31 thoughts on “Weekend Open Thread 8/2/08”

  1. Once again the Chronicle gets it wrong. Must have had bad batteries in his recording device. There is a sunset clause recommended and the sunset clause was mentioned by Alderman Gorski and confirmed by the committee. The sunset is very important. Also to clarify. The committee was charged to recommend if the station is needed, when to start if needed, what size the building should be and how to pay for it.

    The way to pay for it is to cut waste in all departments and city spending and reorganize the budget by using the recommended cuts by the budget committee a month or so ago. This is how you pay for the station folks. You set priorities in this community as to what is important and guess what, you do like many people have to do today and that is BUDGET for this construction and for city improvements. Not always borrow, borrow and borrow.

    The committee felt the need as immediate and see the station being in its 13th hour. Proper police work and investigations and evidence management is so crucial in making sure that the criminal is prosecuted properly for their crimes. The current police station does nothing to insure that this process is fault free and that isn’t due to the personnel but what they have to work with and in. Don’t start blaming the police department when a major criminal is let go because the evidence is tainted. The whole station is tainted! I am not exaggerating either.

    We, the committee, did not want to impose another tax at this time but something must be done to get this station underway. I just hope that the council starts to understand how wrong this and past councils have been not to budget for this inevitable situation.

    I said it publicly at the hearing and will say it again. It is absolutley apalling that we have a need for this police station and have know for over 7 years that this time was coming but as to date still have no line item in the budget for the new station. It is shameful to say the least.

    But while I’m giving the Chronicle a Barb for “not hearing” information, they should receive a bouquet for their support of the protestors and their message. As long as the council was to conduct city business that evening, the citizens had every right to protest. Isn’t that part of open government and isn’t that what Mayor Van Buer was striving for? I just wonder what he would think about his replacement being named after deciding in CLOSED SESSION. This of all matters should be public discussion. It really is simple in this matter, Chris Polvsen is senior aderman and should have the honor of sitting as replacement but no, in DeKalb we must always complicate the matter.

  2. In theory, every debt bond tied to taxes has a sunset clause. When the debt obligation is met the tax rate tied to the bond is eliminated. At that time, however, there is often another need and voters are asked to approve a rollover.

    As a member of the budget committee I recommended eliminating the $279,000 line item expenditure for the Rental Inspection Program. The revenue projected from the program was eliminated but the expenses were not.

    Council rejected hiring what would have become the manager of the RIP. I’d guestimate that position would have used 40% (or more) of the $279k. The two rank and file inspectors consume the rest.

    I suggest that this line item be Special Fund Designated for Public Facilities Capital Improvement with limited flexibility only to the extent that it can be used for capital improvement debt obligation expenses.

    If debt created for a police station is tied to property taxes then the corresponding increase should be the sole source of repayment because it is likely going to be the case anyway. History proves that add on taxes, created under the guise of early debt repayment never go away and seldom, if ever, do they not end up in the General Fund Blackhole.

    The need for more and better facilities for police protection is real but it should not be used as a straw man for other tax increases and other purposes.

    “Darn it, we thought we could do that but it ended up being illegal,” said the Straw Man. “But looky here, we have another need that fits perfectly.”

  3. I bet there are some local bands talented enough to replace a few words of the Beatles song, “Tax Man,” in tribute for DeKalb.

    Here is a start:

    “Let me tell you how it will be;
    There’s one for you, nineteen for me.
    ‘Cause I’m the taxman,
    Yeah, I’m the taxman.

    Should five per cent appear too small,
    Be thankful I don’t take it all.
    ‘Cause I’m the taxman,
    Yeah, I’m the taxman.

    If you drive a car, I’ll tax the street.
    If you try to sit, I’ll tax your seat.
    If you get too cold, cold, I’ll tax the heat.
    If you take a walk, I’ll tax your feet.

    Taxman!

    ‘Cause I’m the taxman,
    Yeah, I’m the taxman.

    Don’t ask me what I want it for.
    If you don’t want to pay some more.
    ‘Cause I’m the taxman,
    Yeah, I’m the taxman.”

    I think you all know how the tune goes. ;-)

  4. Next weekend, there will be activities at the DeKalb Area Women’s Center and yard sales in Illinois all the way to the Mississippi River:

    http://illinoislincolnhighway.tripod.com/yardsale.html

    There will be Lee County politicians in the dunk tank at the Dixon Assembly of God. I wonder how fast we could pay off the police station with a dunk tank in DeKalb. ;-)

    The Yard Sales have not caught on as much in DeKalb, which is DeKalb’s loss. Last year, my little project brought people from three states to places such as Ashton. I do not know what gas prices will do for crowds this year, though. But, the antique dealer in Ashton will be helping folks out by offering items for a quarter!

