In its May 2009 report, Executive Partners, Inc. (EPI) recommended the City of DeKalb centralize its purchasing.

DeKalb never followed through. Now that the consultants have returned (as EPI/Crowe) they must repeat themselves.

Once again I offer a transcription, taken from the April 13 workshop between EPI/Crowe and City of DeKalb officials. And once again the speaker is my new BFF, Larry Kujovich of EPI/Crowe.

Here’s the setup. One of the council members is grumbling that the estimated yearly savings was determined by a benchmark instead of an actual invoice analysis.

I couldn’t consolidate by vendor what you spend, or by commodity. I was incapable of doing that because the system doesn’t allow me to do that right now. So for me to say, “Hey, if I go from Vendor A to Vendor B I’m gonna save “X” percent of this,” I couldn’t do that.

DeKalb’s expenditures are $12 million a year paid out to some 250 vendors and the benchmark for savings is 10%. Yet even though we could conceivably have saved something in the neighborhood of a million a year since the recommendation was first made, we couldn’t be bothered to set up the system for a proper analysis to find out. Read the rest of this entry

DeKalb’s expenses are outpacing revenues:

The city will spend at least $30 million from its general fund, a 5.4 percent increase from this fiscal year. The city’s general fund pays for city personnel, equipment, and contractual services.

The city is projecting $31.1 million in revenue for fiscal 2014, a 4.2 percent increase from this fiscal year. In fiscal 2014, the city is paying $750,000 more on police and fire pensions out of their general fund.

Today I want to look closely at the revenue increases.

In dollars, the 4.2% expected net increase equals $1.08 million, which will cover the pension contribution hikes plus a bit more. However, so little of it comes from natural growth that you won’t need to pull out the tarot cards to see a shaky future. Read the rest of this entry

There is going to be a special meeting tonight at 6 p.m. to talk over amendments to the draft budget. Then, during the regular meeting beginning 7 p.m. there will be a public hearing on the proposed budget.


Two of the proposed amendments are sizeable, and would set off lots of juggling. (PDF p. 7). There is also the possibility of creating deficits for the year that were not originally anticipated.

There is way too much being thrown into the air here to be absorbed in such a short amount of time.

I don’t know about you, but one of the ways I show respect for the process is by studying the plan before I comment on it publicly.

Do council members hold a similar respect for reasoned public input? If so, they will reschedule the hearing.

DeKalb’s Business Friendliness

I am rapidly developing a crush on Larry Kujovich, a member of the group of financial consultants hired by the City of DeKalb.

Still working on taking in the whole of the April 13 workshop video, I swooned this time during a discussion of image-building as part of economic development strategy.

Use terms like “image building” and “branding” and I reflexively roll my eyes because such exercises are futile when the desired image and reality reside in different zip codes. But I quickly regained focus when Mr. Kujovich said this:

[I]f you survey potential businesses, would they consider DeKalb business friendly? I don’t know the answer to that question. We have heard anecdotal evidence; some say that DeKalb is one of the most business-unfriendly cities they’ve ever encountered. Well, if that’s the case, economic development will be a challenge. So, it’s something that perhaps could be addressed.

Read the rest of this entry

Last night I was lucky to attend the candidates’ night hosted by the DeKalb Area Rental Association. Candidates running for DeKalb mayor and aldermen participated.

Some performances I liked real well, others I didn’t. Later, I realized the people who impressed me the least were the ones promising regular town hall meetings, ward coffee sessions, open-door policies, transparency!™ and citizen input up the wazoo. Read the rest of this entry

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!

We know how really, really good DeKalb staff are at projecting revenues!

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.

DeKalb city manager Mark Biernacki entered into a contract agreement last fall with the firm Klein, Thorpe and Jenkins, using his ordinance-given spending authority (PDF p. 55).

A professional services contract had been entered into by the City Manager, on behalf of the City Council, with the firm Klein, Thorpe, and Jenkins to conduct research and to prepare recommendations on code enforcement strategies and practices. The City Manager is authorized to enter into contracts provided the cost to the City does not exceed $20,000.

The city manager is authorized to enter into these contracts but to be more precise, the services must already be authorized budgetary expenses. He is not allowed to start new projects without permission.

Regardless of budgetary legitimacy, Mr. Biernacki obtained the blessing of the city council via one-on-one communications — no formal vote was taken at the time — to bring in KTJ under his spending authority. Then it got a bit more complicated.

To date [January 2012] this hourly rate contract has incurred a cost of $17,828 (see attached invoices). Given the growing expectations the City and the Housing Task Force have had of the firm (additional research, attendance at additional meetings, etc.), it is clear that the total cost of this contract will exceed $20,000. It is estimated the total will be in the range of $30,000 to $35,000. The Municipal Code requires that the Council ratify a previously entered into hourly contract where subsequent circumstances lead to a total cost exceeding the $20,000 cap.

Council authorized expenses incurred by KTJ up to $40,000. Shall we take a peek at the final tally? Read the rest of this entry

[Updated with link 5:30 p.m.]

The DeKalb City Council is planning three special meetings on housing issues, scheduled as follows:

  • Wednesday, Aug 22 at 6 p.m.
  • Wednesday, Sept 19 at 6 p.m.
  • Wednesday, Oct 10 at 6 p.m.
  • The meetings will not include Safe/Quality Housing Task Force members except as members of the audience who are invited only to “attend and observe,” according to a city e-mail that is making the rounds.

    Count me among the Task Force members, landlords and others who are concerned the lack of public input will leave the administrators’ agenda inadequately challenged. For example, the city has included a $150,000 rental property licensing and inspection contingency in the FY2013 budget that was rejected as a Task Force recommendation yet continues to be pushed by city staff.

    Soon the DeKalb city council will be deciding what steps to take, if any, in response to recommendations made by the Safe/Quality Housing Task Force and by its own staff. They include proposals for a “disorderly house” ordinance, issuance of Crime Free Lease addenda, and regulations for the registration, licensing and inspection of rental properties.

    As longtime readers know, licensing and inspection of rental properties — and new revenues to pay for them — are dreams that have danced in the heads of city administrators for several years. The question is whether such initiatives would be worth the cost to residents, especially the group living here who’ve been walloped by the economy and made to watch the TIF boondoggle at the same time.

    Obviously I’ve been suspicious from the get-go — and not buying the new crop of staff arguments for licensing and inspection, either. Read the rest of this entry

    The Burden of Transparency

    You’ve probably seen this e-mail wherein Mayor Povlsen scolds Mark Charvat for making plans to pack the house during the DeKalb Township Annual Meeting without telling him.

    — On Mon, 3/19/12, Povlsen, Kris wrote:
    From: Povlsen, Kris
    Subject: So much for Transparency
    To: “‘’”
    Date: Monday, March 19, 2012, 2:30 PM
    Guess this says a lot about your character and walking the talk! You are a hypocrite CITIZEN CHARVAT!

    What’s even more hilarious is where the seed for this outburst came from. Read the rest of this entry