The DeKalb City Council will discuss revisions to Chapter 54 of its Unified Development Code and a $250 fine for each of the last two regular meetings that 3rd Ward Alderman, Victor Wogen missed. Also on the Monday, Dec. 14th meeting agenda is a public hearing for a proposed property tax increase.
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Oops, above first sentence should read "…elimination of the health bennie for non-union PART-TIME employees and Council members…"
I like your ideas about the per diem, elimination of the health bennie for non-union employees and Council members, and expansion of FAC.
As for Wogen, seems to me it's up to the 3rd Ward to show up en masse at the next Council meeting, inform Council that he has abandoned his seat and request they boot him out for it per ordinance. Even if they don't, he's on his way out regardless. Best to keep the focus on investigation and termination of the Wogen enablers.
It will also have to fall to someone else to tell Council that continued inaction &/or inconsistency in any of these matters makes them look OK with corruption — or weak.
for clarification: in the per diem meeting paragraph I want to make clear: city council members should NOT get city-subsidized insurance for them or their dependents.
You go girl! The pot needs stirred and let nothing be settled until the soup's done and there is a growing line waiting for it. We've got to keep getting information to the public and getting more of them engaged in this process. And you do this well.
Here's how obscene this fiasco is becoming. I've got to defend Victor Wogen on the fine. It does not fit the "crime" of missing two city council meetings. If it did then the agenda item should include Brent Keller who recently received a public wet noodle lashing for his attendance or lack thereof. See, we have a rather juvenile system of city council justice. It takes three aldermen to screw in the light bulb that would shed light on their misdeeds.
A more mature solution might be to pay aldermen a meeting per diem. We might need to have a fee equal to the aggregate per diem (that can be waived) for special/additional meeting requests. Of course, part time employees, non-union at least, should NOT receive city-subsidized health care coverage so under this common sense system aldermen might be paid a little more if attending more meetings.
System changes. 🙂
But back to Wogen. IMO his agenda item is really during discussion on the CM discretionary fund. The CM obviously believes the council will be making a mistake that could be costly to the taxpayers. He has points to support his position. He will restate them during this agenda discussion. The city council will make a decision based on trust on this item. Think of those ramifications.
I wish I could disagree on the housecleaning items. The only way I could is to mention that you didn't include Wogen. Well, maybe if any of them were not still convinced that this is all ado about nothing because of us muck rakers or engaged citizens, whatever we are — maybe then I could disagree.
Mac, as you well know, I've publicly called for the replacement of anyone involved in the Wogen "arrangement." At minimum, that would be the CM, the public works director, and the city attorney. And, yes, that's the best step for beginning the process of restoring trust.
I'm still partial to investigations too. Lance the boil.
But I must say pragmatism has got the best of me. Council is just now looking into taking some actions on behalf of the 3rd Ward. Do we really see a big clean-out occurring anytime soon? Maybe a process of marginalization has to occur first.
There's also the question of time, priorities and resources. My understanding is that the city's financial situation is dire. If so — and if the necessary personnel changes aren't immediately possible with this Council — how else does it get the information needed to make good decisions?
I would have also like to pointed out that the city of Sycamore (one of our comparison cities) is REDUCING it’s EAV levy from .58 to .57 […] — Charvat
Will this circle ever be unbroken? Sycamore and most other gov units levy on an actual dollar amount. Their tax rate is determined by factoring that dollar amount into their EAV. DeKalb decided years ago (Sparrow admin) that it would "freeze" their tax rate and abate any surplus. Taxes need not be any more complicated than they are. I believe it more transparent to levy as Sycamore does (actual dollar amount). So I'm a proponent of levying on actual dollar amounts and the first time (if) DeKalb does it I will most likely have supported a property tax increase.
Case in point. Even though the City will increase (as proposed) the rate from .60 to .625 the pension obligation (designated use of City's share of property tax) will fall short, reportedly, by $700,000. This amount will have to come from the General Fund which may not have it. City council is making their rate decision based on a political and not a financial reason. Biernacki is right that at some point some city council will have to correct this situation.
