TONIGHT: Mostly cloudy with a chance of showers and thunderstorms. ...more »
Alderman Pitches City Worker Pay Freeze
Crumbling roads and unfunded pensions are two hotly contested issues expected to be discussed at Tuesday night's Springfield City Council meeting.
Alderman are expected to make a decision on whether to spend $2 million on deteriorating alleys and drains.
Meanwhile, Alderman Joe McMenamin is proposing a pay freeze for city workers. It's a move he says would save Springfield $2 million over 18 months and then even more money for years after that.
"Because what you've done is you've frozen the platform of your labor costs," McMenamin said.
The idea is not popular among many city workers, who depend on their paychecks to make a living. Union Representative Michael Zahn, who is the Business Manager for Operating Engineers Local 965, says it is going to be hard to get the more than 20 unions within Springfield on board.
"They have to be negotiated by each individual union and most contracts are from three to five years," Zahn said.
That means it could be years before Springfield would even see that $2 million in the bank. Meanwhile, the city needs money fast as they struggle with crumbling roads and tardy pension payments.
"We're putting money into infrastructure but we're not solving the pension liability problem," McMenamin said.
City Council is talking about using $2 million from the hotel/motel tax to fix alleys and drains. But McMenamin says the city should spend half that much and concentrate instead on paying unfunded pensions.
Zahn is speaking out against that idea.
"Joe [McMenamin] is trying to sweep funds that was passed under ordinances with protections in the road fund," Zahn said.
But McMenamin says he is not proposing the city redirect funds from roads. Rather, he says, the city should scale that money back and use $1 million from the Unappropriated Corporate Fund to help fix the pension problem.
Meanwhile, Zahn says the city should be looking to the state since there is a lot of state-owned land in Springfield that Illinois pays no tax on. It's land that Springfield provides police and fire protection to.
But turning to the state might be difficult, especially since Illinois has its own problems paying its bills.
As for union contract negotiations, McMenamin says if some of the smaller unions say no to a pay freeze and the two sides cannot reach an agreement, the old contract would remain in place. For larger unions, like police and fire, if no agreement is reached a decision will be made by a bipartisan third party.