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Latino State News

Mayor Emanuel Makes Difficult Decisions Necessary To Close Remaining Budget Shortfall

Also releases nine previously proposed work-rule changes that will help solve the city’s immediate fiscal challenge

Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced Friday his plan to balance the City’s 2011 budget, closing a $31 million budget shortfall.

“My duty as mayor is to protect our city’s taxpayers, not the city payroll,” said Mayor Emanuel. “I pledged to close this shortfall and offer the city a balanced, realistic budget. Despite ongoing talks between union leaders and members of my administration, they have not embraced any
of the needed changes. And no amount of smoke and mirrors can put off the tough decisions any longer.”

On June 30, a previous agreement with the city’s worker unions expired, and furlough days ended for union employees, creating the $31 million shortfall in the 2011 budget.

On July 1, Mayor Emanuel announced his office had achieved a total savings of $20 million, two-thirds of the deficit, through a hiring freeze for the City’s non-union workforce and the enhanced partnership between the Department of Public Health and Federally Qualified Health Centers to provide high-quality health care to taxpayers at a lower cost.

Mayor Emanuel asked Chicago’s public employee unions to partner with him in order to close the remaining budget shortfall. He offered nine specific work-rule reforms that would total about $19 million in savings and prevent layoffs, and provided a requested two-week extension after the June 30 deadline for union officials to present their ideas.

The nine proposed reforms to outdated and inefficient work rules are as follows:

  * Instead of double overtime, the city would pay employees time-and-a-half;
  *  For prep time, city employees would receive their regular pay, not overtime pay;
  * Workers would be expected to work a 40-hour week, not a 35-hour week
  * Workers doing the same job would receive the same pay, no matter what union they belong to;
  * Salaried employees will receive the same number of sick days and holidays as hourly employees;
  * The city would eliminate rate differences for driving different vehicles;
  * Rate differences for operating different non-vehicle equipment would be eliminated;
  * A worker who works alone on a truck will not receive more pay than if he or she works as part of a crew; and
  * Union apprenticeship programs would be enhanced to achieve cost savings.

These work-rule changes are commensurate with those that are commonplace in the private sector.

Today, Mayor Emanuel announced he is taking the following steps to achieve the remaining savings needed to balance the City’s fiscal 2011 budget:

  * Custodial services at the airports and libraries will no longer be provided by city workers, but rather by the companies that currently services the rest of the city;
  * There will be a 75 percent reduction in the seasonal workforce at the Chicago Department of Transportation, which will mean 61 fewer blocks of curb and gutter improvements and the repair of 76 fewer blocks of sidewalk this year;
  * The city’s benefits services will not be managed by the city, but rather by a professional benefits management company; and
  * The city’s water bill call center currently has an average wait time of 20 minutes, and 40% of callers hang up before being helped. The service will be outsourced to realize savings and increase efficiencies for Chicago’s taxpayers.

These steps, which may impact up to 625 jobs, will result in a savings of $10-12 million over the remainder of this year.

“I have deep gratitude and respect for the thousands of men and women who work for our city, and my door will always be open to their representatives,” said Mayor Emanuel. “But the goal of city government cannot be to employ as many people as possible.  Our job is to provide essential services to the taxpayers of Chicago as efficiently and economically as we can. That is what I promised Chicagoans I would do as Mayor, and that is why I am acting today.”