Posts Tagged Illinois HB 5485

State legislation concerns local municipalities (more)

Te Daily Herald has an article about yet another municipality that is voicing an opinion regarding IL HB 5485

City officials in Elgin railed against a bill — now headed to Gov. Pat Quinn’s desk — that requires fire departments’ staffing levels to be subject to bargaining.

City Manger Sean Stegall and Fire Chief John Fahy argued it should be up to local officials to determine staffing levels.

Adding just two firefighters per shift would cost almost $791,000 per year based on the average firefighters’ salary of about $78,500 and an overtime rate of $45 per hour, they said. That’s a total of $8 million over 10 years “for no tangible resulting improvement in services,” Stegall said.

The so-called “minimum manning” bill is all about keeping firefighters employed, Fahy said. “It takes away your authority as the elected representatives of the citizens of Elgin to determine the level of EMS and firefighters, putting it into the hands of an arbitrator out of Chicago,” Fahy said.

Quinn’s staff said the governor will review the bill, which got “yes” votes from State Rep. Anna Moeller, a former Elgin councilwoman, and state Sen. Michael Noland, both Democrats from Elgin.

“The safety of our communities should not be at risk simply because municipal leaders want to limit the influence of unions,” Noland said in a news release Thursday.

Moeller objected to the notion floated by Elgin council members that she changed her mind about the bill after she became a state legislator.

“As a city council we didn’t take a position on that,” she said. “This gives the unions the ability to negotiate. It’s not a mandate. If it goes into arbitration, an arbitrator could determine the request is unreasonable.”

Determining how many firefighters a municipality needs is the result of an equation based on multiple factors, including the location of fire stations and the type of equipment owned, Fahy said.

For example, a few years ago the city opted to buy paramedic engines, which require less staffing than ambulances, Mayor David Kaptain said. As a result, the city didn’t replace two firefighters, bringing the number on shift down to 34 from 36.

“I don’t want to jeopardize anybody’s safety,” Kaptain said. “We felt we could transition to this (paramedic engines) and still provide the same level of quality of service based on response times.”

The bill also defeats the notion that cities should invest in money-saving technology, Kaptain pointed out.

The firefighters union has sued Elgin over lost overtime opportunities stemming from the paramedic engines, but that lawsuit won’t be affected by the minimum manning bill, Corporation Counsel Bill Cogley said.

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State legislation concerns local municipalities (more)

The Daily Herald has more on the local debate concerning IL HB5485:

Controversial state legislation that would make staffing levels for fire departments subject to arbitration should have no impact on Mount Prospect, the president of Mount Prospect Firefighters Local 4119 told the village board this week. The “minimum manning bill” would add staffing levels to the list of items — along with wages, hours and working conditions — subject to arbitration in the event that the village and firefighters could not agree on a contract.

Many suburban communities are outspoken opponents of the proposal, saying it would take decision making away from local officials intimately familiar with their communities’ needs and place it instead in the hands of an outside arbiter. They also say it could cost municipalities millions to pay for extra staff that officials don’t believe are needed.

But firefighter union President Dale Steward told village trustees this week those concerns are overblown. The proposal, he said, simply clarifies the intent of a 28-year law giving first responders input into the levels of safe staffing.

Mayor Arlene Juracek said municipalities are concerned about the loss of local control.

The minimum manning bill, HB 5485, is pending in the state legislature.

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A series of posts on this topic can be traced backwards beginning HERE.

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State legislation concerns local municipalities (more)

The Chicago Tribune has more on the controversy surround Illinois House Bill 5485:

For much of the year, three Glenview firefighters work on each engine company — despite a federal standard that calls for at least four, according to Glenview fire Chief Wayne Globerger. Globerger said the village tries to follow suggestions from the National Fire Protection Association, but it also has to watch spending. “In the suburbs, it’s a different story,” he said. “Our fires are fewer and far between, and we have mutual aid. We rely on our neighbors a lot more.”

