By Benjamin Yount -
BLOOMINGTON - Pity the poor workers of Bloomington, Illinois. They’re tired, burned out, stressed. They need help, more money and better pensions, a city leader says.
That’ll fix things.
“Too many employees have not achieved a healthy level of work-life balance,” Bloomington City Manager David Hales said. “Unfortunately, this is resulting in job stress, anxiety and burn-out.”
Apparently not content with spending taxpayer money on an arena millions of dollars in the red, or on a million bucks’ worth of trash cans, the city wants to spend $7 million more to improve that “work-life balance.”
Hales’ solution is to raise taxes on things such as cable TV and electric bills, grabbing enough cash to hire 17 new workers and give pay raises and pension bumps to many of the almost 650 currently on the payroll.
“As I meet with employees around the city … I continue to hear time and again employees state that they feel over worked, under-appreciated and under compensated.”
Too bad, says Adam Andrzejewski, founder of the government watchdog For the Good of Illinois.
“Here’s a guy that out-earns every governor of the 50 states and is one of the top 47 paid city managers in the state of Illinois,” Andrzejewski told Illinois Watchdog. “(Hales) costs taxpayers, every single year, in excess of $270 thousand dollars. I am not going to give him any sympathy.”
Andzerjewski said taxpayers pay Hales $176,439 in salary and almost as much for pensions, benefits and other perks.
“The fact that (he) is claiming that he has a poor work and life balance is disturbing to me,”
It’s disturbing to other city leaders, as well.
“I was appalled. I am still in shock,” Bloomington alderman Judy Stearns said.
Stearns and the rest of Bloomington’s City Council will ultimately decide on Hales’ proposed tax hikes.
Good luck with that, Stearns said.
“I will not support these tax increases. Period. Taxpayers are the piggy bank. We need to cut back.”
Hales is proposing a new amusement tax — on everything from movie tickets to the city’s zoo. He wants to max out the city’s utility tax.
The new city budget would increase spending by $11 million, with more than $7 million going to city workers. Pension increases for police officers and firefighters alone will top $1.5 million
“We’ve raised fees. Charges for services went up 10.9 percent; water, 5.8 percent; sewer, 15.4 percent; and solid waste, 13.4 percent,” Stearns said. “Our citizens are maxed.”
Stearns is urging voters to stand up and say no. Bloomington will decide on its budget in April.