Forest Park has appropriated about $10.2 million more for the 2023-2024 fiscal year than it did during the previous fiscal year to account for major projects, expected grants and regularly scheduled salary increases.

The appropriations ordinance, which the village council unanimously approved during its July 20 meeting, sets the upper limit for how much money it can spend. 

Appropriations tend to be larger than what the village expects to spend to account for unexpected emergencies, grants that may or may not materialize, and any overtime the village may have to pay. While Fiscal Year 2023-2024 began in May, municipalities of Forest Park’s size are required to file an ordinance by the end of the first quarter – in this case, July 31. 

While Forest Park does have a budget, it is treated as a “living document” that doesn’t have to be approved by council vote. The village commissioners did discuss the budget during the July 10 special meeting. Most notably, the village is considering hiring an additional firefighter, phasing out Public Works leaf pickup and updating the zoning code.

The Forest Park Fire Department appropriations were increased by $376,819, from $4.11 million to almost $4.5 million. The village is considering hiring another firefighter, either another lieutenant or another deputy chief, who would serve as EMS coordinator and follow up on ambulance trips that the village didn’t get reimbursed for. Forest Park officials previously complained about the financial impact of responding to medical emergency calls at the Forest Park CTA Blue Line terminal, because many patients have no insurance and the village has to absorb the cost.

The fire department is also looking to replace air packs – something that it hopes to be able to do with grants.

The Streets Department appropriations increased by $178,532, from $1.97 million to $2.15 million. The village is looking to potentially save money by phasing out leaf pickup and having residents bag leaves for the waste hauler contractor to pick up. Forest Park estimates that it would save between $60,000 to $65,000. 

Department of Public Health and Safety appropriations got a relatively small increase of $29,257, from $518,634 to $547,891, to account for the consultant fees for the long-discussed zoning code overhaul. The village is also looking into getting new software to improve the process of applying for building permits and potentially updating the Forest Park comprehensive plan. 

The village is expected to bring in a total of $67.28 million in revenues – a figure that includes grants and funding reserved for specific purposes such as pension payments and the $2.33 million Forest Park Public Library budget, which is largely funded through the property tax the village levies on its behalf. This represents a $4.21 million, or 21%, revenue increase compared to last fiscal year – something that is largely attributed to potential state and federal grants. 

The situation is far from rosy – the budget has an overall deficit of $11.05 million, with the general fund in specific running at a deficit of over $2.9 million.  However, village administrator Moses Amidei previously indicated that the village tends to end up with smaller deficits than projected. 

During the budget meeting, the commissioners and staff discussed the possibility of instituting new taxes, including a cannabis dispensary tax and an additional tax on video gaming terminals. The officials also mulled creating a Special Service Area, which levies an additional property tax within a certain area to fund local services. Such a move would require the approval of the majority of the affected property owners. 

The village council approved the appropriations ordinance unanimously and without comment.