The Forest Park Village Council heard an update from Springfield at Monday’s meeting from the village’s lobbyist, Matt O’Shea. Income taxes, pension obligations and the state’s bite of the municipal tax were on his report, as well as updates from the “new frontier” of medical marijuana sales in Illinois. A publicist from a business hoping to open a medical cannabis dispensary also spoke briefly to the council.
Income taxes are going down from 5 to 3.25 percent with the January sunset of the General Assembly’s “temporary tax hike,” O’Shea said, leaving a hole in the state budget of $4 billion a year that the state will have to make up.
This year Springfield legislators scrambled to finish the fiscal year with “interfund borrowing,” O’Shea said. Most importantly, state legislators didn’t confiscate any of the sales and income tax they collect for municipalities in the Local Government Distribution Fund. This means the village of Forest Park will receive all money owed.
“We survived another year,” O’Shea said.
The bad news was a mandate for unfunded pension liabilities with the passing of Senate Bill 1. The bill sets in place a property tax trigger for underfunded police and fire pensions that dip below 90 percent funding. The state can seize funds owed from the Local Government Distribution Fund to make up the difference, starting in 2016. The village of North Riverside has already made proposals to privatize its fire department, he said, to avoid accruing any more pension obligations.
O’Shea gave commissioners a breakdown of grant money available for capital improvements from the state. These included the $2.3-million facelift grant for Roosevelt Road and a capital grant of $250,000 to build a backup generator at the Hannah Avenue pump station.
Calling the legalization of medical cannabis a “fascinating new endeavor for Illinois,” O’Shea gave an update on the situation. He said the rules for applying are being hammered out and municipalities could expect to see applications for medical marijuana dispensaries as soon as August or September. Sixty dispensaries will initially open in Illinois, with one in the three-township area of Proviso, Leyden and Norwood.
Mayor Anthony Calderone told the council at the last meeting he had been approached by a Forest Park business owner about opening a dispensary business. At Monday’s meeting, Tanya Griffin, a medical publicist for Water and Trees Growth Management said her unnamed client was interested in opening a dispensary in Forest Park.
“We are a medical group. We have some doctors and a pharmacist and we would love to locate a dispensary in Forest Park,” she said.
Commissioner Chris Harris asked if a public hearing would be held to get input from residents.
“There’s definitely going to be public reaction on this,” Harris said.
Village Attorney Michael Durkin said any zoning ordinance changes would require a public hearing, which allow a place for citizen input.
O’Shea said the benefits to having a medical cannabis dispensary in Forest Park would create 3-7 jobs, as well as a 1 percent sales tax paid to the village. He said some dispensaries offer a “host fee” to the community.
State laws prohibit medical dispensaries in any district zoned residential, leaving part of the Madison Street business district and the Industrial Drive neighborhood as potential sites, the village was told.
“As far as patient demand and foot traffic, we’re not going to know the real numbers,” O’Shea said.