But Globerger and some other fire chiefs and elected officials in suburbs like Highland Park and Wilmette fear a bill in Springfield could force them to hire more firefighters, resulting in increased property taxes or cuts to other public services.

Supporters of the bill, currently in a Senate committee, that would amend state law to let unions negotiate staffing levels in contract talks say firefighters should have that right, given the often dangerous nature of the job. The bill, they say, will prevent lawsuits.

“As they reduce manpower, my co-workers are put at higher and higher risk,” said Eamon O’Dowd, a Glenview firefighter for 18 years and president of the Glenview Professional Firefighters Association Local 4186.

Under state law, firefighters have collective bargaining rights. When issues of wages, hours or working conditions are unresolved, they can be subject to binding arbitration. The bill, sponsored by state Sen. Kwame Raoul, D-Chicago, adds staffing to the list.

“We’ve been able to negotiate manning and arbitrators have had jurisdiction to rule on this for almost three decades,” said Pat Devaney, president of the Associated Fire Fighters of Illinois and advocate for the bill.

This bill just clarifies that minimum staffing can be negotiated, he said. That explanation hasn’t reassured municipal leaders, who say they should have the final word on keeping residents safe while balancing the local budget.

At a recent Highland Park City Council meeting, Mayor Nancy Rotering asked residents to urge their local senator to oppose the bill.

“If more money has to go to supplying unnecessary labor, or employees, that’s money that’s been removed from our budget for other public safety or public works needs,” Rotering said.

Wilmette fire Chief Jim Dominik said the legislation was unnecessary and contrary to efforts to keep costs low by partnering with other communities. “When you look at a fire department independently, you might say we don’t have enough people,” Dominik said. “But it’s different when you look at how we work with our neighbors.”

Highland Park fire Lt. Steve Horne was one of the first firefighters on the scene of a house fire in December. On that cold morning, firefighters risked their lives rescuing an unconscious man in the basement. “Every day, we work in an environment that could lead to our death,” Horne said. “We should have the ability to say how our job can be done safely.”

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State legislation concerns local municipalities (more)

Thoughts and commentary centering on Illinois HB 5485:

From the Chicago Tribune:

Last week, the leaders of cities and towns across Illinois made a public plea for the state legislature to save them from the rising, crippling costs of public employee pension benefits. While the pension debate has tended to focus on Chicago and state government, it’s a huge problem for suburbs and downstate communities too. It puts enormous pressure on local taxes.

So what are lawmakers doing? Nothing much on municipal pensions. But they’re pushing legislation that would sock the municipalities — that is, local taxpayers — with even higher costs for government services.

The Illinois House this month passed a bill that would compel municipalities to negotiate the staffing levels for their fire departments with the firefighters union, even if their contracts don’t address that issue now. If an agreement on staffing levels can’t be resolved in collective bargaining, the issue would be subject to arbitration.

That is, the towns would lose the authority to decide how many people they need to staff the fire department. An arbitrator could order a town to maintain, say, at least a dozen firefighters on duty at all times.

It’s easy to see what’s in it for the firefighters union: more jobs.

And it’s easy to see what the impact would be on the residents of a town: higher taxes and cuts in other services.

Once fire staffing levels are set in a contract, it is difficult for city managers to adjust their fire-protection program in response to changing needs and resources. Springfield is angling to strip control from those in the best position to manage taxpayer funds and service needs, including local fire chiefs.

Some local governments already labor under staffing levels set by contract. Mayor Larry Morrissey of Rockford inherited such a contract rule when he won office in 2005, and he says he has struggled unsuccessfully to drop it. Rockford has to pay for more firefighters than it needs at the expense of other priorities, Morrissey told us. During the recession, the mandated overstaffing for fire protection forced the city to reduce its police force and make other painful cuts, he said.

