Joliet City Employees Face Temporary Salary Cuts

JOLIET, IL — Because of serious financial problems caused by the new coronavirus, top Joliet officials are hoping to enact a temporary salary reduction that will impact all full-time employees within the next few weeks.

Interim City Manager Steve Jones told Joliet Patch’s editor on Wednesday afternoon that the pay cuts would not be permanent. He said the salary reductions would be no more than 4 percent, and everyone would return to their current salary once the city’s financial crisis over.

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Jones said he is hoping to have the salary cuts in place by the start of June. It’s possible the pay reductions could remain in effect for the rest of the year.

On the other hand, if Joliet becomes the recipient of an economic stimulus package passed by Congress, the city may be able to avoid implementing any wage reductions, Jones said.

During Wednesday’s interview, Jones said he was not sure whether Congress and President Donald Trump will pass another economic stimulus package intended to help bailout municipal governments such as Joliet.

That’s why Jones has already begun discussing the temporary salary reductions with other city officials. He said that more meetings with representatives of the city’s collective bargaining unions are scheduled later this week, and meetings may carry into the next week or two.

Jones will need support from the city’s employee unions to adopt a wage reduction for their members.

Not only would police officers and firefighter/paramedics be expected to take a temporary salary decrease of up to 4 percent, the same would hold true for city department heads and other employees at City Hall, including Jones himself, he told Patch.

“The goal is to get some plan in place by June 1st,” Jones said. “We’re all in this, so let’s take the hit together, from me on down.”

Since the pandemic, Joliet’s revenue resources have dried up at an alarming rate, city officials have said.

The two casinos, Harrah’s and Hollywood Casino Joliet, generate $1.38 million in gaming tax revenue for Joliet’s monthly coffers. Both casinos have been shut down since March 16.

Additionally, all the city’s taverns and sports bars have closed during the ongoing health crisis, and several of Joliet’s most popular sit-down restaurants including La Mex are just starting to reopen with limited hours for carryout-only meals.

The city’s finance department has provided preliminary projections indicating Joliet’s monthly revenues may plummet during the pandemic by 70 to 80 percent.

On April 7, Joliet Patch reported that city finance director Jim Ghedotte warned the City Council that Joliet could run out of money around October.

About 78 percent of the city’s expenses are related to salaries and fringe benefits, Jones said.

On Wednesday, Jones said the finance department anticipates that this year’s budget may still face a revenue shortfall between $12 million and $20 million.

To address that budget shortfall, Jones said the city has already identified about $9 million in temporary spending cuts.

Another $4 million in budget cuts could come from the across-the-board temporary salary reductions for hundreds of city employees, Jones said.

Joliet has about 900 full-time employees, including about 210 firefighter paramedics and nearly 300 police officers.

In February, Joliet Patch reported that 56 members of the Joliet Police Department’s Supervisors Association, led by Sgt. Patrick Cardwell, received an average pay increase of $8,466 as the result of a 7-percent salary increase that took effect Jan. 1.

From The Patch