A majority of North Riverside village trustees shot down a proposal to dramatically slash the salaries of top officials last week but conversations about where salary levels will end up during the 2011-12 fiscal year are not over yet.
On June 15, during the second session of the village board’s 2011-12 budget workshop, Trustee H. Bob Demopoulos proposed cutting the salaries of select non-union employees, including all department heads.
“Everybody has taken a hit throughout the past couple of years – residents, the businesses … except the administration,” said Demopoulos. “And I believe it’s time that you guys sacrifice for the village, specifically at this time when we’re in debt.”
Instead of the 2-percent raise all village employees are scheduled to get in 2011-12, Demopoulos said he wanted to cut the salaries of Village Administrator Guy Belmonte and Finance Director Sue Scarpiniti by 25 percent. Both Scarpiniti and Belmonte also received 2-percent longevity raises this year.
He also proposed 20-percent cuts in salary for the village’s police chief, fire chief, public works director and recreation director. In addition, Demopoulos sought 15-percent pay reductions for three village hall clerks, the recreation program coordinator and the police department’s administrative assistant, who happens to be Mayor Ken Krochmal’s wife.
“You guys do a wonderful job – don’t take it personal,” said Demopoulos. “I think you’re a great asset to this community. … But it’s time to sacrifice in my opinion.”
According to Demopoulos, the salary cuts would have saved the village nearly $180,000. Trustees are faced with closing a $2.2 million deficit in the proposed 2011-12 operating budget. The fiscal year began May 1.
The proposal came after Trustee Rocco DeSantis called for the board to adjourn to executive session to discuss personnel. The closed-door session was not on the agenda for the meeting and trustees decided against the private discussion.
Both DeSantis and Demopoulos won election in April as independents. The other trustees – Tom Corgiat, Randall Czajka, Hugh Hermanek and Joan Sargent – are members of North Riverside’s VIP Party, which has had a viselike grip on the village board for the past two decades.
The vote on Demopoulos’ proposal fell along partisan lines. VIP trustees voted against the cuts, while DeSantis and Demopoulos voted for them. The only bit of confusion came on the vote to cut Belmonte’s and Scarpiniti’s salaries.
Initially, it appeared Corgiat voted for the cuts. However, according to Scarpiniti, Corgiat later said he voted for Czajka’s suggestion that village staff conduct a salary survey to see where North Riverside’s administrators stacked up before he would vote for any cuts. Corgiat couldn’t be reached for confirmation.
Asked whether his proposals might appear to be post-election score-settling, Demopoulos denied that was the case.
“Absolutely not,” Demopoulos said. “I’m sincerely concerned about this. [The] $2.18 million [deficit] is a drastic number. We need drastic measures. I do understand they have made sacrifices, but so has everybody. There are sob stories all over the place.”