Archive for the ‘ City Watch ’ Category

Overtime comprised most of DeKalb PD’s excessive spending over budgeted amounts for FY2014, but another major culprit was spending in the “Commodities” category that came to roughly twice as much as the $260,000 budgeted.

Commodities were clearly under-budgeted in 7 of 10 accounts in that category and in a couple cases downright unrealistically. For example, actual costs for gas, oil and antifreeze for that department came in a bit over $117,000 for FY2013, yet PD budgeted only $95,000 for the same item the following year.

What’s going on? My guess is that the decision to return expenses from off-budget accounts back into the department’s budget accounts was an unexpected development.

Fortunately, spending for general government was lower than budgeted and this partially offset the excessive spending on public safety, leaving the city at a mere $347,773 over its General Fund budget for the year.

Resources:

City of DeKalb FY2015 Budget

Comprehensive Annual Financial Report for Fiscal Year 2014

Auditor’s Letter to Management (see p. 6 of the PDF)

City of DeKalb’s Downloads Page (Look under the Finance heading for annual budgets and CAFRs)

Airport Operating Deficits

The Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR) for FY2014 is out. So far the document is only accessible as part of the December 8 council meeting agenda, but at some point will probably appear on the city’s downloads page under the Finance title.

Let’s stick a toe in by first visiting the DeKalb Taylor Municipal Airport (DTMA) annual operating deficits:

FY2006: $467,332
FY2007: $720,557
FY2008: $645,131
FY2009: $778,324
FY2010: $524,272
FY2011: $681,713
FY2012: $413,576
FY2013: $491,217
FY2014: $491,997

The city has to make up for the deficits using tax money that would otherwise go to general operations.

Thoughts:

DTMA took on fuel sales a couple years ago, and all of its hangar space is rented out (PDF p. 143). I do not know whether the city has recently compared rental rates with other airports, but if not that might be a good next step to ensure that taxpayers aren’t subsidizing operations any more than they have to.

The agenda for last night’s joint meeting between DeKalb city council members and the city’s Finance (sic) Advisory Committee included a list of 14 communities besides DeKalb and their “comparable economic data.”

The argument seems to be that DeKalb taxpayers can afford to pay more in property taxes than the “bargain” they are currently getting relative to residents of other towns.

The comps had DeKalb’s median family income as $61,806. I laughed.

Don’t get me wrong — DeKalb’s median family income really is $61,806.

But you only come up with that figure if you leave more than half of DeKalb’s households out of the calculation. Read the rest of this entry

DeKalb city staff have come up with a proposal to raise the city’s property tax levy by 10%. Daily Chronicle reports that the council gave initial approval on Monday.

Here’s how the city is presenting the recommendation:

City staff want to move away from the current practice of using the general fund to pay for pension obligations property tax revenues don’t cover. Finance Director Cathy Haley explained property taxes currently fully fund police and fire pension obligations and 97 percent of Social Security and Medicare costs. But only 26 percent of the city’s costs for the Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund comes from property taxes, leaving the general fund to cover more than $720,000.

A 10 percent increase would bring in an additional $495,000, fully fund Social Security and phase in fully funding IMRF obligations through property taxes, Haley said.

Council will furthermore consider the recommended hike in a joint meeting with the Financial Advisory Committee tonight.

The most important thing to understand is that the discussion is not just about setting the levy for the upcoming tax year, but about committing to a significant policy change in how the city chooses to fund its pensions — possibly for years to come. Read the rest of this entry

Another Anniversary

As City Barbs turns nine today, I want to express my pleasure and gratitude to you who have let me know in so many ways that the blog has value to you.

I am as excited as ever to begin another year. There’s the fresh smell of grassroots growing in the air and it makes sense to me that City Barbs continues to operate in service of perspectives and ideas that differ from those of the local political-media establishment.

Do you come here often? If so, you’ve noticed less frequent postings over the past several months. Schedules come into play, of course, but much of the change reflects a shift to posting more on Facebook. A lot of interesting public documents have come to light since the College Town Partners leak and I can’t resist the Facebook photo album format for displaying pages side-by-side with descriptions of their context. Hope you will check out the group if you haven’t already.

