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Elgin laying off more than a dozen workers
By Harry Hitzeman | Daily Herald Staff
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Published: 11/2/2009 2:34 PM | Updated: 11/2/2009 4:27 PM

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In an effort to balance their 2010 budget, Elgin city leaders are laying off between 15 to 17 union workers, a move that will save about $1.2 million.

It's the third batch of layoffs in the last 12 months.

The final tally will be determined by employee qualifications and shop rules at the Service Employees International Union Local 73 and was not available Monday.

In mid-October, 11 nonunion managerial positions were eliminated. In November 2008, 16 employees were let go. The SEIU represents union workers that work for the city outside the police and fire departments.

"This is what we have to do to balance the budget," Mayor Ed Schock said. "It's not what we want to do."

Over the weekend, City Manager Sean Stegall presented city council members with a draft balanced budget.

At $270 million, it reflects a 6-percent decrease compared to 2009's spending of $293.8 million.

Stegall said the personnel cuts will help the city balance its budget and help department employees work together more on a variety of tasks.

He noted that temporary salary cuts and furlough days were not a viable alternative to staff cuts.

"We need long-term systemic savings in the general fund. I believe those types of solutions are short term in nature," he said. "(The cuts are) about repositioning the city's work force for the future. It's meeting both goals. I really can't stress that enough."

Stegall said city leaders also were looking to the fire union to help cut $1.5 million from the fire department's expenses in 2010.

Schock and other city leaders have noted that the police department has had nine unfilled officer positions since 2008 and all other city areas have seen cutbacks.

He said there were several ways to cut costs for the fire department and not sending a fire truck along with every ambulance call is one of them.

The fire department, along with other cuts and increasing fees, should help close the budget hole of between $5.5 million and $6 million.

The city doubled its towing fees for certain arrests and shifted offenses like code violations to a city arbitrator, a move that will help bring in $1.5 million next year.

The city also increased its health inspection fees, which will make $240,000 more a year, and will start a foreclosure registration program.

In that, the titleholder, usually the bank, will provide the city with contact information so the city can track the property and respond quicker to incidents involving vacant homes. This program will generate $100,000 a year.

Last year, the city shelved funding for Ribfest in May and the July 4 fireworks display and cut back on outdoor pool hours. This coming year will be no different, and will scale back even further, or even eliminate, FoxFireFest in August, depending on revenues.

The city council must approve the budget by mid-December and it has a workshop planned for 5 p.m. this Wednesday at city hall, 150 Dexter Court, to discuss it.