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  • Writer's pictureTricia Babischkin

Board Packet Review: 11/24/2020

This coming Tuesday starts the unusual holiday season off right with a village board meeting. As always, here's the packet and notable items to be on the look-out for. There's a lot for this normally silent board to ask and inquire about as good stewards of our tax dollars. The question is will they?

CONSENT AGENDA: 1. Request Approval of Minutes: None 2. Request Approval of Bill Lists: a. Accounts Payable Invoices Dated November 25, 2020 in the amount of $164,799.26

3. Request Approval of Financial Statements: None


Motion to Authorize the Chief Administrative Officer to Execute a Letter of Agreement with Icon Development Group LLC to Waive Impact Fees Associated with Brighton Oaks Unit 5 Vacant Lots for a Period of 2 Years

This motion was tabled at the last meeting. The change appears to be a reduction in the suspension from 3 years to 2 years, but does not address the apparent preferential agreement between the village and ICON. Can our board and administration explain why not waive the fees across the village as they did last time?

Motion Authorizing the Chief Administrative Officer to Execute a Contract with Leading IT Technology as Presented

This motion was tabled at the last meeting with the instruction from the board to the CAO to gather some more details. It appears, that none of that research was included in the public board packet, and with no changes to the agreement, we can only conclude that CAO Smith withdrew the letter requesting this increase in monthly fees as it opened more questions than it answered. So, as we do hope the board is looking at this agreement closely I would call out:

a. This is still month to month. Is this truly getting us the best deal.

b. When this was tabled, CAO Smith asked if she was being directed to bid out the services. I feel that this was a failing in our board to not have her bid out the services to confirm we are getting the best price and value. It appears (as this is the third such renewal that I've watched) that neither our CAO nor this board believes that you double check pricing on all renewals. I think this has the potential of wasting our tax dollars.

c. The original letter from the CAO mentioned that this agreement has expanded services -- which have pretty marketing names, but included no detail about what these services covered or didn't cover -- to justify the ~$400/month payment increase. The details of these services with their specific terms & conditions are missing from this board packet.

d. In her original letter, she mentioned that cybersecurity was included with the upgrades, while the exclusions clearly state that cybersecurity is excluded. During the meeting this was mentioned by Trustee Eddy, and CAO Smith danced around the exclusion stating that it doesn't cover litigation for cybersecurity, but that's not exactly what the exclusion states.

Note: I write and read a fair number of Statements of Work (SOWs) -- this could not be more clear. Litigation is NOT included AND Cybersecurity issues are NOT included. As we do not have details of these added services that the CAO claims includes cyber security; we do not know if this exclusion is overridden elsewhere -- thus, we can only assume it is not. But you might wonder, why I'm beating on this point --- well, it appears that our law firm recently fell victim to a phishing attack, where someone clicked through a fake email and gave the hacker credentials. From this point, our village emails were sent this same email. Now, I've been told that the village was not compromised -- but that's the reason we would want to have cybersecurity issues handled by our IT firm.

e. Finally -- anyone else notice the auto-increase of 5% per year? Doesn't that seem rather high for an auto-increase?

NET -- Please go out to bid for this contract. As a general rule of thumb, you should ALWAYS go out to bid on renewals, especially in the IT, software, and services world.

Motion to Approve a Traffic Calming Policy on Village Streets

I read through the policy that basically outlines the procedure and criteria for determining if a road needs traffic calming. The process looks fairly simple, but I have questions:

  1. Under Procedures #2 -- there appears to be a typo as we do not have a Plan Commission, perhaps CAO Smith meant "Planning & Zoning Commission"??

  2. Under Procedures #3, sub-bullet c: What is a "resident run program which seeks to increase voluntary compliance with speed regulations."? Please tell me we aren't having residents enforce speeds in the village.

  3. How exactly do sub-bullets a and d differ from one another under Procedures #3.

  4. Under Procedures #5 (basically, if the increased police enforcement and the potential for additional signage doesn't fix the complaint, the issue is sent to a Committee of Public Works, Police, and the Village Engineer). It clearly states that in order to be reviewed, the road would need to have traffic of between 300-5,000 cars per day. Looking at a map of our village, can we all agree that this is likely under 10 total streets in the village?

