Mt. Prospect eyes cutting 34 village jobs

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Mount Prospect could lay off 34 employees next year to plug an anticipated $3 million general fund deficit in 2011, village officials said Monday.

Mount Prospect Village Manager Michael Janonis said the proposed layoffs are unavoidable as the deficit is projected to be $4 million in 2012 if no budget cuts are made this year.

With cuts, the village projects a $1 million deficit next year.

“Most revenue sources that the village relies on have either gone stagnant or declined,” Janonis said, adding the layoffs should come as no surprise in this economy.

“It’s been out there on the horizon and Mount Prospect has been able to kind of hold it off for a couple of years where other towns have gone through two, maybe three rounds of layoffs, and we’re at that point now.”

Janonis said the village has been cutting non-personnel expenses over the last few years and now it is at a point where it can provide only for equipment and materials needed to deliver basic services, and respond to emergencies.

The village has 321 employees, most represented by one of five labor unions. The proposed cuts represent a roughly 10 percent reduction in the village’s work force.

Public safety would be the area hardest hit by layoffs.

Officials are proposing laying off six patrol officers, seven community service officers, and five part-time crossing guards effectively eliminating the village’s traffic unit, crime prevention unit and school crossing guard program by Dec. 30.

Nine firefighter/paramedics, a fire protection engineer, and a part-time emergency management coordinator position also are proposed to be cut. The department’s current full-time minimum staffing for daily shifts would be reduced from 18 to 15 firefighters.

The village’s public works department would lose three full-time staff positions and a number of part-time and seasonal help in the streets and maintenance, forestry and grounds, and engineering divisions.

Janonis said none of the jobs targeted for elimination are expendable and the layoffs cut into the bones of village operations.

“We’re not a bloated bureaucracy,” Janonis said. “None of this is anything we want to do. We are a very boots-on-the-ground type of operation. You can’t outsource police and fire protection. It’s not something you can automate.

“We think that the cuts are very strategic, and at the end of the day we’ll be able to provide the core services that need to be provided at each of the departments, not at an optimum level but certainly at an operational level.”

The proposed 2011 calendar year budget calls for $82.6 million in expenditures a 6.9 percent decrease from the amended 2010 budget. Budget hearings will begin Nov. 9.

The village’s operating budget and capital expenditures are expected to decrease next year after the completion of a $14.5 million project to rebuild a fire station at the north end of town, expand the public works facility and build an emergency operation center.

But debt, pensions and internal services costs would collectively increase by 3 percent, and the water and sewer fund rate is set to increase by 4 percent.

Salaries have been frozen for all nonunion employees and department heads this is the second year in a row salaries have been frozen for management employees. But police, fire and public works union employees would still get their contractual 3.5 percent raises.

No property tax rate increase is proposed in 2011, and the budget preserves the village’s roughly $9 million reserves, which is about 23 percent of its annual operating expenses.

Janonis said every percent of the property tax levy generates about $152,000 annually in revenue. “We would have to raise the property tax 20 percent to cover a $3 million deficit,” he said.

Village President Irvana Wilks said officials have tried to keep the impact on taxpayers to a minimum.

“We didn’t want to raise taxes on our residents or businesses because everyone is so fragile,” Wilks said.

Wilks said in her 19 years on the village board five years as president and 14 years as trustee this is the most difficult budget she has ever seen.

“It’s really hard when you have to let 34 positions go,” Wilks said. “What we have to do is redefine the way we do business, and this is kind of the beginning.”

Village officials could not promise this will be the only round of layoffs. It is unclear how delays in the state’s income tax disbursements and Cook County property tax receipts will affect next year’s budget.

Trees removed due to emerald ash borer infestation may not be replaced, or residents may have to pay for new trees themselves. Village-sponsored festivals and holiday decorations may also suffer, Wilks said.

“We may not be able to have the same sort of events that are put on because they need overtime,” she said. “We may only have half the little white lights out at holiday time.

“We still want to be festive and we still want to draw people’s attention to downtown to celebrate the holidays, but it’s going to be a little different.”

But the important thing, Wilks added, is “if (residents) call 911, someone will still come to their house. It’s just being done in a different way.”

Residents will have an opportunity to weigh in on the proposed cuts at upcoming budget hearings during the Nov. 9 and 23 committee of the whole meetings.

Residents can e-mail questions about the budget to [email protected]