The question of whether its appropriate to designate property tax to pensions in another think for another time.
There is a better way to deal with an employee you no longer trust, but if you don’t yet have the votes for it, the second best option is to do a bit of micro-managing. — Fazekas
Well, second best is a term I have problems swallowing. Micromanaging is the worst option. Address the trust issue (on all four sides, actually). If it can't be addressed keep repeating your step one until you've got the votes. If you can't get the votes then admit that the city manager form of government is not a good thing for your community and get rid of it.
They should also change the meeting frequency to weekly, to help with the marathon-meeting problem […] — Fazekas
That's what micromanaging does. It creates marathon meetings. We'd go from monthly marathon meetings to weekly marathon meetings. If council members would do a little of their own research (and some do) maybe they wouldn't be asking staff to do more research than Carter has pills. It's something us engaged citizens must be sensitive to as well. We can spend a lot of tax dollars by over-taxing the staff with likewise requests.
A solution might be to expand the finance advisory committee in size and scope and empower the chair to set the agenda as opposed to the city manager. Size should be expanded to include more engaged citizens. Scope should be expanded to include the full EPI report. Trust was a big item in that report as well.
Here's my take on reducing the discretionary amount for purchases by admins. If they impose lower thresholds, staff will respond by annoying Council with the stuff they don't mind having to make public, but will continue to break down their hush-hush projects into smaller bits like they did with the Wogen "arrangement." Because the issue isn't about which arbitrary number will work best for conducting city business, it's about lack of trust (and a little bit about punishment). There is a better way to deal with an employee you no longer trust, but if you don't yet have the votes for it, the second best option is to do a bit of micro-managing.
So I do believe Council should impose the lower limits, at least for the time being. They should also change the meeting frequency to weekly, to help with the marathon-meeting problem and with an anticipated higher volume of expenditure requests.
Here is my letter to the editor on the proposed Property tax increase (Published 12/10/09 in the Daily Chronicle) along with Mr Biernacki’s response, and my response to his E-mail of 12/10/09. Obviously he did not like me quoting the figures presented in the legal notice paid for by the city.
To the Editor:
Get ready. Just when you think you are about to get a break, it looks like the Grinch once again will steal Christmas this year. The Grinch, in this case, is DeKalb Mayor Kris Povlsen and his tax-and-spend city council.
If you are like many homeowners, you may have received a notice from the assessor showing a substantial reduction in your EAV. From a property tax perspective, you’re probably thinking you might finally get a break on your taxes. Wrong. At the Nov. 23 DeKalb City Council meeting, initial debate took place to discuss the property tax levy for the 2009 tax year. According to a legal notice published by the city of DeKalb, officials are proposing to increase the property taxes to be levied by 46.45 percent. Mayor Povlsen indicated he was looking for constructive input from the community on the subject.
Since you asked, here is my two cents. Get spending under control, before you raise my taxes, again. Mayor Povlsen constantly insists that the city is operating as lean as it can. This is pure nonsense. Here are my suggestions for further cost reductions and potential taxpayer savings:
• Issue a moratorium on all land acquisition and start selling off land owned by the city, as also was suggested by 4th Ward Alderman Brendon Gallagher. These properties could be purchased by private businesses, and the land would go back on the tax rolls. A win-win.
• Get rid of city employee magazine subscriptions, lunch allowances, uniforms for people in positions that are not public safety related, and other unnecessary extras.
• Slash car allowances for the city manager and all city administrators.
• Immediately eliminate the post-employment health care plan in its entirety, as was recommended by the taxpayer-funded consultant report.
• No more taxpayer-funded cell phones for city employees, with the exception of emergency personnel. These costs are out of control.
• Discontinue taxpayer-funded health care for the mayor and aldermen. These are part-time jobs.
Mayor Povlsen and several council members already have made their intention known that they want to raise your taxes, but I still would like to encourage all homeowners to speak at the city of DeKalb property-tax hearing Monday at 7 p.m. in the city council chambers in the DeKalb Municipal Building. Speak up and be heard, and let’s stop the city hall Grinch.
