For a second time in recent weeks, the city of Belleville has decided not to replace a departing department head and instead will reorganize departments under the leadership of current employees who will get raises as part of a one-year pilot program.
Public Works Department Director Jason Poole will also oversee the Parks and Recreation Department after Debbie Belleville retires as parks director next month.
Also, Sherry Favre Salvatore, director of Human Resources, is retiring in May, but city officials said they will keep this position and will search for a new H.R. director. However, the human resource director’s duties in community development will be handled by Library Director Leander Spearman.
In January, the city gave $5,000 to $10,000 raises to four current employees, including Police Chief Bill Clay, and gave them more responsibilities in a newly created department in the wake of the housing director’s resignation.
This new department is called Residential and Commercial Development Services, and it has three divisions: Housing and Code Enforcement; Building and Zoning; and Economic Development and Planning. The Health, Housing and Building Department name was eliminated on Feb. 3.
“Most of these changes are driven by basically because of staff changes,” Mayor Mark Eckert said. “But the other thing that’s another driving factor is certainly the state’s financial situation with cities, and so we just have to be realistic that we can’t do everything the way we used to do it.”
For example, Eckert noted that several years ago Illinois cut the percentage of state income tax revenue that it sends to cities and that this reduced Belleville’s annual share by $500,000. He added that state officials recently have discussed whether they can resume the previous rate of income tax revenue given to cities.
“A half million dollars is a lot of money to us when you’re balancing a budget,” Eckert said.
Parks and Public Works
Debbie Belleville, who joined the Parks and Recreation Department in 1985 and has served as director of the department since 2013, is retiring, and her last day in the office will be April 12. Her position is being eliminated.
Poole, the director of the Public Works Department, will also assume duties as interim director of the Parks and Recreation Department, where he previously served as assistant director.
“Obviously I have big footsteps to follow in there with Debbie Belleville retiring,” Poole said. “I look forward to following her footsteps there and also working with the existing staff.”
Eckert noted the Parks and Recreation Department employees are familiar with Poole.
“He’s a good manager, and he’s fair,” Eckert said of Poole.
Poole will get a $10,000 raise to bump his salary from $88,664 to $98,664 effective in mid-April. Two other current employees serve as Poole’s assistants in Public Works: one person will be assistant director of Public Works/streets and sanitation and the other will be assistant director of Public Works/parks maintenance and cemetery operations, which is a newly created management position.
Craig Maue will take the new position as the assistant over parks maintenance and cemeteries, and his salary will increase $15,313 as it goes from $55,624 to $70,937 effective May 1.
This plan was unanimously approved by the City Council and is considered to be a one-year pilot program. After 12 months, the city will decide whether to make the changes permanent or revert to the previous alignment.
The city is expected to save money with these changes. Poole’s and Maue’s raises total about $25,000, but the city will not pay Debbie Belleville’s salary of $79,624, so that yields a savings of about $54,624.
For a look at public employee salaries in Belleville and across the metro-east, you can check out the News-Democrat’s public pay database at bnd.com.
Salvatore will retire in May as director of Human Resources and Community Development, and the city plans to hire a new H.R. director. She started with the city in 2016 after working at Southwestern Illinois College.
However, the community development duties will now be handled by Spearman. This includes the General and Community Assistance Program that was formed when the city took over responsibilities of the former Belleville Township in 2017.
Eckert praised Salvatore’s effort in absorbing the township’s duties of assisting the poor, and he believes Spearman will excel in his new assignment because of his experience in helping homeless persons who stop in the library to cool off, warm up or use the restroom.
“Leander stepped up to the plate and said, ‘I’m interested in doing it,’” Eckert said. “And it really made sense because he deals with so many of the homeless that come to the library already.”
Spearman, who will remain as library director, will get a $10,000 raise effective May 1. His current salary is $79,624.
Also, Peggy Hamilton will be the Risk Manager/Human Resources and Community Development assistant. She will get a $5,000 raise on May 1 to her current salary of $50,429. She has been asked to work with neighborhood associations and attend community meetings at night.
Eckert said he is pleased with how the new department of Residential and Commercial Development Services has worked out so far, but it’s too early to say if it will be made permanent.
The former housing director’s position was eliminated, and other employees were given new assignments.
Here’s a roundup of the changes made in January:
▪ Annissa McCaskill is the interim director of the Residential and Commercial Development Services Department in addition to her position as director of Economic Development, Planning & Zoning. She received a one-year stipend of $10,000 to raise her salary from $79,624 to $89,624.
▪ Police Chief Bill Clay and Assistant Police Chief Matt Eiskant were given additional housing and code enforcement duties and received a $10,000 stipend for one year. This raised Clay’s salary to $124,479 and Eiskant’s to $118,834.
▪ Jeff Heidorn remained as the building commissioner and oversees the building inspectors. He also took on the job as assistant director of the Residential and Commercial Development Services Department. He was given a one-year stipend of $5,000, and his salary under the new program is $74,547.
These pay raises total $35,000, but compared to the cost of the salary, benefits and taxes for a new housing department director, the city expects to save an estimated $67,500 with the changes.
“It’s … being smart enough to take the opportunity and see where we can work smarter and where we can do things in a fashion that might, yeah, one, possibly save us a little bit of revenue, but two, you know, increase customer service and quality of service by working more intelligently than just doing things the way we always did them just because that’s the way it was,” Eckert said.
But all the changes are scheduled to be reviewed by the administration and City Council in a year.
“If they all start coming to me and saying, ‘I’m killing ’em,’ then we’re going to have to regroup and rethink it,” Eckert said.