Lastly, here’s a plug for some o’ that grassroots freshness. You are invited to attend FOCUS DeKalb’s latest meeting — Part Deux to the town hall that drew almost 100 individuals. Find the deets here: Town Hall Meeting Tonight.

The latest in the College Town Partners saga is that NIU has apparently changed its Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) policy. It now favors heavy redaction.

The following is NIU’s response this week to a FOIA request made by Misty Haji-Sheikh of the north Fifth Ward group called Preserve Our Neighborhoods.

Click on the Twitter image for the full-sized view.

Only two bits of meaningful information are left: the subject matter and the recipient of the email. The city would have us believe that its newbie city manager wasn’t really involved in College Town Partners, but now one could reasonably assume Gaura has swum in the thick of things since early in her tenure — or perhaps even before that.

Let’s look at some more. Read the rest of this entry

Were you confused that DeKalb city clerk Liz Peerboom seemed to have resigned from office last Friday, but now the city is still awaiting her resignation? Me too. Fortunately I’ve been diving into the Illinois Municipal Code as time has allowed. The answer is that the resignation is not official unless it’s signed and notarized. Email doesn’t count.

Another reason for spending time with the Muni Code is to figure out what comes next in the matter of selecting a new city clerk. This is harder than it looks because sometimes one section of the Code seems to contradict another. However, after some research I feel confident the following assertion is wrong:

Once city staff receives Peerboom’s resignation, [Mayor] Rey will appoint someone to fill the remaining two years and eight months of her term.

Nope nope nope. Read the rest of this entry

ear of corn
DeKalb Corn Fest’s Form 990 for 2012 is available, so we can check out Corn Fest’s final year at the airport.

There was a major drop in expenses over 2011.

Good thing, too. The revenue for 2012 is the lowest in that column, which is particularly shocking in view of Corn Fest’s takeover of the beer garden. It’s another indicator of poor attendance and probably reflects a significant loss of vendors as well.

YearRevenuesExpensesGain/LossGrants
Given
2004129,016153,600-24,584None
2005174,734140,83933,895None
2006183,392163,69819,69425,200
2007167,509156,17411,3353,000
2008160,999178,519-17,5204,000
2009183,662184,376-1,014300
2010155,804171,748-15,944None
2011133,058151,358-18,300None
2012124,786123,760
1,026None

Time will tell whether Corn Fest saved itself from a death spiral by moving back downtown.

Meanwhile, I believe we’ve amply demonstrated that the real reason for the return from the airport was failure.

I hardly know where to begin.

In response to a tenant complaint, at 10 a.m. Friday, city inspectors met building owner Pat Bragg at the Edgebrook Manor Apartments and within hours they had decided to condemn the property, requiring everyone living there to leave their homes within 24 hours.

A few years ago, a friend of mine who lived on Roosevelt Street complained to a City of DeKalb code inspector that her landlord had refused to properly clean up flood damage to her apartment. The landlord immediately terminated the month-to-month lease. My friend struggled to find a new place even though she had 30 days’ notice and, in fact, she had to couch surf for a month or two. It was horribly disruptive to her life.

So I don’t get that nobody bats an eyeball when City of DeKalb boots people out with 24 hours’ notice and no solid alternatives. Read the rest of this entry

The following is a production of StrongTowns.org.

Advisory:

Note: Strong Towns is not responsible for any mental duress resulting from repeated watching of this video. We are also not responsible for angry reactions from planners and engineers confronted with the illogic of their world view. If watching as part of a group, we recommend having a padded room or some type of physical restraint system available to keep those that develop a temporary feeling of hopelessness from doing damage to themselves or others.

As DeKalb tries to figure out how to come up with $6 million a year more to repair our neglected streets without chasing out more of our population, there are ways to put together better answers. For our city, it means a major shift away from its Edifice Complex (public spending on buildings that don’t contribute to the tax base) and development of a grownup’s appreciation for basic infrastructure.