Second budget of 2023 approved by Sycamore City Council with eye toward first responders

Fourth Ward Alderperson Ben Bumpus shakes hands with Anna Wilhelmi, the leader of the Dekalb County Democratic Party after being sworn-in as a Sycamore City Council member on May 1, 2023.

SYCAMORE – The city of Sycamore recently approved its last half-year budget before it realigns its fiscal year to coincide with the calendar year, with monies focused on staffing the city’s first responders.

The fiscal 2023B budget, as the city calls it, began May 1.

The budget was approved in a 7-0 vote after a public hearing was held in which no members of the public chose to speak. The city began implementation of its new budget process in December 2022. Before a Dec. 19, 2022 vote that changed Sycamore’s fiscal year to align with the calendar year, Sycamore was on a budget that ran from May 1 through April 30.

On May 1 – one day after the previous budget ended – Sycamore City Council deliberated and then approved an eight-month budget ordinance. The current budget will end Dec. 31

“And then we’ll have ... a calendar year budget starting in January of [2024],” City Manager Michael Hall said. “I think we’ve discussed the revenues last time, we’ve discussed some expenditures, and it also includes the new, all the positions that are in there as well.”

In December 2022, the Sycamore City Council voted to approve an increase of the city’s property tax rate from 0.625% in 2022 to 0.682% in 2023, generating enough funds to establish three new firefighter and two new police officer positions, each estimated to cost $120,000, according to city documents.

The city’s latest approved budget documents show slight changes.

According to city documents, the city authorized the full time equivalent of 73 public safety personnel – police and fire department workers – in the 2023 budget, but the 2023B budget authorizes 71 1/2 public safety personnel.

In the 2023 budget, Sycamore Police was authorized the full time equivalent of 34 workers, and was given the full time equivalent of 37 workers for the 2023B budget. According to city documents one sergeant, two officers and one part time records clerk was added to the authorized personnel.

The Sycamore Fire Department, on the other hand, dropped the full time equivalent of 5 workers, going down from 39 to 37. According to city documents, those changes were made possible by reclassifying employees, including on-call staff and interns.

Hall credited former 1st Ward Alderman Josh Huseman with the idea of aligning the city’s budget with the calendar year. Hall said a sticking point that made the idea attractive to the council was the quick turn around between when the budget must be passed and when the spring elections that seat new council members are held.

In December 2022, 2nd Ward Alderman Chuck Stowe – a longtime council member reelected in April – said he’d always been bothered that new city aldermen have to vote on the city’s budget almost as soon as they’re sworn-in.

Just minutes before they had to vote on the 2023B budget, two newcomers – 1st Ward Alderwoman Alicia Cosky and 4th Ward Alderman Ben Bumpus – were sworn-in to begin their four-year terms.

Bumpus may be one of the last elected officials to face that budget vote as a first day rookie, but after the meeting he said the changes were easy to reconcile with.

“It makes complete sense,” Bumpus said. “And knowing that it gets us kind of on more of a calendar cycle, it lines up with kind of our own psychology of how budgets work, as we’re on a calendar basis.”

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