Budget Workshop Open Thread

Let’s keep the thread but update this space. Last night was quite educational. If you saw it, you probably know a lot more about the pension mess, for example. Perhaps you were also delighted, as I am, with the addition to the process of the Financial Advisory Committee. As Mayor Van Buer said, “It brings the discussion to a whole new level.” In fact, since I did my part to advance the idea both at Council and in a letter to the editor, I am going to take partial credit for it.

On the flip I will publish Lynn’s speech from last night. Express permission is given to reprint in full.

See you tonight, I hope.

[This may not be exact, as a couple of libs were added on the fly.]

The other day I was talking with one of my neighbors about taxes and I actually said, “I feel like a spigot.” We taxpayers are the spigot, and the city turns us on whenever it’s thirsty–and not in a good way–and the tank is running dry. My neighbor is concerned about the people on fixed incomes getting squeezed. There is a lot to be worried about.

I notice that the 2009 proposed budget assumes there are more tax hikes on the way. That is very worrisome. It doesn’t seem to have occurred to the city that if IT is in trouble, the typical RESIDENT could be in trouble, too, and that means tax hikes won’t work. We are clearly in recession territory and entering a period of stagflation. You can up the sales tax all you like but you are not getting more out of people who are jumping from steak to hamburger, from hamburger to baloney, or from baloney to stone soup. You can triple the building permit fees but 3 times 0 still equals zero. This is a time for tax cuts, for budget cuts, and for re-establishing priorities.

Some departments and divisions have begun this process. The coffee fund and the parties are gone, and hardly anybody is redecorating their office. It looks like some are holding back on new equipment purchases as well. The divisions and departments that are trying to cut are being noted by citizens, and we will remember. Credit where credit is due.

Still, we all know that the biggest monsters in this budget are personnel costs. Wages, benefits and pensions get a bigger slice every year and that has to stop.

I want to make clear that I do NOT buy the frame that our only choices are tax hikes OR layoffs. For one thing, let’s address the raises in this proposed budget. In a budget emergency, NOBODY gets a raise. Short term, wages must be frozen—they maybe even require some trimming—and employees paying another percentage point or two toward their comprehensive health coverage should be considered. Long-term, workers must get wage, insurance and pension deals that we can actually afford. Plus, I don’t think it’s right to outpace the people who pay you–I think there’s a moral question in there, too.

And secondly, when you come right down to it, personnel costs already have created de facto cuts in the quality of services. Assuming that the top priorities of the city are to provide police and fire protection, deliver clean water, maintain streets and ensure waste pickup, the city already is failing us in several ways. If we siphon off so much money from the water division that it can’t replace the old water mains, it’s a failure. If we don’t supply the police department with the space it needs to do its job, that’s a failure. And if we can’t dig up a little money for sidewalk repair, well that is so basic as to be something of a disgrace. It’s time we put fees and fines into infrastructure, where, incidentally, they legally belong. The habit of paying salaries with fees is coming back to haunt us big time. We must change direction, fast, and for the long haul.

28 thoughts on “Budget Workshop Open Thread”

  1. Make that 5:30 p.m. to 7:45 p.m. and I would expect the next two meetings to run long, too.

    Egad, a proposed increase on the natural gas tax and cranking the electricity tax up to the maximum limit the state will allow!?

    Well, I am going to keep the four-legged family members in my house but those cats better think about getting jobs.

  2. This is the problem with these revenue enhancers! They are taxing the very needs that each person has to have. Water (to drink, cook, and bath)is being taxed, natural gas (heat and cooking) is being taxed, electricity (heating, air conditioning, lights, pure survivability for many with medical conditions), fuel at the pumps (livelihood to get to work, doctor, school, supplies), sales tax (groceries, sustainables, clothing, vehicle repairs, foods), Isn’t communications (phones) being increased in taxes also?

    The way the city is spending right now has me scared. They just don’t seem to see a project they don’t like right now. Downtown expansion with regards to purchasing properties and tearing them down has to stop. Put those monies into the troubled and short on revenue areas. That is a big problem with government today and not just at the city level. We can have excess monies in one corner that we HAVE TO spend but can only spend it on certain things. We can have a major shortfall of monies over here which effects every person in the community and we have to raise taxes to supplement this.

