Breaking: DeKalb boy shot on Saturday dies

Ezra Hill Jr., a 10-year-old DeKalb boy who was shot on Saturday while visiting his father in south suburban Harvey, has died, a family friend confirmed Monday.

Hill was a fourth-grader at Tyler Elementary in DeKalb. who was sometimes known as "E.J.". His youth wrestling coach, Max Hiatt, said he Hill was always smiling. He called him "one of the good kids."

“He’s a great kid. He’s funny," Hiatt said. "As nice as the other kids on the team. Hard-working. Always (has) a smile on his face."

The Associated Press reported that Harvey police say the pair was outside their home about 1:30 p.m. Saturday when shots were fired from another car. The boy's father was not wounded. Slugs also struck a nearby house and another vehicle. Police were trying to determine a motive for the shooting.

The tragedy has affected the District 428 family in a number of ways, District Superintendent Jamie Craven said. Hill's mother, Drea Harden, also has worked in several district schools as a substitute teacher.

Schools in DeKalb are closed for spring break this week, but the tragedy has led to plans to reopen Tyler. School officials say there will be grief counselors on hand at the school at 1021 Alden Circle in DeKalb on Wednesday from 2 to 6 p.m.

A parent or guardian must accompany their child and sign them in and out, according to an email from Principal Lissette Jacobson.

"In addition, an increased level of individual and group counseling services will be made available when school resumes on Monday, April 1," Jacobson wrote in an email to parents. "The entire school community will be briefed of the facts and the opportunities for additional support on April 1."

Hill Jr. had success on the wrestling mat, placing at numerous tournaments, including taking third place at 95 pounds at sectionals in early March.

“He gets along with all the kids on the team," Hiatt said. "He definitely has some good relationship with other kids on the team. I think you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone had anything bad to say about him.”

Lissette Jacobson, principal of Tyler Elementary, sent an email to parents and caretakers Monday morning, detailing ways to speak with children and anyone who may deal with potential trauma pertaining to Ezra's condition. The school is offering "an increased level of individual and group counseling services will be made available when school resumes on Monday, April 1st."

Jacobsen also offered advice for parents whose children may struggle with the tragic news.

"Please be aware that your child may experience strong feelings in response to this crisis, including sorrow and depression, anger, fear, or even guilt," Jacobsen wrote in an email. "He or she may have difficulty sleeping and/or experience nightmares or may temporarily regress in his or her behavior or academically. If your child has special needs, he or she may have trouble communicating their feelings and may need additional time and space to process this information.

"All children will likely have a need at this time for your comfort and support; please try to be available to listen with patience and understanding."

Breaking: DeKalb County prosecutor shot to death in Wisconsin

SYCAMORE – A mother of one who was shot to death in an incident of domestic violence Saturday in Wisconsin was also a prosecutor with the DeKalb County State’s Attorney’s office.

Stacia F. Hollinshead, 30, of the 1800 block of Raintree Court, Sycamore, was fatally wounded in a home in Beaver Dam, Wisconsin, around 2:40 p.m. Saturday, Beaver Dam Police said on their Facebook page. According to the Beaver Dam Daily Citizen newspaper, police have identified the suspect as Ulisses W. Medina Espinosa of Beaver Dam.

Hollinshead's death shocked State's Attorney Rick Amato and the other 11 prosecutors in his office.

"As prosecutors, we intervene in domestic violence cases in court to prevent the nightmare outcome that we’re all now living through," Amato said in a written statement. "Stacia’s tragic death drives home many points that we make constantly: Domestic violence is about power and control, it is learned behavior, it is present in all communities, it crosses all social and economic barriers, and it is preventable.

"No faction of society is immune from it, not even those who work in the public safety arena, fiercely dedicated to stopping it."

Hollinshead was a graduate of Northern Illinois University law school, and served 11 years as a U.S. Army intelligence analyst, Amato said. She had joined Amato's office in November after being sworn in as a new lawyer in October, and had previously been an intern at CASA Kane County, he said. She graduated from Dieterich High School, near Effingham, he said.