  5. Ivan, my take on it is that the paper’s saying the Council members neglected to talk about it, not the Committee members. Also, city staff have been consistent in asserting that sunset clauses are not allowed in city ordinances; Council can only direct that the ordinances be “revisited” at such-and-such time.

    The recent fundraiser at Becky Beck’s Jewelry Store included a dunk tank. Your favorite alderman & mine reportedly sat in it for a time. I will never forgive myself for missing the opportunity.

    I know DeKalb schedules Corn Fest to coincide with the NIU students’ return. Is there something significant about Rochelle having its festival at the same time? If not, maybe they will eventually match up their festivities with the Yard Sales since theirs is, after all, the Lincoln Highway Heritage Festival.

  6. The Lincoln Highway Buy-Way originated out of Ohio just three years ago. Illinois has the yard sales at the same time as Ohio because they started it. Ohio picked the second weekend of August. Fulton and Ashton aligned their community garage sales with the Buy-Way coming out of Ohio. The yard sales are now in West Virginia, Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois. Iowa has a car tour aligned with the yard sales.

    The Rochelle Festival aligned with Corn Fest and I do know a bunch of people who go to both.

    OK kids, there will be a quiz after all that! :-)

  7. To All those following the Police Facilities Committee

    One more point that needs clarification and closer reporting is the tax increase recommended by the committee. This recommendation was based on one simply fact. … the committee was told “that there were no funds in the present or future budget to fund this facility and that there was no room in any budget for additional cuts to fund this project”. Therefore it was left to the committee to explore new or additional taxes to fund the construction of this facility.

    What will happen now is that the Council wil have the freedom to explore additional cuts to fund the project without any additional taxes being imposed on the public. This is the option that the Citizens committee did not have. We were not given the freedom to prioritize anything or recommend any budget cuts just whether the building should be built or not and what new taxes should go towards paying for it.

    The Council will now have to come up with ways to make a 1.2M loan payment every year. We will all be watching these discussions closelybut there are a few things I would like to point out, (as I have done many times before)

    1. The FY 09 personnel budget shows an increase of 4.79% or 1.1M even with the elimination of the eleven positions. If the Council would have frozen all wages and benefits for the employees that were not laid off this station could be paid for with NO TAX INCREASE.

    2. The FY 09 budget is 84% personnel costs. If one would add a 1.2M debt payment the personnel expense would only drop to 80% for one year. After one year a 2% merit and 2% cola brings the personnel costs right back up to 84%.

    3. Lets assume the first debt payment 1.2 million is due at the beginning of FY10. The FY09 personnel cost is $24,392,529.00. Using the same rate of increase that occurred this past year 4.79% the FY10 personnel cost would rise $1,168,402 or within 40k of the cost of the debt repayment.

    4. The 1.2M needed to pay the debt for the Police station roughly equals a 2.5% cola and 2% merit increase for the current personnel costs.

    The point I am trying to make is that the discussion over the next few months will be if we as citizens can afford a new police station. The discussion should be can we as residents of DeKalb afford to pay the wages and benefits we are presently paying given the current tax rates.

    As other posters point out this is all about priorities. Some will argue that a tax rate is needed to pay for the new facility but in reality the tax rates will need to be raised to pay employee wages and benefits. At present we CAN afford a new Police Station what we CANNOT afford to keep paying the wages and benefits we are currently paying.

    Sorry if I offend some but these are cold facts.

    The single biggest issue facing the Council (and the FAC if asked) is not if we can afford a new police station but how can we continue to operate paying these present wages and benefits.

    Pevo

  8. Yinn- I believe a SUNSET clause can be placed in the property tax mechanism, but is not allowed in Sales tax provisions. Sales tax Provisions have to go through the State of Illinois and put in effect on Jul 1st and Jan 1st.

    I am saddened to say I am starting to have serious doubts about Ald Povlsen.

    The Chronicle reported:

    “The property tax concept is good for bonding,” Povlsen was quoted as saying in a Wednesday Daily Chronicle article. “But we need to look at creative ways to use existing dollars and create other revenue for this project.”

    Kris used to be the last one to suggest more taxes, but now I see he is in favor of a Property tax FIRST, and then looking at other options. This is now the second NEW Tax he has supported in the last 6 months. I have had a a lot of respect for Ald Povlsen in the past , but lately I think his priorities are no longer in the right place.

    Ald Povlsen also indicated at last Monday’s Council that he felt the mayoral vacancy decision and discussion should be held in closed session…Wrong again Kris! Let’s keep government open.

