If you want to get Naperville city officials a useful Christmas gift this year, get them a little cheap calculator. The one I use is a Canon LS-80Z made in Malaysia, it costs about $5. It’s not made in America, but math is math and I’ve been using it for about 20 years, and it works. Whatever Naperville city officials are using to do math is definitely not working, or maybe it does work, but the city official using it isn’t working. In this case that person would be Naperville Director of Water and Wastewater, Jim Holzapfel.
Naperville raised the water rates in May of this year. Now word comes out that city officials grossly under calculated the numbers causing a shortfall of $3 million. Usually when Naperville city officials get the numbers wrong, it’s a decimal point, so a 1.4% increase is actually 14%, or missing a couple of 0’s here or there and a $30,000 expense becomes $300,000. For city officials it’s only numbers or a couple of dollars, but for tax or rate payers, it’s the difference between signing the kids up for hockey, or having them play whack-a-mole on the kitchen table. As councilwoman Judy Brodhead once said “it’s only $5,000” when referring to an expense.
When Naperville city officials blow it, they blow it big time. In this case some of the inaccurate numbers they used to determine water rates included:
- Incorrect starting balances
- Inaccurate revenue streams, some appearing twice
- System leakage
- Inaccurate meter readings
- Non-metered water losses
Other than that, everything else was picture-perfect; what’s a few decimals or zeros.
Undoubtedly city officials will blame it on the company hired to do the rate model. That’s the problem. City officials spend money to hire somebody else to do the work, then they head downtown to pound down a few brews, come back to accept the report, then send it to the council for approval, and bingo, the new rates are inflicted upon residents and businesses.
Where is the oversight by city officials? Inaccurate numbers and conclusions move along the conveyor belt for approval, from Holzapfel, to city manager Doug Krieger, to the Naperville city council. Are there no checks and balances? In the business world it’s ‘trust but verify’, in government it needs to be ‘don’t trust but confirm’.
It’s also possible that Naperville city officials are attempting magic with a version of sleight of hand tricks with numbers.
It’s either by design or incompetence, neither of which are beneficial to rate payers.
To make matters worse, the new (supposedly corrected) numbers don’t add up. Holzapel said the average residential water bill would increase by $3.76 per month in 2018 (wrong, it would go up $3.67), and it would increase by $2.31 in 2019 (wrong again, it would go up $4.19). They still can’t get it right. How Naperville does their math vs. universally understood and accepted mathematical principles are two different things.
What needs to be done, won’t be done; someone needs to be held accountable. Someone needs to ‘disappear’ on a Friday, with someone new appearing on Monday to take over. You can be sure that will grab the attention of all those remaining in the Municipal Center. Accountability and accuracy at every level will increase and decimals and zeros will again have meaning.
If city officials find that sure-cure solution too difficult to execute, they can set up an ongoing ‘Go Fund Me Account’ to cover sure-to-be math shortfalls in the future. What’s currently being done is totally unacceptable.
Great post Watchdog! Lackadaisical employees with little to no oversight, little to no consequences of poor job performance, along with substantial salaries combined with generous pensions – has Naperville become the “Mini-Me” of Chicago? It seems like we are heading in that direction.
Fish rot from the head down. Our business manager has a historical record of forever being wrong when it comes to cost accounting verses revenue and of course can’t pass up free money in the form of grants from the Federal government to push nonsensical things like smart meters and grass to fuel oil not to mention electric cars and chargers. All which require matching funds (OURS) and increased bureaucracies. Meanwhile back at the ranch (city council) is merrily stamping approval on every cockamamie scheme proposed by this guy and his band of merry men. We deserve what we get for electing these people.
The council and most staff members believe that the average citizen has no brains . Secondly , they know that there is no accountability and they believe in their “lala land ” mindset .Therefore it is obvious that what the citizens are fed is suspect .There is no accountability unless somebody gets fired for trying to fool us . We know that won’t happen because the council and city staff are a ” combine ” per John Kass .
First the city does not have the resources or qualified personnel to do rate studies, which is why they contract companies to do these things. For the city to develop and maintain such resources and expertise would be very expensive and since the city only does rates study about once every five years not very practical. In fact the last time the city relied on a rate study that turned out to be wrong was around 10 years ago, so the professional the city hires to do these things generally get them right, which is a good reason to trust them.
It is ironic that people are always saying that city government needs to be run more like a business but when city officials do things the way a business would do them (like with rate studies) and something goes wrong, suddenly they shouldn’t have done it, it was a bad idea, gross incompetence, etc. The reality is people like to believe, no matter how much evidence there is to contradict them, that government employees and elected officials are idiots and incompetent, so when they do make a mistake (and they will just like all of us humans do) these people fixate on these mistakes beyond the point of ration or reason solely so they can jump up and down say “I told you so”. And we all know how many problems this behavior has solve in the long history of humanity.