From the Daily Chronicle today comes “DeKalb aldermen confront budgeting issues.”

During their Monday discussion of the budget for the fiscal year that starts July 1, DeKalb aldermen were told the city will need to cut services or boost revenue in order to maintain operations in the coming years.

Beginning July 1, alderman were told, the city should shift its structure and look at the way the general fund is used.

“The main thing is the current structure of how everything is put together is not sustainable,” City Manager Anne Marie Gaura said. “Something has to change and that will require policy decisions in the coming months and coming years on how to address this long-term.”

Gee, where have I heard this before? Read the rest of this entry

The City of Springfield is expecting to approve a new contract with its firefighters’ union soon.

Golly, I wish we had that kind of news coverage. Remember the last-minute hoop we had to jump through to find what the 2011 contract with our firefighters was about?

The Springfield story reminded me that the longish closed sessions our council is holding lately have something to do with collective bargaining and not just horse-trading over the appointment of the new city manager. Sure enough, DeKalb’s agreement with International Association of Firefighters Local 1236 expires June 30, 2014.

I meant to look at the contract anyway because during the last council meeting, they were speaking in code while talking about the latest emergency services contract. The code was “7(g)” and turns out “7(g)” is shorthand for, “How much the city is going to pay emergency personnel to attend sporting events.”

But on to the quid pro quo. Read the rest of this entry

DeKalb’s Financial Hole

As with yesterday’s clip, today’s video comes from a recording of the April 2013 workshop meeting involving DeKalb officials and the financial consultants Executive Partners, Inc. In this one, EPI’s Larry Kujovich explains why the city needs to shift to a more strategic, longer-term approach in allocating its resources.

The clip comes from the first couple minutes of this portion of the workshop video.

The setup: The April 2013 workshop meeting between city officials and their contracted financial consultants, Executive Partners, Inc., was coming to a close. EPI’s Larry Kujovich (on the left) and Rob Oberwise have been talking about the importance of image building to economic development. Alderman Ron Naylor remarks that economic development has been a priority for as long as he’s been involved with the city, so he asks, “Is there something that you’re saying we need to do more of?”

The clip comes from this 10-minute portion of the meeting video. Ald. Naylor’s question starts at 7:50 into it and both consultants respond. Watch to the end and you’ll see what impact Mr. Kujovich had on the discussion.

During a special meeting held June 11, officials of the City of DeKalb met with their contracted financial consultant team known for short as EPI. EPI presented observations and recommendations in the areas of strategic revenue production and cost containment. The consultants also reviewed progress on strategic financial recommendations made in 2009, a time of deep financial crisis for the city.

Some, including myself, had a problem with the report because parts were redacted without explanation. The redacted information was requested by another resident under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), and the requester was inexplicably given the same redacted version of the report as before. The requester interpreted this action as a denial of information and so did the Attorney General’s Public Access Counselor. The PAC asked the city to respond to a complaint about the denial. Today I’ll share that response and more. Read the rest of this entry

A bit over a week ago we looked at the City of DeKalb’s failure to provide a non-redacted version of its financial consultants’ latest report. Here’s what the Attorney General’s Public Access Counselor has to say.

PAC Response EPI Denial p1 photo PACResp1EPIDenial_zps871faa90.jpg

PAC Response EPI Denial p2 photo PACResp2EPIDenial_zps9d6a0916.jpg

It comes down to giving up the goods or explaining why they don’t have to — exactly what professionals would have done in the first place. Sad.

A couple weeks ago I mentioned that DeKalb’s financial consultants made recommendations for medical cost containment deserving of their own post.

Here it is, finally. Turns out it’s not just the recommendations after all and it’s very long, so grab a cuppa something and make the jump when you’ve got time to hang out for awhile. Read the rest of this entry

Last week I shared with you my observations of the June 11 meeting between the council and the city’s financial consultants. One thing I noted, but hadn’t taken action on, was this:

Some of the recommendations in the report were apparently redacted. (See PDF pp. 108 and 110.) This is inappropriate for a public record unless an exemption to the Freedom of Information Act is claimed.

Well, guess what? A reader picked up on the issue, and requested through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) the blacked-out items. Here’s the wording of the specific request:

I am requesting a Listing of Items (recommendations and $ Impact) redacted on the 2013 DeKalb EPI report under Summary of Key recommendations Medical cost containment review items: C3 and C4. Also a listing of Department Efficiencies Analysis and Outsourcing Review: item B1

Now let’s look at the response.* Read the rest of this entry

DeKalb’s city council met again with DeKalb’s financial consultants, EPI/Crowe, to consider the latter’s latest report and recommendations.

The most important information to pass on to you is that the consultants told the council, at least twice AND in so many words, that the city will enter another financial crisis within five years if it doesn’t drastically change its operating model.

Yes, this concern has been a recurring topic at City Barbs since at least the time of the analysis of the Reduction in Force of 2010. Maybe they’ll listen now that they’ve paid someone to tell them these things. We’ll see.

Key to change, said the consultants, is strategy. Laying off people when you get into financial trouble is not strategic, it’s tactical. Strategic means planning for fulfilling needs 3-5 years out. Tactical is doing whatever it takes to get through the next year. One way is sustainable, the other a grubby little bandage giving temporary relief.

Bottom line, in my words alone: Getting rid of 30-plus employees is a desperate act borne of failure to recognize changing realities, and those responsible should not be allowed to pretend they are financial geniuses. Read the rest of this entry

Procurement

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