Crossing guards, new inspectors could add to city budget proposal

2012-07-21T18:30:00Z 2012-07-22T01:06:08Z Crossing guards, new inspectors could add to city budget proposalBy Gregory Tejeda Times Correspondent nwitimes.com
July 21, 2012 6:30 pm  • 

CALUMET CITY | Aldermen are likely to convene this week to make changes to the appropriations ordinance that will dictate how money is spent this fiscal year. Some are planning to use that hearing to make last-minute additions.

Among those are the changes sought by 4th Ward Alderman Brian Wilson, who said Friday he’d like to see his colleagues add funding to allow the city to hire crossing guards to maintain security outside the city’s schools.

“I’d like to send some assistance to the local school districts,” Wilson said of his proposal. Although he did not specify how much money he would want to provide, nor to what part of the budget it could be added.

Crossing guards became a public issue in Calumet City in 2009 when the city laid them off. They had been part of the Police Department payroll but were cut as part of a cost-saving move. They eventually were rehired because of public pressure. City officials had hoped the school districts could pick up part of the cost.

That did not happen because of the schools' own financial constraints.

Wilson said nothing is definite about this issue.

“I definitely want to discuss this,” he said.

This likely will not be the only issue up for discussion by the City Council’s Finance Committee when its meets at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday. A public hearing on the budget is scheduled for 7 p.m. Thursday at City Hall, and a final vote may come later that night, although state law does not require an approved budget until July 31.

Officials also are likely to discuss the possibility of hiring more people to work as inspectors in the city’s Water and Sewer Department.

Mayor Michelle Markiewicz Qualkinbush on Thursday used a Finance Committee session to discuss the matter, although that portion of the hearing was held in closed session as the mayor already knows whom she wants to hire.

“We’re talking about the hiring of specific individuals,” she said. “I don’t want to discuss specific people here” in public.

Aldermen spent three days last week reviewing the proposed budget for each agency within city government. The corporate fund that covers the daily expenses of municipal government totals just more than $34.3 million with about $14.5 million of that providing the money to operate the police and fire departments.

Among possible changes discussed during the week was an increase in the amount of funds given to each alderman to pay for programs that benefit neighborhood beautification.

Although the city used to provide money to Hammond-based Neighborhoods Inc. to oversee a citywide contest encouraging homeowners to upgrade their homes, the decision was made two years ago to let each alderman decide how to spend money in his or her wards.

Alderman Eric Schneider and Roger Munda continue to have a contest, while other aldermen supported local projects.

“We all did differing things for our (respective) communities,” said 2nd Ward Alderman Magdalena “Leni” Wosczynski, who leads the Finance Committee.

City officials also are considering changes to the way they provide funds for government expenses such as supplies and clothing allowances. Instead of providing money for those purposes to each agency, they are considering whether to merge them into one fund for all of city government.

“If every department has its own clothing allowance, we can’t be sure they’re all following the same rules,” Qualkinbush said.

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