Forest Park’s budget for Fiscal Year 2022, which began on May 1, 2021 and will end in April 30, 2022, is expected to have a $3.67 million deficit, but the village is hoping to offset some of that with the money from the last COVID-19 federal stimulus package.
The village expects to get around $1.69 million in American Rescue Plan Act, stimulus funding. The funding can be used to cover health-related excess, address economic impacts from the pandemic, fill in gaps in public sector revenue and invest in water, sewer and broadband infrastructure. Forest Park has until Dec. 31, 2024 to commit the funds, and the village plans to use it to cover the eligible expenses over the next few years.
The village uses what Village Administrator Moses Amidei described as an “appropriations-based budget,” with the appropriations ordinance setting the maximum amount the village can spend and the budget document acting as a less formal blueprint. The village council unanimously adopted the appropriations ordinance during its July 26 meeting.
While the village projected an over $6.86 million deficit for last fiscal year’s budget, it ended Fiscal Year 2021 with a $1.38 million surplus through a combination of better-than-expected revenues and postponing some capital projects. The FY2022 budget assumes that tax revenues will continue to recover while making more conservative projections on fines and fees. Most appropriations are set at a higher level. As Amidei explained during the meeting, they wanted to have wiggle room just in case the revenue is higher than expected.
The budget has two major priorities: resuming many infrastructure projects that were delayed due to the pandemic and replacing the aging vehicle fleet. As part of the appropriations ordinance, the village agreed to reserve revenue from fines and penalties to cover police vehicle replacement and revenue from the Forest Park’s Motor Fuel Tax to replace other village vehicles.
The budget calls for 19 % increase in overall expenditures in the General Fund, which covers most day-to-day expenses, spending around $14.86 million. The appropriations are set at $29.27 million.
Most of the increase is due to regularly scheduled salary increases, many of which were paused in 2020 during the pandemic, as well as the fact that many departments are returning to full staffing. Police and Fire plan to replace one vehicle each, Streets Department plans to buy a replacement pickup truck, and the Department of Public Property is budgeting $190,000 to buy a new salt truck. The village also plans to replace Forest Park Community Center’s HVAC system and is applying for federal grants to buy more firefighter radios and police body cameras and dash cameras.
The village will set up dedicated funds to replace more municipal vehicles. The funding for the vehicles, other than emergency service vehicles, would come from the local share of the Motor Fuel Tax, which took effect on June 1, 2020. It brought in $147,160 in FY2021 and is expected to bring in $381,745 in FY2022 — the same amount as the village appropriated. The funding for replacing police vehicles will come from a portion of the fines and penalties. While the village is expected to get $146,553 in fines during FY2022, the appropriation reserves only $76,550 of that. Forest Park will also use the previously collected $110,644 that hasn’t been spent yet.
According to the village’s budget documents, last year’s revenue estimates were conservative due to the expected impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. The village got 1.7% more in property taxes than expected. Over the past few years, the state took around 10-15% of the tax revenue it collected on the municipalities’ behalf as a processing fee, but it didn’t impose the fee in 2020 and 2021, which brought in extra $229,980 in FY2021. Since the allocations are based on the latest census data and 2020 census data is still being processed, it’s not clear how much Forest Park will get in FY2022.
The village expects the revenues to continue to increase as the economy recovers, with the budget assuming a 2.4% increase in property tax revenue and a 5.5% increase in revenues as the village’s portion of state taxes.
The village’s revenue from utility and franchise taxes, which include landlines, phones and cable television, had been declining before the pandemic, and the FY2022 budget assumes that the trend will continue. While Forest Park can impose a tax on streaming services, which the village estimates would bring in around $32,000, the village decided against it this year.
The village is still waiting to receive $34,422 in FEMA reimbursements for pandemic-related expenses. The deadline for those grants has been extended to September 2021, but in the meantime, staff has been tracking expenses that might also be eligible for reimbursement.
Outside the general fund, the village plans to use the water fund on projects that were delayed last year due to concerns about revenues — $100,000 will be used to upgrade the Jackson Pumping Station, and it also plans to do various water main, and water and sewer improvements. Forest Park will create a village-wide camera system, with 70% of the costs covered through Tax Increment Financing (TIF) district funding, and the rest coming from federal grants and the police fund.
When a TIF is created, the amount of money taxing bodies collect is frozen, and any tax increases get deposited into a TIF funds. All three Forest Park TIFs ended FY2021 with a loss, with the Roosevelt/Hannah TIF and Roosevelt Road Corridor TIF collecting 38% and 36% of expected property tax revenue, respectively.
Brown Street Station TIF, which includes the CTA railyard and nearby residential areas near Harlem Avenue, will expire in 2013. The money is budgeted for improvements of the Metra/CTA viaduct near Harlem Avenue, as well as for the north water tower painting project, which is being held up due to legal issues. The TIF had a year-end balance of around $3.72 million, and the FY2022 budget projects a loss of around $1.18 million
The Roosevelt/Hannah TIF, which includes most of the Forest Park Plaza mall, would be used to help fund the South Area Sewer Separation Project, as well as toward the south water tower rehabilitation. The TIF had around $3.67 million at the end of FY2021, but the budget projects a $73,728 loss for FY2022.
The Roosevelt Road TIF, which runs along Roosevelt Road north of the Forest Park Plaza, ended FY2021 with a $1.16 million balance, but FY2022 budget projects a $185,710 loss.
Other than contributing to the South Area Sewer Separation Project, the budget doesn’t allocate the funding for any specific project.