The Oak Lawn Village board passed the 2012 general budget Tuesday but not before dotting some “i’s” and ruffling the feathers of the village’s largest employer first.
The village board approved a budget of $53,557,700 for next year—approximately $13.98 million more than 2011.
The state constitution requires municipalities to pass a balanced budget. The village has been grappling with a projected $3 million budget shortfall that village manage Larry Deetjen has attributed to increased pension and public safety costs.
To help close the gap, the village board approved increasing the home rule sales tax from .50 to .75, commensurate with other nearby communities.
The village board also passed two ordinances designed to raise revenue for the village by charging a parking lot and garage operations tax at Advocate Christ Medical Center. The parking lot tax would not affect the Metra parking garage and other municipal lots.
The second ordinance is a “community health services” fee, which is expected to generate an additional $700,000 in revenue for the village. Park Ridge has a similar arrangement for Advocate Lutheran General Hospital. That revenue stream is expected to increase after the new expansion is competed.
Both were described as “the cost of doing business” in Oak Lawn, because of the medical center’s impact on the village’s infrastructure and police and fire services.
Deetjen said that the medical center would have a choice which of the two fees to implement, and the other ordinance would be taken off the books.
“I’m giving them an option of what’s best for the hospital,” the village manager said. “All the feedback I received from the parties in Park Ridge where they have had a financial relationship for years … this was the way to go.”
Mayor Dave Heilmann said he received a letter from Advocate Christ CEO Ken Lukhard, requesting that the village board table voting on the ordinances for 30 days for further discussion.
“Given that we have a positive relationship with them, I think we should afford them that courtesy,” Heilmann said. “I think they deserve that.”
Deetjen said he mentioned the proposed parking tax to Lukhard on Nov. 3 but received no response from the medical center.
Trustee Carol Quinlan (Dist. 5) said she was concerned about the “communications breakdown.”
“I have to think [Advocate Christ] wasn’t so clued into this,” she said.
Trustee Tom Phelan (Dist. 6) said that a parking garage tax wasn’t a “last minute” idea and that Advocate Christ has had that opportunity since Nov. 3.
“They’re communicating on everything that is beneficial to them,” Phelan said, referring to the village expediting plans, zoning variances and permits for Advocate Christ’s new ambulatory pavilion, “but somehow when something isn’t beneficial to them there is a month-long non-responsiveness.”
Deetjen said that communication between the village and Advocate Christ has been “superb.”
“All I’m trying to do is have a couple of options to do what [Advocate Christ] feels is best,” Deetjen added. “I realize they have to work through [Advocate’s corporate board] and they have a chain of command they have to follow. I respect that.”
Trustees shot down the mayor’s motion to table voting on both ordinances until their first village board meeting of the year next month.
The village board approved both ordinances 4-2; trustees Quinlan and Cindy Trautsch were the dissenting votes.
Trautsch said she was concerned that the village was playing “hard ball” with Oak Lawn’s number one employer.