No new taxes in 2010 city budget

DeKALB – The proposed fiscal 2010 budget is balanced and includes a plea for wage freezes, DeKalb city officials said Thursday.

"We have approached the four employee groups, which include management, fire, police and AFSCME, and have asked that they consider a wage freeze for the next 12 months," DeKalb City Manager Mark Biernacki read from a prepared statement at a press conference Thursday. "Given what have been productive meetings so far, I am confident we will be able to successfully partner with our employees to arrive at solutions that will ensure a balanced budget."

The 2010 budget does not include any tax increases and has conservative projections for revenue growth. Many areas of the budget project relatively flat revenue growth, Biernacki said.

The city expects to spend $29.4 million from the general fund, up from an estimated $28.4 million for fiscal year 2009, which ends June 30. Each budget cycle runs from July 1 through June 30.

Revenues are budgeted at $29.6 million, up from an estimated $29.2 million for fiscal year 2009.

The budget will be presented to the city council at its Committee of the Whole meeting, at 6 p.m. Monday. The third-quarter financial report will also be presented at that time for the calendar months of January, February and March.

Biernacki said that it's anticipated the 2009 budget year will close with an $835,000 surplus, due to tightened spending and staff reductions through resignations and retirements.

The city has also made available a report by the financial consulting firm Executive Partners Inc., which was hired last year to analyze and direct city finances.

Among the report's recommendations were efficiencies in operations, restructuring employee benefits, outsourcing some services and enhancing revenue through utility and property taxes.

However, implementing these recommendations won't happen soon. The immediate focus will be on the 2010 budget, Biernacki said.

Also to be discussed during the Committee of the Whole meeting is financing a new police station. The issue has lain dormant since last fall, when decisions on how to build and finance the facility were left unresolved because of the shift in the national economy.

The council has supported the construction of a 56,000-square-foot station on land owned by the city at West Lincoln Highway and Carroll Avenue, which would cost an estimated $17 million.

To pay down debt, the council last fall raised police-related fines and an approved increase of 1 percent in the hotel-motel tax. A half-percent raise in the restaurant-bar tax would take effect in July.

A proposal to create a utility bill surcharge remains in limbo. Northern Illinois University officials raised concerns about the proposal, and discussions with the university have been on hold since last year, Biernacki said.

"What prompts us to do this is a raise in the restaurant-bar tax," Biernacki said.

Aldermen will be asked if they want to implement that tax hike or make it effective on a future date. Another alternative would be to postpone the project indefinitely, and instead focus on short-term space needs, like adding onto the current facility or remodeling city buildings.