Naperville to cut police officers amid protests

December 8, 2010 (NAPERVILLE, Ill.)

The Fraternal Order of Police says the layoffs are retaliation for a contract dispute and has lodged a complaint of unfair labor practices against the city.

The city council in voted 7-2 to reduce the authorized number of sworn personnel in the police department Tuesday night, largely squelching hopes that six police officers laid off Nov. 8 would be called back to work.

"It's not a ratification of the employment actions that took place. It is the result, but it could have been brought forth any time," said City Manager Doug Krieger. "It basically establishes a level of sworn personnel that cannot be exceeded."

The reduction brings the total number of sworn personnel down to 168.

The vote was a holdover from a Nov. 16 council meeting, when more than 450 police officers and their supporters marched in protest of the layoffs.

Many of those supporters were in attendance again Tuesday night to address the council prior to the vote.

"I would hope that you would not look to continue to put the many spouses, sons and daughters of those in attendance in harm's way by reducing our forces at this point in time," said resident and wife of a police officer Tracy Richards. "As a citizen, I would gladly pay an additional fee on my garbage and leaf collection in order to provide for the safety and the protection of the citizens of Naperville."

Councilmen Robert Fieseler and Paul Hinterlong voted against the reduction of police personnel, calling the layoffs premature in relation to the city's annual budget process.

"I want to see everything," said Hinterlong. "I want to work through the budget. We don't know all the answers. I'd rather work and get to this point rather than start at this point."

The layoffs in the police department came just days after the city announced it had struck a deal with the police union guaranteeing 3-percent annual raises over three years, retroactive to 2009.

Council members in the majority said Tuesday that the layoffs were a matter of balancing the budget.

"(These raises) are coming at a time when the city simply can't afford them," said Councilman Grant Wehrli. "This equates to millions of dollars. We're trying to manage our way through a financial crisis."

Meanwhile, labor negotiation in the city --including the police department --continues.

The council voted Tuesday night in a close 5-4 vote to approve a labor contract for the city's 25 police sergeants that mirrors the 3 percent annual raises given to officers.

That increase will cost the city $577,000 over the three year contract. The cost of the pay increases will be offset in part by the elimination of the vacant sergeant position.

"I'd offer a challenge to the 13 unions — they should open up their contracts and go to zero (percent raises)," said Councilman Doug Krause. "They should look at their contracts and say we're in this together."

Councilmen Krause, Wehrli, Fieseler and Richard Furstenau voted against the sergeants' contract.

The cuts to the police department and other city services come as the council tries to balance next year's budget with lower property tax revenues than in years past.

On Tuesday night, the council also approved a total tax levy, after abatement, of $49,145,036, at an estimated rate of $0.7358.

The total dollar amount of the tax levy is 3.48 percent less than last year, but last year's rate was lower, at $0.7167, a difference accounted for by the drop in property values over the past three years.

While the tax rate has increased slightly over last year, Naperville residents should see their tax bills decrease by an average of $22, according to Finance Director Karen DeAngelis.

(Source: Sun-Times Media Wire contributed to this report. - Copyright Chicago Sun-Times 2010.)

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