Park District Managers Bristle at Losing Car Perk Controversial Practice Common among Suburbs

By Rackl, Lorilyn | Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL), September 16, 1997 | Go to article overview
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Park District Managers Bristle at Losing Car Perk Controversial Practice Common among Suburbs


Rackl, Lorilyn, Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL)


Byline: Lorilyn Rackl Daily Herald Staff Writer

Luke Strojny spends a lot of time on the golf course - it's his job.

And to do the job of greens superintendent for the Hoffman Estates Park District, Strojny gets a 1996 pickup truck provided by the district.

When Strojny leaves work, the truck does, too. Like several of his colleagues, he's allowed to use the car for professional and personal reasons, within some limits.

And the park district picks up the tab.

At least that was the policy until commissioners voted earlier this year to end the perk.

Tonight a new park board will grapple with an old question: Should the district provide cars to its upper-level managers?

The longtime practice may be controversial, but certainly not uncommon.

Many Northwest suburban park districts don't just furnish a handful of upper-level managers with cars. They pay for fuel, maintenance and insurance as well.

Schaumburg Park District has a fleet of six Ford Tauruses for its higher ranking staff.

Mount Prospect spent $7,506 last year to keep its four employee cars gassed up and running. Only six of the 19 park districts surveyed did not provide or pay for cars.

The private sector, meanwhile, appears to be putting the brakes on company cars for key employees.

A study by Lincolnshire-based Hewitt Associates shows that 57 percent of large companies surveyed last year provide senior managers with company cars.

That's down from 1985, when 71 percent of the companies gave cars to top staff.

Company cars, flights in first class, country-club memberships - they're just a few of the bonuses to become casualties in the leaner and meaner business environment of today.

"Part of the increased cost-consciousness businesses experienced in the late '80s and early '90s led to the elimination of many of these types of perks," said Marc Knez, associate professor at the University of Chicago's graduate school of business.

But most park districts continue to supply certain staffers with a set of wheels.

And that sparked a good deal of debate last year among Hoffman Estates park commissioners, who voted in January to take away district-owned cars for everyone but the executive director.

"We don't need to be in the car business," said former park Commissioner Pat Wilson, who pushed the board to re-examine its car policy. "If you look at what's happening in the private sector, the trend definitely is moving away from giving company cars."

Several top-level Hoffman Estates Park District employees were given until the end of the year to turn in their keys.

In return, they'd get a one-time $2,500 salary boost.

Not exactly a fair trade, according to park board President Dave Jacobs.

"Ninety-plus percent of the park districts around here furnish transportation for key people," Jacobs said.

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