Tim Gillian

Using an American Express card to pay large village bills such as water and refuse, the Village of Forest Park has earned tens of thousands of dollars in rebates said Administrator Tim Gillian. 

Everything from shredders, flashdrives and laptops to plastic waste bags for the dog park have been purchased with credit points rebated on enormous water bills, leading to rebates of up to $3,000 per month.

Since late 2011 when the village started using a credit card to pay large bills, more than $6.6 million has been paid for the village’s water supply to the City of Chicago with the village’s American Express card. The village pays up to $400,000 in water bills a month. 

In the past two years, the village has also used the American Express card to pay for refuse service, Verizon phone bills and for the purchase of street salt.

American Express rebates “points” of varying value up to one percent of amounts charged. With these credits, the village has purchased office equipment, computers and travel for staff members and commissioners. 

So far, the rebates have totaled $79, 215 saved, Gillian said. 

“A representative from American Express came to us and offered the deal to us,” Gillian said Tuesday. “We couldn’t find a downside to it and started using [the card].”

The village policy says rebate funds can be used for retirement events/gifts, wellness activities, employee attendance at conferences/ training and office supplies. 

Travel costs pay back the biggest rebates, one percent on the dollar. 

The village used AmEx rebate funds to pay for airfare and hotel stays for Mayor Anthony Calderone and the four commissioners to attend the West Central Municipal Conference (WCMC) in Springfield. Points paid for four hotel rooms for $624 each for commissioners Chris Harris, Mark Hosty, Rory Hoskins and Tom Mannix.

Rebates also paid for Village Clerk Vanessa Moritz to travel to municipal clerk and Human Resources conferences in Arizona, Wisconsin, Springfield and Savannah, Georgia last year.

When the village buys online through Amazon.com, the rebate points are 50 cents per $100 spent. 

“It’s not a revenue source, but all of the department heads are aware any time they need to purchase anything, look first to see if it’s available on Amazon,” Gillian said.

The village bought 14 Dell computers with $11,862 worth of credit in 2013.

In 2014, the village bought tools, office and computer supplies with the rebate cash. They also used $3,475 for service awards for the employee holiday party and bought Ribfest aprons and other supplies for $770. The points were used for a $ 953 laptop for the administrative hearing judge.

The village even used the card in Dec. 2013 to pay $689.81 for a toilet, sink and heater in the third floor office at 501 Desplaines Ave. where the Historical Society of Forest Park offices are housed. 

This year, Republic Waste stopped accepting American Express, Gillian said, because it couldn’t absorb the merchant fees charged by AmEx.  

“We’ll try it with any vendor,” Gillian said. “We’ve managed to save almost $80,000 from the general fund.” 

Jean Lotus

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...

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