This is my belated report on the City of DeKalb’s FY11 annual budget. I’m on the City’s budget advisory committee because I complained so much about City business the late Mayor Frank Van Buer appointed me.
“You like to ask tough questions so ask them,” he said to me after an early meeting three budgets ago.
That first budget was tough. Revenue came in lower than projected. Expenses were on the rise. With help from the community I found some cuts that were considered and some of those were incorporated into the budget. But to make ends meet we had to ask employees to agree to take five unpaid furlough days. Then we had to raise some taxes and/or fees. We transferred some of Peter’s money over for Paul and the budget was balanced.
That was the year the artificial ice rink was born. I tried to get the project removed from the budget because I thought it made a poor statement of priorities when such tough decisions were being made.
Budget number two was tougher. Revenue again came in lower than projected. There were unforeseen spikes in expenses due to the February 14 shooting at NIU, bad storms and the supply and demand for salt. To balance the budget we asked employees to agree to a wage freeze. It was an election year so we froze taxes. The budget surplus was revealed to be not as much as advertised but the skate park should still pay for itself in a few more years. Just before the budget process we got the EPI Report but we didn’t have time to implement any recommendations.
The downtown revitalization plan continued unabated by the slumping economy because TIF is immune from such conditions. I recommended a more modest and inclusive use of TIF funds but evidently those suggestions were ahead of their time.
The third budget was the toughest. The economy’s still in the tank. Revenue fell short of projections. Employees either had to agree to a 12% reduction in pay or face job cuts. The skate park closed. Twenty AFSCME employees laid off. Ten more were bought into early retirement. Total voluntary separation costs $1.5 million-plus. Total including interest since the City of DeKalb had to borrow all of the $1.5 million and it’s not paid back until 2028? Not known.
Despite the furloughs, the wage freeze, the hiring freeze, the attrition and the lay-offs and early retirements the 2010 City Council had to cut services and raise taxes. With Mayor Kris Povlsen breaking a tie vote in each of two votes, the City Council raised utility taxes starting July 1, 2010. The natural gas tax, projected to bring in an additional $350,000 in FY11, will increase from 2 cents to 4 cents per therm. An increase in the electric tax rate is expected to raise an additional $130,000. Tom Teresinksi (2nd Ward), Ron Naylor (5th Ward) and Lisa Kammes (7th Ward) voted for the increases. Pam Verbic (3rd Ward), Brendon Gallagher (4th Ward) and Dave Baker (6th Ward) voted against the tax increases.
Mayor Kris Povlsen said that some people don’t like either of those choices.
HT Mark Charvat
The FY11 Budget will be brought back to the council for formal adoption at the next regularly scheduled meeting on June 28. The public hearing for the budget was continued until that meeting as well. It is likely that the council will seek to make further reductions in expenditures.
At the June 14 meeting $195,000 was trimmed from the General Fund.
Pam Verbic introduced successful amendments to reduce the general fund by $75,000 that would haven been used to pay outside consultants for two strategic studies. Verbic was not against either study. She was against appropriating funds from this year’s budget.
Tom Teresinski made several successful amendments that could save a total of $138,000 in the general fund and would provide an additional $380,000 in various designated funds that are dependent upon the general fund.
Dave Baker’s amendment to eliminate the hiring of at least one of two new positions in FY11 was in effect tabled until the June 28 meeting. Both positions were described as mid-year hires.
The proposed Economic Development and Planning Director, is a hybrid of a position recommended by the EPI report. The City already invests heavily into economic development through the airport, ReNew DeKalb, the Chamber of Commerce, the Convention and Visitors Bureau and the DeKalb County Economic Development Corporation (DCEDC).
Another newly created position recommended by the EPI report, Finance and Purchasing Director, would also be filled mid-year. Current assistant City Manager (Finance) Rudy Espiritu would be transferred to the human resources department.
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