Friday, May 17, 2019

My Take on the Plainfield 2019 Budget

Knowing I would be traveling in early May I submitted proposed budget reductions to the Council Finance Committee at the end of April.  They totaled just over $500,000 also taking into account my proposed increases for the Library and seasonal recreation employees.  This blog post puts me on the record for my position on the city budget.  It was the will of the Council Finance committee to not accept my proposed budget amendments.  Had I been present at the Council meeting (I tried unsuccessfully to call in) I would have voted no on the budget that was approved.  The exception was Ashley Davis' no vote.  She has shown herself to be an independent voice on the Council.

P.S. my questions at the bottom were answered.

Proposed budget amendments - Cory Storch

line item admin # proposed #   difference comments
Mayors dues800060002000
Council travel950040005500
Council consulting500020003000
Council conference800040004000
Council travel600040002000
Insurance  flood15000100005000was 8800 in 2018
Insurance  auto12050001105000100000reduced to what was requested; similar to 2018
nsurance dental13399112000013991highest expenditure in 5 years is 120K, most years around 65K
Insurance opt outopt out18000017000010000still higher than last 5 years
Corporation Counsel1000007500025000same as 2018
Finance consulting750002000055000requested 50K; under 20K since 2015
Comptroller overtime12038012038not used since 2014
Audit control training2500150010001500 was requested
Audit control miscellaneous500030002000most years around 3K
Centralized community initiatives13000600070005300 last year, 4000 previous year
postage58000500008000still moe than 2018 - 48000
Health office equip25002000500average 1250 last two years
Community Dev emerg. Housing600040002000still more than last 2 years combined
Social Services consulting5000500never spent in this line
Social Services travel1000500500never spent in this line
DPW conference350010002500most years around 1K
DPW overtime24000020000040000never over 179000 since 2014
Egnineering consulting12000010000020000most years under 100K
Inspections acting pay302215001522management should cover this cost from savings in other lines
Inspections equip maint500040001000most years under 700
Inspections conference5000350015002389 last year
Senior seasonal workers600030003000never used in last 5 years
Fire overtime76500074000025000Management hasn’t made good on past goals
Fire bottled water550030002500839 in 2018
Fire med supplies3000200010002172 in 2018
Police overtime931000765000166000Management hasn’t made good on past goals
Police holiday pay22000020500015000last years cost
spot shotter1840001840000132000 last year; why a big increase?
Youth Council150001000050002K in 2018
Environmental Commission100001000never implemented
Natl Night Out500020003000spent 750 ini 2018
Total reductions43580513811000547051
Recreation seasonal10000
Total increases4000040000
Grand total-507051
Court special serviceswhat is it
City Employmentwhat is it
Telephonewhy is it budgeted higher
Bond Anticipation Noteswhy is over 220000 higher
Notes Interestwhy 331000 higher
Police Radiosexplain
Cap Grant Cancellationwhat is it
SSexplain the increase
PERSexplain the increase
PFRSexplain athe increase
Reserve for Uncollected TAXesexplain the difference between amounts requested and reccommended

Monday, May 13, 2019

Road Signs in Plainfield

Please excuse the pun but the improving condition of Plainfield's roads are a sign of progress in city hall.  Our roads are no longer a source of frustration or a symbol of long term neglect by local government. 

We began a city-wide paving plan 12 years ago.  But we were playing catch up and we didn't make much headway until the Mapp administration came to city hall.  Now we have an accelerated paving program.  

What's more - we have begun to do what our engineers have been saying for years: maintain our roads by sealing the cracks to slow down deterioration and extend the life of our roads.  Go to a shopping mall to see how for profit businesses invest in road upkeep.  Just park your car and look down. Mall owners and operators know that crack sealing is cost effective.

We still have many roads that haven't been paved for too long.  A typical road should last 15 to 20 years or more with proper maintenance.  With our accelerated paving plan, we will get caught up and then we will be able to afford even more resources for extending the life of our roads. 

Thursday, May 9, 2019

The Library Needs Our Support

As city council moves towards budget passage, we have to balance the need for a vital public library with the needs of taxpayers. The question facing us right now is how we can preserve the library hours.  Although the proposed library budget is the same as in 2018, a new expense of $45,000 has been added in 2019 for training local residents to become certified in Cisco computer network support.  That would mean reducing library hours to make up the difference.  More on Cisco below.  I propose we restore $30,000 to the library budget.

Cisco certification is an opportunity for employment in high paying jobs.  that's certainly an attractive initiative in a city with relatively high unemployment.  But it is not clear how many people actually completed the Cisco training in 2018 and became certified.  Even more important, how many became employed or advanced to training in higher level Cisco certification.

I asked that question and the answer did not shed light on the questions above.  But there is word in the community of a low graduation/certification rate for 2018. If that is untrue there may be justification to continue this program in 2019.  If good outcome data is not provided to City Council, I propose we use 2019 to to put this program on hold and evaluate what happened and whether we can  do anything to get better outcomes in 2020.  That adds another $45,000 to the library budget.

That would also help the library maintain its hours - which is also part of the plan to increase resident access to good jobs through free internet service.

Monday, May 6, 2019

Plainfield Progress on Abandoned Properties

Plainfield's City Council approved an abandoned properties ordinance more than a decade ago.  But there was not adequate leadership or commitment in city administration to take the ball and run with it.  This is an important tool to get vacant and deteriorating properties restored so they are not eyesores and back on the tax rolls. We are now using it to our advantage.

Shep Brown is the new Director who oversees Community Development.    He shared with me that there are 276 properties on the abandoned properties list.  Here is the breakdown by ward:
  • Ward 1 - 54
  • Ward 2 - 68
  • Ward 3 - 51
  • Ward 4 - 103

This list is the first step in turning properties from liabilities to assets.  In some cases the threat of future city action, like taking possession of a neglected property, is enough to spur the owner into action to properly care for his or her property.  Or sell to a new owner who will do right by the property, the neighbors and the city. 

The city can take ownership if a property is not fixed up to Plainfield's code standards. 

Mr. Brown shared that he inherited a list with very little turnover.  But the last 12 months tell a different story, according to Mr. Brown.  Properties are coming off the list.  I have asked him to share data to show this story in the near future.  Stay tuned.