HAMMOND | The Hammond City Council will weigh the city's 2014 spending plan Monday, which provides raises for city employees and realizes a projected $1 million in savings from creating a consolidated public works department.

Next year's budget also takes into account revenue from the newly adopted county income tax, of which the city expects to receive $7 million to $8 million a year.

Ahead of budget talks, Mayor Thomas McDermott Jr. announced earlier this month plans to consolidate four of the city's departments in hopes of improving efficiency. The new public works department will be structured by the city's six council districts and place a supervisor to oversee activity in each of those districts.

“I talked to several people in the departments. They are very excited about this change,” City Councilwoman Janet Venecz, D-at large, said. “They are going to be able to devote time to one special area rather than jumping from first district to sixth district.”

The consolidation will eliminate approximately 15 positions as the streets, sanitation and recycling departments are combined with much of the park department. The reduction in workforce will be handled through attrition, City Controller Bobby Lendi said.

In line with this year, the proposed 2014 budget provides 1 percent raises for city employees and otherwise keeps spending “flat,” according to Lendi. Negotiations with the police and fire unions and Teamsters-represented employees are ongoing with the hope of completing those talks before Jan. 1.

Department heads took turns going before the council in an hourlong hearing Saturday on the $131 million budget proposal for 2014.

The exercise became heated when City Councilman Bob Markovich, D-at large, questioned the $99,693 budgeted for the position of corporation counsel.

Kris Kantar, who was named to corporation counsel in July after serving as city attorney, said the budget accounts for a merging of the two positions. Kantar's former position as city attorney will remain unfilled, and she will take on those duties as well. The budget to hire outside attorneys also was cut by 55 percent for 2014, according to the proposal.

“I don't think you'd find another department that does as much as the law department with three people,” said Kantar, who explained the department handles nuisance bars and enforces court and Board of Public Works and Safety actions.

However, Markovich argued the position should remain at $59,040 as budgeted this year for corporation counsel.

“To go up $40,000 roughly just because of responsibilities, I don't think it warrants that,” Markovich said. “It probably should stay at $59,000.”

The City Council will meet 6 p.m. Monday at Hammond City Hall to further consider the 2014 budget.

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