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.

So what should we do about our woefully substandard city facilities?

Short term — if we are to agree that this needs to be done yesterday — there is probably no alternative to raising taxes and fees once more. And then praying that it doesn’t drive more folks out of town. And then demanding resignations of the Council members who let this happen, and driving them out of town.

BUT: We should not agree to anything until the budget picture for FY 2012 becomes clear.

For our longer term financial health, the first thing we must do is stop acting like things are going to get better next week. This administration has refused to adapt to the realities, instead has more or less simply waited for the storm to pass and for revenues to rebound. The result: a big financial hole despite a massive reduction in force. We do not know when it’s going to improve. Therefore, we need no-frills survival budgets until it does.

More:

— Stop treating management like it’s a collective bargaining unit. We do not have to negotiate with management like we do. Management “agreed to” a pay freeze last year? Come on! Start crunching to see what this or that percentage in compensation cuts and health care premium increases will do for the budget picture. Also: make no more management hires, and combine functions where possible.

— Negotiate contracts that reflect our circumstances. If revenues remain flat, we cannot afford raises. As contracts come up — they’re working on AFSCME now, right? — eliminate raises and bonuses as well as benefits that instead could be taken as work-related tax deductions, such as uniform allowances and professional dues. Keep the terms of the contracts short for flexibility.

— Hire a new city manager. We are in a rut and need some fresh ideas for operations, perhaps generated by somebody who actually has been trained as a city manager. We also need someone who has different ideas about nepotism and other ethical considerations, and whose contract has an expiration date and allows for negotiating in good faith.

8 thoughts on “Last in Line”

  1. Lynn, to say that city hall is in a rut and the city manager should be fired are the understatements of the century. Biernacki is completely lost in his idealogy of what should be or should have been priorities for this community.

    However, he should not hold the bag of responsibilty by himself. The mayor and yes, I will dare go al the way back to VanBuer and now Povlsen shirked their duties to safegaurd and protect the citizens of this community along with all of the NIU students who reside here including all of their who visit them here. They shirked their number one duty for appeasing a group of businessmen and their dream of a remodeled downtown of pavered parking lots and sidewalk, ice skating rinks, narrower non-passable streets and yes, a sidewalk to nowhere.

    I can only imagine the outcry now from locals, NIU administration, NIU students and staff, and parents of NIU students screaming as to why the City of DeKalb’s police department is so understaffed, under equipped, and not provided a facility as to which they can properly and efficiently be allowed to perform their police duties to 110%.

    I hope it doesn’t come to a massive lawsuit against the City of DeKalb in its dereliction to provide an uncompromised level of police (and) fire protection for all here in DeKalb. SAFETY is and should be always been PRIORITY #1.

    I will also go as far as blaming the current school board for allowing passed referendum to proceed as so erroneously presented to the community including putting blame again on Alderman Ron Naylor as he served in another capacity on the school districts Facilities Planning Committee and pushing the motion through to build an oversized high school facility to accommodate a core size of 3,000 and classrooms for 2,500 (the counter motion was for 2,000 students and to add on when truly needed and homes and EAV permitted such expansion)

    This one project literally has hog-tied local property owners as there is NO clue yet as to how ZERO new EAV will affect their property tax and the bond obligations by District 428 (projected EAV necessary to alleviate any undo burden to current property owners was $20 million for 30 years) NOT HAPPENING.

    This mistake has shorted available dollars needed for necessities like our police.

  2. Lynn, how dare you suggest that the high cost EPI report actually be followed in whole.

    Did you not know that city manager Mark Biernacki has self given authorization to pick and choose when and how to utilize the EPI report for and to his advantage?

    Another just reason for firing Mark Biernacki. When will the council step up and get us out of this “rut” of mismangement within the city manager’s office?

  3. Ivan, Are you saying the projected EAV relevant to referendum bond repayment to avoid undue burden on existing residents was projected at $20 million EACH YEAR for 30 years? Do you remember the ORIGINAL amount of property tax hike the referendum group said the average $200k? home would endure? That number changed so many times I don’t remember what they first said. Thanks.

  4. If the Police Chief stated that even a trailer in the parking lot would provide immediate benefit to his department, why isn’t that being done PRONTO?

