DeKALB – DeKalb city officials said they are trying to prepare for the worst in putting together next year’s budget, despite financial impacts brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.
DeKalb City Manager Bill Nicklas said he wanted to remind the City Council and the public during their Monday meeting that all of the city's funds in the proposed 2021 budget are balanced. He said that's due in part to the city receiving some state and federal pandemic relief funds.
“It certainly has been an interesting fiscal year for us and other governmental bodies,” Nicklas said. “COVID-19 has been very mightily weighing on our finances and we are doing our best to deal with those impacts.”
The City Council voted, 8-0, to approve the budget on its first reading during the Monday meeting. Second Ward Alderman Bill Finucane and 6th Ward Alderman Mike Verbic attended the meeting virtually via Zoom.
The final vote is expected to come during the City Council meeting scheduled for 6 p.m. Dec. 14.
The budget highlights include tackling a complete restructure of the DeKalb Police Department amid local demands for police reform, addressing staffing levels during a crisis and anticipating expected revenue shortfalls from a lack of sales tax revenue from struggling businesses such as bars, restaurants and hotels.
The DeKalb Police Department's personnel costs next year – with a $27 million proposed budget for 81 full-time personnel, including currently 56 sworn officers, down from last year, plus 19 part time staff – looks to be the most significant, with a complete department restructuring set to divide the department's operations into three separate divisions with an eye to community-led service. The proposed changes are coming in response to months of daily marches and local calls for police reform led by activists and the local Black Lives Matter chapter, according to city officials.
Nicklas had said the city's revenue loss is estimated to be about $4.5 million, partially because of losses in bar and restaurant sales tax and hotel motel taxes. He had said there may be a loss of hundreds of thousands of dollars more to come if hospitality businesses aren't able to fully reopen by the end of the year.
Nicklas said the city has been taking steps to minimize its expenses, including a scoop-and-toss refunding of the city’s debt. He said he’s pleased to present the balanced budget and with a general revenue reserve fund that’s projected to be higher than last year’s.
“Let’s hope that we see some brightness around the first of the year, but it looks like we’re going to have a dismal year end to FY20,” Nicklas said.
The City Council also voted, 8-0, to approve the city's proposed property tax levy – which would mean those who own a $154,700 home in the city would save $16 on their property tax bill on the city's portion – during the Monday meeting. The final vote for the levy also is expected to come during the council's regular meeting next month.
• Daily Chronicle editor Kelsey Rettke contributed to this report.