Proposed City of DeKalb 2020 budget is balanced

City Council, finance advisory committee meet for 2-day budget workshop

DeKALB – It's been a trying but productive year for the City of DeKalb, said City Manager Bill Nicklas, who credits city staff for working to compile a 2020 budget draft that is balanced, a contrast from this time last year, when budget talks were muddled by differing numbers and no city manager to organize them.

In an interview after Monday's joint budget meeting between the City Council and city's Finance Advisory Committee, Nicklas said the city was in "crisis mode" when he came on board Jan. 1. With a reduction in staffing, and spending restraints in all departments, his proposed $101.8 million city budget has a $1.1 million spending cushion. The two bodies discussed the city's general funds and special funds Monday. The two-day budget workshop will continue at another joint meeting set for 6 p.m. Wednesday at the DeKalb Municipal Building, and the City Council will hold a first-round vote on the fiscal 2020 budget Monday.

“It’s a positive budget,” Nicklas said, adding it was “not the work of one person.”

Members of the council and committee didn’t do much talking during the meeting, but Mayor Jerry Smith commended Nicklas’ draft.

“This is the most complete narrative I’ve seen in city budgets,” Smith said.

The proposed budget projects $101.8 million in expenses and $103 million in revenue, with 192 full-time positions (five fewer than last year) and 40 part-time positions (four fewer than last year).

Unlike the fiscal 2019 budget, fiscal 2020 budgets for police and fire does not recommend any staffing cuts.

The DeKalb Police Department’s proposed budget is $28.9 million, with 80 full-time staff and 16 part-time, documents show. The department’s 2020 initiatives include a pilot program for body cameras, reinstating a 10-week citizens police academy (which hasn’t run since 2009, documents show) and full implementation of the countywide digital radio network.

Interim DeKalb Police Chief John Petragallo still is being assessed by city staff and council as to whether he will take on that role full-time, Nicklas said.

The DeKalb Fire Department’s proposed budget includes 57 full-time staff members with a $23.8 million budget. Initiatives for the new year also include the countywide digital radio system, along with implementing an emergency operating procedure for the city.

The city's Public Works Department lost its department head in the new year staffing cuts, and the duties have been dispersed to the remaining employees. The reorganization saw Bryan Faivre take over the utilities, engineering and transpiration side, and Andy Raih the streets and fleets.

The department includes 33 full-time and 18 part-time staff members, with a $6.8 million proposed budget. Initiatives for the new year include assisting with city hall relocation and a water main capital improvement along Crego Road, Gurler Road and south Route 23 for the Chicago West Business Park.