    This is what I believe we are seeing as a community. Money being spent on projects when OUR LEADERS are telling us we have no money. We have the money but the past has hogtied our hands in doing anything with it. The worst crime that we see is at the end of any fiscal year and this goes right up the ladder from city to federal and every government entity between. You have any money left in the budget for that year, SPEND IT and if you have to, go into the red, it’ll make the new budget request look better and needed. This is the game that has to STOP. Many know of this problem but we live in a society today that has developed the attitude that “WELL, if WE don’t take it, SOMEBODY ELSE will get IT”

    My question, especially with a higher number of taxpayers now also enjoying a government check along with a (presumed) nice pension check (if the state doesn’t steal it all and it can continued to be funded like planned), what is the incentive to slap the hand that is stealing the money from OUR pockets. Right in one pocket and out the other. Maybe this is what we are starting to see when committees and councils now mention more the funding of pensions vs. how do we fix the infrastructure of roads, underground facilities, and other BASIC community needs as Police and Fire Protection and the public works departments that keep our roads open and travelable.

    This budget thing is just more that 3 minutes of face time. There is a whole lot more going on that needs to be addressed but I’m afraid it has gotten away from us and is now out of control. Now the question always seems to be, how do we get through this where I am starting to ask, what do we do NEXT TIME?

  3. Ivan,
    Please, please show up and make your statement. Both council and committee seemed to be listening. Plus, no one seemed to be timing the public statements made by citizens. Lynn made a moving statement. In answering questions that Lynn, Kay and I posed, the attorney contradicted something Lynn said. Lynn asked to speak again and was allowed to do so.

    Both council and fin. adv. board have heard the need for cutbacks and I’m betting will implement those. Bernacki’s budget does involve a fiscally wise attempt to build up reserve fund.

    Lynn mentioned need for salary freezes (I’m sympathetic and as a public employee have faced such freezes too many times). Problem needing answering is how to do you put in such a freeze when there are active union contracts. I asked about contracts and budgeting and got a technical answer but one that didn’t link my concern to Lynn’s.

    Long run budget controls seem to involve (a) reducing the raise structures for city employees and (b) airport stuff (though staff will discuss this tonight or tomorrow). But these controls seem counter balanced by the infra-structure needs in the city such as those that Lynn F. mentioned in her presentation.

    We also need a discussion linking infra-structure needs to the overall growth policy of the city.

    Oh, for new comers (everyone probably except Mac). So far the intensity, questioning etc. on the budget seems to have surpassed past discussions by the council and that is a steo in the right direction.


  4. Thanks to Kay Shelton, Lynn Fazekas and Herb Rubin for the “face time.” I wonder if Lynn would share her well delivered speech here or on DeKalb County Online (or both).

    More faces are needed. It is much more than 3 minutes of face time, Ivan. Those who feel that property taxes are too high need to show their face. Those who feel that fees are too high or unproperly spent need to show their face. Those who feel that sales taxes will hurt their business need to show their face. Those who feel like their grandchildren shouldn’t have to pay for pensions they will not receive need to show their face. Those who cannot afford more utility costs need to show their face. Those who feel their jobs are at risk… show your face.

    My point is the council members will likely vote Monday and if they don’t see faces I’m afraid they’ll vote on charts and statistics designed to acquire their approval.

  5. Mac,
    I’m in agreement with the salary freeze idea, but how does one implement said idea with on-going union contracts. My question on how Mark factored in the contract negotiations into the budget was an effort to get at these broader questions. (Answer to my own question, maybe. You threaten layoffs that are legal under contract and then hope/pressure? union to accept freeze?)

