JOLIET, Ill. (CBS) — The City of Joliet is considering farming out the jobs of school crossing guards in order to save some money.

As WBBM Newsradio’s Bernie Tafoya reports, like most municipal governments, the City of Joliet is looking for ways to save dollars wherever it can.

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Joliet is facing a budget shortfall of $17 million next year, and thus is thinking of getting rid of its 40 school crossing guards, and having them re-hired by a private company that would do the work more chiefly.

Joliet officials say switching to Aurora-based security company Andy Frain Services or another firm, and making all the crossing guards into Andy Frain employees, could save about $150,000 per year.

Crossing guards are defending their jobs, and their value.

“Today, I had a lady arrested for disorderly conduct right in front of the school,” Marion Jurkowski told The Joliet Herald-News last week while being interviewed along with other crossing guards who came to a city council budget meeting to plead their cause.

It was a case of road rage, Jurkowski said. And, two parents were going at it, swearing at each other, cursing out Jurkowski, and “just acting crazy when the kids were right in front of the school,” she said.

So, Jurkowski called a police officer. And, it wasn’t exactly a rare moment. It was the third incident of road rage that morning, she said.

On a typical day, crossing guards point out, long lines of cars are waiting to drop off kids at school, passing motorists want to get by, many of the drivers are in a rush to get to work, and tempers can boil.

It’s not exactly the kind of situation you want to throw an eighth-grader into, even if he or she has the authority given by a bright orange patrol belt.

“I was a patrol girl when I went to Farragut,” said Debbie Koehler, a crossing guard for the city. Koehler has patrol kids who work with her at Carl Sandburg School. But she wouldn’t have them try to handle her busy corner at Ingalls Avenue and Lilac Lane. It’s too busy and too dangerous, she said.

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One thing crossing guards say they are looking for in the budget debate is a little respect as the city considers their future.

“They’ve never once talked to the crossing guards,” Koehler said. “They talked to the (city) unions. But just because we’re a bunch of women — and a few men — they won’t talk to us. No respect.”

But after Koehler made her pitch to the city council last week, she talked with City Manager Thomas Thanas and the two agreed to a future meeting. No promises were made. But Koehler said she and other crossing guards want an opportunity to work out a budget solution that will keep them as employees of the city. The city puts the current cost of the program at $424,000 a year.

City officials emphasize that any outsourcing arrangement would require the private company to offer jobs first to the crossing guards now working for Joliet.

Crossing guards, however, believe their pay — now $55 a day for morning and afternoon shifts — would be cut. It’s a part time job, and they don’t get health insurance. They do, however, become vested in the city’s pension plan after eight years on the job.

Koehler and others said if pay is cut, turnover — almost non-existent now — will become an issue, and the relationship between crossing guards and schoolchildren will break down.

“People look at us as if we just cross the kids,” she said. “We’re more than that. We watch the neighborhoods. If there’s a strange car in the neighborhood, we know it. If there’s a strange person in the neighborhood, we know it.”

She herself once reported a pedophile to police, Koehler said, and stuck with the case as the suspect went through the court system.

“It took me 18 months to get him prosecuted, but I did it,” she said.

The crossing guards have had one advocate on the Joliet City Council. Councilman Larry Hug, District 1, whose mother-in-law is a Joliet crossing guard, said he worries that privatizing the service will be a problem.

The crossing guard question is “a huge issue” with District 1 parents, Hug said. “They like the way it is with the people in place now,” he said, “because they trust them with their kids.”

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The Joliet Herald-News contributed to this report, via the Sun-Times Media Wire.