Forest Parkers who owe fines to the village may find a bite removed from their state income tax refunds under a new agreement with the Illinois State Comptroller’s Office.

Mayor Anthony Calderone mentioned the new state statute at a village council meeting, March 12. New rules allow local municipalities to subtract unpaid scofflaw revenue from state tax refund checks. The Local Debt Recovery program went into effect Jan. 1. Village Administrator Tim Gillian said, “We would send an electronic list of our outstanding debts to the state. Then they could come back and tell us what they think they could potentially recover. It’s a potential revenue source.”

Currently, the village notifies scofflaws by mail if they have not paid their outstanding traffic tickets, fines or fees. Certain unpaid debts double after a certain period, said Village Administrator Tim Gillian. If they remain unpaid, village debts are turned over to two collection agencies, Municipal Recovery Services, Inc. and Receivables Management Inc. (RMI) to try to collect old debt.

The city of Chicago rushed to get into the program to collect revenue from this year’s refunds, said Gillian. Already the city is receiving complaints of fines for 20-year-old parking tickets being withheld from tax refunds.

Gillian said he wasn’t sure how far back the potential debts would be collected. But he thinks no one should be surprised when the village withholds a portion of their tax refund. “We send out multiple notices to [scofflaws]. They’re not victims,” he said. “It doesn’t matter if it’s five or 10 years old. You still owe a debt to the village.” He said state rules would determine parameters of what could be collected.

The village will have to act fast if it wants to withhold funds from this year’s refunds. The soonest the ordinance can appear on the village agenda will be April 9, only seven days before the April 16 tax deadline. “This may have to happen next year,” Gillian conceded. “We’re not going to be able to take [scofflaws’] checks back.”

Jean Lotus loves community journalism. She covers news, features, two school boards, village council, crime, park district and writes obits for Forest Park Review. She also covers the police beat for...