    Oh Mac, and I thought my well displayed face was enough to launch a 1000 city councils :)

    Seriously, both in public discourse and in private conversations I am getting real sense that council is looking for serious reductions. My hope is that reductions will come in now, some of the tax increase reduced at Xmas time, and the extra money collected in the fall be used to build up reserve fund. (In house expert, blanches when she hears how low the city’s reserve fund is; remember advise for households is to have 25% reserve fund i.e. 3 months in the bank for emergencies)

  6. Is there any way to reopen the contract or any allowance for a time of fiscal exigency (this is what used to be in teacher’s contracts 30 years ago, to eliminate tenure in case of financial problems). It’s hard to believe they need to “see” faces after the constant on line barrage, emails and on the street conversation. To me, if they rely on charts and statistics instead of what is right in front of their faces, they are not voting with courage, but an alibi. I think what we need is a DeKalb Tea Party. However, while I disagree with elimination of Home Rule, it should be easier to recall officials. Having said that, there should be a freeze in non-union positions, the elimination of the position of the assistant city manager (after all the thunder and lightning of the past months, how many needless positions were truly eliminated), I am in favor of privatization where possible (snow plow, maintenance) and deliver services more efficiently. Upon expiration, the union contract of non-emergency personnel needs to be scrutinized as well. Is it possible to privatize airport operations? Also, in the current environment where development is limited (I’ll believe Shodeen comes when I see them), commitment to ReNew DeKalb downtown needs to be re-evaluated. There is no need to follow the ReNew plan as proposed last year with the city’s commitment (and TIF is not a blank checkbook) when it will be years before anybody comes to develop downtown in this economy.

  7. Paul,
    There are active plans being discussed on downtown right now; that’s what the purchasing of the auto wash etc. are all about.

    It seems to me that real positions were eliminated, and what appears to be new was shifting. Assistant city manager is relabeling of Wiggins old position and that’s the person who does the budget. Assistant to (TO) city manager is the movement of position of a person who was doing that work but doing so in another line item; no saving but no increase here.).

    My sense is that council wants cutbacks and what it needs is a direct proposal by someone on council or on advisory board that gives a written alternative to the staff proposed budget. Hard ball with the salaries is appropriate and I believe would get council support (and if not I’d like to know that). In public conversations at least 4 council members have pushed for such cutback and in private one more, not sure of one who has given mixed signals while another is not predictable, at least by me. (whoops I’m missing someone, who wel

    Votes are there for serious cutbacks what is needed is the motion, the proposal to be placed on the table. Remember right now what will be placed on the table is the budget document that’s on line.

    Oh, some juggling has occurred but real and authorized positions are not being filled for real.

    From in house expert whose cooking I eat: privatization sometimes saves money sometimes not but it is not a sure thing and works differently in different cities.

    Paul, why not also scrutinize contracts of emergency personel?


  8. More on privatization.
    Academic studies show that it is a very mixed bag. Usually works with garbage pickup. Major scandals have occurred in large cities that privatized water services. Privatization on computer stuff, mixed bag. Some cities actually have privatized or at least contracted out protective services (that causes me to shudder).

    In any case, privatization needs to be considered but it is far from a panacea.


  9. I had a different interpretation on what Mac said about cutting back on overtime. I interpreted that as sub-contracting out, which I think this means instead of paying a bunch on overtime for big snowfalls, get some sub-contractors to do some of the work. That might be cheaper than paying overtime. There would probably be some liability issues involved but those could be worked out.

  10. Question on the post with permission on Lynn’s fine speech.

    Agree totally more effort in infra-structure repair is needed. But if the fees are for apartment inspections, using the fees then for infra-structure repair would not be consistent with the purpose of the fee.

    I’m taking an analogy from impact fees that in theory are supposed to be used to reduce the fiscal impact of development and are supposed to have a direct nexus to the development. If we were to use miscellaneous fees for the needed infra-structure repairs won’t the city be asking for suits by say the apartment owners who are paying the fees.

    Am I missing something here.

    Repeat: agree on need for more infra-structure repair, but am wondering if a fee ostensibly collected for one purpose can be used for another.

    (Incidentally loved the speech; I’m quibbling on only that one point)


  11. Herb, I truly wished to be at the meeting last night but with 5 kids just not easy. Wife now having to work, son and 2 daughters out working makes me the delegated sitter for a 5 and 9 year old. The council members that truly care are reading my posts and I can guarantee you that I may be speaking for at least 10 others who feel the same way I do.

    I am very happy to see the citizens advisory committee bringing up some really good points. Shocked by the self insured issue and the $800,000.00 already spent. What else lurks in those pages of the budget?