“We were just getting to know her,” Amato said. “For anybody to be victim of domestic violence, let alone a prosecutor, it’s just horrible.”

Hollinshead has a daughter who attends school in Sycamore, and Amato said Hollinshead seemed happiest when the two were together.

"Stacia shined her brightest when she was around her daughter," Amato wrote. "Because Stacia was such a hard worker, she would often bring her daughter to the office as she completed her work for the day. Her daughter was instantly a favorite among the staff.

"Together they would brighten the office and were a joy to be around."

Beaver Dam is a town of about 17,000 people northwest of Milwaukee. Violence is rare there – the Daily Citizen reported it was the first homicide “of this kind” to occur in 28 years.

Charges have not yet been announced against Espinoza. Amato said the charges could be filed Tuesday by Wisconsin authorities.

Breaking: DeKalb man in fair condition at Rockford hospital

SYCAMORE – A DeKalb man injured in a collision in the short passage along the 1800 block of Gateway Drive is in fair condition, according to staff at OSF Saint Anthony Medical Center in Rockford.

According to Sycamore Police Cmdr. Steve Cook, Josh C. Daniels, 34, of DeKalb, was working for a local utility company about 7:04 p.m. Thursday when he was knocked from a truck it when Lamont Moore, 26, of Chicago, hit the vehicle. Cook said Daniels, to his understanding, landed on the vehicle that hit the utility truck.

Moore was westbound on Gateway Drive, and said he was blinded by the setting sun, Cook said.

Daniels was taken to Northwestern Medicine Kishwaukee Hospital, before he was flown to St. Anthony in Rockford, Cook said.

Moore has been cited for failure to reduce speed to avoid an accident and failure to exercise due care.

DeKalb council to vote on Hometown Bar & Grill TIF funds; transit services Monday

DeKALB – In lieu of hired help to oversee transit consulting services, City Manager Bill Nicklas is recommending council instead utilize an on-call consultant.

For the past year, the city has employed a part-time transit consolidation coordinator to oversee the consolidation of the Huskie Line with the city's transit system, according to the agenda for Monday's council meeting, set for 6 p.m. at the DeKalb Municipal Building. The consolidation resulted in a $10,000,000 transit budget for 2019. There are also two full-time transit service employees: Marcus Cox, Transit Manager, and Sabrina Kuykendall, Transit Grants Administrator.

According to the agenda, the consolidation coordinator's employment ended March 9. The Public Works department and Nicklas recommend the city put out a Request for Proposals for an on-call consultant.

The switch would not impact the budget, and instead allow for the consultant to be funded through federal and state transit grant funds, according to the agenda.

The role would include helping with route scheduling as needed, and monitoring service costs, capital project planning, and soliciting rant funding.

Also on the budget for Monday's meeting, Hometown Sports Bar & Grills, 241 to 249 E. Lincoln Highway, is up next to receive their tax increment financing money after council earmarked $150,000 from TIF 2 in December for the property.

Owner Tom Schmidt plans to expand his restaurant to the neighboring property and create a second bar and restaurant space for live entertainment, called "Stage Left by Hometown Sports Bar & Grill."

According to the agenda, the $150,000 in TIF funds would go towards the total project costs, which are $558,900. The agenda also says that in the event the project costs exceed that amount, Nicklas is authorized to increase the TIF incentive up to $167,600. The incentive cannot exceed 27 percent of the total project costs, according to the TIF agreement.

Finally, council will officially vote to authorize a transfer of two small parcels of land for $1 each to Larry and Kay Berke, owners of Royal Travels & Tours, 122 N. First St. The transfer is part of a recent compromise reached regarding the Egyptian Theatre improvement plans.

Pay-It-Forward House names new executive director

SYCAMORE – The Pay-It-Forward House in Sycamore has a new executive director.

Heather Du Vall is taking over for retiring executive director Joyce Mathey as leader of the organization, which provides a place for the family to stay near their loved ones receiving medical treatment in DeKalb County.

