however, was destroyed in 2013. Low compensation and transfer of powers to the city manager’s office have deprived us of elected clerks and clerk candidates ever since.

Whatever the city thought it was doing when it allowed this state of affairs, the reality is that DeKalb residents may soon be facing their third election in which zero candidates for clerk appear on the ballot. Read the rest of this entry

The compensation ordinance that will apply to our next city clerk has NOT received final approval. So there is no, or at least not yet, a “hefty raise” for the clerk as claimed by the newspaper today. It was only first reading. They only reveal this fact in the final sentence of the article.

The issue is scheduled to come back before the City Council for final consideration Oct. 24.

Until then, all compensation numbers are placeholders, and a lot could conceivably happen between now and then.

The mayor’s compensation is $22,500 and is not expected to change. The clerk’s compensation is $5,000. The proposed rise in compensation for the clerk is only up to $8,000.

What SHOULD happen is that council members, at the very least, take a look at how the office of the mayor and the office of the city clerk are the same. The mayor’s position is an elected, citywide, officially part-time position with statutory powers. The city clerk is an elected, citywide, officially part-time position with statutory powers. They have to get the same number of signatures to get on the ballot. They go to the same meetings and they sign the same documents. Read the rest of this entry

On Monday, the city council discussed the compensation ordinance that will go into effect upon installation of the city’s elected officers in May. This was just the first reading. Passage is expected during the regular council meeting on October 25.

Council at this point is on track to continue to deprive us of another election for city clerk. This body plans to pay the next mayor $22,500 per year, the next clerk $8,000.

Members seem intent on keeping the clerk a part-time position, based on a vague notion of protecting themselves from “liability,” which we know does not exist because the city has never gotten into trouble for violations of open meetings and open records laws before or after they ruined the office of the clerk.

No, the reality is that the liability works the other way. You see, while council has lots of leeway when it comes to assigning duties and setting compensation, any ordinance that passes must be reasonable. And we know that DeKalb ordinances having to do with the clerk are demonstrably unreasonable because they’ve interfered with elections of the clerk. Read the rest of this entry

No closer than 180 days before newly-elected city officials take office next May, the city council must, per state law, set compensation for them via ordinances. This could happen tonight, at the next regular meeting, or possibly in early November if all else fails.

Compensation is set now in order to help eliminate the conflict of interest that would be created by a council’s setting its own pay, or that of a clerk they like personally. It’s supposed to be about the jobs, not the personalities involved. Read the rest of this entry

DeKalb city clerk Jenny Johnson does not know where the official seal of the city is located, or even whether it is secure.

We found this out last Saturday, when she held a meeting to inform citizens of her current role, and to gather information about what we envision for the future. A dozen citizens attended, most of us members of the informal citizens’ committee called Citizens for Restoration of the DeKalb City Clerk.

Ms. Johnson explained that because of her part-time status, which she says is forced by low compensation of $5,000 per year, she felt compelled to transfer her authority over the city seal to a deputy clerk to avoid being continually on call to sign/certify/attest.

Unfortunately, the people she’s deputized are actually employees of the city manager’s office. Essentially, then, the city seal is under the control of the city manager’s office, a non-transparent arrangement that brings a slew of questions to bear about the custody and handling of official documents and use of the seal.

Yes, we’re talking about the loss of real-life “checks and balances” and what that might mean. Read the rest of this entry

If you are a resident of City of DeKalb, this post is for you – especially if you voted in the General Election of 2012.

DeKalb has an at-large city clerk elected by the people, despite at least two referendums over the past decade asking to switch to an appointed clerk. The latest question came in the fall of 2012, when 70.49% of voters rejected a referendum to allow the city to appoint the clerk.

Afterward, the city approved a compensation ordinance that slashed the pay from $60,000 to $5,000 per year for the clerk who was to be elected in municipal elections in 2013 for a four-year term.

The consequences have been devastating in the view of anyone who values the will of the voters. In the municipal election of 2009, when the clerk still had full-time compensation and duties, there were four candidates on the ballot; but in 2013, there were no candidates on the ballot, only write-ins. Then the write-in candidate who was elected in spring of 2013 resigned in the fall of 2014. Following that, there was a gap of several months when no clerk was serving, and then a write-in clerk candidate for the April 2015 election who secretly dropped out of the race sometime before Election Day. Three appointments to the office were made in 2015 alone. Read the rest of this entry

In a recent letter to the editor, Misty Haji-Sheikh asked — and answered — who is supposed to ensure that DeKalb ordinances are enforced. Why? Because she found out there is an ordinance that is not being enforced.

The mayor, city manager and city attorney all have legal duties regarding ordinances. Since the ordinance 2015-30 is to hold at least quarterly meetings (these must be on the same day as the City Council after 1 p.m.) for discussion was passed as ordinance more than 14 months ago, can the mayor, city manager or city attorney explain why no required meetings have been held? Why aren’t they faithfully discharging their duties?

The ordinance, in part, says (my emphases):

Discussion, Planning and Vision Meetings: In addition to all other meetings contemplated herein, the City Council shall conduct at least four special meetings, with one such meeting occurring no less than quarterly, for the purposes of discussion, planning and visioning.

If the ordinance language had been written as “may” instead of “shall,” the meetings would be optional. “Shall” means they are not optional. (Find the rest of the ordinance in the Municipal Code, here, in 2.05(b)).

Now, this wouldn’t even appear on my radar today, but for a member of the City Barbs Facebook Group having posted video of Monday’s council meeting, towards the end of which the mayor defends not having the meetings required by ordinance. He calls these meetings “goals.” He then lists all the council meetings he’s attended over the past 14 months and declares, “The suggestion that the city has not been engaged in strategic planning is nothing short of ridiculous.” Read the rest of this entry