Motion to Approve the Professional Services Agreement with Wunderlich-Malec at a Price Not to Exceed $51,475 which includes a Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) System

I'm all for improved technology that is needed to run our village efficiently. I confirmed that this was a budgeted item and from what I can see, it was budgeted enough to cover this purchase.

Motion to Approve Resolution No.(2020-R25)– A Resolution Stating the Estimated Tax Levy for 2020

There's a major problem with this proposal --- the base number is wrong. The levy approved by the board on 11/26/2019 was $1,677,898. So, I tried to do a simple comparison of the projection sheets from 2019 to 2020, but it appears that CAO Smith's attempt to explain the double taxation situation has confused things more and made this process far more complicated than it need be. Additionally, the sheer number of math errors on this one report makes it near impossible to determine what is really wrong here.

As best I can put together, historically, the village asks for the levy in the total amount that it will need, then the county reduces the specific line item for streets and roads by the amount levied by the township and then the township gives us that money -- so effectively we still get the money we requested and we need to request all the money we need -- which is why it's important to use the right base numbers. (I checked with other similar sized municipalities and none of them appear to call out this Road & Bridge transfer; so while it could be possible, I don't believe this a change in code for 2020.

So, as I went through the spreadsheet and found so many math errors or weirdnesses, so I felt that the only thing to do was to attempt to re-do the sheet to correct the math.

Keep in mind, last year we asked for $102,000 for Street & Bridge. Her notes say this year, she's requesting $100,000, so, if she keeps the levy flat, there's $2,000 that needs to go somewhere not in Street & Bridge. For ease, I put it in Corporate above. For clarity, I put the amount that needs to be requested in its proper line item, so that the transfer doesn't confuse things (as has been done every year prior to this one).

So, IF this board approves the levy at either 2% increase or 2.89% increase based on the CAO's presentation, we will request ~$4,000 too little. Now, that may not be a large percentage of a $1.7 million dollar budget, but that is about half of the uniform budget for the police, public works, and utilities combined. Our budget is small enough that annual budget for the vast majority of the line items are under $5,000 -- so, maybe we shouldn't overlook such a small amount.

But the truly worrying thing in the presentation is that looking at the bottom of the spreadsheet, it appears that CAO Smith is trying to project the affect on the homeowner of any change in the levy. The problem is that if the levy increases, why are my taxes decreasing? How is that possible? I know there's not that many new homes to offset the total levy amount, right? So, I corrected that part of the spreadsheet too.

It's not possible. It's the EAV that is going up 3.18% (which, by the way -- I do not understand how CAO Smith is rounding -- but she's $5,300 higher than the math says she should be). Anyway, the effect on the homeowner, assumes the impossible -- that EAV will go up 3%, but out home values would stay flat. That's the way this sheet has always been done -- so, don't forget that most of us got notices that our homes were being assessed higher than last year.

Net here -- this presentation is sloppy work. This combined with the budget that also didn't add makes me question our CAO's skills with Excel and spreadsheets. What is truly frightening is that our board is likely not to have caught these errors, and because of the change in the way this sheet is being presented, we may not have a clear understanding of what levy is actually being requested.

In my research, I went back to look at what was presented when our prior Village Manager was here. It was incredibly detailed. In fact, in the early days of CAO Smith, that was the format she used. But it appears that longer our CAO is here, the less attention to detail she pays and more math mistakes we find. If I were on the board, I would be asking her to correct the errors and present a fixed sheet for review, along with the appropriate back-up documentation -- I can only hope this board would step up and demand better work for our residents.

As with the last board meeting, there are notable items missing again:

  1. Where is the audit that was due at the end of October?

  2. Where is the comprehensive budget review that Trustee Eddy has asked for?

  3. The RFP for Marketing Services is again not on the agenda and yet again the village website says this:

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