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Mayor: Police, fire cuts not on table

August 4, 2018

Kankakee Mayor Chasity Wells-Armstrong said her administration has not considered laying off police officers and firefighters.

“We were never looking to cut public safety. We were looking to balance the budget,” Wells-Armstrong said during a Facebook Live town hall recently.

During a June budget meeting, a couple aldermen mentioned the possibility of cuts to police and fire staff because the city budget was about $400,000 in the hole.

However, the city later was able to wipe away the deficit by scraping $408,000 from two of its TIF districts. This amount was gained by calculating general fund money spent running the TIFs for the last 13 years.

“If you have money you are legally entitled to, it would be foolish not to use that money,” Wells-Armstrong said in the town hall.

She said she expected to see another gap of more than $400,000 for next year’s budget, in part because of employee raises.

“I am not a psychic, so I can’t predict May 1, 2019, and what all the parameters will be, but I assure you, we’ll work hard to balance the budget and not cut services,” the mayor said, noting the city has enacted two balanced budgets since she took office last year.

Ald. Gloria Kennedy, D-1, said she didn’t know how the city could balance its budget in 2019.

“The TIF administrative fees won’t be there next year,” she said. “There are always areas you can find to make cuts.”

She suggested some of the city’s vehicles, such as the one the mayor drives, are unnecessary.

Ald. Dennis Baron, R-6, the budget committee chairman, said in an earlier meeting that personnel takes up most of the budget and police and fire might be the most affected because they are the biggest departments.

“When you have a deficit that is six figures, that’s where you look at — personnel,” Baron said in an interview this week.

He said he was glad the TIF money was found so the city could avoid personnel reductions.

“There are not a lot of other places to cut,” he said.

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