Du Vall, 26, is a DeKalb resident who moved to the area from Minnesota. She said she has been overseeing the organization's operations for a few weeks before the announcement this week. She said she's looking forward to bringing her personal experience, education and passion for service to the organization's mission to provide a safe and comfortable home away from home for guests during trying times.

"I just want to get more involved in the community," Du Vall said.

Du Vall's career began in the nonprofit sector working for the Ronald McDonald House in Minneapolis as a relief manager and administrative assistant to the executive director, according to a news release. Most recently, Du Vall was a professional development coordinator at the Illinois Association of School Business Officials planning seminars and professional development training to assist school business officials across Illinois.

Du Vall said her main focus for the time being is getting to know the community, including volunteers and donors whose support makes Pay-It-Forward's services possible.

"Without the support of our donors and community as well," Du Vall said, "we wouldn't be able to do the great work we're able to do now for patients and their families."

Route 23 businesses in DeKalb without power after line downed

DeKalb fire officials wait in a cherry picker behind All About Eyes in DeKalb, 2201 Sycamore Road, while ComEd workers make their way to the area to address a downed power line that started a fire on top of the building.

DeKalb fire officials wait in a cherry picker behind All About Eyes in DeKalb, 2201 Sycamore Road, while ComEd workers make their way to the area to address a downed power line that started a fire on top of the building.

DeKALB – Some businesses along state Route 23 are closed because of a nearby downed power line, according to DeKalb Fire Deputy Chief Jim Zarek.

Zarek said a power line came down at the All About Eyes building at 2201 Sycamore Road. He said that started a smoldering fire and resulted in the business losing power, along with the AT&T store in the same building.

Zarek said fire officials are unsure if the downed power line is still live. He said fire officials will be able to help eliminate fire risk 15 to 30 minutes after power is cut from the line.

"But until ComEd gets up here and cuts the power, we're not comfortable getting up there and touching the wire," Zarek said.

Zarek said other nearby businesses were affected, as well. A sign on the door of Ellwood Steak and Fish House, 2219 Sycamore Road, said it's closed until further notice because of power issues.

DeKalb Fire Prevention Officer Bill Lynch said he doesn't think anyone was hurt because of the downed power line. He said ComEd was called about an hour ago after someone saw smoke coming from the top of the building and called emergency responders.

In general, as of 12:30 p.m. Monday, 21 outages were still an issue in DeKalb County: 12 in DeKalb affecting 38 customers, two in Sycamore affected 36 customers, and three in Kingston affected 33 customers.

Earlier Monday morning, about 750 DeKalb residents near Glidden and Rich roads were without power, according to the ComEd outage map at outagemap.comed.com, but by noon, power was seemingly restored.

John Schoen, a spokesperson for ComEd, said 800 crews were out and working as of 1 p.m. Monday, and that by that point, the company had restored power for more than 200,000 of the about 360,000 customers who had been without Monday morning. He said ComEd covers northern Illinois – roughly one-third of the state – and that Exelon, the larger company of which ComEd is a part, had lent help from out of state.

“We know being without power is difficult,” Schoen said.

Breaking: Sheriff: Downed power lines put Perry Road among county's most dangerous

