Assistant City Manager Job Removed from Budget
Aldermen want to wait before hiring second in command.
Elmhurst aldermen Monday night removed the assistant city manager position from the proposed 2010-11 budget, saying they were not yet ready to commit to hiring a second-in-command for the new city manager.
The assistant city manager would have been a permanent, stand-alone, full-time position and would have reported to the city manager. Current city manager Tom Borchert will be retiring this year, and the city is in the process of hiring his replacement. Michael Kopp now serves as both the assistant city manager and fire chief.
Borchert told alderman that this was the right time to take a look at an organization chart more in keeping with other municipalities of Elmhurst's size. But many alderman were reluctant to hire an assistant for a manager who was not yet on board.
“I think city staff is doing a great job under the current paradigm,” said 3rd Ward Alderman Michael Bram.”I see that going forward, at least until we are able to get a new city manager on board.”
Fifth Ward Alderman Chris Healy said the new manager will need time to decide if an assistant is needed and what his or her job would entail. He noted that when Kopp was promoted to assistant city manager, that half-position was not in the budget but the City Council was able to find the money for the extra salary.
Under different circumstances, he said, he would agree to add the position to the budget.
“I am not opposed to the position. I am opposed to putting it into the budget in a year when we cannot literally make it happen,” he said.
First Ward Alderman Paula Pezza said adding the position sends the message that the council does not expect the new city manager to be able to handle the job.
First Ward Alderman Diane Gutenkauf said she was uncomfortable adding the position when there were still other city staff positions that would remain unfilled.
“I'm not sure I can support adding another full-time position under those circumstances,” she said.
Sixth Ward Alderman Steve Morley told the council that he was pleased to see that the proposed budget is balanced and that staff expected revenues to trend up, but he did not yet want to start spending this money.
“I'd rather see the money in the bank,” he said.
“I think the fire department is stretched,” countered 3rd Ward Alderman Susan Rose. “I don't think it's sustainable for our community not to have a full-time fire chief.”
She added that she does not want to tie the hands of the future City Council by not providing the salary in the budget.
Fifth Ward Alderman Scott Levin told the council that the city ordinance allows for the position, and that comparable towns have assistants at the top level. He reiterated that approving the budget allows for the city to have the position without necessarily filling of the position.
“There's an opportunity to have that discussion before the decision is made,” he said.
He also disagreed that the city is sending the wrong message to potential candidates, as many of those who will apply for the position are likely to come from municipalities with an assistant position.
The council voted to put the money that was budgeted for the position toward building up the city's fund balance.