First, let’s update our pension percentage-funded chart with the FY2013 numbers. These are from Comprehensive Annual Financial Reports (CAFRs).
City of DeKalb is quick to tout its balanced budgets and its growing “reserves.” But if DeKalb is doing so well, why isn’t it making up the pension-funding ground it lost during the past two recessions? Read the rest of this entry
From a Northern Star article this week:
City manager Anne Marie Gaura said the finance committee typically reviews the budget and looks at policy recommendations and general fund balance.
“The goal is to utilize the finance advisory committee in the most effective means of how to benefit the budget and the community,” Gaura said. “It’s an incredibly talented group, and we want to make sure we’re utilizing their talents to the maximum.”
If we REALLY want to utilize the talents of the city’s Financial Advisory Committee (FAC) to the max, we need to move it past budgets. Read the rest of this entry
This is more from the June 2013 Benefits Hours Report I was telling you about yesterday.
|300 Sick Pay||4,172.75||79,776.10||3,073,591.38
|500 Comp Used||1,974.75||12,397.48||457,938.93
|550 Floating Hldy||384.00||185.00||8,590.87
|560 Banked Comp||45.00||16,427.10||807,522.19
|301 Sick Pay Fire||2,274.25||50,421.75||1,544,619.90
|401 Vacation Fire||7,920.00||10,608.00||326,591.66
|501 Comp Used Fire||.00||317.63||10,018.57
|561 Banked Comp Fire||.00||2,169.64||68,972.21
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
***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 Available||Available Cost
|Espiritu (Asst. City Mgr.)||689.8||45,399.19
|Cleveland (Airport Mgr.)||1660.0||75,525.02
|Hicks (Fire Chief)||640.5||39,456.72
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.
I can’t believe hikes in taxes are even up for discussion.
Consultants estimated one option for renovating City Hall – including upgrades to the heating and cooling system, plumbing and fire protection system, among other things – would cost $3.7 million. City Council members also are exploring spending $7.5 million on renovations, with $5.5 million of that coming from tax increment financing dollars and $2 million coming from increases to gasoline taxes, water bills or property taxes.
From the article it sounds like Aldermen Jacobson, Snow and Baker do not support a plan to raise our taxes for this. Good. It’s bad enough the city will likely have to use TIF money to upgrade the HVAC instead of addressing our rotting neighborhoods, but raising taxes to put council chambers on the first floor would be absolutely obscene in view of the bills coming due for unpaid pension liabilities, public building construction and whopping raises for the rookie staff.
As an aside, I returned to my old home town in Indiana last weekend — you know, the one with real TIF oversight and an Ethics Commission, among other things. We paid 7% tax on our lunch bill, and when we went downtown near 7 p.m. on Friday we found the sidewalks filled with students and families and all the downtown shops lit and open.
A Chronicle article last week talks about all the new building, equipment and personnel the City of DeKalb is investing into its fire department.
I read the article after just having skimmed through the city’s check register for August. The police department spent, among other things, $125,000+ on software and $2600 on the new dog, including $79.95 for a water bowl. They seem to be having fun. Read the rest of this entry
A request made by Brad Manning Ford came up in the last DeKalb council meeting agenda:
The dealership says it can get $400,000 from Ford to put towards the [$2.3 million expansion] project, but that it still can’t foot the rest of the bill. The $110,000 that it is requesting from the city represents about 4.7 percent of the total cost – below the city’s traditional maximum project cost-sharing percentage of 20 percent.
The requested rebate would come from new sales taxes generated over and above the existing taxes that the dealership generates now, according to city documents. The program would end after seven years, or whenever the $110,000 mark is met using a 50-50 split – whichever happens first.
According to documents that the dealership provided to the city, it expects to generate a total of $110,000 in sales taxes in 2014 and more than $170,000 per year by the year 2020.
I left a comment with the story:
I like Manning Ford a lot and have had great experiences with their sales, service and rental departments. However, I note that the City of DeKalb purchased a $29,350 Ford Explorer from them in June, and I wonder which dealer ended up supplying the new squad cars totaling $151,700? In other words, maybe Manning is already getting enough help from the city?
Read the rest of this entry
City of DeKalb employees and the group Ellwood Historic Neighborhood have hatched a new plan just in time to take up a line item in the FY2014 budget: Buy up multi-family homes in the north 5th Ward, convert them to single-family and resell each property at a loss. In fact:
“We have worked with a local realtor and contractor to identify a willing seller of a multiunit house in the neighborhood,” said David Castro, a member of the Ellwood House Neighborhood Group, a group of residents who have worked with the city in the past to restore the area.
Council has put this plan on hold. Good for you, council members! Personally, I would, too. I agree with Ald. Jacobson that DeKalb should not get into the business of property speculation. First and foremost because it is so, so bad at it (see: empty lots downtown). Read the rest of this entry
Once again let me express deep, deep skepticism that DeKalb Public Library will actually raise the stated goal of $6 million in private donations to contribute to its expansion costs.
Witness the latest step toward putting it on the taxpayers.
In order to meet a looming June 30 deadline, the DeKalb Public Library will borrow $6 million from a private bank as a part of its fundraising strategy for its planned expansion.
How does that even work? If DKPL can just walk into a bank and get a loan of millions, why is it asking the City of DeKalb for help?
Just as importantly, is there anyone who believes DKPL will honestly commit to fundraising once a bank loan is in hand?
If the library board were serious about raising funds from anybody besides Mr. & Ms. Taxpayer, it would have launched a capital campaign well before last month and passed the hat ’round its own table. As of December it hadn’t identified even one major donor and that’s got to be the case today, else they wouldn’t still be looking at borrowing the entire $6 mil.
I truly believe DKPL’s “fundraising strategy” is to use public money, period. Only the city council can change that course and it can start by applying the brakes Monday.