Calumet City officials back budget; Jones objects to last-minute salary ordinance

2013-07-31T22:15:00Z 2013-08-01T00:08:04Z Calumet City officials back budget; Jones objects to last-minute salary ordinanceGregory Tejeda Times Correspondent nwitimes.com
July 31, 2013 10:15 pm  • 

CALUMET CITY | The City Council on Wednesday approved an appropriations ordinance that dictates how municipal government will spend $34.56 million during the fiscal year that began May 1.

That sum is $858,141 more than city government spent during the past fiscal year — a 2.4 percent increase.

The city’s corporate fund, which covers the daily expenses of municipal government, is expected to be $35.45 million — which also is a 2.4 percent increase from last year.

Many of the increases in spending relate to salaries paid to city workers covered by union contracts. The budget proposed by Mayor Michelle Markiewicz Qualkinbush also provided increases to nonunion employees, with some receiving higher increases than the 2 percent pay raises most union-represented workers will receive.

The council voted 6-1 on two separate measures — one that made appropriations for city agencies and programs, and another that dictated the salaries and benefits for city workers.

Third Ward Alderman Thaddeus Jones was the lone “no” vote on both measures. He was upset the salary ordinance included some last-minute changes that weren’t presented to aldermen by Qualkinbush until Wednesday afternoon.

“That’s a lot of information to decipher,” Jones said. “There’s no way we can work through all these changes. It’s too much to go through.”

Qualkinbush called for a 15-minute recess during the special City Council meeting Wednesday night to allow for some review, and city Finance Director John Kasperek could be seen huddling with Jones and 1st Ward Alderman Eric Schneider to answer questions they had about the salary ordinance.

Qualkinbush acknowledged aldermen didn’t get much time to review final changes to salaries, and she said aldermen could have decided to hold off on approving the salary ordinance.

“We have to approve the appropriations ordinance” Wednesday, Qualkinbush said, referring to state law that requires most municipalities to approve their appropriations ordinances by July 31.

Among some salary changes that Qualkinbush pointed out were to make the assistant police and fire chiefs equal in pay, and also to raise the salary of the deputy building commissioner, who was to be paid less than some of the code enforcement officers he oversees.

Qualkinbush said she thinks her budget proposal does not waste municipal funds. “We still have to tighten our belts and not spend to our capacity,” she said.

For other portions of the city budget, the Library Fund was kept at $2.48 million, while the water/sewer fund was cut by 9.4 percent to $10.7 million. Kasperek said the fact that several capital projects from last year were one-time expenses made it possible to cut the fund.

The city’s ambulance paramedic fund increased 2.8 percent to $765,500, while the capital projects fund decreased by 4.1 percent to $1.21 million. Fire pension funds remained at $2.6 million, while the police pension fund increased 13.3 percent to $3.4 million, and the Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund pension fund dropped 13 percent to $2.35 million.

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