Hammond City Council supports capping city workers' raises at 1 percent

2012-08-13T21:45:00Z Hammond City Council supports capping city workers' raises at 1 percentChelsea Schneider Kirk chelsea.schneider@nwi.com, (219) 933-3241 nwitimes.com

HAMMOND | The City Council on Monday adopted a resolution recommending any pay raises given to city employees be capped at 1 percent through 2016.

The resolution is an unprecedented move for the council and comes as Hammond administrators begin contract negotiations with the city's police union and Teamsters.

Last week Hammond Mayor Thomas McDermott Jr. canceled a meeting to start talks with the city's firefighters union in protest of a complaint filed within the labor organization against City Council President Michael Opinker, D-5th.

McDermott Chief of Staff Tom Dabertin said the administration wanted the City Council's input because any salary increases granted to employees will be taken from the casino revenue set aside for council members to make infrastructure improvements in their districts. In the past, salary increases were taken out of the general fund.

“Given the circumstances and where the city stands regarding finances, it seems to make sense to look at getting out in front of this and looking at what we are going to do about increases in the next few years when we have a budget shortfall,” said City Councilman Mark Kalwinski, D-1st, who sponsored the resolution.

Union representatives asked council members to take more time to study the resolution before establishing a ceiling for raises.

City Councilman Homero “Chico” Hinojosa, D-6th, unsuccessfully moved for the resolution to be tabled, arguing that the city was “not bargaining in good faith.”

Kalwinski said the resolution isn't binding and could be reviewed if the city sees increases in gaming revenue or its property tax collection rate or if Lake County adopts a local option income tax.

Granting a 1 percent salary increase for employees would cost about $1.4 million over a four-year period, according to city estimates.

Hammond Professional Firefighters Association Local 556 Vice President Mike Hull questioned why the City Council should consider a resolution if the administration is the sole negotiator with the unions.

“Even a resolution can be taken as an act of negotiating,” Hull said.

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