    For the Police Station , I cannot support another Tax, even for this project. We must come up with another method to give our PD more needed space. I still like the 3rd floor idea.

  9. Pevo… such discussion must be blunt so no offense is or should be taken.

    As I understand it, the police facilities committee was given little options in terms of the location (actually no options there), or the financing (except for increases in fees and/or taxes).

    And yet we have a citizen committee recommending tax increases and debt obligation for a new police station on land perhaps purchased with debt obligation bonds on West Lincoln Hwy.

    Reminder: tax-based debt bonds do have a sunset clause — someday, usually around 20 years, the debt is retired — thus the sunset clause.

    With non-home rule govt units, when the debt is retired, the board/council often asks voters to “roll-over” the bond (go in debt an amount equal to annual payments under the old bond) in a new “no impact” referendum.

    Home rule units do not need voter approval for roll-overs. Specifically, DeKalb can approve $16 million in debt bonds, to pay for the new station, with 4 votes. 20 years from now, with home rule authority, 4 votes is all it would take to roll this proposed bond over.

    If I was one of the pool of seven eligible voters to decide this issue then before I became one of the four needed to pass this proposal I would want the entire staff of the police department (and better yet the entire city staff) to answer me this:

    Which is needed more, new facilities, or more pay?

  10. Mac

    With all due respect asking the employees what is neded more, a new station or more pay is allot like putting the monkeys in charge of the bananas at the zoo.

    The question should be do we act for the good of the long term needs of the COMMUNITY or the short term needs of the EMPLOYEES.

    Quoting Spock, “the needs of the many outweigh the needs of a few””

    Pevo

  11. “With all due respect asking the employees what is neded more, a new station or more pay is allot like putting the monkeys in charge of the bananas at the zoo.”

    OMG, that’s very funny. Maybe somebody will bring Biernacki a banana at the next meeting.

    By the way, I think Mac agrees with Pevo; they’re just saying the same thing in different ways.

  12. I did not see this in the newspaper anywhere, but the Egyptian Theatre received some damage to the roof, but not anything expensive.

    I meant to check on the DeKalb Area Women’s Center on my way to work this morning but I did not get a chance to do that. I am afraid to find out what happened to the already damaged chimney.

    For ‘full disclosure,’ I am a member of both places.

  13. A tax increase is effectively a cost of living adjustment for each taxpayer, but in the negative direction. Since I bought my humble abode in Tilton Park in 1987, my property taxes have essentially quadrupled. My income has not risen nearly as much. One would think that if these new facilities were truly necessary, the employees could join the taxpayers in making the necessary sacrifices to build them.

  14. Does anyone know off hand when the City Wards get redrawn? Is it the same as the Congressional Districts in 2010 or at some other time? Also, who determines the redistricting? The Mayor, Council, Clerk or a combination of any of the above? When would the new wards go into effect?

    Pevo

  15. Anyone read the article in the Chronicle about the teachers’ union filing an intent-to-strike notice? I guess it’s just a formality, and Dr. Briscoe is optimistic, but still … take a look at championnews.net for 2007 District salaries and see if they really need raises or better benefits because guess who will be paying for it. Not to disparage hard-working educators, but some of these figures are down-right shocking!

  16. Hi Ginger,

    Those involved with the school referendum still think its passing means the community supports the schools enthusiastically and blindly. I heard that attitude in the FPC meetings. Well, that vote was a while ago already before before people woke up to higher gas prices and the economy tanking. A strike now, by people who make over $50,000, is going to be very, very unpopular.

    The salary for the former superintendent is high but there are outrageous salaries out there. I cannot remember the name of the school district but some school broke the record and some superintendent makes $402,000.

    OK, what folks should look at are not just the DeKalb salaries but take a look at Geneva’s and Rochelle’s. Based on the cost of living, the DeKalb teachers should make something in between Geneva and Rochelle. That is what would be fair.

    When people complain about teachers’ salaries, they usually gripe about teachers getting summers off. Not all teachers get summers off and those who do not have to be present during the summer do spend most of their summer preparing for fall and spring. Folks involved with the schools are aware of that and ignore citizens who gripe about teachers getting summers off. If people want to complain about teachers’ salaries, they need to focus on comparing the DeKalb salaries to nearby school districts and the cost of living. That takes the emotion out of it.

  17. Oh, what teachers spend on supplies is tax deductible. It is mostly for things for bulletin boards in their rooms. Boxes of tissues for kids whose parents send them off to school with colds but do not bother to give them supplies is another typical expense.

  18. Two more things:

    A. The negotiations seem to be about other things than salaries. Keep an eye on what happens with the retirement benefits. The newspaper should dig into what those are (as well as the health benefits) rather than some obvious propaganda piece on teachers spending money on personalized items they want in their rooms.