    I know that I am not the only one out there that has been forced to restructure their revenue streams. How many of the readers have actually taken a pay cut? All we are asking some workers to do is take a pay freeze. They still would have their jobs. How many readers know of someone who actually lost their job after receiving a pay cut first? Reality must become a major part of the discussion. There are real problems that demand real answers and solutions Herb.

    I’m very greatful to see Mac representing many of the blue collar taxpayers that are trying to really make ends just touch and hopefully meet. I am self employed with no guarantees to what my pay will be at the end of the year. Everytime I set foot into a school meeting or council meeting, I am taking away from my business. Bidding and meeting with customers at any time of the day or night which is more convenient for them. That is what many have to do today to make it Herb. I don’t have the ability to walk out to the mailbox and get a weekly, bi-weekly or monthly check. My insurance bill needs to get paid every week along with the other major bills that come like clockwork every month.

    I can however write a few letters and talk to a few fellow citizens every once in a while about how difficult things are. Maybe our council should go sit at the coffee shop a little more often. Go to their constituents instead of wondering why they don’t come to them. They don’t come anymore because many have loss faith in our government.

    I have committed myself to helping the community by attending the FPC meetings with regards to the new schools. Believe me when I tell you that it is absolutely amazing to see the mentality of “We got $110 million and we got to spend it all.” This kind of reasoning is what kills the good faith of a community and its voters. Why do we always need to spend all of the money?

    I also personally believe that our police department has been severely shorted in the past years. They need space and they need it NOW. The real question is how. By the reading of the budget, I believe the DeKalb Police Department to be one of the most fiscally responsible departments within the city yet they are the ones who need the most help right now. I have volunteered to help Chief Feithen and his department figure a way to get the space they need. Not going to be easy right now but something just needs to be done.

    I would be greatful if someone told me that I would make what I made last year by saying that I was having my pay frozen for this year. I’m sure there are many who would say the same Herb. I think that is important to remember as cuts are being made. Difficult choices need to be made and the council needs to do what needs to be done, not just look at the easy way out by raising and creating every new tax they can.

  12. Dr. Rubin:

    RE: Emergency services contracts, part of it is thinking out loud and part of it in ensuring that the community fulfills its first priority, which is emergency protection.

    Pay freezes and either zero budgeting or freeze budgets at 2007 level is a path to follow.

    Ditto Mr. Krpan’s comments in every way.

    Paul Greenlee

  13. Ivan,

    On the broader issue of income, you made a career decision that allows for high gains but also for high risk. Others have made career decisions that moderate income streams without the possibility of real high returns. Be fair in making comparisons. Too often people compare their worst times with the best of others, and then when they have good times, forget to recognize how much better off they are then others. (Irene often beats up on me on this topic. I was reasonably successful in my chosen (and enjoyable) career and not discontent, or to be honest, too discontent, with my earnings. . Yet, I came across a study once showing my earnings were in the bottom 10-20% of the earnings of those in my particular college class. )

    On the ability to be involved. Yes, I and others who are technically and were technically bureaucrats, have a more guaranteed income stream so can spend more time in public stuff. But I also make money from my books and each hour spent at city hall, reading documents, blogging, working on the referendum has a direct fiscal cost in terms of delay in professional writing. My last book (one that I make a few thousand from, no more, but no less) was delayed over a year because of public involvement.

    Incidentally I am not disagreeing with you or others on the need for some sort of freeze in wages at city hall. In fact, I have been debating how to broach the matter as it is far from simple. Most of the city employees are under an on-going union contract. I might simply testify on the problem rather than pose a solution.

    I recognize you and others have responsibilities that make it hard to appear all the time. There is a problem here though in political perception. If (and hopefully when) council makes hard cuts, council members will be faced with complaints from others if some services are slowed or missing. Council needs to show that there are people who cared enough to push for cuts to show up and meetings and put their ‘faces’ on the line to combat those who latter complain, why was such and such cut.

    Also remember politics is about working out common policies. On many issues you and I disagree (and on many agree). Remember when you don’t get your way sometimes, I might be getting my way. And, I always keep in mind that when I don’t get my way it is because others with equal legitimacy disagree and their opinions prevail. Sometimes elected officials do ignore citizens, but in my experience, at least in the local level, when elected officials appear to be ignoring one group it is often because they are responding to others.

