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updated: 3/26/2014 5:31 PM

Carpentersville fire union looks to budget to save jobs

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The president of the union for Carpentersville's full-time firefighters says members are not convinced the village is in a financial bind and, as a result, are not looking at cuts within their contract to save two firefighters from being laid off.

President Lt. Rick Nieves says the 32-member union is instead looking at the village's entire proposed budget to identify cost savings there. It is also scrutinizing the proposed fire department budget to see whether any duplicated services could be eliminated.

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The union publicized its stance in a news release posted to its Facebook page and website. The union leadership is scheduled to meet with village management Thursday afternoon to continue negotiations.

"At this point, we're not looking at our contract," Nieves said Wednesday, adding that he doesn't rule out going over it at some point.

Nieves' comments contradict what Carpentersville Village Manager J. Mark Rooney said last week.

The two firefighters were originally going to be laid off Friday, but Rooney said he agreed to extend the layoffs to April 30 if the union identified cost savings within its own contract to save those two jobs.

"I'm a man of my word," Rooney said. "I gave them a 30-day extension predicated on them going back to their members. I took them at their word that they're going to do it. I'm still optimistic that they're going to keep their word and that they'll do what they said they're going to do. The news release isn't an official negotiating position."

Officials have said the village is roughly $429,000 in the red, which they say is the reason for the proposed layoffs and other cost-cutting measures. But Nieves says his copy of the proposed budget doesn't show a deficit at all.

Nieves wasn't going to discuss what the union was doing due to the ongoing negotiations to save the two jobs, but said he is now speaking out to let the public know the full story.

"We just don't see any document that supports their claim that there's a true shortfall," Nieves said Wednesday. "(Rooney) has the burden of proof to prove he has bona fide reasons (for the layoffs)."

The village has proposed a cost-savings package to close the projected deficit. It includes the firefighter layoffs and those of three civilian employees, closing several empty jobs in the village, moving a portion of an administrator's salary to another fund, forgoing a dog park and dipping into its reserve fund to cover the remaining gap. The board is scheduled to vote on the budget April 1.

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