DeKalb council recap: City cools off after past tumultuous weeks

November 28, 2018

DeKALB – The City Council’s decision to postpone creating a new tax increment financing district until at least 2019 was the subject of the majority of conversation among council members Monday, but the council also covered these topics during its almost five-hour meeting:

Meeting set for fiscal 2019 debate

After the Nov. 20 budget bombshell which revealed that the expected budget deficit for 2019 could reach $3 million without spending cuts, council members and the Finance Advisory Committee plan another joint budget meeting Tuesday.

At the first joint budget meeting

Nov. 20, interim City Manager Raymond Munch announced an additional

$1.8 million budget deficit had been discovered, which was the result of a recent slew of unearthed calculation errors in the city’s five-year financial forecast documents, as well as an unauthorized transfer of $250,000 from the city’s health benefit fund to the terminal reserve fund. Council has already addressed the existing $1.6 million deficit for the fiscal 2019 budget – although nothing has been put to a formal vote – and is now tasked with tackling the additional deficit.

Property tax levy public hearing

The council held a public hearing – which lasted only three minutes – to gauge residents’ reaction to the proposed 2018 annual property tax levy. DeKalb resident Mark Charvat was the only one to give public comment, and urged the council to keep the dollar amount the same and only capture new equalized assessed value.

Munch said the city will be levying for $14 million for 2018, which represents a

3.5 percent increase from 2017.

City manager search

Mayor Jerry Smith said Monday that first-round interviews for city manager candidates are set for Dec. 6. The council has chosen six finalists for the role. Smith said he hopes to hire a new city manager by the end of December.

The city manager is responsible for day-to-day operations of city government, and oversees all city department heads. Smith has previously declined to give any identifying information about the finalists.

Hicks’ 30 years of service recognized

City officials said farewell to longtime Fire Chief Eric Hicks, with Smith calling Hicks “rock solid.”

Hicks, 55, was recognized during a moving portion of Monday’s meeting in honor of his impending retirement, which was announced last week. Hicks’ last day with the city will be Thursday. He led the Pledge of Allegiance at the start of the meeting, which is usually a job reserved for the DeKalb police officer on duty.

“I really want to thank the citizens of DeKalb for allowing me to serve them for the last 29 years and 11 months,” Hicks said, moved by the group of firefighters who had gathered in the back of the room.

When city staff approached him and other city department heads earlier this year and asked them to reduce their budgets in 2019, Hicks decided to retire and ask that one of his two deputy chiefs be promoted.

“It’s rare that you work with someone who always wants to do the right thing, is always available,” City Attorney Dean Frieders said. “He’s been a mentor to many of our staff, and his impact on the executive team is going to be big shoes to fill, and we’re going to miss him.”

Munch, who was named interim city manager after Molly Talkington was placed on administrative leave from the position Nov. 13, said Friday that one of the fire department’s deputy chiefs, Jeff McMaster or Jim Zarek, will be given the reins in the future, although the timing of that decision has not been announced.

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