Archive for December, 2013

When I told you about City of DeKalb’s policy to allow staff in administrative positions to bank comp time — as well as how much comp certain employees had accumulated — I could not include the comp and other accumulations of former city manager Mark Biernacki because he’d already cashed out in mid-June. But, here are the payout numbers for you. Read the rest of this entry

Via The Pantagraph today:

Ward 4 Alderman Judy Stearns on Dec. 6 filed a request for review with the Illinois attorney general’s public access counselor, which has since asked for more information from the city.

She alleged the council during a Nov. 15 closed session discussed issues not exempt from the state’s Open Meetings Act, including broad discussions of general hiring practices, a sought-after “culture change” and “why it is critical that the Council be totally united on the changes to be made, including the comment by our City Manager (David Hales) that a 5 to 4 vote is not acceptable.”

The other side of the story is that there may have been a couple of stray comments about policy in the midst of a discussion of specific employees. Discussion of individuals is an allowed exemption to OMA.

However, Ald. Stearns lists in the Request for Review seven non-exempt topics she says were discussed during the closed session. Stearns said she eventually left the closed session due to the non-exempt topics and that she has since consulted the Citizen Advocacy Center.

The required recording of the closed session will tell the tale to the PAC.

Don’t hold your breath for results, though. I’ve been waiting for an opinion on an OMA complaint for almost a year.

**Update 12/24 on the hearing: Kane County Chronicle reports that a decision on the campaign disclosure complaint against Show You Care Kane is not expected until next year.**

What would you say if Kish Health Systems were to send its chief executive to open and fund a political action committee (PAC) in order to promote passage of a referendum for a special property tax levy to fund its services?

That is NOT happening here, but a similar scenario IS shaping up for real in Kane County.

About a year ago, The Association for Individual Development (AID) in Aurora sent its president/CEO to head up a PAC called Show You Care Kane (SYCK). The stated purpose of the PAC is to “help children and adults with developmental disabilities” and The Chicago Tribune described some specifics in October:

Kane County voters could see a tax increase request on next spring’s ballot that would generate about $12 million annually for services for the developmentally disabled.

The proposal would tax property at 0.1 percent of its assessed value, and the money would be distributed by a disability board, made up of people from throughout the county, that would hire agencies to support independent living, jobs, therapy, transportation and supportive care for those with development (sic) disabilities.

Here’s what the Trib didn’t mention:

–AID has a $20 million annual operating budget and serves up to 5,000 clients each year. It would probably qualify for a big chunk of that $12 million considering there’s little competition within the county when it comes to DD adult services.

Show You Care Kane is funded either exclusively or very near exclusively by AID.

–SYCK used $73,000 of a $76,000 contribution from AID to pay a professional company to collect the number of signatures needed to place the referendum question on the ballot.

If I hadn’t dug up these things, I’d be inclined to treat the “disability tax” effort as grassroots. All I smell so far is artificial turf.

Yet, for all of its synthetic sophistication, SYCK will appear before the State Board of Elections tomorrow on a complaint that it did not properly report contributions to its PAC on two occasions. Read the rest of this entry

Boone County Watchdog tipped me off about a new revenue source for the blog’s home county: transporting and housing federal prisoners. The full story comes from the Register Star:

BELVIDERE — A negotiating firm plans to generate tens of thousands of dollars in new revenue for the Boone County jail without changing day-to-day operations.

The Summerill Group, LLC will negotiate with the U.S. Marshals Service the amount that the Boone County Sheriff’s Office is paid for housing and transporting federal prisoners. Joseph Summerill, managing principal of the agency, said in a contract a preliminary analysis indicated that the county could increase its per diem from $65 per inmate per day to $79.12.

If the average daily federal prisoner count remains at 18, the new rate would generate an additional $92,000 in revenue annually, boosting the county’s total revenue from federal prisoner housing to $519,000.

Yes, and if that happens, Boone County will be able to hire a new public defender and buy a squad car or two. Read the rest of this entry

The employment contract between City of DeKalb and its new manager, Anne Marie Gaura, is part of the agenda for Monday’s council meeting.

I’m pretty pleased about this pick — Gaura’s resume looks the best to me of all the city manager candidates in terms of range and depth of experience — and I’m pleased with this contract, too. It has an expiration date. And look here:

The Parties acknowledge that under current provisions of City Code, Chapter 3 employees are entitled to accrue and be compensated for “Comp Time” or “Compensatory Time.” Notwithstanding such provisions, the Parties expressly agree and acknowledge that Employee is a management employee, exempt from FLSA overtime provisions. Employee shall not accrue or be eligible to be compensated for Comp Time or Compensatory Time, and any contrary provision of Chapter 3 shall be inapplicable to Employee.

