Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Payroll change can save Money!!

Recently, the City Council was informed that an additional payroll was made in 2009 because of using a bi-weekly (26 payment) payroll system. This additional 27th bi-weekly payroll is an anomaly that occurs every 11 years because our bi-weekly payroll it is based on a 364 (52 week) year versus the reality of a 366 on leap year and 365 normal year. The extra 1 or 2 days(leap yr) add up to an extra payroll on the 11th year.

What this all means is that an annual salary's that we voted on in our budget (look at page 7-10 of this personnel summary) was altered by this extra week . My understanding is the proper salaries were paid in the first 26 payments. Problem is that we had 27 in 2009.

The remedy to this problem is to do what the State of Illinois and many other large corporations do. That is to change to a twice a month(semi-monthly) payroll system that is based on a full year and never has anomalies like this one. The switch not only saves us the salary in the extra payroll every 11 years, but also saves us the cost of having two extra payroll periods every year (24 vs 26).

It is amazing to me that this is the first we have heard of this extra cost since it is accumulated every year. We have been struggling with getting our revenues to match expenditures and this adjustment can fill a big hole since we are talking about hundreds of thousands. I don't know about you but anywhere we can cut costs without reducing services or laying off employees I Say Yes!!

Contributions Requested

I am asking you to donate to the Steve Mandel Committee (2157 St. Johns Ave. HP) by mail or online at to pay for the online content that is hosted and emailed on the internet. I would like to raise about $1000... Thank YOU

Friday, March 19, 2010

GreenTown Shows Green Solutions not Green Wash

This was my 3rd Greentown event that I have attended. It is produced by Gary Cuneed from Seven Generations Ahead and John Harris from A5 inc. These guys do a great job of bringing us back to reality. Their presentations remind us we have an obligation to our children. We need to correct the environmental unbalances that we have brought upon our planet. Bob Dixon, Mayor of Greensburg Kansas, spoke about a community working together in sustainably rebuilding their town after a devastating F-5 tornado destroyed everything. Mayor Dixon talked about how we need to spead the word on green solutions to promote future life for humans on this planet. Bottom line is the reality of green wash (talking the talk but not walking the walk) has to be replaced by action by a majority, promoted by strong leadership in government and business. We need to start to walk soon for the preservation of our children's future. Who's In??

Friday, March 12, 2010

All Public Meetings should be Recorded

UPDATE>>>>Council unanimously supported resuming verbatim recordings for COTW City Council Meetings(afternoon session) and the Commission Meetings. YEA!!!
Recently I have found out that staff had Stopped Recording pre-session City Council meetings otherwise refereed to as Committee of the Whole. Staff has also stopped recording the commission meetings. This was done unknown to the City Council. At the last Council meeting I asked to discuss restoring those recordings at our next meeting.

It is important to have these recordings to have a specific record of events. Also, to provide a resource to those of us that might miss a meeting or are interested in a subject on an agenda and want to research how a specific vote was discussed in detail.

As we move forward in open and accessible government this was a big mistake to stop recordings. I am hopeful that the Mayor and fellow Councilman will agree with me and move to restore these recordings for all to hear if requested.

Monday, March 08, 2010

Library Board Upset with the Council for cutting Taxes

Last year the Library brought their budget to the City Council for review and passage. Just like several of the past 16 budgets that I have been part of, the City Council attempted to work out a smaller increase than was requested. In all those past years we have struck a deal with the Library board in the spirit of cooperation and in the best interests of the citizens. This year however seems like things have dramatically changed.

While I was not involved in many of the direct discussions that took place with the Library, we were told by them that the Library was its own government and we needed to pass the much larger increase in the levy.

What we had asked the Library to do in these down economic times is to follow what the rest of our city government has done and have ZERO increases in their budget outside of mandatory IMRF pension requirements..... They refused and demanded their increases be levied upon the citizens of Highland Park through higher property taxes.

We asked the Library Board to work with our staff on creating administrative efficiencies by combining staff duplication of services, bidding together on insurance, and taking advantage of other opportunities to save money.

I truly believe the Library boards in the past and the present have done an excellent job on providing a fine establishment for education, leisure, and entertainment. The Library is a sanctuary for many that do enjoy its immense resources and peaceful atmosphere. It is a prime cultural pillar of our community and all of us on the City Council recognize its importance and have always stood behind its preservation as a great benefiting institution in our community.

Now, as far as who makes the final decision in how much money is spent and who governs our Library? It is our citizens. The way that our citizens effectuate this policy is to elect 7 members to the City Council of Highland Park. The citizens entrust the seven of us to govern this City Government, including the Library, for four year terms. We, the City Council of Highland Park, are the ones that are empowered by the citizens to make the final decisions.

The Mayor recommends and the City Council approves citizens to serve on the Library board to over see operations and programming of the Library. The Library board is required to submit its levy (property tax request) to the City Council for approval. The Library Board serves at our pleasure and is accountable to us on the City Council.

While this conflict between the City Council and the Library board has never erupted in the past, it has always been clear to me where the authority lies. This Councilman will not give any department or recommending body a BLANK CHECK when it comes to property taxes that our citizens have no choice on paying.

I am hopeful that the current library board will retreat from this unsustainable aggressive posture and work with us as the boards have done in the past. The City Council will not let anything happen that will jeopardize the Library's mission to serve our community and will do all that it takes to preserve civility and cooperation between the city and our library.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Highland Park Theater discussion is tamed under current economic climate

While our hopes were high that we would have a new performing arts theater group rehab the Highland Park Theater after our purchase......that idea will have to be put on the shelf for the moment.

After sitting in on several Theater Reuse Advisory meetings over the past several months it seems that the consensus in the short term was to make the theater more presentable as a movie house and not currently move forward on a mass renovation. Suggestions were also made to make changes to the business model that could increase revenues for the movie venue.

I think on a parallel path we should make it clear to the Chicago Area Theatrical Community that Highland Park is willing to work with viable theatrical entities on renovating and promoting performing arts within this facility with the right partnership. We have a core downtown and population that is very theatrical friendly and would be a very supportive to an incoming theater company or operator.

Also, we need to see if there is interest in establishing a foundation for preservation of the Highland Park Theater in perpetuity since many of us old timers believe it is a cornerstone in our history and cultural fabric. WELL>>>> Time to hear from the City Council to see whats next!