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
The City of DeKalb got rid of 30+ employees at the beginning of FY2011 in order to balance its budget. There followed a year of quiet, but now we’re in the midst of a hiring spree.
|YoY Comparison of|
Full time Equivalent
Here is what it has done to personnel expenses.
And here’s what the FY2014 budget narrative (PDF p. 29) says about the increases:
Total Personnel Services reflect an increase of 4.5% percent over FY2013. Most of this increase is attributable to a 15% percent increase in pension costs. Wages reflect increases based on collective bargaining agreements. Our insurance consultant informed us in March that the City’s health insurance premium will increase by 4.5% percent[.]
The latest pension cost increase is distressing, but in terms of dollars it is neither the only source nor the primary source of rising personnel costs, which make up some 83% of the General Fund budget.
So we’re looking at these expenditures going up $2.4 million over a two-year period. However, personnel expenses as a whole are expected to rise only about $1 million. In my opinion, this has given council and others a false sense of security that our revenues are naturally growing to cover the ongoing, rising expenses — so let’s try to tug the curtain away. Read the rest of this entry
The DeKalb Area Rental Association (DARA) has sent city council members a letter and with general budget recommendations for FY2014.
EPI, of course, refers to Executive Partners, Inc., their latest report to the city and the April workshop we talked about yesterday.
Jump for more. Read the rest of this entry
Executive Partners, Inc. (EPI) was hired four years ago to help put the City of DeKalb on a more sustainable path financially.
The fix didn’t take, so they’re back. EPI met with city officials at an April 13 special meeting.
Mr. Nuehring stated he will discuss opportunities for revenues. He noted that there are approximately 375 fines and fees and enforcement can be a challenge. He added that a full review of all may be necessary. The question was asked of staff yesterday, he said, if fines and fees are viewed as revenue or used for public safety and compliance. Staff stated they are meant for public safety and compliance. Mayor Povlsen agreed.
DeKalb’s personnel expenses are going up $1 million in FY2014, but most of its core revenues are slipping. Property taxes are still flat, city sales tax has been reduced more than $100,000 in the past year and the utility tax revenue estimate for FY2013 is $320,000 less than the year before. Are we really supposed to believe the timings of the new rental housing registration program, towing/impounding regulations and steep increases in fines are coincidental and not responses to continuing revenue shrinkage? Read the rest of this entry
The DeKalb Chamber of Commerce wants a new annual allocation from the city.
The DeKalb Chamber of Commerce is requesting $45,000 from the city to create an event coordinator position to take over the events that Re:New DeKalb has run for years…Re:New DeKalb will undergo a fundamental shift later this year, said Frank Roberts, the president of the organization’s executive board. He said the organization will broaden its focus to include economic development in the entire city, public safety, and creating a marketing brand for DeKalb.
First of all, that’s some serious mission creep they’ve got there. Secondly, the Chamber already gets $50,0000 per year from DeKalb’s Economic Development Fund for marketing and tourism.
Speaking of the Econ Fund:
The money would come from the city’s economic development fund, which is funded by the city’s hotel/motel tax. Biernacki said the city expects to see a boost in this fund with the new Hampton Inn and Suites being built at the corner of South Annie Glidden Road and Taylor Street.
No, I’m thinking the money probably wouldn’t come from that fund. Reason(s): the Econ Fund always a) gets a transfusion from the General Fund, and/or b) runs in the red. Read the rest of this entry
The City of DeKalb has been re-growing its post-recession General Fund reserve since FY2011, when a large reduction in force coupled with windfall revenues helped the city regain its financial footing. But are annual budget surpluses an indicator we’ve set out upon the right financial path? The latest Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR) is now available, so let’s see if we can spot the trends.
The years represented in the above chart are the fiscal years, each of which runs July 1 through June 30.
The reserve looks pretty good now, but I believe it has given city leaders the wrong idea. Read the rest of this entry
Putting together DeKalb’s pension picture has been like a forestry hide-and-seek. Facts are the trees and while facts have been examined, there’s often an underlying feeling that the ecosystem has not yet been adequately described. So I keep going back in.
One “specimen” whose significance I failed to fully appreciate earlier is the shortfall between what is collected in city property taxes and the annual required contributions to the three pension funds. Unlike the State of Illinois, DeKalb faithfully makes yearly contributions; and if the property taxes don’t cover them, the city must free up additional revenues from the General Fund.
So far, such shortages appear to have fallen exclusively on IMRF and below is a piece of that picture.
Read the rest of this entry
The agendas for the council meetings tonight include a public hearing about setting the city’s property tax levy, which they must think will be controversial because you must wade through 112 pages of the PDF file to get to the related items (also see page 114).
I was surprised to find out that the levy request is the same as last year, because it said in the newspaper that the rate was once again expected to go up significantly. Having to raise the rates repeatedly to keep the take the same is bad news. It reminds me of the utility tax problem. Some communities are beginning to recover, but not DeKalb, it seems.
Here’s one area where we ARE bouncing back, though:
DeKalb city staff want to hire five people and buy four vehicles in their quest to a) ignore recommendations of the Safe/Quality Housing Task Force and b) implement the rental housing licensing and inspection program they’ve wanted all along.
According to the agenda backup, start-up costs would come to $135,000 and the annual outlay would be $454,000. Fees would cover only about half of the ongoing annual costs — but wait! They’ve already budgeted $150,000 – $196,000 in contingencies over the next five years so it’s mostly taken care of and the rest can be “absorbed by other General Fund sources” so it’s all good!
But, at least the latest staff nonsense might mean council has signaled a decision against a tax increase for the program.
Enjoy the latest performance of the “Cirque du DK” tonight in council chambers beginning 6 p.m.