    B. Why is the Regional Office of Education closed on Fridays?

    I know some school districts elsewhere are looking toward having four-day school weeks to save on gas money for buses and HVAC costs. Obviously, those working in that office will not be taking the bus to work so what is the reason?

  19. Ginger Says:
    August 9th, 2008 at 10:02 am

    Sorry, Kay, when I look at those salaries, I compare them to what I make and think I went into the wrong field.

    Ummm, yeah, so do I. I am an educator but teaching the big kids means I make about $50,000 less than what some of those folks make, and I spent more years in school and have more degrees.

  20. P.S. Just hand me the dunce hat. I had no idea there was that much disparity in the pay. Had I known I could be making $50,000 a year more, I could have learned how to deal with other peoples’ kids not knowing how to tie their own shoes, etc. I went into teaching the big kids to avoid dealing with things that require more patience with the little kids. For $50,000 a year more, I could find some patience!!!!!!

  21. Point one

    Teachers should not be paid by what other districts pay or how long they have been teaching. They should be paid based on their ability to teach.

    I realize this is the age old arguement

    Ginger makes an good point. If you want to stop a strike post their salaries in the paper.

    Point Two

    I have been traveling I-39 and I-88 in the Rochelle area and cannot believe the amount of new industrial construction going on in Rochelle. Wonder why Rochelle isn’t suffering from the same economic slow down DeKalb is facing?

    Point Three
    Ivan

    That pre-cast stuff is amazing. Hard to believe how fast those buildings go up.

    Pevo

  22. “They should be paid based on their ability to teach.”

    I agree with Pevo but good luck getting that to happen. I went with the more realistic, possible argument. ;-)

    I have lots of buddies in Rochelle and they are making things happen because of the Intermodal. Remember the Intermodal? The thing that DeKalb did not want!!!????? Remember the bizarre stories about how the corn would not grow with that many lights on at night???

    There is also a bunch of outside money coming to the Petro truck stop and the restaurants around Route 38 and I-39. Just where does the money go from the DeKalb Oasis? The Tollway?? This is one reason why the Shodeen’s plan for restaurants and a gas station on Peace makes sense. There should be a drive-through coffee / breakfast place for commuters in the morning and something for the truckers at the Shodeen’s future location.

    By the way, for anyone delusional about thinking the Peace Rd. Shodeen’s future businesses would bring in money to downtown by the giant buckets, forget it. Just look at the traffic patterns in Rochelle and their downtown. The traffic and people with cash is a buzz around the McDonald’s, gas stations, and Petro area but almost none of that traffic heads further west toward downtown. That also means if anyone decides to have a truck stop in the Peace Rd. area that would not necessarily bring more trucks downtown at all. DeKalb would be an excellent location for that because look at what is east of here on I-88 for truckers and how far away that is.

    Rochelle is also getting its streets repaired in a big way, too. The downtown is filled with well-kept shops with just a few buildings here and there than need work.

  23. Not to make you feel bad, Kay, but the District librarian makes over 90K, and she doesn’t tie shoes. The staff running the school libraries (who might actually have to tie a shoe now and then) earn less than 20K. Doesn’t make sense, does it?

    Salaries aside, I think the District is trying to address some of the inequities in benefits between the various bargaining units. The teachers probably do not want to give up some perks they have enjoyed for years. For instance, if a teacher declines health insurance, they get a rebate of several thousand dollars. Pretty sweet, but not fair. It will be interesting to see just how hard they dig in their collective heels.

  24. Heard that an announcement will be made at the next board meeting about the contract. It is expected to be happy news, so unless negotiations suddenly went south, the filing was a formality/negotiating ploy.

    I also understand that teachers get 185 sick days a year. Students go to school 180 days. I expressed my concern early in the negotiating process about this, let’s see what happens.

  25. Heard that an announcement will be made at the next board meeting about the contract. It is expected to be happy news, so unless negotiations suddenly went south, the filing was a formality/negotiating ploy.

    I also understand that teachers get 185 sick days a year. Students go to school 180 days. I expressed my concern early in the negotiating process about this, let’s see what happens.

  26. Heard that an announcement will be made at the next board meeting about the contract. It is expected to be happy news, so unless negotiations suddenly went south, the filing was a formality/negotiating ploy.

    I also understand that teachers get 185 sick days a year. Students go to school 180 days. I expressed my concern early in the negotiating process about this, let’s see what happens.

  27. “I also understand that teachers get 185 sick days a year.”

    WHAT!!!!!!!!!!!!!???????????????????? That’s INSANE!!!!!!!!! That better not be correct!!!!

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