Forest Park department heads, staff and commissioners discussed the coming year’s budget at a special meeting on July 15, with conversation centering on initiatives in the Public Works Department.

In its general fund, the village is projecting a $1,698,756 deficit for fiscal year 2020, which covers the village’s working budget and day-to-day expenses. Fiscal year 2020 began May 1 and will end on April 30, 2020. The village must approve an appropriations ordinance by the end of July.

Last fiscal year, the village ended with a $147,034 budget shortfall, down from the $1.8 million deficit projected. All numbers from fiscal year 2019 are unaudited projections, since the village is still collecting revenue and paying bills that should be included in fiscal 2019.  

For fiscal 2020, the village has budgeted $3,448,415 for the Public Works Department, a 4.3 percent increase from $3,306,095 the fiscal year prior.  

John Doss, head of Public Works, said an employee will be retiring from his department in the coming week and will not be replaced — realizing approximately $50,000 annually in cost savings. The employee’s duties will be absorbed by an existing staff member. Doss’ only request for the coming year was to buy a new truck to replace a rusted 2004 vehicle. 

“The newer ones are stainless steel, so we won’t have that issue,” Doss said, noting that he planned to meet with the fleet manager in the coming weeks to make a list of the vehicles that required the most maintenance. The village only has one maintenance technician to care for approximately 100 vehicles, which can range from police squad cars to lawn mowers.

“With the truck, I’m all for it if the planets align and we’re able to truly afford it,” Commissioner Dan Novak said at the meeting, adding that “a lot” of the village’s monthly bills involve maintenance.

Village Administrator Tim Gillian said that, if the Forest Park Village Council decided to go through with purchasing a new truck, they would enter into a financing agreement and receive favorable rates from the joint purchasing agreement group the village is a member of.

Last year, Gillian said a consultant from the West Cook County Solid Waste Agency also looked over the village’s garbage and recycling contracts and determined that it would be “silly” for Forest Park to go out to bid over the service since “our rates would jump exponentially.” He noted that anytime the village pays for something, the village council sees the expenditure in its monthly report of bills.

Commissioner Jessica Voogd said she still would like staff to look over Forest Park’s contracts with all of its long-term vendors.

“Just revisiting our vendors we’ve had for a really long time, and cross-checking that we are getting the best prices we can, just making sure we are doing our due diligence,” Voogd said.

Novak called the village’s garbage and recycling service “great” but urged staff to review the number of pickups performed to make sure Forest Park wasn’t paying for vacant properties that do not require the service.

“I’m glad the consultant said we’re getting great pricing, but ultimately with that are we getting what we truly paid for and not any ghost accounts out there?” Novak said.

Gillian said the village completed a total review of the number of properties receiving garbage service about eight years ago, and that staff has kept track of the number of people moving in and out of the village since then. But he said reviewing the number of addresses in the village is a good idea, since tracking technology has probably improved. 

“We do our best, but it’s probably not a bad thing to see if we can find an easier way; even eight years ago databases were nowhere near as comprehensive as they are now,” Gillian said.

He added that, in terms of the water fund, the only big change is Brookfield and North Riverside have stopped purchasing water from Forest Park. The village’s water fund is projected for $9,002,935 for fiscal year 2020, up 35.3 percent from $5,820,282 the year before. Expenditures are also jumping 36.7 percent to a projected $8,701,845 at the end of fiscal 2020, from $5,505,182 the year before. 

Gillian said the village’s engineering firm, Christopher B. Burke Engineering, recently completed a study of the village’s water rates — looking at Forest Park’s entire water system, including leaks, amount collected, what is being built and more — and that he would work to get the firm to give a public presentation on its findings sometime in August. He said a firm also used sonar technology to survey the village’s water mains to look for potential leaks and it found “less than five,” none of which were “really massive.” 

“We plan to keep him on a rotating basis to keep track of stuff for us because, as you know, we have a very aging infrastructure,” Gillian said, estimating it was at least 75 years old. 

He said the village has received a $1.2 million grant from the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District that will help fund a sewer separation project on the far south end of the village along Circle Avenue from 16th Street to Roosevelt Road. The village will invest about $2 million in funds from the Brown Street Tax Increment Financing District (TIF) to complete the project.

“There won’t be any general fund expense to that,” Gillian said, calling the Brown Street TIF balance “very healthy” and noting the project would likely start next year.

Because the state also recently passed a new capital bill, Gillian said the village also hopes to receive previously gifted grants that had been suspended, one of which was for $230,000 for a new generator for a water pumping station. He said he expected to hear in the coming days about whether the state will officially award the money.

“We’ve been told unofficially that money is back in,” Gillian said.

The village could also receive about $550,000 in state funds to repave the Forest Park CTA Blue Line parking lot.

Gillian said the village is also corresponding with the state about pavement defects along Roosevelt Road. 

Several years ago, the village ran the Illinois Department of Transportation project on Roosevelt Road. He said Forest Park completed every task the state called for but noticed “significant” defects in the asphalt almost immediately after it was complete. If the state revisits the Roosevelt Road project, he expects village staff to do the work of resurfacing the pavement but the state to pay for it. Because the village is waiting to hear from the state on this project, he said staff will not complete pavement markings on the road since they will eventually have to grind them down and reinstall them anyway.

“I’m still hopeful the state is going to come in and do the right thing here. They recognize they have a problem, are not quite sure of what the problem was, but they know they have one and it’s on them,” Gillian said.

Mayor Rory Hoskins called for repairs to the Howard Mohr Community Center building, and for replacement of its playground.

“It’s really not up to snuff,” he said.

Gillian said he would add that to the village “wish list” for Hoskins to share with the “couple of state reps who have expressed an interest in helping us.” Gillian noted that the outside of the community center is “falling off,” its parking lots are in “bad shape” and that the retaining wall on the outside edge is in “really bad shape.” He noted that village hall also was constructed with the same stone finish as the community center and that it was also falling off the side of the building in many places.

“So we’ve got a bunch of money that we’re asking for, for a bunch of stuff,” Gillian said.

At a previous budget hearing on July 8, Gillian said attendees discussed such revenue generating ideas as different forms of night parking and adding additional parking meters. He said police and fire chiefs also discussed how their overtime has accumulated and the steps they are taking to try and minimize staff working extended hours. 

“A lot is contractual and a lot is guys on long-term sick leave,” Gillian said.

The village will hold a final public hearing to approve the appropriations ordinance at 6:45 p.m. on July 22 at Village Hall, 514 Desplaines Ave. Once approved, staff said they planned to post the appropriations ordinance on the village website, along with a document outlining the village’s various revenue sources.