    Too often in the blog world, writers portray the situation as themselves (and those they represent) versus those in government as if those were the only wo actors. In doing so, they forget there are also citizens who disagree with them, a set of third actors, whom the government is also representing.

    Governing is hard work.

    thanks for the dialogue and I off to the EDC and rationalizing another day away from a personally remunerative and less frustrating then public participation activity of my own)


  14. Paul,
    If you are reading an immediate response would be appreciated as i am wrestling with the pay freeze issue.

    I don’t disagree (don’t faint, I really don’t).

    Question is when you have signed union contracts how do you bring about the freeze legally. That’s the question. If you read this and answer in more than a few minutes I won’t see it (am off to EDC). So maybe you should show up and present how to bring about the freeze.

    I’ll testify tonight reporting on what bloggers have said, but I don’t know how to implement a freeze with union contracts in effect.

    Not opposing the idea, just asking how to bring it about.

    (On emergency services, police do have discretion on types of crime to investigagt; smaller departments simply don’t investigate some types of crime.)

    please no dr. on blogs

  15. As far as I know the IAFF (firefighters) have a contract effective July 1, 2007 through 2011. The FOP (police) have a contract through December, 2008. AFSCME’s (everyone else) contract expired in December of 2007.

    The Management Pay Plan calls for raises related to COLA, longevity, etc.

    All should be given a choice, voluntary pay freeze or mandatory job cuts. If cuts are the choice those should start in administration.

    Overtime should not be a perk. Since overtime pay is factored into pensions every mechanism to eliminate all but first responder emergency calls should be considered and employed where possible. Shift scheduling is but one mechanism. Subcontracting is another.

  16. Dr. Rubin:
    (Sorry, I can’t resist). I am not sure how to bring about a freeze on budgets, not my specialty. I just remember when I was in HS (G-K) that one of my teachers was discussing tenure with me and said that the protections of tenure are eliminated in a time of fiscal exigency. So I don’t know if union contracts are the same way. I’ll say this, using pilots and airlines as an example, they tend to reopen those contracts and negotiate the benefits out/wages down based on preserving jobs. I don’t think that’s fair to them, but it is what it is. In this particular case, we are talking about financial viability and jobs. You can’t dance without a partner, so there would have to be cooperation from the union. They won’t negotiate from strength/advantage, but we have to blow up the paradigms as they are now to try to get both immediate relief and a long term agreement for all. Like I said earlier, some of it is just thinking out loud.

  17. This is the problem Herb. I am not alone with this economic downturn. Why should the taxpayers pay more taxes just to give guaranteed raises out? They shouldn’t especially when real solutions have not been found. I have no problem with a person making good wages but when the city is in trouble financially, it is absolutely wrong to believe that the city can continue to pay increases in wages or not make the necessary cuts. I am streamlined by business. Whether it is through no overtime, longer hours spent by myself to ready the jobs for the employees. Doing more than I used to myself vs. an employee. Shopping for the best price for materials and subcontractors to do the work.

    I and others like me complain about taking pay cuts, less hours, or even the loss of a job. Who is the first to complain when a pension fund is messed with? Who’s choice was it to depend on a pension fund funded by taxes and watched over by our government? I guess we can always find an arguement to any senario. The fact is that we all try to live together and make that environment one that all can enjoy, no matter what is one’s choice for a career.

    When government is irresponsible with taxpayers dollars, those taxpayers do have the right to complain and demand accountability for the waste. What is wrong with that? What is wrong in asking government to clean their house every once in a while and make sure that there is an accountability for all of their actions?

    Fire, police, and public works needs to be the priority. The budget needs to make sure that they continue to be able to maintain their services to this community. Freezes on all equipment should be mandatory, especially now with the $800,000.00 shortfall found in the self insured part of the budget. There needs to be a emergency fund set up for the purpose of being able to supply equipment that cannot be waited for. All other departments need to restructure themselves and how they work. If significant costs cannot be reduced, it will have to be accomplished through job cuts. We also must remember, no new hires means exactly that no one gets hired!

