The beauty that’s offered to us by numbers and mathematics is in the absolutes. Two and two is four. There’s no discussion or scenario that will change the outcome of that equation.
What can change though, are the circumstances to which we try and apply these certainties. At village hall, Finance Director Judy Kovacs is responsible for periodic updates on the spending habits of municipal employees and elected officials. Part of that duty includes forecasting whether there’s enough money to maintain the status quo. According to Kovacs’ March 10 report, Forest Park is going to fall woefully short and will perhaps need to borrow money in order to pay its bills.
This grim news should be tempered by the fact that Kovacs predicted a similar shortfall last year, and though a deficit was realized, it wasn’t nearly as staggering as we were warned. Both Kovacs and Village Administrator Mike Sturino acknowledge the finance director’s tendency to hedge her bets and project conservatively. This is a good thing because it helps prevent the village from overextending itself.
However, if Kovacs’ estimate for the current fiscal year plays out like that of 2007, she will have missed the mark by roughly $1 million. For the laymen sitting on the village council who rely on the expertise that Kovacs provides, it’s difficult to say how these reports are of much benefit. After looking at the March projection that Forest Park will be more than $1.6 million in the hole at the end of April, it would seem perfectly logical for commissioners to make sweeping cuts and order all work be done by candlelight to cut down on utility costs.
Oddly enough, what’s preventing our elected officials from hitting the panic button is a conflicting report from Sturino, Kovacs supervisor. That the village’s top financial advisors are so far apart in their assessment of the bottom line this close to the fiscal yearend is, well, odd. Perhaps this dynamic is completely agreeable to Sturino, Kovacs and the commissioners, but it strikes us as strange that the village would release a statement that it has every reason to doubt. At the very least, such a move will confuse taxpayers trying to get a handle on how well their money is being managed. At worst, village employees and elected officials could too easily dismiss the signs of a looming crisis based on the source of those warnings.