Bigger head count? Cost of running Naperville to increase

<p>File Photo</p>

File Photo

The cost of running Naperville is expected to increase a little bit for several city departments next year. Officials are expressing confidence, however, that sufficient funds are available to cover the added expense.

In the second of a series of budget workshops Monday evening, City Council members grilled staff over the requests from departments supported by the general fund, expected to represent $122.1 million of the municipality’s fiscal 2015 blueprint. The sum represents nearly $3 million less in spending than the general fund incurred in fiscal year 2014.

About 80 percent of the expenditure requests reflect the cost of salaries and benefits for the city’s 910 employees, and the proposed spending plan includes new staff in three departments. The expanded employee roster is “certainly in the best interests of the city and the residents,” City Manager Doug Krieger told the council members.

In the Police Department, two new full-time and one part-time position are being requested. Police Chief Bob Marshall said despite recent reconfigurations that streamlined the efficiency of the force, more people are needed to fight a more savvy and technology-armed criminal element.

The department is partnering with the FBI, which has a regional forensics lab in Chicago equipped with $10 million in cutting-edge technological equipment dedicated mostly to investigating complex fraud, child predator and cyber crime cases. One of the new full-time positions would be devoted to the assignment of a Naperville officer to the downtown center.

Deputy Chief Brian Cunningham said the city also would benefit from $350,000 in annual software upgrades made at the lab, and the equivalent of $100,000 worth of training in the rapidly emerging law enforcement specialty, which could then be shared locally.

“By using the FBI lab, we’ll be able to train our people up to that level,” Cunningham said.

The facility’s director John Dziedzic, who was on hand for the workshop, said nine agencies now have representatives at the lab, countering a near-daily emergence of new technologies used to commit crimes.

“We are going to give you back an expert in computer forensics,” he said.

Emergency help

The Police Department also needs an additional emergency communications supervisor to work in the 9-1-1 call center, which now lacks sufficient staffing to have its 25 dispatchers overseen around the clock, Marshall said. And a position entailing a 25-hour work week is being requested for the animal control division, which has one supervisor in charge of a four-person staff who manage nearly 26,000 phone calls annually and sent out field officers to respond to 4,492 of those calls during 2012.

“These four people need help,” Marshall said.

In the Transportation, Engineering and Development department, one new part-time position is needed to help meet the resurgent demand for building permits.

“Building is back, both residential and commercial,” said department head Bill Novack, who also is looking for the OK to retain two more on-call inspectors to join the current roster of three contractors, aiming to keep the average wait for an inspection to no more than three days.

After bottoming out at fewer than 4,000 permits in 2009, the department is projecting this year’s total to reach 6,500.

“We are currently swamped with building permit requests,” Krieger said.

For the Information Technology Department, the council’s strategic goal of becoming an e-government innovator has presented a challenge, City Clerk Pam Lafeber said. She said both expertise and head count need more support for the department to address the initiative.

“We have been lagging behind in a number of areas,” said Lafeber, who is asking for a business systems analyst, a network systems analyst and a part-time telecommunications specialist.

The wheel thing

Among other notable elements of the general fund proposal is a continued increase in upgrades to the city’s $24 million vehicle fleet. The budget proposal calls for spending just less than $2 million on 29 new cars and trucks, of which $1.3 million would go to the Public Works Department.

Finance Director Karen DeAngelis said the city had put off replacing vehicles in recent years. Although the current budget includes $1.85 million for the purpose, the total spent over the previous two years was about $967,000.

“You can only defer for so long,” DeAngelis said.

This year’s budget, until recently dogged by a $2.2 million shortfall, now is on track wind up near the black when the spending year ends April 30, 2014. The gap has been shaved by about $2 million, DeAngelis said, partly thanks to a $600,000 Illinois Jobs Now grant that came in last month. Also helping to shrink the expected deficit has been a $1.1 million decrease in expenditure projections.

“These reductions reflect better than budget trends in health care and worker compensation costs,” DeAngelis wrote in a council memo that predicts a discrepancy of about $400,000 at year end.

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