Council approves appropriations ordinance

Commissioner Novak abstains, calls for transparency

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By Robert J. Lifka

Contributing reporter

The Forest Park Village Council approved an appropriations ordinance at its July 24 meeting. Commissioners authorized spending $27,976, 018 in the general fund, an increase of 4.8 percent over last year. The overall appropriation is $49,073,563, an increase of 4.6 percent over last year.

The general fund covers the village's working budget and day-to-day expenses. Other funds are special revenue funds, debt service funds, the enterprise fund and the public library fund. The fiscal year began May 1 and will end on April 30, 2018.

Following a public hearing that preceded the regularly scheduled village council meeting, the ordinance was approved 4-0 with Commissioner Dan Novak abstaining.

The appropriation ordinance will be the basis of the property tax levy, which will be approved and filed with Cook County in December.

Novak explained after the meeting that commissioners had only received their budget binders two weeks ago and no budget workshops had been held unlike in previous years.

"I understand the need to approve the appropriation ordinance by the end of the first quarter [July 31] but I believe in the need for transparency and operate under a different fiscal principal," he said.

During the meeting, Mayor Anthony Calderone acknowledged that budget workshops had not been held but promised at least one that would be scheduled. He added it would be open to the public.

Commissioner Joseph Byrnes also addressed the issue, noting that village officials had waited for the Illinois Legislature to approve a state budget so they would have a better idea of what the village revenue would be.

"And now they're talking about charging a two percent commission on what they send us," he added.

Calderone called the increases "typical," and added that although this year's general fund appropriation and overall appropriation are higher than last year's, the increases are not as steep. Last year, the general fund appropriation increased 8.3 percent and the overall appropriation increased 6.1 percent. 

"Last fiscal year was challenging because of our state mandated consolidation of the 911 center and we had to replace some expensive gear at public works that simply could not wait anymore," Calderone explained, noting that no capital expenses are expected this year.

Following the mandate of the consolidated dispatch law, Forest Park ended operations of the village's 911 center this year and joined the West Suburban Consolidated Dispatch Center (WSCDC), which is based in River Forest and oversees emergency requests for that village as well as Elmwood Park, Oak Park and Park Ridge. The law requires municipalities throughout the state with populations of less than 25,000 to consolidate their police and fire dispatch operations by mid-2017. 

Village Finance Director Letitia Olmsted explained that joining the WSCDC led to some changes within the village's financial structure.

"The general fund will now reflect the expenses for consolidated dispatch in public affairs," she said. "This includes the expenses for conversion to WSCDC and operational expenses. 

Olmsted also noted that the police and fire pensions are funded at 100 percent per fiscal year 2016 actuarial valuations.

Categories in the general fund that saw increases are Office of Public Affairs, which includes the Police Department and Community Center, up from $8,755,975 to $8,947,963, and Office of Accounts and Finance, which includes the Fire Department, up from $12,435,814 to $14,218,159. 

Categories in the general fund that saw decreases are Office of Health and Safety, down from $593,105 to $545,100; Office of Streets and Public Improvements, down from $2,272,510 to $1,866,672; and Office of Public Property, down from $2,627,433 to $2,398,123. 

Olmsted attributed the decreases to overall reduction in line items and no expectation of capital expenditures.

Special revenue funds are up from $7,424,000 to $10,496,300; enterprise fund, up from $8,087,450 to $8,099,496; and public library fund, up from $1,941,000 to $1,957,000. Debt service funds are down from $2,936,000 to $713,750. 

Olmsted explained the changes in the special revenue funds and the debt service fund are due to the reclassification of the Forest Park Mall Tax Increment Financing (TIF) from debt service to special revenue.  She also noted that the special revenue funds reflect the construction costs associated with the Roosevelt Road project, which also led to the increase.

Calderone said increases in expenses are usually tied to personnel costs, noting that village officials could use hard numbers this year since all union employees are under contract.

"The credit for accounting and reporting belongs to Letitia Olmsted, who as our finance director does an exemplary job at managing a very large multi-account government fund with only one other assistant," Calderone said. "All of our department heads don't just try to live within our means they indeed do just that. Barring unforeseen circumstances we all live within our means."

Reader Comments

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Michelle Andres Fitz-Henry  

Posted: July 27th, 2017 9:22 PM

What about the video gambling money that was going to be such a big help to the Village? How do you vote for an increase with no explanation?

Jordan Kuehn  

Posted: July 27th, 2017 1:43 AM

Thank you Dan Novak for insisting on transparency and abstaining from this vote.

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