Fire protection is essential. Municipalities, particularly small towns, need as much flexibility as possible to determine how to provide that service cost-effectively. Small towns may decide that a collaboration with neighboring towns would provide better service at lower cost. We can see how this law would drive a spike into such consolidation efforts.

The Associated Fire Fighters of Illinois argues that minimum staffing levels negotiated through contract are the most crucial factor in ensuring effective firefighting and rescue responses. We see no evidence, though, that citizens are better served when the people they elected to make such decisions are straitjacketed by state law.

The bill is in the Senate now. Senators, when you debate it, if you’re tempted to vote for it, be sure to call it what it is: a property tax increase bill. We’re sure your constituents will be thrilled.

From the SouthtownStar:

Steve Metsch’s recent story on the Oak Lawn Fire Department’s cost and staffing issues contained misinformation from Mayor Sandra Bury and the village, prompting me to clarify matters.

1) House Bill 5485 does not force towns to require minimum staf?ng on fire vehicles. All it does is codify that “minimum manning” is a mandatory subject of bargaining in Illinois, meaning that it has to be negotiated in good faith. HB 5485 does not mandate anything.

2) Fire Chief George Sheets’ comment that the key staf?ng issue is not how many ?re?ghters are on a truck but how many are at a fire scene is not accurate. We firefighters are able to bargain over staf?ng because our collective safety is directly related to how many ?re?ghters are assigned to an apparatus and to a particular shift. Oak Lawn ?re?ghters deserve to be safe at all times, not just at a fire scene.

3) Oak Lawn has underfunded its public safety pensions for years, while employees have contributed to their pensions every month, year after year. Whether the local economy was good or bad, the village has continually “kicked the can down the road.” It’s not fair to blame Oak Lawn police and ?re?ghters for the village not meeting its pension obligations.

4) Village manager Larry Deetjen said “72 percent of the Oak Lawn ?re?ghters do not live in Oak Lawn,” which is true. They have not been required to live in the village for at least 25 years. The residency requirement was dropped as a result of a federal discrimination investigation in the 1980s. Not residing in Oak Lawn does not take away a firefighter’s right to a safe work environment.

5) Deetjen continually cites the village spending nearly $2 million last year on fire department overtime. He doesn’t mention that the number of firefighters has declined from more than 100 to 76 — about a 25 percent cut while the department responds to an increasing number of emergency calls. Deetjen doesn’t say that the overtime cost is offset by the reduced manpower costs (wages, insurance and other bene?ts). The village has not hired any new ?re?ghters (or paramedics) since April 2007.

Vincent Grif?n


Oak Lawn Professional Fire?ghters Association

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Previous posts are HERE, HERE, and HERE.

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State legislation concerns local municipalities (more)

The Daily Herald has an article stating the Buffalo Grove joins with other municipalities in opposing HB 5485:

Buffalo Grove Village President Jeffrey Braiman has joined the chorus of municipal leaders opposing state legislation that could subject firefighter staffing levels to arbitration.  Braiman this week said House Bill 5485, otherwise known as the Minimum Manning Bill, would negatively impact the village budget and firefighter response times — and even might force the village to close one of its three fire stations.

Currently, the decision of staffing levels rests in the hands of department management. But under the bill, if a municipality or fire district and the union representing its firefighters cannot agree on staffing, the matter would be turned over to arbitration.

The arbitrator, Braiman said, “isn’t an investor in our community, who will not have the expertise in firefighting and finance to make logical and appropriate decisions.”

Braiman noted, however, that the proposed changes would not afford the village’s firefighters better wages and benefits, nor would it increase their pensions. It also would not improve response times, Braiman said. “Clearly, getting more persons into a vehicle will not get it there any faster,” he said.

The bill ultimately could force the village to add firefighters at a time when it is trying to manage its workforce and constrain costs, Braiman said. Requiring one more person per fire truck per shift would cost the village as much as $1.3 million a year, he said, forcing spending cuts elsewhere or a tax increase.

