Impact Fees 2005
DeKalb Candidates Forum
This Poll was Rigged!
Alternative Proposal
A Policy Question
St. John's Park
Proposed Changes
2004 Elections
Response to Bin Laden
Sparks at Farm Bureau
No Moore! F911
Bush's Mistake
Be CAREful!
Hi Mr. Beilfuss!
Fish n Chips
Politics n Poison
World War III
Rooftops n Taxes
Impact Fee on Babies
Choosing the right career
NIU Impact?

The opinions expressed on the Rants and Raves of Mac McIntyre are solely those of its author and are shared for the purpose of encouraging dialogue about life and issues in DeKalb County, Illinois.

Saturday July 29, 2006


Fish 'n Chips at Lake Shabbona? Politics, Poison 'n Posturing
Our Generation's World War Election Reflections
Rooftops n Taxes Otta be an Impact Fee on Babies
4.4 Forty and a Fake ID We've Been Barbed!!!
Election Reflections Hello to you, too, Dr. Paul Beilfuss!
Tax and Spend per Usual Be CAREful what you ask for!
No Moore in DeKalb Bush's Mistake

Choosing a Career
(a satirical look at jobs in DeKalb County)

A recent survey, conducted by Manpower, a temporary employment firm, painted a bleak short term picture for the DeKalb-Sycamore area. Not a single employer surveyed indicated that they planned to hire any more workers in the first quarter of 2006. A total of 17 percent of local employers expect to let workers go.

With escalating land prices, soaring housing costs and rising property taxes such reports accentuate the importance of choosing the right career early. Recent longer term job related studies indicate a clear career decision in terms of salary, benefits and retirement security.

According to The State of Working Illinois, a study by the NIU Regional Development Institute (formerly the NIU Center for Government Studies) and the Center for Tax and Budget Accountability, construction trades is the state and the north eastern region's (including DeKalb County) top projected growth occupation through 2012. The report indicates the median salary in the region's 160,000-plus construction trades jobs in 2003 was $55,375 and it will add more than 3,000 jobs per year through 2012 in this region.

But according to the UCLA Anderson Report (released Dec. 8, 2005) a slow down in residential construction may severely alter construction job growth projections, especially in those areas that were hot in the residential construction market. If those job growth projections turn into actual job losses the economy in those areas could be severely impacted.

The forecast points to a number of factors for what it predicts as a coming slowdown in housing construction: rising mortgage interest rates, slowing population growth, overbuilding and bubble-like prices in some hot real estate markets.

The Anderson Report projects a loss of 500,000 construction jobs and 300,000 jobs in the financial services sector from the housing slowdown.  The expected downturn in the housing market could end up putting a big dent in economic growth over the next two years.

So while construction related jobs pay a decent wage -- $55,375 (median) -- its security, as a career choice, can only be described as volatile. And jobs in the private sector, including construction, do not always guarantee increased wages. The State of Working Illinois study reported that median incomes in the private sector dropped almost 6 percent since 1999.

Clearly, the wise career choice is in the government sector, especially in administration. Recently retired Sycamore school superintendent, Robert Hammon, received a 73 percent increase in salary during the same time period that private sector median income earners experienced a 6 percent decline. Hammon retired and receives a pension starting at $120,500 based on the last four years of his contract with Sycamore. He is now an interim superintendent for District #158 and still receives full pension because the state retirement system allows retired government officials to work up to 120 days, regardless of salary, without a reduction in their retirement.

Hammon did not receive special treatment in comparison to other government administrators throughout the state. Illinois public employees who start their careers at age 25 can retire at age 55 with a pension equal to 50 percent of their base salary (computed as their highest four-year average among their final 10 years of service). Pension benefits increase automatically by 3 percent each year. Large end-of-career pay raises for public employees have resulted in substantial increases in retirement benefits for some individuals.

In 2003-2004 there were 24 public service employees in Illinois that received a greater pension than former President Bill Clinton, who receives an annual pension of $169,000. The top 100 Illinois government employee retirees divided a total of $16,034,484 amongst themselves last year.

