(WBBM) – About 125 Aurora police officers, family members and supporters marched through downtown Aurora Tuesday evening before demanding at a meeting of the city council that city officials open their books to the union.
Union President Dave Schmidt led the march, spoke to the council, and then walked out with supporters when Mayor Thomas Weisner tried to answer him.
“There’s a lot of discretionary spending, which is what we want to get our auditor in to take a look at,” Schmidt said. “So far the city’s not letting them in.”
Weisner disputed that, saying that the city has given the union what it needs and more. He said Aurora, not unlike a number of other communities, is facing a two-barreled problem – falling tax assessments and increased costs.
The mayor said Aurora avoided laying off police officers a year ago, when every other city department took a hit. But he said it will be “very difficult” to avoid police layoffs if the officers refuse to submit to the city’s demand for givebacks that amount to a 10 percent pay cut.
Weisner noted thast Rockford has laid off police officers in recent weeks, and that Joliet has decided to let vacant police jobs go unfilled in 2011.
Schmidt said there are 16 unfilled positions in the police budget – 13 officers and three supervisory positions. And he said the union has received no response on proposals to increase or impose a series of fees, including a booking fee that many departments impose but Aurora does not. Schmidt said the union believes that the booking fee alone
could raise as much as $1 million a year.
“None of it comes to the level that would make a huge difference at all, and with the diversity of incomes in the city of Aurora, I’m not sure it wouldn’t get a court challenge,” Weisner said of the proposed bookie fee.
The city of Aurora has asked for $2.01 million in concessions from APPO, and $557,000 in concessions from a separate union that represents Aurora Police sergeants.
Schmidt said the union has been warned that between 22 and 25 officers and five sergeants could be laid off. Weisner said the figure is far smaller, and said if layoffs occur the city would still be left with more officers than it had in 2008, when it had only two murders and its lowest crime rate in 29 years.
The unions’ contracts expired in March.
Marching with the Aurora officers in a show of support were officers from Elgin, Naperville and the Kane County Sheriff’s Police. The Aurora officers took part in a similar march led by the Naperville Fraternal Order of Police lodge last week.