    The business isn’t what it is cracked up to be. Many of us do what we do because we enjoy it. Many of us are far from being wealthy, as I seem to always picture that Chronicle cartoon with the developer leaving town with money falling out of his briefcase. This is not the case with most of the local builders. Most of the local builders, I have found, tend to be community orientated and supportive of their communities but many of us have been lumped in with the big volume builders that have invaded so many of our communities, impacted our way of life, and left.

    I am very proud of the work that the Krpan family has done in the DeKalb and Sycamore communities and am very proud to be part of these communities. We have worked hard to build, hopefully, a decent reputation in these communities as many other local builders have done themselves over the years and continue to do so today.

    You know, it’s at times like these that you really start to learn the true value of a dollar. Maybe it is good that this budget is such a focus right now. Maybe a few in government might remember a little bit more how to value the dollars they have instead of having to find a few more.

  18. Well, for the things that really count, police and fire (and ambulance), it looks like the professionals are doing what they need to do. For overtime on police and fire, those costs were explained at the meeting. For fire, they have overtime for events (such as an NIU football game) or when too many people have to go out on call. But, they get reimbursed through a contract with NIU. That answers the question out in the community if NIU pays for those services. To reduce fire overtime, it looks like in the long term, they might be better off with hiring a couple more people.

    For police, they often get overtime for getting hired to run security at Village Commons Bookstore and other places. I know police help out at VCB at certain times when there are large amounts of money passing hands and a busy parking lot because I see them there; I just didn’t know they get paid to be there. They get overtime but they get reimbursed.

    The police usually rotate out four cars for replacement but they requested just one car.

    What happens, is the overtime for both fire and police comes back in to the General Fund so it looks like horrible overtime but they are actually getting reimbursed–it just is not going to show up in the same area of the budget as getting paid back.

    The clerk’s office and the lawyer’s office both look efficient, although something did not look right with the amount for the health insurance on the clerk’s office but that will get checked.

    What looks wacky to me are all the consultants that get hired and there is a proposed $100,000 line item on the Council / Mayor budget to cover the creation of a logo, branding, and some sort of financial planner. This recommendation came about because of some community committee (or was it the Chamber??) but I did not quite catch which group. There seemed to be some talk about not approving that, some talk about having a logo design contest rather than paying some consultant, finding out how much it would really cost before approving it, and/or some combination of all of the above.

    So it comes down to priorities. I think I wrote what I thought should be priorities and those are:

    Fire / Ambulance
    Other Infrastructure
    Snow Removal

    Although the city should encourage economic development, it seems as though the focus is out of whack. Priorities should be taken care of but the attention goes toward things that seem kind of nutty to me like a $75,000 ice rink. The ice rink is a good idea but not as proposed. This is what could improve the ice rink idea:

    1. On private land on private funding
    2. On public land but for gosh sake’s, I do not recall hearing anyone talking about charging money for it. Charge a buck or two so the thing can pay for itself, yet remain affordable for families.
    3. It is all weather but they only want it out November through February???? If it is all weather, it should be out when the weather is nicer and people would actually like to use it.
    4. Let the Park District handle it.

    On the economic development side, it seems like there is a desire to hire consultants to run the consultants (that is sort of a joke). Hire consultants for TIF projects then hire a financial planner consultant to brand the city and plan projects–that gives me a headache. That does not make sense to me. For the priorities, it certainly does not sound like the fire or police need consultants to run consultant projects.

    Something that some tourism people from the Iowa border told me a while back is the two key factors in economic development are having police and fire close by. That thinking is that having police and fire nearby keeps insurance rates low for business owners. I know there are business owners here who can probably answer to that. It seems to me that everybody wins if crime can be kept low and perhaps that would lower insurance rates for businesses. I know my car insurance rate went down when I moved away from the student area years ago.

    Airport–This thing really needs to turn into a cash cow. I heard yet again today there were a lot of flights that normally leave from Rockford if the last bit of expansion happens. There needs to be a return on the taxpayer investment.

    OK, this is enough for now.

  19. The City needs to go on a fiscal diet. We will see another shortfall in permit. We will see sales lower than last year. 10 positions is only the start. They must anticipate 10% less revenue for the next few years as propoetry taxes fall along with falling housing prices. This means less hiring, layoffs, and thinking defensively. These save downtown projects are a waste of money.

