Governor Pat Quinn’s recent proposal to delay $1 billion in income-tax reimbursements to towns and cities statewide has at least a few Forest Park village officials on edge.
The proposal is an attempt to pay $4.5 billion in overdue bills to schools, hospitals, social service agencies and various vendors statewide. But Forest Park, like other municipalities around Illinois, wants its share of the pie, which the state is three months behind in dishing out.
Mayor Anthony Calderone and Commissioners Mark Hosty and Tom Mannix traveled to Springfield earlier this month in part for the annual West Cook Municipal Conference – a summit for representatives of municipal governments statewide – but mostly to petition legislators and the governor to abandon Quinn’s proposal. The trip was necessary, Hosty noted, because the state’s plan could blow a $331,507 hole in the village’s brand-new, fiscal year 2012 budget, according to calculations by the Illinois Municipal League. What’s more, village officials have not addressed exactly how they plan to deal with the possible delay in payments.
“We’d have to adjust our budget accordingly,” said Hosty. Board members are still crafting the FY ’12 budget, which has not been disclosed yet.
An incomplete copy of the preliminary FY’12 budget was reportedly leaked and presented at a recent meeting hosted by local non-profit Citizens United in Forest Park (CUinFP). The document states that the preliminary budget is roughly $16.8 million. Hosty and Village Finance Director Judy Kovacs stated that former Accounts and Finance Commissioner Rory Hoskins was the only person to have a copy at the time of its release. Hosty accused Hoskins of leaking the document to CUinFP, and said the move was “irresponsible.”
“I have no idea what he’s talking about,” Hoskins told the Review.
The village is also awaiting payments that will be credited to FY ’11, which ended on April 30. They have not received the end-of-year statements either, but officials predicted a $400,000 surplus.
“The governor’s proposal is for the state’s upcoming fiscal year  that begins July 1, 2011,” Judy Kovacs, finance director for the village, wrote in an email. “All our revenue from the state has not been received, but we expect to receive it, and the revenue has been recorded as receivable [for FY ’11]. If we don’t get it by June 30th, I’ll be really surprised – not to mention disappointed in my state.”
Quinn’s proposal has Forest Park’s elected officials and those of other municipalities sweating because many are already underfunded and operating with limited resources, so any additional hits could be detrimental to core services.
“We have an advantage in Forest Park because we have been fiscally responsible,” Hosty said. “[But] we can’t be taking hits before we start cutting core services. The local government is the first line of defense. At the end of the day, when people dial 911, they want a response.”
It is not totally clear, at this point, how the village will respond to Quinn’s proposal; but Village Administrator Tim Gillian said, “It would be unlikely that we [village] could sustain a hit like that without some major cuts.”
But Calderone called this thinking speculative.
“To try and speculate what services, if any, might be affected if this funding was cut is too premature,” he emailed the Forest Park Review. “Under my leadership, we have always been able to maintain our level of services despite the troubled economy and I will continue to do so.”
Although annual revenues have continued to decline in the village for the last three years, officials pointed to the village’s ability to weather the economic storm without any layoffs.
As for the lobbying in Springfield, the board members opined differently on its effectiveness.
“We met with [state Rep.] Barbara Flynn Currie (D-25) and she basically said we have to share the pain,” said Mannix, in reference to a conversation with the House Majority leader. “We’ve already seen substantial drops in revenue … basically everything has been cut because of the economy.”
Hosty described the possibility of delayed payment as “nerve-wracking,” but was more optimistic about the trip than Mannix, noting that he didn’t think any money would be withheld.
“It was effective. … We had a lot of quality face time,” he said, noting that the three board members met with Flynn Currie, state Rep. Angelo “Skip” Saviano (R-77), state Rep. Tom Cross (R-84), state Rep. Christine Rodogno (R-41), state Rep. Karen Yarbrough (D-7) and state Sen. Don Harmon (D-39).
In a conversation with the Review, Saviano said the village’s “top priority” was getting paid.
“That’s what they were there for,” he added. “I think they did a good job with the legislators.”
Harmon also lauded the trio’s venture downstate.
“When folks take the time to come to Springfield it demonstrates their commitment to the issues they’re advocating,” Harmon said, “I don’t think there’s any questioning that local officials [are riled up] about losing their share of the local income tax.”
Last week a group of mayors and representatives from municipalities throughout the state called a press conference in Chicago to blast the governor’s proposal and to plead their cases. Calderone was not in attendance, though.
Both Saviano and Harmon said they did not support Quinn’s proposal to delay payments to cities and towns throughout the state.
“It’s unwise to balance our [state] budget simply by shifting our responsibility to another [governing body],” Harmon said.
“The alternative is that we have to figure out another way to avoid grabbing that local share through cuts,” Saviano said.
The $4.5 billion is the minimum amount of revenue needed to pay overdue bills, although there is a bill in the Senate that would allow the governor to borrow up to $8.75 billion.
The general assembly is currently in Springfield trying to hammer out a budget deal for FY ’12. In doing so, it must deal with a deficit estimated at $13 billion and total unfunded pension obligations nearing $80 billion.