Below are candidate-submitted answers to a biographical survey Wednesday Journal sent out to all candidates running in this year’s elections.
Previous political experience: River Forest Township Clerk
Previous community experience: PTO Secretary
Occupation: Admission Operations Assistant, Dominican University
Education: BS, Iowa State University
What is the value of township government in the 21st century? What can it provide that a municipal government can’t?
Many Townships, including River Forest Township, fund and support vital human services to youth, seniors, and those with mental health needs and developmental disabilities. All Townships fund and provide essential local Assessor Services to property taxpayers, as well General Assistance, which is a state-mandated financial assistance to those with demonstrated need.
Most municipal governments, including the Village of River Forest, focus on essential physical services and public safety, including police, fire, public works, and utilities such as water and refuse removal.
The two entities provide distinctly different services for our residents. By having a separate Township, which only costs 1% of a property tax bill, funds are reserved and set aside exclusively to provide those critical human services.
Are there any ways to share providing services with village government? If so, what might those be? If not, why not?
River Forest Township partners with all entities of government in River Forest and many in Oak Park. For example, the Village of River Forest has been very helpful in providing a communications vehicle for all RF entities, so that we don’t each have to develop our own. The Township worked closely with the RF Fire Department to introduce the ICE Packet, to better assist seniors and paramedics In Case of Emergency.
The township presently contracts out services youth programming, senior services and mental health services to Oak Park Township. Are there other services the township can purchase? Should River Forest take more of those service in house?
RF Township shares youth services and senior services with Oak Park Township. Through this partnership, they are able to view and efficiently service Oak Park and River Forest as one community, as the crossover is noteworthy. They save significant administrative and program dollars by sharing one staff, rather than each having their our own staffs. If River Forest were to “take more services in house”, expenses would go up significantly, which would not make good financial sense.
RF Township does not share mental health services with Oak Park Township, although I know they work very closely with the Oak Park Community Mental Health Board and share many projects, including the White Paper on Underage Substance Use and the current Community Health Needs Assessment.
The Township successfully partners at little or no cost with groups and agencies which already provide services, and provides outreach to RF residents for those services, and also provides space for services to happen. It’s more efficient financially and helps expand what they can offer to our residents. I do not believe there is a need to “purchase” more services, but if I am elected, it will be something to consider.
What are the other important issues facing township government in the coming years and how would you like to see the township board address them?
The Township is virtually 100% dependent on property taxes for its revenues. The Township tax levy has been virtually flat for several years, which means Township revenue is virtually flat.
However, the demand for human services continues to increase. Our population is aging rapidly. Mental health issues continue to escalate. Alcohol and marijuana use remains disproportionately high among our youth. The incidence of developmental disabilities continues to rise. The socioeconomic diversity of River Forest is increasing.
And so, Township dollars must stretch even further, especially in light of state and federal funding cuts. The Township Board is carefully trying to spend down their existing fund balance each year, to help meet these needs…but at some point, they will no longer be able to do that to meet increasing demand.
It is important to keep operations lean, and to keep working with partners who help RF Township deliver services efficiently, to keep collaborating with other units of government to not duplicate services but to complement services.
The Board must continuously evaluate programs to ensure that every dollar is being spent prudently and that programs are meeting the true need of RF residents.
Lastly, outreach…how to keep getting the word out to residents who need human services that those services are available through the Township. I hope the Township will continue to expand its physical presence in the community, as well as its use of social media and partnerships with other local entities. The Township needs to inform taxpayers of the strong value that the Township provides for their tax dollars.