There is only so far you can cut a budget. Forest Park's village leaders have concluded they have reached that point in their effort to balance a particularly difficult annual budget imbalance. And now they turn to the inevitable and unhappy process of "revenue enhancements."
In a non-Home Rule community such as Forest Park, the options to grow tax revenue are limited by state law. It leaves a raft of hikes in parking ticket fees, additional paid parking spaces, a new sewer tax and an increase in the garbage collection fee.
With last week's grudging nod from the village council, the administration will now go back and quantify how the various mix of revenue builders fit together. It is possible that a community meeting might be held to gauge the reaction of voters.
Transparency is always welcome and laying out the difficult circumstances is a good idea. But the truth is these are the kinds of decisions we elect sincere people to make. No one wants to pay more in fees and taxes, and they are unlikely to come out on a cold November evening to say thanks.
Among the ideas put forward, some are more equal than others and some are just plain overdue. In an aging community, with the infrastructure to prove it, a sewer tax dedicated to fixing, or even getting ahead, of what goes wrong underground is a necessity.
A hike in the garbage fee is a no-brainer. Why there haven't been small but steady increases since 2012 is just a mistake. Take your increases gradually.
The decision to hike the fees Blue Line commuters pay in village lots is also past due. Having a Hillside or Elmhurst resident pay $5 a day, up from $3, is a simple decision. Why not $6? Adding paid parking and limiting it to three hours along Madison Street is also overdue. How many of those precious spaces have been taken up by business owners and employees all these years? Plenty.
We strongly oppose additional red light cameras. These cameras are a scam perpetrated by municipalities on hardworking citizens. They steal cash; they don't improve auto safety.
Having your back to the wall forces clearer thinking. And we like much of what we see here.
Grants beget grants
Cash is king. But if you can't get cash, then a "technical assistance grant" isn't bad. Forest Park's worthy dream of a "Culture Park" on a portion of the village-owned land at the Altenheim just got a boost from the National Park Service.
It comes in the form of free advice and skills from the park service's Rivers, Trails and Conservation Assistance Program in figuring out the viability of the homegrown idea of a performing arts center at Altenheim. These are professionals who will help evaluate what has been, until now, the grassroots dream of talented local people.
Of course, nothing goes forward, nothing gets built without actual cash. Village government is waiting semi-patiently to see if its grant proposal to the RTA/Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning comes through shortly. That's money that would be used to fund a broader feasibility study.
All in all, good headway for the culture park that could.