After months of trimming down an $8.7 million deficit Oak Lawn trustees finally balanced the 2014 budget, but not before scaring the hell out of the village crossing guards first.
Misinformed by someone that their jobs were going to be eliminated in next year’s budget, the crossing guards showed up in a panic at Tuesday’s village board meeting, only to be informed that they had dodged the bullet--for now.
“It was a proposal that was discussed during the workshops with the board,” Oak Lawn Village Manager Larry Deetjen said, “but there wasn’t a consensus among the board. The budget we’re addressing tonight doesn’t include that alternative.”
Deetjen offered to meet with the village crossing guards to show them “the numbers,” stating that village had looked to Oak Park, which apparently subcontracts its crossing guards, as a model.
“A lot of our concerns deal with, respectfully, certain benefits for part-time employees,” Deetjen continued, referring to pension benefits for some part-time crossing guards.
“[The pension benefits] are really inconsistent with the direction that the village has seen comparing other budgets from other communities,” the village manager said.
Before the village board voted on the budget, Tr. Bob Streit (Dist. 3) said that terminating the village 911 dispatchers and not replacing departing police officers and firefighters were all done “under the guise of a financial crisis.”
“We’ve been hearing about a financial crisis because in August the village manager [claimed] we had an excess of an $8 million deficit,” Streit said. “The village manager would have us believe that he miraculously made an $8 million deficit disappear before our eyes.
Streit alleged that the “crisis” could have been averted by not paying $6.12 million in bond debt “that isn’t due for 10 to 15 years.”
“That’s like going home and telling your family you’re not going to eat next year because you’re going to pay down the mortgage,” he said.
Village Treasurer Pat O’Donnell, to whom Streit kept referring as a “political appointee” because of a $2,500 campaign contribution his wife made to Mayor Sandra Bury, said that August’s projected $8.7 million deficit was indeed real.
“We weren’t paying into our pensions. You can look at the audited financials, we’re spending more than we’re bringing in,” O’Donnell said. “This crisis was going to hit, it was just a matter if you were going to wait two years and let it really crush us and be proactive and doing something about it before we got there.”
Later, more sharp words were exchanged between Streit and O’Donnell, who said that “aside from Mr. Streit, everyone [on the village board] added something.”
“Mayor, that comment by the treasurer was inappropriate,” Streit said.
“Did you meet with [the treasurer] when he asked you to?” Bury asked.
“I attended every single budget hearing, yes, I have,” the trustee answered.
“But you did not meet with him specifically,” the mayor said. “Every other trustee at this table did.”
Bury then asked that the record reflect that she had silenced Streit.
Oak Lawn trustees passed the budget 4-2, with Streit and Tr. Carol Quinlan (Dist. 5) casting the dissenting votes.
2014 budget by the numbers …
Adopted 2013 budget: $49,842,755
Actual 2013 revenue (property, sales, income and gasoline taxes, other misc. fees): $42,821,443 (through Sept. 30, 2013).
Adopted 2014 budget: $52,448,646
2013 vs. 2014 budget variance: $2,605,891
Village’s portion of overall tax levy: $14.8 million down from $15.1 million.
Pension contributions: $5 million (actuarial recommended amount is $7.2 milion), but still double the 2013 contribution of $2.4 million.
Retiree medical underfunding: Revised from zero to $200,000 toward future obligations.
Streets and alleys: $2,297,500 (reinstated from $1,443,500)
Sewer tax: Although numerous potential utility tax increases were on the table -- water, gasoline, natural gas, refuse, sewer--only sewer taxes were increased (residential fees $.40/1,000 meter usage; commercial $1.32/1,000 meter usage) to raise an additional $1.2 million for sewer rehabilitation.
Water rates: $62 per residential household; $78 per commercial business, reflective of Chicago water rate increases.
Ambulance fees: $1.392 million increase, to be billed to insurance companies.
Special events: Elimination of Pumpkin Fest; reduction of three summer movies and three summer concerts from six each.
Summer help: The $100,000 budget for 2014 summer help employing college students was completely slashed, but may be brought back at a later date.