Chronic budget challenges

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We are about 75 days out from an election that will bring Forest Park a new mayor and, at a minimum, two new members of the village council. Campaign mode rightly brings optimistic visions and bigger ideas. Forest Park can surely use those virtues.

But come April the election will be over, farewells said, and opening statements made. Then our new mayor and the remade village council will need to face the sobering and immediate challenges of Forest Park's troubled municipal finances.

There is no blame being cast here. Things are tough all over for small, non-home rule towns where sales taxes are challenged, pension obligations are ballooning and options for raising fees and fines are about exhausted.

Last week Crowe Horwath, the village government's financial auditors, offered the good news that Forest Park's financial systems are clean as a whistle but that the financial results are slipping as revenues are challenged, costs increase, financial reserves are about spent, and the option of dipping repeatedly into the village's water fund to balance the books isn't really a fix and limits necessary investments in the water infrastructure.

As Mayor Anthony Calderone said at the end of the auditor's presentation, "The numbers are what they are. The community will have significant challenges ahead."

Those challenges will have to come on both the economic development side in a necessary bid to hike revenues but painfully also on the spending side. Forest Park appears to be a skinny operating machine but there will need to be creativity and some capacity for pain to take costs out.

As the election nears, residents need to expect cogent answers on finance from all candidates. Hopes that the redo of Roosevelt Road will lead to a magical funding source won't cut it.

 Police fully staffed

Might be a moment too soon to celebrate as multiple future members of the Forest Park Police Department wrap up training or are about to enter the Chicago Police Academy. But it is a notable accomplishment that our police department is on the verge of being fully staffed for the first time since 2017.

A combination of retirements and duty disability claims has left the department undermanned. The result has been more overtime than any officer would want, a situation that creates both budget strains and overtaxed officers and supervisors.

The 38-member force has added 11 probationary officers since early 2017. Chief Tom Aftanas said last week as two officers — Chris Chin and Nick Petrovic — were promoted to supervisory posts that the number of officers with less than five years of service has spiked from two to 10 since 2016.

Everything has pros and cons but we're glad to see new officers join this department and new supervisors rising in the ranks. Under Aftanas, we see nothing but renewed focus on strong and connective community policing. These new supervisors and officers will allow that energy to grow.

Reader Comments

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Michelle Andres Fitz-Henry  

Posted: January 28th, 2019 10:36 PM

If I could not run my household without having to depend on gambling to keep it - I wouldn't have one. You view this as a "defeat" "of a revenue stream." I look it as a "win" over a crutch and a bandaid.

Amy Binns-Calvey  

Posted: January 26th, 2019 11:12 AM

Whoops! So much for proofreading! The article shows that the costs of VG DO outweigh the benefits to the state and local municipalities. (Apparently I need more coffee before writing...)

Amy Binns-Calvey  

Posted: January 26th, 2019 9:16 AM

There was a recent article published by ProPublica that showed, especially in Illinois, that the costs of VG do not outweigh the benefits to the state and local municipalities. (This would have been a great resource if it had come out before the vote!) I believe FP dodged a bullet. The article is "How Illinois Bet on Video Gambling and Lost." It was published 1/16/19 and is a fascinating read. The Village has been able to generate revenue and business ideas before VG, and I'm confident that if we elect smart, dedicated folks we'll be able to do it again.

Jan Stephens  

Posted: January 24th, 2019 8:25 PM

Yes, John R. Hosty, Jr., we ARE proud of our anti-VG success. Thank you for the recognition!

Jerry Webster  

Posted: January 23rd, 2019 10:27 PM

Right you are John, but you support fixing our problems with gamboling and drugs don't you.

John R. Hosty Jr.  

Posted: January 23rd, 2019 11:45 AM

But the anti-VG group can be proud of their defeat and removal of a revenue stream as well as economic business support bring other revenue streams. Brilliant!

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