    This council talks a good game but they don’t LISTEN!

  5. Kerry, you are right about numbers changing so much. To me, it is almost just a moot point now. I believe a $200,000.00 home would increase $185.00 a year. Also remember that it would have been around $300.00. These numbers are irrelevant as Asst. Superintendent Gorla let the cat out of the bag that was only to be for one year.

    Really Kerry, NONE of the numbers presented to the community prior to the referendum were false at best. Well except one, they fully expected to spend ALL $110 million. I’m going to try digging up my old notes from past FPC meetings. There is a good chance that the numbers are in some minutes from meetings.

  6. I think the referendum tax on a $200k home was supposed to come in at $270/yr. The $20 million new construction EAV (and remember that translates to $60 million in total new construction) was set for the duration of the debt schedule. I think what many may see happen is the $270 ballpark number might maintain but their $200k house in now worth $150k. That might be best case scenario.

    But, the school referendum might just be the engine that is keeping the TIF districts afloat in the face of foreclosures and declining EAV. Those who live in a TIF district are charged the referendum tax like all others in Dist 428. But that tax increment, the entire referendum tax, goes into the TIF kitty. It does not go towards the school district’s debt obligation.

  7. Thanks Mac, the $270.00 per $200,000.00 value of property is correct.

    Remember at one of the FPC meetings when you addressed Andrea Gorla about this and also mentioned that pre-referendum rhetoric had claimed that this was to be a fixed number and Ms. Gorla was a bit dazzled and said that number was only a first year year projection?

    Tom Teresinski who is a member of the FPC seemed to agree with Gorla. Now, as many know, Tom currently represents DeKalb’s 2nd Ward as Alderman but in past years has been very active in school district matters. Along with sitting on the FPC, Tom is also on the school district’s finance committee (CFAC…?). Teresinski had mention once if not twice that finances and borrowing of bond money as needed instead of receiving all $110 million at one time was helping to keep the $270.00/$200,000.00 for a projected 3 years at best.

    Teresinski seemed to be also share our concern that revenue shortfalls anticipated by the referendum committee and school board were not going to occur due to the new numbers resulting from the use of factual numbers by the FPC post referendum. Now with regards to the $270/$200,000.00, I anticipated 14 months ago that year one would see the $270/$200,000, year two would jump to $540/$200,000., and year three would see it at $810/$200,000.

    Please note that I anticipated these numbers not figuring in the lowering of local market values of property. Also not figured is how 1,100 plus homes sitting empty in DeKalb adds to the revenue shortfall for bond repayment. Mac brings up several additional good points.

    1. Since property values have dropped straight across the board (actually, farmland is up an average of $11,000.00 per acre statewide) the $200,000.00 used in the projections needs to changed to $150,000.00 reflecting the droppping values of homes. This also translates as an increase in taxes paid by property owners.

    2. TIF Districts create a major down fall in perceived real estate tax dollars going to pay down the referendum. I am still trying to figure out to explain that NOT the whole community is helping to pay down the school bond. TIF Districts are ROBBING desperately needed dollars from helping to pay down the school referendum bond.

    Easy to understand. ANY property that was in a City of DeKalb TIF District at the time of the referendum, NONE, NADA, ZERO of the dollars many property owners think is going to repay the school referendum is actually going to TIF accounts to help for downtown RENEW:DEKALB projects, you know, ice skating rinks with no ice, paver brick parking lots and sidewalks, and that sidewalk to nowhere which by the way HAS become a skateboarder’s favorite destination. Is it really fair that only some, not all property owners are paying for the new schools?

    If you doubt this about TIF, write or call city manager Biernacki. He’ll tell you that the school board is being made “whole” by the city writing back a check to the school district. Me, well I say BULL! If that checkis truly making the school district “whole” then let the district out of the TIF agreements. Let those property tax dollars go directly to the school district. They won’t because advantage goes to city’s TIF Districts. Common sense would say that the school district is not being made “whole”. No way the school district is getting dollar for dollar that went to TIF.

    Oh how smoke and mirrors is used by local officials when it comes to taxpayer dollars. WE TRULY NEED TRANSPARENCY………MUCH SOONER THAN LATER!

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