Appearing today in the Chronicle:
To the editor:
In a controversial action late last year, the city of DeKalb hired a financial consultant, Executive Partners Inc., to analyze our finances and make recommendations for putting the city on better financial footing.
EPI’s evaluation, “Strategic Financial Evaluation & Planning Process,” was distributed to council members May 1. (It can be picked up at the Municipal Building or found online at www.cityofdekalb.com.) The report contains an analysis, an action plan and a list of 10 priorities meant for implementation as soon as possible.
You’d think the priority items, at least, would have been placed immediately on the DeKalb City Council agenda for consideration due to the potential for substantial savings in fiscal year 2010. Instead, a backroom decision was made to defer discussion until after the budget was approved.
The move not only contradicted the council’s oft-stated objectives of transparency and public input, but also cheated us of real results.
One report finding is that DeKalb issues debt hither and yon without a formal policy for doing so. How about passing a resolution not to take on any more debt until a proper policy is put into place? How hard would that be?
What’s more, there is a huge bombshell lying about that we ignore at our peril, in the form of a $29.4 million unfunded liability on a post-retirement health insurance plan. This amount just about equals the current general fund budget and, due to the failure to fund the annual required contribution, will continue to grow by leaps and bounds each year. EPI recommends discontinuation of the plan: “[T]his is the first place EPI recommends the City consider to achieve significant savings … In its present form, this plan cannot be continued without a significant increase in property taxes that will never stop growing.”
It is impossible to read the report and conclude that DeKalb’s financial woes are due solely to the current overall economy, a situation that must be embarrassing for the administration. However, its fiduciary obligations are clear. The report must be aired and acted upon before the FY2010 budget is approved. Did we taxpayers shell out $60,000 only to allow city government to put off or ignore what badly needs fixing? I don’t think so.