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Des Plaines will cut 38 jobs
By Madhu Krishnamurthy | Daily Herald Staff
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Published: 10/27/2009 12:01 AM | Updated: 11/10/2009 6:19 PM

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Des Plaines job cuts

Des Plaines city leaders are considering cutting 38 city employee positions in 2010, either through early retirement incentives, layoffs or some other severance. By department, the list includes:

City manager's office: assistant city attorney, director of health and human services, secretary of health and human services.

Community and economic development:senior planner, intermediate clerk

Fire department:six firefighter/paramedic positions

Police department: one canine officer, two patrol officers, one community action team officer, two traffic unit officers, two records clerks, one courts liaison, one tactical unit officer, one detective, one secretary

Public works: 11 crew leaders and maintenance operators, two water plant operators, one mechanic, one senior clerk

Source: City of Des Plaines

Des Plaines city officials propose eliminating 38 employee positions in the 2010 budget, or about 10 percent of the work force.

Seven of those positions are presently vacant - six in the police department and one in community and economic development.

The remaining 31 jobs will be eliminated either through early retirement incentives, layoffs or some other form of severance, City Manager Jason Bajor said at a recent city council budget hearing.

Bajor estimated cutting these positions would save the city roughly $3 million in salaries and benefits.

"The final number of layoffs is not determinable right now," Bajor said. "That's still being refined based upon the early retirement incentives the city is offering."

Though no deadline has been set for the early retirement program, employees who want to take advantage would likely have to do so before the budget is finalized and the city approves its 2010 tax levy later this year.

The city employs about 350 people, most of whom are covered by union contracts.

The recommended cuts are part of the city's attempt to close a projected $5.2 million gap between revenues and expenses. Officials are projecting a $3.6 million deficit in the general fund for operations and $1.6 million shortfall in the water and sewer fund.

The city's overall proposed budget for 2010 is $102 million, which includes capital projects, tax increment financing district expenses, debt service on bonds, and $56 million earmarked for operations.

The city's police, fire and public works departments that jointly make up roughly $48 million of general fund expenditures are also where significant cuts are planned - six in fire, 12 in police and 15 in public works.

City officials said a lot of the positions are being eliminated through attrition and are not direct layoffs. They assured the cuts would not impact core city services.

"This is not a cut any of us want to make and hopefully the early retirement program will put us in a position where we won't have to lay people off in this situation," 5th Ward Alderman Jim Brookman said of the reduction in fire department personnel.

He added that he hoped those positions could be reinstated in the near future.

Resident Brian Burkross asked whether eliminating these positions could increase overtime costs and how that would impact the budget.

"I'd like to be reassured that we are not sitting here a year from now, as we did I think three or four years ago, and have a tremendous amount of overtime which offset some of the savings," he said.

Bajor said officials have taken overtime into account.

"Certainly, if something untoward happens in terms of city operations, a flood event, some major storm or what not, there's going to be a spike in overtime," he said.

Ward 3 Alderman Matt Bogusz defended the city council's actions, responding to criticism from residents, employees and observers that leaders were taking the budget process lightly.

"We are all putting in the time and tough decisions have to be made," Bogusz said. "Never before has a council made these kinds of cuts. If you look at our operating budget, we have 10 percent fewer employees than last year. For a local government that is a huge figure. This economy has forced us to find efficiencies where past councils and past administrations haven't had to."