In discussing a budget proposal for the coming fiscal year, village commissioners heard a pitch Monday night to increase a number of municipal fees, including a gradual hike in the charges for trash collection that would more than double the cost to residents.
The increase in garbage rates was just one of a number of possible fee increases that Village Administrator Michael Sturino recommended to the village council. According to information provided by Sturino, the village pays approximately $870,000 annually for household waste collection, recycling and disposal while collecting only $380,000 in fees to cover the costs.
“We have to stop the bleeding,” Sturino said.
Currently, homeowners in Forest Park pay $6.31 a month for garbage pickup and recycling. Sturino recommended that the council raise the monthly fee to $8.78 this year, increase the fee again to $12.47 on Jan. 1, 2008, and increase it again to $14.61 on Jan. 1, 2009.
Commissioner Mike Curry, however, suggested raising the monthly fee to $10 this year, $12 in 2008 and to $14 in 2009. Curry’s use of round numbers seemed to win support from the rest of the village council, though no action was taken at Monday’s night session.
Even if the monthly fee is increased to $14.61, the village would still be subsidizing more than 17 percent of refuse collection at today’s cost, according to Sturino.
Mayor Anthony Calderone said that fee increases are something the council must seriously consider.
“Certainly fees in general are an area that we need to analyze and I think in some cases it would be appropriate to incrementally raise those fees,” Calderone said.
The preliminary budget Sturino presented to the village council assumed the increase in garbage rates, but no other fee increases. The budget calls for revenues of $21,377,741 for fiscal year 2008, which began May 1. This represents a 13.2 percent increase over the 2007 budget. The proposal also called for spending $21,221,370, an 11.9 percent increase in spending over last year’s budget. Sturino said the proposed budget has little wiggle room.
“We just don’t have the money to fund major or huge, new initiatives,” Sturino said.
The garbage collection fee has not increased for at least 10 years in Forest Park, Sturino said. Comparatively, Forest Park’s rates are lower than in nearby communities. Residents of Oak Park pay between $13.70 a month and $16.25 a month for residential waste pickup and residents of River Forest pay from $12.16 a month to $19.64 a month, according to a handout prepared by Sturino. The monthly rate for garbage pickup in Elmwood Park is $15.50, and is $20.03 a month in Berwyn.
Garbage picked up in Forest Park is handled by BFI under a five-year contract with the village. That contract has three years remaining on it.
A number of other fee increases and revenue enhancements were also presented by Sturino. These include charging each household in town a $1 sewer fee, increasing permit fees in the building department by an unspecified amount, increasing the bills for ambulance service to non-residents by about 6 percent to remain in line with Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements, and increasing fines for local ordinance violations such as parking fines, curfew violation, and property maintenance code violations.
Sturino also suggested that the council authorize referenda to ask voters for another .5 percent increase in the sales tax to raise approximately $1 million annually. Those funds would upgrade aging infrastructure and better assure the long-term financial outlook of the village, Sturino said.
In 2003 voters approved raising the sales tax by the same amount to pay for the Village Improvement Project.
The village council will continue its budget workshop on July 2 at 6:30 p.m. at village hall. The budget must still be considered at a public hearing before it is approved. It is likely that the public hearing on the budget will take place on July 9 and the final budget could be approved that evening.