Public service employees have the state constitution on their side. It states that the benefits promised in pensions in the State Retirement System must be provided for. If the state cannot meet its retirement obligations then the legislators must pass a tax increase. There are indications that a substantial increase will be needed.

According to the Illinois Heartland Institute the Illinois pension system is in a crisis:

At the end of FY 2004 Illinois’ unfunded pension liability stood at $35.1 billion, a greater amount than any other state. Total liabilities stood at nearly $90 billion.
The funded ratio--the amount of assets needed to cover liabilities--was just 60.9 percent, second-worst in the nation.
State funding of public employee pensions has gone from about $635 million in 1996 to an estimated $2.6 billion in fiscal 2006, and could reach $14 billion by 2045.

Salaries for top public administrators have risen so dramatically that DeKalb fifth ward alderman, Pat Conboy, called the city manager's position the "new royalty" of the community. Overall, the salary for a city manager in DeKalb has more than doubled since 1992. The base starting pay for a DeKalb city manager has risen from $55,922 in November 1992 to $122,120 in 2004. Current City Manager, Mark Biernacki received approximately $10,000 more than what his predecessor, Jim Connors, was making when he left. Connors got a $12,500 pay increase over his predecessor, Bill Nicklas, who is now the City Manager in Sycamore. Nicklas received a $14,500 salary increase, to $105,500, in a 2003 contract extension that runs through April of 2007.

If government administration is the career of choice then higher education is clearly a prerequisite. The university of choice? NIU. Northern Illinois University enjoys high accolades for its public administration educational programs. It is also well positioned to make recommendations when hiring opportunities arise in northern Illinois communities.

Many of the staff members at the NIU Regional Development Institute (RDI) hold appointed or elected positions in the local governmental units in DeKalb County and beyond. Ruth Anne Tobias, senior research associate at RDI also serves as chair of the DeKalb County Board. Dr. John Lewis, senior research associate at RDI, also serves as chair to the Sycamore Planning Commission. RDI Assistant Director, Carol Zar, is clerk of the DeKalb Sanitary District. Dawn Peters, senior research associate, is on the Rochelle Planning Commission. Theresa Wittenauer, senior research associate, is on the Amboy Planning Commission. Roger Dahlstrom, senior research associate, has worked with as many as 25 school districts in northern Illinois.

The mayors of DeKalb and Sycamore, Frank Van Buer and Ken Mundy, are both retired NIU employees. NIU professor emeritus, Herb Rubin, is chair of the DeKalb Economic Development Commission. The president of the DeKalb Park District is Dave Mason, who along with the park district's Secretary, Mary Gawrys, is employed at NIU.  As is DeKalb School Board President, Andy Small, along with board member Holly Wallace. It would be difficult to find a single unit of local government that is not blessed with a current or retired NIU employee.

While the job outlook may look bleak in the short term, especially those employed in the private sector, for those who choose a career in local government, the future is so bright, they'll have to wear shades.

Mac McIntyre

DeKalb County's Top Paid School Administrators (FY 2004-2005)

SYCAMORE CUSD 427 Hammon Robert L 187915
DEKALB CUSD 428 Beilfuss Paul 145814
INDIAN CREEK CUSD 425 Bauer Bruce A 137725
GENOA KINGSTON CUSD 424 Wakeley Scott E 137362
HINCKLEY-BR CUSD 429 Littlefield Glen P 131868
SYCAMORE CUSD 427 Glowiak Luke V 121842
SYCAMORE CUSD 427 Nelson Cheryl B 115895
SANDWICH CUSD 430 Schmitt Rick 115494
DEKALB CUSD 428 Haddad Mary 115042
SOMONAUK CUSD 432 Workman M Susan 114372
GENOA KINGSTON CUSD 424 Billington Donald E 112498
HIAWATHA CUSD 426 Rood Ronald W 109772
GENOA KINGSTON CUSD 424 Azon Wayne 109326
SYCAMORE CUSD 427 Countryman Kathy S 105173
DEKALB CUSD 428 Besonen Meriann K 104628
DEKALB CUSD 428 Lasswell Linell 104628
DEKALB CUSD 428 Burski Thomas J 104451
SYCAMORE CUSD 427 Thurwanger Mark D 101735

SOURCE: Illinois State Board of Education

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