Photos by Mark Busch – mbusch@shawmedia.com (Caption: A pole and powerlines lie on the corner of Somonauk and Chicago roads north of Sandwich on Monday morning after they were knocked down by the winds and heavy snow that fell Sunday night into Monday.) The latest hurdle to clear, Scott said about 10:20 a.m., is power lines down on Perry Road between Hinckley and the county line, which has deputies closing down a stretch more than three miles long, he said. ComEd is on the scene, Scott said. "They're out everywhere," he said. "This will be one of their next goals." He guessed it could take at least four hours to make the road safe.
Photos by Mark Busch – mbusch@shawmedia.com (Caption: A pole and powerlines lie on the corner of Somonauk and Chicago roads north of Sandwich on Monday morning after they were knocked down by the winds and heavy snow that fell Sunday night into Monday.) The latest hurdle to clear, Scott said about 10:20 a.m., is power lines down on Perry Road between Hinckley and the county line, which has deputies closing down a stretch more than three miles long, he said. ComEd is on the scene, Scott said. "They're out everywhere," he said. "This will be one of their next goals." He guessed it could take at least four hours to make the road safe.(Caption: A work van is stranded in the ditch along Route 38 after sliding off the roadway Monday near Cortland.) According to a news release from his office sent at 1:30 a.m., 80 vehicles were in the ditch at that point, and that three crashes had resulted in personal injuries, two in property damage. In one case, a GMC pickup truck driven by John Ryan, 51, of the 700 block of Oakbrook Road in Newark, was westbound about 6 p.m. Sunday on state Route 38 east of Virginia Road when he crossed the center line because of snow and hit three other vehicles, according to a news release from the sheriff’s office. Maria Vazquez, 39, of the 1700 block of Sunflower Drive in DeKalb, who was wearing her seat belt as passenger in a Honda SUV, was taken to Northwestern Medicine Kishwaukee Hospital with minor injuries; part of Route 38 was closed for about 45 minutes. The SUV’s driver, as well as the drivers of a Pontiac Sedan and a Chevrolet SUV that were crashed into were wearing their seat belts and unhurt, according to the release.
(Caption: A work van is stranded in the ditch along Route 38 after sliding off the roadway Monday near Cortland.) According to a news release from his office sent at 1:30 a.m., 80 vehicles were in the ditch at that point, and that three crashes had resulted in personal injuries, two in property damage. In one case, a GMC pickup truck driven by John Ryan, 51, of the 700 block of Oakbrook Road in Newark, was westbound about 6 p.m. Sunday on state Route 38 east of Virginia Road when he crossed the center line because of snow and hit three other vehicles, according to a news release from the sheriff’s office. Maria Vazquez, 39, of the 1700 block of Sunflower Drive in DeKalb, who was wearing her seat belt as passenger in a Honda SUV, was taken to Northwestern Medicine Kishwaukee Hospital with minor injuries; part of Route 38 was closed for about 45 minutes. The SUV’s driver, as well as the drivers of a Pontiac Sedan and a Chevrolet SUV that were crashed into were wearing their seat belts and unhurt, according to the release.A Cortland snowplow clears South Loves Road in Cortland Monday after rain and snow Sunday night into Monday laid down a layer of ice and snow on local roadways.