They maybe ended up having to offer more salary in exchange for the Chapter 3 exemption, and that’s fine. Salary goes up front on the very publicly-discussed budget, while comp and other such paid leave accumulations take compensation off budget and push it into a little corner of growing liabilities in annual financial reports that only a few oddballs like me bother to read.

Anyway, these are welcome changes. Hat tip to His Honor and the council for some good decision-making lately. If Gaura is as tough and honest as she is experienced, DeKalb could really be looking at a new day.

The Daily Chronicle has come out against the proposed Sycamore Road TIF District, pointing to Mayor Rey’s recent comment that two developers are interested in one of the properties even with no incentives.

So why bring tax increment financing into the equation? It certainly might give the city some more money it can spend on projects of its choosing, but it doesn’t appear necessary here.

For one thing, I think maybe NIU has gotten the idea that the city is going to fix up one of its buildings. TIF in DeKalb has ALWAYS been about generating slush for pet projects.

But tax increment financing is supposed to be used to encourage development in areas that need it, not just to generate revenue for City Hall to spend.

The South Fourth Street corridor needs redevelopment, no question. But the South Fourth plan is a horrible plan. In fact, both of the TIF proposals are bad, as in ill-conceived and lazy. The TIF consultant should be fired and the Joint Review Board publicly shamed for its lack of proper oversight.

I’m glad to hear that the city council is questioning these TIF proposals and I hope at some point this body also sees the need to review and reform how TIF plays out in DeKalb.

This is more from the June 2013 Benefits Hours Report I was telling you about yesterday.

Code/Type
of Hours
Hours
Used
Hours
Available
Available
Cost
300 Sick Pay4,172.7579,776.103,073,591.38
400 Vacation11,442.5021,029.66811,315.64
500 Comp Used1,974.7512,397.48457,938.93
550 Floating Hldy384.00185.008,590.87
560 Banked Comp45.0016,427.10807,522.19
301 Sick Pay Fire2,274.2550,421.751,544,619.90
401 Vacation Fire7,920.0010,608.00326,591.66
501 Comp Used Fire.00317.6310,018.57
561 Banked Comp Fire.002,169.6468,972.21
Totals28,213.25193,332.36$7,109,161.35

You can see that the banked comp (560) truly is banked, and the administrator-depositors are enjoying nice, risk-free annual increases when raises and COLAs are applied.

The caps on unused sick leave are very high in all departments. In fact, there are about 50 city employees who, thanks to overly-generous sick leave and/or comp time policies, could quit their jobs tomorrow and potentially walk away with checks for more than $50,000. Read the rest of this entry

Comp Time Champs

***Clarification*** added 12/3 due to a question that came up in this Facebook discussion: Firefighters often work overtime and they almost always receive overtime pay for it. However, according to their contract they might with permission accumulate a little comp time instead, up to 205 hours, after which no more comp time is permitted to be accumulated. My investigation of firefighter comp time actually turned out to be a red herring when it comes to high accumulations of paid leave and I only mentioned it to show that the path to the truth is not always linear.***

I’ve continued to look at the DeKalb firefighters’ current labor contract with the city since it is set to expire at the end of June. It says that fire personnel may accumulate up to 205 hours of comp time, so I submitted a Freedom of Information Act request for comp time records for firefighters at about the end of the 2013 fiscal year (end of June or early July).

Luckily, I received more than I asked for because DeKalb Fire isn’t so much the story here.

Below is information about banked comp time hours drawn from a Benefit Hours Report that was generated June 26, 2013. Repeat: This is banked comp time only.

Name & Position/Dept.Banked Hours AvailableAvailable Cost
Espiritu (Asst. City Mgr.)689.845,399.19
Cleveland (Airport Mgr.)1660.075,525.02
Bauling (Engineering/Code/Transportation)1776.580,825.42
Maurer (Engineering/Code/Transportation)5337.0304,449.17
Hicks (Fire Chief)640.539,456.72
Hoyle (Fire)504.029,130.39
Hoadley (Police)706.5540,837.46
LeMay (Fire)1030.628,767.24

Another two dozen city employees had banked $5,000 to $25,000 in comp by the time of the report.

I’ll put up more numbers later this week.

Related post: On the Trail of the Legendary Comp Time Monster.