Tuesday, Jan. 7


Assistant chiefs ask city
for salary increase

[JAN. 7, 2003]  The city council's wage freeze for management may have had some unintended consequences.

It has caused a drop in morale for the city's four assistant chiefs, and in at least one case will result in a union member, a Lincoln Fire Department captain, earning more than his superior, an assistant chief.

The city's three assistant fire chiefs and its assistant police chief aired their dissatisfaction over the wage freeze to the city's finance committee Monday evening.

The assistant fire chiefs, Mark Miller, Tom Martin and Steve Dahm, distributed printed comparisons of the pay of firefighters, who are union members, and of assistant chiefs, who are considered management. The printout also showed a comparison of the salary of an assistant chief compared with that of a captain with 21 years of seniority. The rank of captain is next highest to assistant chief.

Union firefighters get extra pay for Emergency Medical Service, longevity and overtime, as well as $2,000 a year for additional education, according to the fact sheet. At this time, assistant chiefs do not get any of these benefits, Miller said, and they have also seen a cut in their vacation days after 20 years of service.

Although assistant chiefs were never members of the union, at one time they did get extra pay for EMS and overtime, Martin said.


"Because of the pay increases [for the unions], we make just $94 a month more than some captains do," Miller said. Three hours of overtime for the captains would make the pay the same, he said.

"In May, the captains will be making more than we do," Martin added. Specifically, he said, in May a captain with 21 years of experience will be making $23 per month more than an assistant chief, even without the overtime pay a captain is entitled to.

"When we get passed up for a raise, it doesn't seem fair," Miller added. "There's no incentive to take the test for assistant chief. Maybe we should ask for a demotion."

"The last administration took our overtime away from us," Dahm said. "That hurts morale. We are asking you guys to do the right thing."

The "right thing," the assistant fire chiefs said, would be a 5 percent raise now, 3 percent to keep up with the union and 2 percent to restore the EMS pay, as they also go out on EMS calls.

During the bargaining process last fall, union firefighters won a total raise of 9.75 percent over three years. The first 3 percent raise was made retroactive to May of 2002. In May of 2003, the beginning of the city's fiscal year, they will get a 3.25 percent raise. In May of 2004 they will get 3.5 percent.

"You negotiate with the unions, but you don't even talk to us," Harley Mullins, assistant police chief, told the committee. "We read in the newspapers that we're not getting a raise.

"You are willing to pay an attorney $125 an hour to fight a water rate hike," he added. "Part of my pay raise is going somewhere else." He said he would like to see all department heads get a raise of $125 a month.

Mullins also asked if assistant chiefs would get a raise of 7 percent next year to make up for the raise they didn't get this year. "Is the 3 percent gone forever?" he asked.


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Alderman Verl Prather, present chairman of the finance committee, pointed out that the city is in a serious financial bind. Because of the economic downturn, Lincoln, like most other municipalities, has had to make deep budget cuts and is looking at a budget deficit of $300,000 to $400,000 for the coming year. The city tried to pass a sales tax increase of 0.5 percent in November, but voters turned it down.

Prather said that because of lagging state payments of income tax receipts the city would have trouble finding money for operating expenses when the next fiscal year begins in May.

"We've even discussed layoffs. That's still an option. We are not trying to buffalo anybody about the lack of money," he said. He said the finance committee will meet to discuss the request for a pay raise sometime soon.

In other business, meeting in regular session, the council passed two ordinances. One rezones the property at 1028 Broadway from R-2 (residential) to C-2 (commercial). The property is owned by Board Enterprises and was formerly a dry cleaning establishment but was never zoned commercial.

The council also approved adding Woodlawn Road property owned by J & S Auto to the enterprise zone and giving owner Jim Horn a real estate tax abatement. Horn is moving his business from Logan Street to the new location, next to the Kroger store, property formerly owned by the Buelter family.

The council accepted a grant of $10,000 for the Sesquicentennial Committee and approved putting yields signs on both sides of 19th Street where it intersects with Oglesby.

They also agreed that the city would take over a 7.5-mile stretch of Fifth Street Road west of Lincoln Parkway that is presently under the jurisdiction of the Illinois Department of Transportation. IDOT will pay the city $189,000 to upgrade and maintain the road. Street Superintendent Don Osborne said he thought that was the best offer the city was going to get from IDOT and recommended accepting it. He said the city already maintains that area of Fifth Street.

The council voted not to take down a crab apple tree in front of the Tarter Brothers property on Broadway Street until a landscape design currently under way for the downtown area is finished.


Steve Fuhrer announced that on Jan. 22 at 7:15 p.m. a question-and-answer session on the sales tax issue will be held at Friendship Manor. Everyone is welcome to attend. He also said that anyone who wants to make donations to a fund to promote the 0.5 percent increase in the city sales tax may do so. Donations may be made to Citizens for the City Sales Tax Increase. He said District 27 Superintendent Bob Kidd has volunteered to be treasurer for the committee. The city itself cannot spend money to promote the tax increase, and aldermen have discussed making contributions themselves to help get information out to voters. The tax increase failed in the November election but is needed, city officials say, to provide funds for road repair.

Because the city council had two meetings Monday, a committee-of-the-whole meeting postponed from Dec. 24 and a regular voting session, Prather moved to waive the $50 pay aldermen would normally receive for the committee meeting. The council unanimously agreed.

[Joan Crabb]

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