Editorial: Local governments showing public sector, too, must endure job, pay cuts

  • Elgin's city hall is closed because of the pandemic. The city has initiated pay cuts and other measures as government bodies respond to the impact of COVID-19.

    Elgin's city hall is closed because of the pandemic. The city has initiated pay cuts and other measures as government bodies respond to the impact of COVID-19. Rick West | Staff Photographer

The Daily Herald Editorial Board
Updated 5/20/2020 8:57 AM

There is a pervasive feeling among taxpayers that those in the public sector operate with a different way of thinking from those who are not.

When you work in the private sector and catastrophe strikes your business and your customers go away, it's pay cuts and furloughs and layoffs. The tax bills keep coming, though, and that naturally leads to resentment.


But a disaster like the COVID-19 pandemic demonstrates that similar pain also is felt among governments and their employees.

Even in normal times, local government had to deal with the prospect of store closings and even mall closings. They made adjustments and moved on. But one thing local government officials could not have foreseen is the sudden virtual elimination of sales and entertainment taxes that resulted from the pandemic and the ensuing societal shutdown.

Municipal leaders find themselves in an entirely different situation today than when they simply were dealing with the occasional closure of a big box store or mall closing as a result of the continued surge of online shopping.

With unemployment exploding in the private sector, we're seeing some in the public sector taking it on the chin as well.

The city of Elgin started by furloughing many department heads and nonunion employees, amounting to 10% salary cuts for department heads and 5% for other salaried employees through the end of the year.

Union employees and sworn personnel in the police and fire departments have been exempted. And some salaried employees are not being furloughed, including four supervisors in the 911 call center who fill in for dispatchers.

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"We share in the community's suffering and remain mindful of what will likely be a difficult road back to recovery," City Manager Rick Kozal said.

The city already had laid off or furloughed many parks workers and employees of the now-shuttered Hemmens Cultural Center.

Union employees, Kozal said, can expect to share in the pain in 2021.

It's happening elsewhere, too. The Schaumburg, Elmhurst and Libertyville park districts also have instituted furloughs.

"We must lead by example," Chairman Jack Franks said last week in calling for the McHenry County Board to consider reductions.

It's good to know that in these unprecedented times local governments in the suburbs are embracing a we're-all-in-this-together attitude.

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