A Cortland snowplow clears South Loves Road in Cortland Monday after rain and snow Sunday night into Monday laid down a layer of ice and snow on local roadways.Tow services and deputies continue to respond to new reports, and Scott said at one point a snow plow and a wrecker ended up in a ditch on U.S. Route 30 on the southern edge of the county. Route 30 goes east and west, of course, and such roads are in the worst shape, even though plows have persistently gone through. “East-west is still the roughest,” Scott said, "but many north-south roads are in bad shape, too." He said if you truly have to travel, state Route 64 west of Glidden Road should be avoided, as several vehicles are in ditches. "It's still bad," Scott said about 10:20 a.m. "They're still down to one lane in quite a few places."
Tow services and deputies continue to respond to new reports, and Scott said at one point a snow plow and a wrecker ended up in a ditch on U.S. Route 30 on the southern edge of the county. Route 30 goes east and west, of course, and such roads are in the worst shape, even though plows have persistently gone through. “East-west is still the roughest,” Scott said, "but many north-south roads are in bad shape, too." He said if you truly have to travel, state Route 64 west of Glidden Road should be avoided, as several vehicles are in ditches. "It's still bad," Scott said about 10:20 a.m. "They're still down to one lane in quite a few places."Similarly, state Route 38 east of Route 23 is a a problem, too. These routes aren't closed, but should be avoided, if possible, Scott said. With nearly a foot of fresh, wet, heavy snow blanketing DeKalb County, the county's offices will be closed today, according to a news release from the sheriff's office. That means the sheriff's office, the county clerk's office, the health department, the courthouse – all county buildings will reopen Tuesday. This batch of snow, which fell on the county between about 5:30 p.m. Sunday through 4 this morning, hours after the National Weather Service issued a blizzard warning, is no lightweight – literally. It's wet and heavy, so if it's up to you to shovel it, be sure to pace yourself. Even though it's cold out, stay hydrated, and if you get weak or lightheaded, take a break. Kevin Donofrio, meteorologist for National Weather Service Chicago, said there have been reports of 10 inches of snow a mile southwest from the city center of DeKalb. He said the heart of DeKalb got 9.1 inches of snow, Genoa got 8.4 inches, Rochelle got 12 inches and Elburn got 9.2 inches. Donofrio said the strongest winds around DeKalb County came in the late afternoon, between 4 and 6 p.m., and between 9 p.m. Sunday and 2 a.m. Monday. "Most of the area saw winds between 35 and 50 miles per hour in the heart of the storm," Donofrio said. To put those numbers into perspective, Donofrio said, Rockford got 11.7 inches of snow from the storm, making it the highest calendar day snowfall for any calendar day in the month of November. He said the previously record was 6.6 inches on Nov. 27, 1995. "To be getting these types of numbers is pretty uncommon," Donofrio said. According to ComEd's outage map at outage map.comed.com, there are 10 power outages in DeKalb affecting 757 customers, nine in Sycamore affecting 22 customers, and five in Genoa affecting five customers. Far and away the biggest group of residents affected in DeKalb – 735 of them as of 7:30 a.m. – are west of the intersection of Glidden and Rich roads. According to the outage map, the damage is being assessed, so no time of power restoration has been established. Superintendents throughout the county announced Sunday night their school districts will be closed today. Northern Illinois University Spokesman Joe King said Sunday night that courses would first begin at 10 a.m., but sent an update Monday morning stating the university will be closed until operations resume at midnight tonight. Monday classes at Rockford are canceled. Naperville, Hoffman Estates and Lorado Taft will remain open and operate with a regular schedule on Monday, King said. If you've got a ticket on your vehicle in DeKalb, it's likely because once more than two inches of snow fall, a snow emergency is declared so plows can properly clear the roads. The city asks that residents do their part in clearing their sidewalks, according to a post on its Facebook page. Other closures and schedule changes: • The Sycamore Park District announced in a news release that its Pathway Fitness track at the community center, 480 Airport Road, will be closed overnight and reopen at 7 a.m. Monday. The district offices will open at 10 a.m. • The Kishwaukee Family YMCA, usually open at 5 a.m., will open at 9 a.m., and no classes will be offered before noon. While the Y typically offers its No School, No Problem program when schools are out of session, that will not be the case Monday because of the delay in opening, CEO Mark Spiegelhoff said. • Family Service Agency and its Club 55s for seniors also will be closed, development director Sarah Slavenas said. • DeKalb City Hall, 200 S. Fourth St., will first open at 10 a.m. Monday, and Lakeshore Recycling Systems will not collect garbage and recycling Monday, pushing back all collections one day this week, according to a post on the city of DeKalb Facebook page. • The DeKalb Public Library will be closed all day Monday, according to a news release. A release from the Sycamore Public Library says it will open first at 1 p.m. Monday. • Elder Care Services, the Children's Learning Center and Creative Kids Connection, and We Care Pregnancy Center in DeKalb, and Northestern Medicine Kishwaukee Hospital's Cardiac Rehab and Salem Lutheran Church in Sycamore, are all closed today.
