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Only Oswego

Letter: Taxpayers Not a 'Non-Stop Money Tree'

May 27, 2014 10:20PM ● By Steven Jack
So, we watched the village board vote down the tax increases.

You, the taxpayer, needs to ask when and where does this insanity stop by using the taxpayers as a non-stop money tree instead of taking time out to look inside and cut back. A couple of examples:

1.  Take a look at how the latest bidding went for mowing the village properties. It became a debacle due to the prevailing wage verbiage. First off, people need to understand contracts and the correct language/verbiage that is needed or not needed. Prevailing wage is a labor wage standard set by the Illinois Department of Labor. (On a personal note, I think our state politicians should get rid of this language because it kills taxpayers and municipalities) So, as the village put out the bid packages they included that prevailing wage MUST be applied. I have had this discussion with some of the local officials, and there is much confusion as to when it applies and does not apply.

So, I took it upon myself to contact the Department of Labor to reaffirm what I already knew. Mowing is considered maintenance, and prevailing wages does not apply. Here is the e-mail I sent to the D.O.L.

"I am a resident of Oswego IL. and see that they are contracting out the mowing for the village of Oswego. In the bid package they have included that prevailing wage must apply. The contract is for mowing or maintenance, and no shrub or tree removal and or planting. So my question is does prevailing wage apply if the contract is for strictly maintenance? Here was the reply: "Prevailing wage applies if it is included in the contract." Bidding out the mowing job is a great way to save taxpayers money.

At the present time, village employees are mowing these areas at a cost factor of around $40 per hour which include wages, benefits, and pension costs  just to cut grass. Don't  forget fuel and equipment costs. 

Recently, three mowing contractors bid to mow the properties of the village. All three were rejected due to high costs. What does evoking prevailing wage do to a bid for mowing? The bidder must pay the employee who drives the truck $35 per hour. The employee who operates the mower falls under operator pay which is $44  per hour and the laborer is $37.00 per hour. 

Any company that bids this job, must pay these wages to his employees which in turn drives the bid up through the ceiling. This could be avoided if the village administrators would take the time to understand what prevailing wage is and when it should be applied. 

2.  Trimming down the upper management staff in each Department would save taxpayers money.  Public works recently created a new upper management position and downsized the street workforce. 

Now you have one director and two assistants along with superintendents. What business model reduces work force and increase's management? One official told me that they are going to eliminate some of these positions after the employees' retire. So why wait? Eliminate them now. But then I was told that he or she has a family and they are nice people. Tell that to the nice guy taxpayers family who lost his job and got foreclosed on. Economic downturns in the private sector calls for restructuring at all times. Why should public entities not face the same outcome? I don't want to see people lose their jobs or homes but who works for whom?  

3.  The questions that elected board members need to be asked is why are we operating the same way as previous boards? Make changes and ask questions. Anyone can sit and vote yes, or no and be right 50 percent of the time. I wonder how many board members have actually read or even looked over a labor contract that you vote on. You see the hired attorney that negotiates these contracts has no financial win or loss factor in them. He or she is getting paid no matter what the outcome.

Patrick Stiles