Forest Park received a good report card for the fiscal year ending April 15, 2015, from Crowe Horwath, the village’s auditor, officials learned at the Nov. 23 Village Council meeting.

Bob Grapenthein of Crowe Horwath spoke in positive terms as he provided a summary of his firm’s findings, noting that all opinions in the audit are unmodified or “clean.” Opinions were given for the financial statements, Tax Increment Financing funds, and federal compliance regarding the Catalogue of Federal Domestic Assistance grant the village received.

Despite the challenging economic climate, Forest Park actually increased revenue and held expenditures flat in the general fund over the previous fiscal year. In FY2015, revenue was $17,043,702, up from $16,818,914 in FY 2014, and expenditures were $18,250,836, down slightly from $18,376,757.

Grapenthein noted that even though revenues fell short of the budgeted amount, expenditures also came in under budget, which he termed a “very positive sign.” He explained that few municipalities are able to adjust spending to compensate for lower revenues as Forest Park did.

Forest Park’s total assets also increased in the primary government fund, which Grapenthein explained is “everything mooshed together.” Total assets at the end of FY2015 were $60,790,023, up from $58,075,246 at the end of FY2014. The majority of that increase came in cash and investments, up from $13,680,753 to $16,026,050.

Grapenthein also noted no fraud detected or suspected; no significant or unusual transactions entered; and no uncorrected misstatements. He also said his firm did not encounter any significant difficulties, nor did they have any significant disagreements with management.

Grapenthein cautioned village officials that next year’s audit would tell a different story, following implementation of changes required by the Governmental Accounting Standards Board. GASB Statement 67 revises existing guidelines for the financial reports of most pension plans for state and local governments, including those of Forest Park. In essence, GASB delinked annual funding in relation to the plan document from pension accounting.

Because of these changes, annual pension expense will be based on a comprehensive measurement of the annual cost of pension benefits and no longer be a simple function of annual funding amounts, which Grapenthein estimated could increase the village’s liabilities by $10 million to $20 million.

Lack of response elicits comment

Not satisfied with the perceived lack of a timely response, Brett McNeil pressed his complaint against the Forest Park Police Department at the Nov. 23 Village Council meeting.

At issue is the accuracy of information provided by a Police Department dispatcher to McNeil in July following the death of his mother, longtime Forest Park resident and businesswoman Brenda McNeil, as well as his treatment during that telephone call.

McNeil, a former Forest Park resident now living in Oak Park, sent a letter to Mayor Anthony Calderone in October, expressing his concerns and asking for an investigation.

During the public comments portion of the Nov. 23 meeting, McNeil referred to his letter to Calderone in October and the mayor's response that the village would perform a "complete review" of what took place and set up a time to discuss the outcomes. However, McNeil said in his remarks, addressed to Calderone, that he had yet to be contacted, adding, "Since I haven't heard a word from anyone in the village, I presume your 'complete review' remains ongoing."

McNeil also took issue with comments in a news story about the letter in the Nov. 4 issue of the Review by Police Chief Tom Aftanas, which indicated the village would cover the cost of private transportation of bodies in cases when residents die in their homes and how that differed from what he was told by the dispatcher in July.

"As I said in my letter and in my comments to the paper, I felt my experience with your department that night was surprisingly negative and, with the dispatcher, marked by unprofessionalism," McNeil said. "But as you sit down to Thanksgiving dinner this week and you look at your mom or mother-in-law or aging aunt, I'd like you to think about how you'll respond when she drops dead on the floor someday and the local cops are rude and argumentative when you call for help."

Calderone responded to McNeil's comments by stating that the village's investigation is complete and he was trying to schedule a meeting with all parties involved. Calderone also noted that the scheduling of the meeting had been delayed because the police chief had been on vacation and he also had taken a few days off.

Robert Lifka

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