Similarly, state Route 38 east of Route 23 is a a problem, too. These routes aren't closed, but should be avoided, if possible, Scott said. With nearly a foot of fresh, wet, heavy snow blanketing DeKalb County, the county's offices will be closed today, according to a news release from the sheriff's office. That means the sheriff's office, the county clerk's office, the health department, the courthouse – all county buildings will reopen Tuesday. This batch of snow, which fell on the county between about 5:30 p.m. Sunday through 4 this morning, hours after the National Weather Service issued a blizzard warning, is no lightweight – literally. It's wet and heavy, so if it's up to you to shovel it, be sure to pace yourself. Even though it's cold out, stay hydrated, and if you get weak or lightheaded, take a break. Kevin Donofrio, meteorologist for National Weather Service Chicago, said there have been reports of 10 inches of snow a mile southwest from the city center of DeKalb. He said the heart of DeKalb got 9.1 inches of snow, Genoa got 8.4 inches, Rochelle got 12 inches and Elburn got 9.2 inches. Donofrio said the strongest winds around DeKalb County came in the late afternoon, between 4 and 6 p.m., and between 9 p.m. Sunday and 2 a.m. Monday. "Most of the area saw winds between 35 and 50 miles per hour in the heart of the storm," Donofrio said. To put those numbers into perspective, Donofrio said, Rockford got 11.7 inches of snow from the storm, making it the highest calendar day snowfall for any calendar day in the month of November. He said the previously record was 6.6 inches on Nov. 27, 1995. "To be getting these types of numbers is pretty uncommon," Donofrio said. According to ComEd's outage map at outage map.comed.com, there are 10 power outages in DeKalb affecting 757 customers, nine in Sycamore affecting 22 customers, and five in Genoa affecting five customers. Far and away the biggest group of residents affected in DeKalb – 735 of them as of 7:30 a.m. – are west of the intersection of Glidden and Rich roads. According to the outage map, the damage is being assessed, so no time of power restoration has been established. Superintendents throughout the county announced Sunday night their school districts will be closed today. Northern Illinois University Spokesman Joe King said Sunday night that courses would first begin at 10 a.m., but sent an update Monday morning stating the university will be closed until operations resume at midnight tonight. Monday classes at Rockford are canceled. Naperville, Hoffman Estates and Lorado Taft will remain open and operate with a regular schedule on Monday, King said. If you've got a ticket on your vehicle in DeKalb, it's likely because once more than two inches of snow fall, a snow emergency is declared so plows can properly clear the roads. The city asks that residents do their part in clearing their sidewalks, according to a post on its Facebook page. Other closures and schedule changes: • The Sycamore Park District announced in a news release that its Pathway Fitness track at the community center, 480 Airport Road, will be closed overnight and reopen at 7 a.m. Monday. The district offices will open at 10 a.m. • The Kishwaukee Family YMCA, usually open at 5 a.m., will open at 9 a.m., and no classes will be offered before noon. While the Y typically offers its No School, No Problem program when schools are out of session, that will not be the case Monday because of the delay in opening, CEO Mark Spiegelhoff said. • Family Service Agency and its Club 55s for seniors also will be closed, development director Sarah Slavenas said. • DeKalb City Hall, 200 S. Fourth St., will first open at 10 a.m. Monday, and Lakeshore Recycling Systems will not collect garbage and recycling Monday, pushing back all collections one day this week, according to a post on the city of DeKalb Facebook page. • The DeKalb Public Library will be closed all day Monday, according to a news release. A release from the Sycamore Public Library says it will open first at 1 p.m. Monday. • Elder Care Services, the Children's Learning Center and Creative Kids Connection, and We Care Pregnancy Center in DeKalb, and Northestern Medicine Kishwaukee Hospital's Cardiac Rehab and Salem Lutheran Church in Sycamore, are all closed today.

