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DeKalb gives preliminary nod to staff salary boosts

Published: Wednesday, June 26, 2013 5:30 a.m. CST • Updated: Wednesday, June 26, 2013 8:21 a.m. CST

DeKALB – The DeKalb City Council gave an initial nod to a 2 percent cost-of-living adjustment for all of its nonunion staff, but its passage won’t be smooth.

DeKalb aldermen spent the majority of their four-hour meeting Monday discussing the city’s financial outlook and whether giving raises to city employees would be prudent. All aldermen agreed, though, the city needs a new comprehensive plan for economic development, downtown development and general goals.

“I think we need to take the time, and we will over the next several weeks and months, to revisit those policies,” Mayor John Rey said.

City Council members took six divided votes over rehiring the city attorney, the city’s economic development consultant and the city’s lobbying firm. At the end of the night, majorities voted to keep Dean Frieders as city attorney without a pay raise keep Roger Hopkins as the economic development consultant with the 2 percent raise, and keep mCapitol Management as the city’s lobbying firm.

While the council voted to “receive and file” the 2 percent raise unanimously, some aldermen have indicated their opposition to it. The aldermen are expected to discuss the issue again July 8.

Aldermen also are divided on their perceptions of the city’s financial outlook. City Council members approved a budget June 10 that details spending $77.4 million between July 1 and June 30, 2014.

The budget outlines spending $30.6 million in the general fund, which covers the city’s day-to-day operations and salaries. That’s a 4.6 percent increase from the current fiscal year, which ends Sunday.

City officials anticipate having $5.6 million in the general fund reserves on June 30, 2014, and want to increase the reserves to 25 percent of the fund’s annual expenditures. At $5.6 million, those reserves would be at 19.58 percent.

But 6th Ward Alderman Dave Baker doesn’t think that is enough money to justify raises to city employees. In his opinion, the general fund does not present an accurate picture of the city’s financial health.

“It’s exactly the thinking that caused us to run out,” Baker said. “I don’t want to go back there again, and that’s exactly where we’re heading.”

Within the last five years, city leaders have laid off about 20 employees because of poor finances.

But 4th Ward Alderman Bob Snow said the city is heading in the right direction.

“We need to be careful about our expenses, but we’re no longer in a place where we need to think about laying off employees,” he said.

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