Chicago sets pace for water rate increases

Village Administrator Michael Sturino has proposed raising water rates in Forest Park by 44 percent over three years. Sturino suggested raising water rates 15 percent this year, 15 percent in 2009, and 14 percent in 2010. The increases would, if adopted by the village council, exactly mirror the increases that the city of Chicago has imposed on Forest Park.

“If we do nothing, our water fund balance will go negative, and that’s not a good thing,” Sturino said. “Our fund is going to continue to go down precipitously.”

Since the city of Chicago raised the rates it charges to deliver water to Forest Park from Lake Michigan, the village is now spending $1.15 for every $1 it takes in from local water bills.

At the start of the year, Chicago raised its delivery charge for water by 15 percent. In 2009 Chicago will raise its rates another 15 percent and in 2010 there will another spike of 14 percent.

“This is just going to keep us even,” Mayor Anthony Calderone said of the proposal local increases.

The village council is expected to vote on the water rate increase at its Feb. 11 meeting.

School official says audit no cause for worry

In an update received by District 209 Board of Education members at their Jan. 28 meeting, school officials assured the board that an ongoing audit of a previously unknown multi-million dollar fund balance will not turn up any improprieties. A sum of slightly more than $6.9 million was discovered June 30, 2007, in the district’s bond and interest fund. This is unusual, according to the district’s business administrator, because the fund is controlled by the Cook County Clerk and the school has no control over what is levied for the account.

Records have revealed that the excess fund balance dates back to at least 1995 when the account carried some $5.4 million. It is still not clear how the money was accrued or how the district might be able to use the cash. However, Assistant Superintendent for Accounts and Finance Nikita Johnson assured the board that “there is no need to begin placing blame or developing conspiracy theories.”

Proviso Township high schools are carrying more than $68 million in bond debt, according to Johnson, and are facing a projected year-end deficit of $11.3 million. Further exacerbating the financial picture is the likelihood that the district’s savings will dry up at the end of the fiscal year. A deficit of $201,700 is projected, “meaning we no longer have savings in the bank to cover yearly operating deficits,” Johnson said in her report.

Liquor post may be rescinded

Since voting nearly three months ago to hire a part-time hearing officer to preside over alleged liquor license violations, the village has not yet filled the position. Village Administrator Mike Sturino said recently he has had no discussions with other public officials with respect to filling the post, and the mayor said he could ask the council to reverse its decision.

At a Nov. 13, 2007, council meeting, commissioners unanimously approved the position after Mayor Anthony Calderone requested additional staffing be brought in. Calderone also serves as the liquor commissioner in Forest Park, in accordance with state law, and draws a $10,000 salary. As prescribed by statute, the liquor commissioner hears complaints and rules on those matters. If the position were filled, the liquor adjudicator would recommend dispositions to Calderone, who would have the final say.

Calderone asked for the additional staffing because the duties are pulling him away from other tasks, he said at the time. Immediately following the council’s vote, the mayor confirmed he had not held an adjudication hearing in the previous 12 months.

At the time of the vote it was not clear what the adjudicator would be paid, but any wages would be determined by the council, according to the November ordinance.

A girls only gathering

The community center will host an evening of fun exclusively for girls this month with Girls Nite ’08. From 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Feb. 22, girls age 6 and older are invited to learn how to make body lotions and foaming soaps while enjoying music, food and raffle prizes. Registration for this event is required and the cost is $12 per child.

The Howard Mohr Community Center is located at 7640 Jackson Blvd., (708) 771-7737.

Essay contest for eighth-graders

A community group that has functioned largely as a government watchdog in Forest Park is sponsoring an essay contest for eighth-grade students and will award $500 in savings bonds. Citizens United in Forest Park will accept 750-word essays during the spring semester beginning in mid February, through the month of April. Students in the public schools, private schools and those who are home-schooled are eligible, according to the group. One boy and one girl will be chosen as winners, each taking home a $250 savings bond.

The essay topic asks students to explain what it means to be a “world citizen,” and will be judged by an anonymous panel of community members, which includes the publisher of the Forest Park Review. Winners will be announced during a CUinFP meeting in May, and if a District 91 student is selected, also at the school’s graduation ceremony. For additional information on contest guidelines, visit www.cuinfp.org.