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

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

The August 12 city council regular meeting agenda contains several items that are staff requests to waive competitive bidding for purchases and contracts. Since there seemed quite a list, I took a closer look to see if they seemed legit. Most did. Then I saw the following:


In March, the Council authorized the Fire Department to seek bids to accomplish the necessary repairs and improvements needed at Fire Station #2, 1154 S. 7th Street. A local architect, Sharp Architects, completed the necessary drawings and bid specs for the project. The bids have been received for this project and staff is seeking Council approval to reject all bids, waive competitive bidding, and award a contract to Irving Construction, using the fund balance from the Public Safety Building Fund to pay for this project.

Wow! Reject all the bids? But why? Read the rest of this entry

DeKalb’s Hiring Spree

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
Employees (FTEs)
FY2012FY2013FY2014+/- Over
Public Works434444+1

Here is what it has done to personnel expenses.

FY2012FY2013FY2014+/- Over
Health Ins3,320,7253,746,7403,810,939+490,214

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 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:

Read the rest of this entry

OK, Council, you said you’d bond out no more than $12 million but now staff is coming at you with a proposal for borrowing $14 million.

It’s not that Peace Road and the fire stations don’t need attention. They do — especially Station 2. But is this really the way to do it? Bundling the police station funding with three other projects ’cause it’s “only” $2 mil more? Because there’d not be much time to examine the fine print on the new proposals.

Let’s start with some fine print about asbestos in Station 2, a 55-year-old building. It is not mentioned in the agenda backup memo. How much of the $180,000 estimate is meant for asbestos removal/remediation? When do we get to find out?

Eric Zorn poses a question on this Sun-Times story in his blog:

The Sun-Times story on the rocky negotiations between the city and the firefighters union notes that one area of contention is Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s proposal that only firefighters who work on holidays be awarded holiday pay:

Former union president Bill Kugelman (said)…“ Holiday pay would go only to those who work the actual day. We fought for everybody to get it. … This is all anti-union stuff.”

When I’ve previously brought up seemingly odd provisions in labor contracts, one response has been, “Yes, it sounds strange, but it was almost certainly thrown in as part of the overall bargain,” meaning that the public has no more right to raise an eyebrow at this than at a wage level or a provision that awards bonuses to everyone who has at least one vowel in his or her name.

Still, as a matter of public relations, shouldn’t both union and management strive for contract provisions that actually make sense to the average person?

[sound of guffaws] Read the rest of this entry

In last Thursday’s post I shared some preliminary observations about the latest contract between the City of DeKalb and the firefighters’ union.

Since then I’ve gotten a little feedback on it behind the scenes. The gist of the response is this: What’s the deal? Does yinn have something against well-compensated public employees?

The short answer is that I believe city employees and especially public safety employees deserve every penny we can afford.

The larger deal is that since late 2007 — despite hiring freezes, layoffs, reorganizations and attrition — the City of DeKalb has essentially been reacting continually to financial crises and deficits and in early 2010, city officials said that something drastic had to happen in order to avoid being $5 million in the hole by the end of FY2011.

Then DeKalb ended up with a $6.3 million audited surplus for FY2011.

The question is, does this surplus reflect real recovery and growth? Or will we, in the midst of hiring and giving generous raises a couple years out, be forced yet again to lay off and reorganize due to personnel costs outpacing revenues? Read the rest of this entry

Below is the DeKalb Fire Department Wage Schedule for the current fiscal year.

Click on either page for a larger version, and once more to really zoom in.

After you’ve had a skim, make the jump to see how things work out in real life. Read the rest of this entry

DeKalb City Council re-did the whole police station discussion last year because the members didn’t want an old council to dictate decisions to the new one. Apparently it’s quite all right to run a labor contract with its firefighters into 2014, though — and maybe even into eternity, as with the city manager’s contract. Check this out (click on it for a larger image):

Maybe the above is partly why this happened. In addition to the lovely wage schedules, I mean (which I will save for another day).

Find the rest of the new contract with IAFF 1236 at this link:

I will also place the link to the contract in the City Barbs sidebar for easy access since it is not yet showing up on the City of DeKalb downloads or FD pages.