At City Council, money talks


By Ali Combs

What started as a blanket vote for more than a dozen resolutions for the city’s budget turned into a two-hour discussion about salary raises, pension funds and DeKalb’s financial future at Monday’s City Council meeting.

Twenty resolutions were set to be voted on in omnibus form at the meeting, but after two council members requested some of the resolutions be discussed individually, council found unforeseen issues with the city’s budget. While 14 of the budget resolutions passed, six were brought up for discussion.

The first topic Council touched upon was funding of the Nguzo Saba Men’s Club, a not-for-profit organization that provides kids with afterschool activities with the aim of having a positive influence, which the council decided not to vote on until it receives an update on funding and accomplishments from the organization.

Both funding for a community events coordinator with the DeKalb Chamber of Commerce in the amount of $45,000 and TIF funding for the Egyptian Theatre in the amount of $100,000 were also up for discussion. Both resolutions were passed as proposed and each organization will receive the funding outlined in the resolutions.

When the council came to a resolution dealing with the city’s agreement with Frieders Law, LLC, and city attorney Dean Frieders, the decision took more debate than most issues. Council members spent time discussing the 2 percent raise Frieders would see if the resolution was passed as proposed.

“Unfortunately, when you continue to give raises, and you continue to do this cost of business, and the revenues don’t change, eventually, your ceiling runs out,” said first ward alderman David Jacobson, “And that’s what we saw a few years ago, and I think we’re getting into that situation again.”

Fourth ward alderman Bob Snow said the salary increase made sense.

“Whenever you have a personal services contract, there usually is some kind of increase, not that there has to be if you think the effort is not there…,” Snow said, “But what I’ve seen in my brief tenure is that the effort is there, the quality is there….”

Interim City Manager Rudy Espiritu cleared up some confusion about the source of the salary increases, which are all budgeted for in the Fiscal Year 2014 budget. Fifth ward alderman Ron Naylor said this was an important part of the discussion.

“One thing we need to remember is these are all budgeted numbers,” Naylor said. “And why didn’t this come up at budget time when I think it was probably anticipated, it should have been anticipated, that in certain line items there are increases for services?”

Ultimately, the city’s contract with Frieders was renewed after being amended to omit the 2 percent raise.

Council members also revisited resolutions regarding contracts with mCapitol Management and Hopkins Solutions, LLC. MCapitol is the lobbyist group that assists DeKalb in applying for state and federal grants as well as representing the city to legislators and urge them to pass legislation that will best benefit DeKalb. Hopkins Solutions, LLC is the company run by Economic Development Coordinator Roger Hopkins, who has worked for the city to bring in new business over the past two years. Both contracts were renewed. Hopkins’ contract included a 2 percent raise which the city did not revoke.

Similar raises will be considered for city management at council’s next meeting.