We return our attention to Bell, California. Administrators and council members there paid themselves exorbitant salaries while cutting city services, overcharging taxes and fees, and creating a major municipal revenue source out of a vehicle impounding program.
This and more was accomplished in a roughly DeKalb-sized town with per capita income of $24,000.
Now, today I was sent a link (thanks!) to an article with this beautiful headline: Bell Council Members Guilty of Multiple Corruption Counts.
Five former council members were found guilty of stealing public money. Two former city administrators are still awaiting trial.
Key factors in the corruption seem to include a lack of oversight — Bell does not have its own newspaper — an aggressive city manager “mastermind,” and Bell’s status as a charter city, which allows its government to ignore state limits on salaries and other spending.
Site news: Posting is sure to remain very light through the rest of March and into April as the write-in campaign for city clerk continues. One way to be notified when I’ve posted is to visit or ask to join the City Barbs Facebook group if you use FB a lot.
In “DeKalb Gives First Approval to Property Tax Levy,” we get this:
The aldermen had previously set the ceiling for a property tax levy at $9.67 million, and were given two options by city staff to set the request at either $9.67 million or $9.63 million – the amount the city levied last year.
According to the Chronicle, the city council appears to support the higher levy, and the rate would go up, too, to about 79 cents. Anything else?
The city uses property tax revenue to fund pensions of city staff, police officers and firefighters. The $9.67 million request would be able to fund all the police and fire pensions, and 45 percent of the pensions of city staff. The other 55 percent will have to be made up from one of the city’s other funds, she said.
Let us summarize (using both today’s Chronicle story and Monday’s CB post.)
As a rule, city property tax collected ONLY goes to city pensions.
The property tax levy will probably go up for tax year 2012.
As the levy goes up, the rate will go up, too — about 7 cents.
A 7-cent hike would probably set a record.
Despite a probable record hike — and the investment gains we showed you Monday — it’s said we still need to put more money up front to cover rising costs.
Read the rest of this entry
The Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR) includes a table called “Schedule of Funding Progress” for each pension fund that the city is responsible for. An actuary determines the fund assets and liability, and from these are calculated the percentage that the fund is funded as well as the unfunded liability in dollars. I’ve pulled numbers from three or so CAFRs to bring you 12 years’ worth* of these calculations in graphic form.
Read the rest of this entry
|AFSCME||240 hours||240 hours||City can pay out some or all comp at any time
|FOP||146 hours||130 hours||
|IAFF||205 hours||205 hours||
|Chp 3/Mgt.||60 days||60 days||Employee can request a 1-time buyout prior to retirement
Yes, that’s correct: on Planet CityofDeKalb, some employees get to accumulate comp time for years and years.
And, yes: for management employees, the maximum payout is 60 DAYS. Read the rest of this entry
Continuing what I started yesterday:
Read the rest of this entry
|AFSCME||330 working days||90 working days
|FOP*||117 working days||90 working days
|IAFF||51.33 hr weekly schedule: 52 shifts|
37.5 hr weekly schedule: 120 shifts
|51.33 hr schedule: 45 shifts,
& equivalent for 37.5 hr schedule
|Chp. 3/Management||330 working days||90 working days
A friend sent me this link to an article about Central Falls, RI, which has the motto, “A City with a Bright Future”.
CENTRAL FALLS, R.I. — The city of Central Falls, Rhode Island — one of a handful of U.S. cities and counties facing fiscal collapse in the wake of the economic recession — has filed for bankruptcy.
The Chapter 9 bankruptcy filing marks a symbolic blow as state and local governments struggle to pull themselves out of the recession.
The smallest city in the smallest U.S. state made the filing Monday as it grappled with an $80 million unfunded pension and retiree health benefit liability that is nearly quadruple its annual budget of $17 million.
My friend asked whether this was a sign of things to come for the Land of Opportunity and Innovation™.
Before I take a crack at it, let me tell you about delving into Comprehensive Annual Financial Reports (CAFRs). (FY2003-2010 are available online at the City of DeKalb’s Downloads page.) Right now I’m contemplating such questions as:
“Is it really a capital asset if you can’t sell it?” and
“What does it say about us that TIF property taxes are our No. 2 revenue producer?” and
“If this is audited, why am I finding mistakes?” Read the rest of this entry
As we saw in the previous post, DeKalb has had a difficult time coming to terms with population loss since 2007. It’s not difficult to see why: a “grow or die” mentality, a downtown beautification plan at stake, an $88.5 million high school to justify, and so forth.
But before we go any further, let’s place this story of denial into a budget context. Management put raises for themselves into the FY2012 budget, and managed to budget us a nice $1.8* million surplus as well — a surplus that will be used for additional raises that accompany new labor contracts, because pay hikes for union workers are not part of the budget until they are approved by council.
The budget surplus is roughly equal to an anticipated 11.91%* increase in sales tax revenues plus the city’s share of the first year of TIF surplus.
The trouble is, the surplus is only a guess. They’ve been wrong before — and in the past few years, often very wrong. Read the rest of this entry
What a lovely surprise.
I can’t wait! I can’t wait for the rollbacks to begin of the tax and fee hikes our city council has approved since 2008 to keep afloat. Shall we start with the property tax, sales tax, restaurant and bar tax, hotel-motel tax, utility tax or the first gas tax hike? When will we hear the glad news that the rest of the planned water rate hikes have been canceled?
Or maybe instead, we could re-hire the 50+ people we’ve let go.
Or maybe, just maybe, this is propaganda, groundwork to justify more planned employee raises; and some parties are swallowing it hook, line and sinker.
And afterward, whatever budgetary badness happens will be something that “nobody could foresee.”
This ties together a half-dozen posts delivered over four months. It also better separates the facts from the adventures in obtaining them.
How the RIF Played Out Publicly
In February 2010, staff reported during a special meeting that DeKalb was facing budgetary shortfalls totaling more than $5 million by the end of FY2011. They attributed the shortfalls mainly to a combination of declining revenues and rapidly rising health insurance, pension and other personnel costs.
Although the city’s workforce already had been cut by 19 workers, another Reduction in Force (RIF) plan was proposed in case efforts to negotiate 12% across-the-board cuts in compensation failed — and indeed they did fail. Read the rest of this entry
From the Chicago Tribune today:
Buffalo Grove and its firefighters have agreed to defer raises, increase employee health insurance premium contributions and establish a new two-tier wage structure that will pay new hires 10 percent less.
There’s an example of the compensation reset some of us have been saying is necessary for DeKalb. Good going, Buffalo Grove.