DeKALB – Four DeKalb city administrators will not have their jobs as of March 1.
Members of the DeKalb City Council spoke in favor of City Manager Bill Nicklas’ proposal to lay off Public Works Director Tim Holdeman, Community Development Director Jo Ellen Charlton, Information Technology Director Marc Thorson and Assistant Finance Director Robert Miller – and not fill an additional three vacated positions – to help the city with its budget shortfall.
“We have your back as we move forward,” DeKalb Mayor Jerry Smith said to Nicklas during the council meeting Monday night.
Nicklas said the plan now is in effect with the council’s blessing. Most of the aldermen said they enjoyed working with the four employees who will be laid off and said they regret their departure from the city having to happen this way.
Fifth Ward Alderwoman Kate Noreiko said she appreciated the consideration has been taken to heart, and it’s apparent that Nicklas was careful in his deliberation. She said she will support the council’s direction and Nicklas’ proposal, and she wants to see extra consideration on the challenges the remaining city staff will face.
“There are only so many hours in a day, and I would hope that the council will be realistic in terms of what can and cannot be accomplished with this restructuring,” Noreiko said.
First Ward Alderman David Jacobson said this discussion has been a long time coming, and it’s unfortunate that it now affects people and their families. Going forward, he said, the city is going to have to continue reassessing what it’s doing and how that will affect the city’s financial state.
“Our hand was forced at this point,” Jacobson said.
The council also voted, 8-0, in favor of appointing Jeff McMaster as DeKalb fire chief, Ray Munch as assistant city manager and Andy Raih as street department superintendent during the meeting. McMaster’s base salary will go from $135,900 to $141,244, Munch’s from $81,180 to $120,000 and Raih’s from $76,021 to $96,000.
Nicklas said the layoffs will save the city $1,105,258. He said the proposal to lay off these particular four staff members and not filling an additional three positions was carefully considered, all based on finances and nothing personal.
“I needed to find $1.1 million,” Nicklas said.
Holdeman’s current base salary is $129,727, according to city documents. Charlton’s and Thorson’s current salaries are $127,651 each, and Miller’s salary is $113,400. Each of the four will be compensated for all accrued paid time off, but no one will be placed on leave or paid a severance, the agenda said.
Nicklas’ proposal also includes a $30,000 cut to his own $150,000 salary, also effective March 1, to help with budget-saving measures.
Three positions that will be vacated or already have been will be eliminated as part of the plan. Economic Development Planner Jason Michnick’s position will stay vacant when he leaves Friday, and the deputy fire chief role will stay vacant once Jim Zarek retires Feb. 15. The role of finance director will be eliminated after Molly Talkington’s severance package agreement is completed July 7.
Charlton said she understands Nicklas’ and the council’s rationale for moving ahead with the layoff plan.
“It’s a tough budget, tough decision and tough times,” Charlton said.