DeKalb police making a list, checking it twice for annual shopping event

Detective Sonny Streit helps then-8-year-old Desiree Barrios shop during the Heroes and Helpers event in November 2017 at Target, 2555 Sycamore Road, DeKalb.

Detective Sonny Streit helps then-8-year-old Desiree Barrios shop during the Heroes and Helpers event in November 2017 at Target, 2555 Sycamore Road, DeKalb.

DeKALB – DeKalb police are asking for donations for their annual Heroes and Helpers event, which will take place Dec. 9 at Target, 2555 Sycamore Road.

The department and Target partner to provide underprivileged local children with toys. While the event is weeks away, the department is seeking cash donations – no amount is too small – to best fill those children's stockings.

Participating children are either residents of DeKalb or part of DeKalb School District 428. With the help of a DeKalb police officer, each child will get to choose $100 worth of Christmas presents from Target on Dec. 9. Target staff members and other community volunteers will wrap the gifts, while the children enjoy snacks, refreshments, and coloring with the officers.

In 2017, the program assisted 40 children and their families. Those interested in making a donation should do so before Dec. 1, and can drop off checks or a contribution at the front desk of the Police Station, 700 West Lincoln Highway, or contact DPD Community Relations Officer Kelly Sullivan at 815-748-8446. Checks can be made payable to the DeKalb PB and PA, Police Benevolent and Protective Association.

Those who donate $100 will be able to nominate a child to be a part of the program, and ensure that donation goes directly to that child.

DeKalb mayor reacts to newfound $1.8M budget shortfall: 'We're in deep doo-doo'

Aldermen and FAC take first attempt a remediation before 2019 budget deadline

DeKALB – Once it was made public the city has a newfound $1.8 million budget deficit, the mayor conceded his council is in "deep doo-doo."

Aldermen and Finance Advisory Committee members squabbled Tuesday night over 2019 budget talks, in light of the realization of the $1.8 million shortfall. It's the direct result of an unauthorized transfer of $250,000 from the city's health benefits funds to the terminal reserve fund, officials have said.

"Prior to [the Nov. 5] meeting being canceled, an agenda item was prepared, and during the course of that prep, city staff noticed there were items on the agenda that needed to be addressed in greater depth," interim City Manager Raymond Munch said Tuesday night.

The joint meeting to continue the fiscal year 2019 budget-setting process was rescheduled after city officials discovered $250,000 had been taken out of the city's health insurance fund in 2017 and placed into the general fund to cover budget-balancing measures for the 2018 fiscal year. The discovery prompted Mayor Jerry Smith to place former interim city manager Molly Talkington on paid administrative leave.

Shaw Media file photos Munch (shown) said city officials discovered before Nov. 5 that the city’s five-year budget forecast documents had overprojected the hotel/motel tax for 2019 to be a 102 percent increase versus a 2 percent increase, which Munch called “nothing more than a typo.” When city officials began to explore taking funds out of the Intergovernmental Personnel Benefit Cooperative, the city's benefit fund, to address the error, they discovered that had already occurred once this year. In January 2018, city staff, whom Munch has not identified, transferred $150,000 from the benefit fund to the terminal reserve. Munch said that amount plus an additional $100,000 that was already sitting in the terminal reserve was used to reduce a Feb. 2018 IPBC payment from the city by $250,000. Additionally, though the city pays 80 percent of the total health insurance cost, while employees pay 20 percent, Munch said there was an actual employer contribution of 77.5 percent in 2018, and an employee contribution of 20.5 percent.

Shaw Media file photos Munch (shown) said city officials discovered before Nov. 5 that the city’s five-year budget forecast documents had overprojected the hotel/motel tax for 2019 to be a 102 percent increase versus a 2 percent increase, which Munch called “nothing more than a typo.” When city officials began to explore taking funds out of the Intergovernmental Personnel Benefit Cooperative, the city's benefit fund, to address the error, they discovered that had already occurred once this year.

In January 2018, city staff, whom Munch has not identified, transferred $150,000 from the benefit fund to the terminal reserve. Munch said that amount plus an additional $100,000 that was already sitting in the terminal reserve was used to reduce a Feb. 2018 IPBC payment from the city by $250,000.

Additionally, though the city pays 80 percent of the total health insurance cost, while employees pay 20 percent, Munch said there was an actual employer contribution of 77.5 percent in 2018, and an employee contribution of 20.5 percent.

Council voted Nov. 13 to make an immediate supplemental payment of $250,000 back to the cooperative, which Munch said got the 20/80 balance back to where it needed to be for 2018.

"This has resulted in a fairly significant impact on the five-year forecast, so we took a deeper dive into that overall and began to see what the impacts were," Munch said.

The resulting impact is an additional $1.8 million deficit for 2018, which will affect the 2019 budget moving forward because it impacts the city's policy regarding reserve revenue expenditures, Munch said. That policy says the general fund be 25 percent of the annual expenditures, and compensation for the error might bring the city's reserves below that level.

His recommendations to council and the FAC were to implement additional expenditure reductions, implement additional revenue increases, consider an adoption of the deficit budget utilizing the fund balance as a short term measure, or a combination of the three.