Fire Chief Terry Vavra said he also does not favor the bill.

“I think Mr. Braiman made some very valid points,” he said. “I don’t know that this is the answer.”

However, in a letter to legislators, the Mount Prospect firefighters union states that opponents of the bill “are attempting to mislead lawmakers and have stated opinions that simply are not true.” “The working conditions of a firefighter are inherently dangerous and safe staffing levels have an enormous impact on our safety, and ultimately the safety of the very citizens I have sworn to protect,” the letter adds.

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State legislation concerns local municipalities

An article from politics Early&Often about municipalities’concerns over HB 5485:

Municipal leaders are sounding the alarm over legislation they say could take decisions regarding fire department staffing levels out of their hands.

Proponents of the measure, which passed the Illinois House earlier this month, say it’s a safety issue, while municipal officials argue it could further stress already tight budgets.

The Senate later this spring is expected to consider the legislation, which would clarify or modify the state’s Public Labor Relations Act that gave police officers and firefighters the right to bargain collectively. The change would allow fire department staffing or minimum manning levels to be negotiated — along with wages, benefits and work rules — and potentially subject to arbitration. If ultimately signed into law, the measure — HB 5485 — wouldn’t apply to Chicago.

Some towns, such as Oak Lawn, already have staffing requirements built into their contracts with firefighters.

What’s alarming municipal officials is that decisions about personnel numbers could, if not worked out at the bargaining table, be made in arbitration on a case-by-case basis.

Groups such as the Northwest Municipal Conference and the South Suburban Mayors and Managers Association warn that if communities are required to maintain certain fire staffing levels, it could force layoffs in other areas.

“Manning has never been an issue that could go to arbitration,” Ed Paesel, executive director of the South Suburban Mayors and Managers Association, said, adding that the group’s members are “very concerned” about the legislation.

An official with the Associated Fire Fighters of Illinois said concerns of municipal officials are overblown. Pat Devaney, president of the labor group, said the legislation doesn’t mandate that communities establish minimum personnel levels and would codify court rulings that have upheld the use of arbitration in maintaining staffing numbers.

In a video she posted earlier this month, Oak Lawn Mayor Sandra Bury described the minimum manning requirements in her community as “archaic,” and said it “ties our hands” as far as allocating municipal resources.

Communities could face huge increases in personnel costs, forcing them to resort to higher property taxes or cuts in other areas, Steve Quigley, executive director of the Will County Governmental League, said. Quigley said that, in Will County, a firefighter costs the average municipality about $130,000 a year with salary, benefits and pension. To raise the staffing level at one fire station by one firefighter would cost the municipality more than three times that in order to cover shifts around the clock, he said.

Eamon O’Dowd, president of Glenview Firefighters Local 4186, said firefighters should have a say in how many of them work each shift. He said village administrators first suggested giving themselves control of manning by reducing daily personnel in January 2011. “This was a proposal, but a policy they wanted while we were in contract negotiations. This should be separate from what’s on the negotiating table,” said O’Dowd, an 18-year paramedic and firefighter with Glenview.

Glenview firefighters also offered to save $300,000 a year by reducing overtime and capping salary raises for two years, O’Dowd said, in return for manning assurances. Despite complaints from firefighters about proper staffing levels, Don Owen, deputy village manager for Glenview, said the bill would reduce municipalities’ ability to govern. “It really would take away what elected officials and village administrators are supposed to do for residents,” he said. “It would not allow us to perform tradeoffs in budgeting and be accountable to residents. It’s a very bad piece of legislation if we’re mandated to staffing levels.”

Patty Schuh, a spokeswoman for Illinois Senate Minority Leader Christine Radogno, R-Lemont, said it could be the middle of next month before senators get a good look at the bill. She said Radogno is “gathering input” on the issue and has been hearing from municipal officials who oppose it and firefighters who support it.

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