City Manager Mark Biernacki’s E-mail response received 12/10/09:
I was directed to your letter in the Chronicle where you assert the City is proposing to raise its portion of the property taxes by 46.45%. Please know that the legal ad in the paper was purposefully written to let the public know of the high end of the range of options available to the Council should they wish to raise property taxes. I am told that other local governments sometimes take this approach for Truth in Taxation purposes as well.
However, you have been either present at or I’m sure, have watched on TV, the City Council meetings at which the Council has never indicated any desire or willingness to consider anything near that high end in the range. As you know, the Council is instead considering raising the City’s portion of the property tax from $0.60/$100 EAV to $0.625/$100EAV, or a 4.16% increase. These revenues will only cover the City’s obligated pension costs.
Property taxes, levies, and government finances can be a very complicated matter. Because of this, it is important that citizens first call City Hall to fully understand these and other matters before making statements that they mistakenly believe to be factual. A citizen’s right to criticize City government is not being challenged. However, when they do so without all of the facts and background, resulting in alarming and hyperbolic claims and statements, they risk being irresponsible and reckless.
In the instance of your most recent letter, I trust you’ll consider writing a clarification or correction.
My Response to Mr Biernacki’s E-mail (12/10/09):
Thanks for taking notice of my letter. Is quite a delight to see that city officials are beginning to take notice of citizen input.
I am very much aware of the various proposals in front of the city council on the property tax levy. The 46.45% figure comes directly from a legal notice paid for and published by the City of DeKalb. The exact text was:
“The estimated total property taxes to be levied for 2009 are $8,067,697. This repsresents (sic) a 46.45% increase over the previous year.” (Spelling error included)
I could not find any information about the proposed tax levy the NEW City Of DeKalb website. I would be interested in an explanation as to why this information is no longer available at http://www.cityofdekalb.com.
To your points:
Yes, I was present for the ‘initial’ council discussion on the levy. But, as you also are aware, nothing will be finalized until Monday night’s meeting. As City Manager, you should be keenly aware that the council can still amend the rates as it chooses (.625, .65, .75, etc), so there is always the possibility that they could choose a higher rate than the .625 rate. I felt the figure I had chose to include in my letter was the appropriate since it came directly from the legal notice you chose to publish.
As you are aware the newspaper puts a limit on all letters to the editor at 400 words. I would have loved to discuss all the levy options proposed in the back-up material, but am I was limited to 400 words. I would have also like to pointed out that the city of Sycamore (one of our comparison cities) is REDUCING it’s EAV levy from .58 to .57, but again, I would have exceeded the 400 word limit.
You should be aware that the purpose of the property tax hearing is to hear from the citizens of our community. Mayor Povlsen asked for citizen involvement and one of the purposes of my letter is to encourage the public to get involved in the process. It is with great hope that citizens do get involved and show up on Monday night
You, as a citizen, are certainly welcome to submit a rebuttal to my comments to the newspaper. You also can use your press conference, if you so choose.
Thank you for taking the time to acknowledge my letter and I hope you and the city council choose to examine the spending cuts I suggested and do what is best for the taxpayers of DeKalb.
Correction: Chapter 54 of the Municipal Code (not UDO) h/t Skeptic
Move the slider on the video above to 4:50. That's where the discussion begins regarding the Wogen fines.
To view the video segment regarding the Public Hearing on the proposed property tax increase, click http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vN52x2-U8Po
Sorry, I meant to say the UDO is Chapter 23. The UDO is subdivided into 20 Articles so I'm not quite sure what is being addressed.
Mac, I'm confused by your story. Chapter 54 of the Municipal Code is Financial Administration. The Unified Development Ordinance (UDO) is Chapter 24.
Also, missing meetings is one thing, but has Wogen re-established residency within the Third Ward?
"It will also have to fall to someone else to tell Council that continued inaction &/or inconsistency in any of these matters makes them look OK with corruption — or weak."
If it looks like a duck
Has a beak like a duck
Acts like a duck
Walks like a duck
Quacks like a duck