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Illinois

DeKalb City Manager Proposes Layoffs For Top Officials

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DeKalb’s new city manager has unveiled his plan to dig the city out of a million dollar budget deficit.

Bill Nicklas is proposing layoffs for four top administrators within city government. They include the city’s directors of public works, community development, IT and assistant finance director. He’s also proposing that the city not fill several vacancies including economic planning director and assistant fire chief. The council will consider the plan on Monday night. In an agenda summary posted on the city’s website, Nicklas says the lay-offs do not reflect performance—but come out of fiscal necessity.

WNIJ's Jenna Dooley sat down with Nicklas earlier this week as he outlined the role of a city manager. He did not directly address the individual layoffs he is proposing, but he did talk about steps he feels need to be taken to get the city operating in the black.

Nicklas says city leaders haven't taken the tough steps needed to “right size” city government for the existing tax base.

“And those decisions have to be made,” Nicklas. “They're not going to be easy decisions.”

In addition to declining enrollment at the university, Nicklas says there are other challenges facing the city that need attention.  

“We're officially in the Chicago metro area by some statistical standards,” Nicklas said. “We have advantages because of that proximity, but we are still not the first choice for some new businesses as they're looking for room to expand.”

He also says DeKalb struggles in terms of employment for careers, “meaning those that would be able to support a family and household over time,” Nicklas explained. “We're looking to build some diversity and that base, but we have work to do.”

Nicklas also address recent turnover in city leadership, including the role of city manager. He says he tried to tackle that during his interview for the job.

“It's a saying that my parents used—‘Change comes at the speed of trust,” Nicklas said. “The only way that I can succeed, and we can succeed as an organization, is if we regain and sustain that sense of trust from local businesses and residents and organizations.”

He said his approach is to try and be direct with those proposals.  

“And the public will ultimately be the best judge of the success and will speak and vote loudly if they don't think we're doing the right thing.”