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updated: 2/27/2014 6:40 PM

Carpentersville plans layoffs to offset budget deficit

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Carpentersville officials have announced villagewide layoffs and other cost-cutting measures to help plug a projected $400,000 deficit.

The village intends to lay off two full-time firefighters, a part-time records clerk in the police department, a community service officer and a part-time ambulance billing clerk in the fire department, Village Manager J. Mark Rooney said Thursday.

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"At this time, this is all that I foresee," Rooney said of the layoffs, adding that things could change depending on the state's financial situation and declining sales tax revenues in the village. Carpentersville officials have not laid anyone off since 2011.

There is a chance the village could hire the two firefighters back, depending on the outcome of a federal grant for four additional firefighters. The village is amending its application by asking for two extra firefighters and money to keep the other two, Rooney said. Moreover, the union that represents the firefighters will fight to keep them employed, said Lt. Rick Nieves, president of International Association of Fire Fighters Local 4790.

In addition to the layoffs, the village will not fill three part-time positions in the finance, IT and fire departments, Rooney said.

Two code enforcement officers in the community development department will be cross trained for two community service officer positions and do both jobs as a hybrid, Public Safety Director Al Popp said.

The two firefighters have eight years of combined service and are the least senior of the 32 in the department, Nieves said. Their last scheduled day is March 28.

The other employees were to be notified Thursday, officials said. Those layoffs would be effective May 1 to coincide with the start of the new fiscal year.

The village expects to save between $235,000 and $245,000 with these moves and more money in subsequent years, Rooney said.

Declining property values, the economy and increasing costs of union contracts are the reasons Carpentersville finds itself having to cut staff, Rooney said.

The village board will decide where else to save money to offset the balance of the deficit.

One option is running a deficit in hopes sales tax revenue increases, Rooney said. While the village raised the sales tax by one-half percent in December knowing the deficit was looming, the village won't see that money until the hike goes into effect in July, Rooney pointed out.

The pending layoffs in the fire department come almost two months after the village and its full-time firefighters settled a contract dispute that primarily focused on staffing levels at the three stations.

If the union is unsuccessful at retaining those two employees, there would be 30 full-time firefighters and 28 part-timers in Carpentersville. "They claim that there's a budget shortfall and we're meeting with them again the seventh (of March) to look at the issues, like how this is going to actually affect the fire department," Nieves said. "We're very surprised (about the layoffs) after the recent (contract) issues we've had with them. We didn't see this coming."

Rooney said the union had two chances during negotiations to save the firefighters on the verge of being let go, but instead chose to "protect the lieutenants' pay and hours over protecting their two junior members."

Nieves said he thought the language in the contract was already enough to protect the two firefighters.

Rooney said the layoffs will have no impact on the community's safety, pointing to the current complement of fire personnel, mutual aid and the village's capacity to use as many part-timers as they see fit.

"Nobody's going to be calling for fire service and having nobody show up," he said.

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