  20. Okay guys.
    Along with several others I too mentioned that council must examine salary and fringe packages. (In private conversations with council members I’ve been stronger in what I suggest) But we did so in public on tv. Mac’s idea of asking for freezes or forcing position cuts is one I have stolen and used in private lobbying.

    Scary part (as I posted someplace else) is that fire, police and that’s two thirds of the GR budget convinced me they are understaffed and underfunded.

    Major sore thumb to me was the airport. I tend to agree that too much is spent on consultants but not all consultancy is a waste.

    Jack, fiscal diet is a good slogan, but finding what to cut is a different game. Fortunately, lynn F and Kay (and to a lesser extent myself) as citizens have pointed out some concerns, mac on the board re-iterates them. Staff themselves have really cut non personnel stuff and some personnel stuff. What really is left are (a) airport and (b) salary freezes. Bey

    As council member (who is pushing for cuts) pointed out: businesses lose customers during recessions so then cut employees — a builder without a housing customer doesn’t need to hire carpenters etc. For better or worse, public functions if anything increase during recessions — fire calls, health calls, police calls if any thing go up. While maintenance needs don’t go away. (In fact, what also scared me during the hearings is the amount of deferred maintenance; that’s no good)

    Enough, mouth is thawing out from the dental stuff and I’m beginning to get sensation.

    Ivan earned pensions are not stealing money; as a 35 year employed now pensioner i take comments like that as a personal afront. (35 years of my contributions, invested with state putting in only a small fraction of what it had promised; pension money is mostly my money)


  21. Whoa Herb, don’t put words in my mouth. I have no problem with people and their pensions. Pensions is part of a payment process that is greed to before people work for their pay. What I did say is that government is stealing pensions right out from under many. The State is really very criminal in many ways whether its administration of the pension fund, Medicare, roads, schools etc etc….

    I still think that Cortland and NIU need to pay more for the ambulance service they receive along with NIU paying more for their fire service also. I know the city may feel it to be fair but this is one way of hitting NIU for some of the loss revenue from land now off of the tax rolls.

  22. The biggest problem I see is that we are going to be stuck with another long term Bloated union contract with the AFSME employees because our Aldermen have NO back bone to stand up to the union and SAY NO when it comes to raises and bloated insurance Benefits. I spoke (2) of our Alderman last Saturday and received NO commitment or interest in the idea, whatsoever. I suggested freezing salaries and reducing insurance benefits. (LIKE THE REAL WORLD)

    One of the alderman, a former City Employee, indicated to me this is the normal way business is done in a municipal environment. Give me a Break! You mark my words…our “rubber-stamp city council” will approve whatever AFSME agreement City staff recommends without question. Look for employee raises of at least 4-5% Percent. —OUCH!

  23. We don’t ever seem to pick up real negotiators. I’ve always supported unions but that does not mean they should get everything they want. There has to be a side that represents our interests, the taxpayers’ interest, too. Sounds like there isn’t.

    “That’s the way we’ve always done it.” The worst reason in the world if it is not working. Asinine, really. Ald. Naylor kept saying it about using fees for salaries during the budget workshop. How is it they do not get that this is not a normal time so we cannot do the normal things. If ever there were a time for creative thinking, for innovation, this would be it. If ever there were a time for courage, this would be it. I don’t see ANY of these qualities in this council as a whole; there’s a flash here and there but not enough to keep us from going over the cliff. There will be a lot of pieces for the survivors to pick up.

  24. Sorry ivan if I misunderstood you on the pensions. Yes, the state is stealing from all of us, including the recipients of pensions.

    Both in public and private I’ve tried to convince council to try to force a re-opening of union contracts to stop COLA raises this year. So far, I’ve gotten positive feedback on council willing to be tough on future contracts regarding cola, health and longevity raises. That’s progress but more is needed.

    Plus I’m still hearing that there is real sentiment to teminate the tax increase (or from some half of the tax increase) by Xmas.

    Next Tuesday will be amusing.


  25. At what point do we just start over and try it again?

    Numbers have got to become more realistic. Raises are being given without even knowing if there will be any money to pay these increases. Better planning has to be done. What good does it do for us to pay the employees if we can’t provide adequate offices for the employees to work out of?

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