Mayor Jerry Smith cautioned the room to remember these issues had only come to light in the past few weeks, referring to misappropriate of funds of clerical errors as "bogus."

"The report that [Munch] gave us tonight gives us a slightly larger mountain to climb. I just want to make it a point that it isn't like we've been dragging our feet to the tune of $1.8 million since last January."

[Mark Black - for Shaw Media]

Council and the FAC explored adopting the FY2019 budget with a short-term fix before the end of the year, and amending the budget within the first six months of 2019. First Ward Alderman David Jacobson (shown) issued a heated judgment on current council for its continued lack of action, specifically on revenue enhancement measures.

"We had this discussion last year, and there's one word for what I'm hearing, and it's laziness" Jacobson said. "The people here don't want to make the difficult decision. Taking fund balance is laziness; this is an emergency fund for a legitimate emergency."

Others pointed to hiring a new city manager as vital to ensuring the budget process is done thoroughly, which will take time.

"You need to get a good manager in here who's going to be a leader," said Mike Peddle, the FAC chairman.

Though no formal vote was taken Tuesday, a proposed 12-month hiring freeze will be put into consideration, which would make up a significant portion of the $1.8 million deficit. A new city manager is not projected to be hired until the end of December, with an official start date that could be closer to end of January 2019, Smith has said.

DeKalb School District 428 Board tables TIF talks, OKs tax levy option

Cindy Carpenter, business and finance director for DeKalb School District 428, presents a few options for the district's 2018 property tax levy during the regular school board meeting Tuesday night at the DeKalb CUSD 428 Education Center, 901 S. Fourth St. in DeKalb.

Cindy Carpenter, business and finance director for DeKalb School District 428, presents a few options for the district's 2018 property tax levy during the regular school board meeting Tuesday night at the DeKalb CUSD 428 Education Center, 901 S. Fourth St. in DeKalb.

DeKALB – The DeKalb District 428 Board of Education voted in favor of pursuing one option for a tax levy and unanimously agreed to table talks about the city’s tax increment financing district during their Tuesday meeting.

In a meeting that followed a closed session, the board voted, 7-0, to delay further discussion on whether to approve an intergovernmental agreement regarding a proposed new TIF district for the City of DeKalb. It is unclear when the board would next address the matter.

Board President Victoria Newport said school board members received the opinion from DeKalb County State’s Attorney Rick Amato last week opposing the agreement as written. She declined to comment on the board’s rationale for tabling the item and whether Amato’s opinion had anything to do with it.

“We’re just taking a stance to see how things are going to fall out,” Newport said.

The district’s tabling comes after the DeKalb County executive committee passed a resolution to turn down the agreement, which also urged the city to undergo a forensic audit. The agreement will go before the county board for a vote on Wednesday.

The DeKalb school board also voted, 5-2, in favor of further pursuing a tax levy option that would result in a $4 increase for taxpayers with properties worth $150,000 during their meeting Tuesday night. Other options included a $45 increase and $6 increase, with the lower amounts resulting from the district using their own funds to cover taxpayer costs.

Newport said the DeKalb school district has the highest tax rate out of all of the school districts in the county.

“We feel we owe it to our taxpayers to give them a break,” Newport said.

Board members Valerie Pena-Hernandez and Howard Solomon opposed the motion.

“I’m still convinced that we could do better for our taxpayers,” Pena-Hernandez said.

The additional tax levy presentation comes after the initial presentation, which was meant to be settled in the Nov. 6 meeting, fell short. Cynthia Carpenter, the district’s business and finance director, had said board wanted to see other options that would bring taxpayers relief and didn’t approve the two options that were presented during the Nov. 6 meeting.

The district’s tax rate has decreased as a result of increases property values in the district, which resumed in 2015 after dropping during the Great Recession. Property in District 428 has increased in value by more than $111 million since 2015, an 18 percent jump, according to district documents.

A public hearing for the tax levy will be scheduled during the board’s Dec. 18 meeting. Carpenter said there still would be time to discuss other ways to lower taxes for residents even further, regardless of whether the district would receive TIF funds from the city.

Right Menu Icon