The Rockford Housing Authority’s radical departure from business as usual has netted several offers from outside companies to take over management and maintenance of the agency’s properties.
In its effort to balance the budget amid a daunting economic environment, the agency turned to outsourcing this year as a possible solution to the demands of the federal government, which requires a balanced budget for each site.
A handful of the agency’s 10 sites aren’t in compliance, which Director John Cressman says is because the union workers are too expensive: 14 of the 104 employees on RHA’s payroll are not represented by a union.
The board approved cutting spending by $1.3 million in September, when members were already focusing on union wages.
The Housing Authority is in negotiations with its two major unions: the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees and the International Association of Machinists. Both are working on expired contracts.
Cressman said the authority’s interest in outsourcing maintenance and/or management at some or all of its sites is exploratory at this time.
“We are still very anxious to settle with our unions, too,” he said.
The bids are being reviewed by a team of Housing Authority staff and board members, Cressman said, and the team’s assessment could be shared with the authority’s board of commissioners as soon as next month.
Failure to improve cash flow at the troubled sites could mean government intervention, and that, Cressman said, could threaten redevelopment goals.
Still, any decision to outsource, thus eliminating jobs at the Housing Authority, would have to be approved by the authority’s board, Cressman explained; and under its contract AFSCME would be able to submit a counteroffer.
The authority assists 10,000 to 12,000 people with housing subsidies in complexes and individual apartments and homes. Its 2011 budget is $11.5 million.
The agency’s budget problems stem from increased labor costs and less money distributed by the Department of Housing and Urban Development.