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Government Local

Input sought on DeKalb fiscal 2015 budget plan

DeKALB – Residents will have a chance to weigh in on the city of DeKalb's budget during Monday's City Council meeting.

Aldermen will hold a public hearing before giving their initial approval of the $79 million budget that starts July 1 and runs through June 30, 2015. Final approval will come at the June 23 meeting.

Barring any changes, the city will spend $35 million from its general fund while bringing in $34.5 million. The city will have $5.4 million in reserves, or 15 percent of annual expenditures, which is 10 percent short of its 25 percent goal.

The $543,753 general fund deficit is tied to the city using $607,000 from its general fund to make a balloon payment for a bond the city issued more than a decade ago to build hangars at DeKalb Taylor Municipal Airport. City officials explored refinancing the bond over a 13-year period instead of paying off the debt, but decided against it because would it cost the city an additional $163,000 in interest.

The balloon payment was among a handful of issues the city confronted during a series of workshops this year. Other problems include rising pension costs. The city collects enough in property taxes to cover $3.5 million in pension costs, but that leaves $571,000 that must be paid using money from the general fund.

The city uses about $4 million from its general fund to support other funds, including pensions.

Some of the possibilities for solving the financial issues that aldermen explored included raising taxes or fees. Those discussions will continue after the budget is finalized, Assistant City Manager Rudy Espiritu said.

“We anticipate [discussions] still happening,” Espiritu said. “It will happen after the budget has passed because those are long-term issues.”

Sixth Ward Alderman Dave Baker said he trusted City Manager Anne Marie Gaura's budget and saw it as a living document that the council likely would tweak in the coming months.

“I think it's a sobering experience that everyone has to realize the local economy is not growing at the same rate as the costs of personnel and doing business as a city,” Baker said.

The city's organization also will change under the proposed budget, including outsourcing services in the city's building department and hiring two part-time property maintenance inspectors. Further, the city will add a management analyst and a community development director while cutting its ties with a lobbyist and economic development consultant.

If you go

What: DeKalb City Council meeting public hearing on the proposed budget.

When: 6 p.m. Monday

Where: DeKalb City Hall, 200 S. Fourth St.

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