Nearly a dozen Kankakee city jobs will be cut or not filled this year after the city proposed deep cuts to its budget. The $22.5 million spending plan — more than $550,000 less than last year's — was unanimously passed by the Kankakee City Council's budget committee on Monday and would push the fire department to its lowest manpower level in 10 years.
Four spots there will go unfilled as will at least one in the police department.
With the loss of $2.4 million in sales tax sharing agreements, the new budget would also cut four non-officer positions in the Kankakee Police Department, two code enforcement officers and the elimination of the personnel department.
The city is one the first local unit of government to drop the ax on public safety, but it won't be the last. Kankakee County is cutting probation officers, prosecutors and possibly sheriff's deputies and jail guards.
The city's budget also includes new taxes and fees, including a $10-per-month public safety fee and a $40 vehicle sticker tax. Those are projected to bring in more than $1.2 million per year.
As a result of the cuts, the city will have 141 employees it pays through its "general fund," down from the 153.
The fire department will be a 49-member force and the police department will be down to 69 officers. In addition to personnel cuts, the fire department cut an additional $76,000 from its budget while the police department trimmed another $60,000 in other expenses, according to city comptroller Elizabeth Kubal.
Mayor Nina Epstein said she would not be taking a pay hike and each of the 14 elected city council members can turn down their cost-of-living raise as well.
With the $2.4-million reduction as the target, the city projects the cuts will reach $2,398,869.
The personnel cuts in the fire department totaled $260,000 and the police employee cuts equaled $242,000.
Personnel director James Gordon's salary was $78,082. He will retire Oct. 1, meaning the savings from that move will be $38,000. Gordon has been with the city for approximately 25 years, the mayor noted. Epstein said Gordon's duties would be mainly picked up the administration's law department.
"This is strictly a financial decision. James's performance was exemplary," Epstein said. "We couldn't afford a personnel department or a director any longer. It's not a core service."
Epstein said money will also not be available to aldermen wishing to attend Illinois Municipal League conferences. Aldermen will also have to pay for their own business cards and stationary.
"I know it seems petty, but when you are looking for $1,000 here or $1,000 there, it all adds up," she said.
The proposed budget is slated to be approved at the full council's June 2 meeting.
Epstein said the city is not unlike so many private businesses which have been forced to cut staff to deal with rising costs.
"Revenues are not keeping up with our expenses and we don't have anything to sell to raise money" like a business, she said.
Residents will begin to pay for the $10 public safety fee with this month's water bill. The vehicle stickers will be available for purchase May 28 in the lower level of the Kankakee administration building.
It must be displayed by July 1.