Like a lot of small towns, the finances of Forest Park’s municipal government have long been fragile. Cash reserves are undersized and being a non-home rule community based on a smaller population, it leaves the village with limited options on growing revenue.
When a global pandemic sweeps in and fully disrupts a full range of traditional revenues — parking fines, sales taxes, parking permits, utility taxes — it causes fiscal pain that is immediate and lasting. Right now, in a frank interview with the Review, Village Administrator Tim Gillian reports internal projections showing overall revenue to the village down 30 to 40 percent in March, April, May and June. And that does not suggest any sort of magical turnaround come July.
It also does not reflect added costs specifically tied to the local response to COVID-19. Will some of those costs be eventually reimbursed through FEMA? That is anyone’s guess as aid to states and cities seems to be a friction point for a federal government jealous of the good work being done locally in so many places, including Forest Park.
So far with revenues in freefall, efforts at village hall have focused on around-the-edges cuts to costs. Spring and summer public plantings are gone, other landscaping has been shifted from a contractor to the public works staff, overtime is down, costs at the community center have been curtailed.
It helps. But it is nowhere near enough to balance the books.
A crisis of this magnitude has also led to informal conversations between village leaders and union leaders to ease some work rules that strictly defined job roles. That would be a good thing for a village so thinly staffed. More flexibility would be welcome.
That said, hard days are ahead. Hard choices are ahead. Sacrifice is ahead.