By Anna Lothson
The Village of Oak Park is in the process of hiring up to five additional parking enforcement officers, a plan that may help address the "concerning trend" seen in the declining revenue for fines related to parking.
Oak Park currently has nine officers to enforce the 24-hour-seven-day-a-week operation and having 14 would help increase monitoring efforts.
The parking enforcement officers are run through the police department but until the applicants are initially screened and interviewed, the process is managed by the human resources department.
Frank Spataro, human resources director, said there are currently five vacancies but it's uncertain if all five will be filled. How many are hired depends on the qualifications of the applicants once the interview process starts, he said.
Jill Velan, parking service manager, explained the process takes some time and she expects there to be many applicants. She hopes there are enough qualified applicants to fill the shortage.
Candidates must pass physical and psychological tests similar to those given to prospective police officers. The current salary range is $33,300 - $45,900, with most enforcement staff earning below $35,000.
The issue of parking fine revenue has been a topic of discussion at the village board's finance committee throughout the year since the first and second quarter financial projections showed fines have been consistently below estimates.
Staff has been discussing ways to address the matter and the second quarter numbers show a 10 percent improvement. The first quarter report showed fines were down 46 percent from last year, but the July report showed that number is now at 36 percent.
The drivers of fines include the number of tickets issued, village parking policy, number of parking enforcement officers, degree of enforcement, fines waived and collection rates. When revenues dip below the amount budgeted it impacts the village's general fund. Village management has made the general fund a top priority this budgeting season as new village policy calls for Oak Park to have a 10 percent fund balance or reserve.