The village missed the deadline to collect fees from overdue tickets for the past two years, Joe Byrnes, commissioner of accounts and finances, said during an endorsement interview at the Forest Park Review office on Feb. 20.
The Review invited all candidates to endorsement interviews, in the run-up to the newspaper’s endorsement for commissioner and mayoral posts for the April election.
“Procrastination means we lose revenue,” Byrnes said at the interview.
The village has not had a collection agency since early 2018, when it ended its relationship with Genesis Business Group. The firm served as the village’s collection agency for at least five years. The village has yet to hire a new collection company.
Because Forest Park does not have a collection agency, fees from overdue tickets are not being collected, Byrnes said.
When overdue tickets are not collected, the village must alert the Illinois Comptroller’s Office in order to participate in the comptroller’s Local Debt Recovery Program, which deducts unpaid municipal fines from state income tax refunds.
The village missed the deadline to report violators to the state for the last two years.
Byrnes estimated the village has tickets from October 2017 that it has not collected on.
“I think there’s about $750,000 worth of revenue out there, if I’m quoting what I got from two people over in the parking division,” he said. “That does not include the $55,000 that’s owed to us from the old collection agency, plus the tickets they still have.”
Byrnes added: “We have this money out there, we’re in the hole, let’s try and recoup some of this money through the parking tickets. I didn’t park illegally and get a ticket. You parked illegally, you didn’t pay the ticket and it went to collections. You didn’t pay the collections, so they’re going down to the [comptroller] and report you down there. So when you’re getting a tax return, they’re going to take that money out of there because it’s an obligation.”
Village Administrator Tim Gillian did not respond to interview requests about the matter.
In an earlier article, Leticia Olmsted, village finance director, cited the lack of a new collection agency as a contributing factor to the shortfall in fines revenue for fiscal year 2018. Fiscal year 2018 stretched from May 1, 2017 to April 30, 2018.
According to the village’s fiscal year 2018 financial audit, fines were budgeted at $1,330,000 but actual revenue was $972,811.
In addition to the change in collection agencies, Olmsted tied the decrease to the fact that red-light cameras on Roosevelt Road were not operating during the reconstruction project there.
She also said past-due fines are not being collected currently but village officials expect that some past-due debt will be realized once the new collection agency is in place. The collection agency also collects overdue parking tickets.