River Forest is creating a Stormwater Master Plan (SMP) to identify projects to reduce flooding conditions to protect property, improve sanitation, and reduce environmental hazards. Prioritizing and funding SMP projects will come before the village board.
North-side residents benefit directly from the 2015 Northside Stormwater Management Project (NSMP) to separate sewers along Greenfield Avenue. We are spending $917,146 annually for 20 years to repay a loan on the $15+ million project. Now, north-side residents are asking for improvements to drain north Keystone and an NSMP Phase 2 project. Residents on the south and east sides want funds for alley drainage. West-side residents want protections from river flooding and sewer backups. Others want yard drainage.
I am concerned about the added tax and debt load to fund big expenditures. River Forest owes $20.6 million. The shortfall in pension and health-care funding is $49 million, an increase of $6 million this year. The village can pay only 52% of those costs, according to 2020 property tax bills. In comparison, school District 90 can pay 76% of those costs, and other local taxing bodies can pay higher percentages. The village portion of property tax bills has risen 49% from 2009 to 2018, compared to a 32% increase for schools (D90 and D200 combined), per $100 of assessed property value.
I am also concerned about how projects will be prioritized based on cost-effectiveness, the appropriate level of protection, fairness, and inclusiveness of all residents’ perspectives. Village budgets will be challenged in fiscal 2022 and beyond, while resident demands for improvements and pension costs continue to rise and tax burdens increase.
Patty Henek has demonstrated on two large development projects, The Sheridan and Lake & Lathrop, a willingness to investigate; empathy for nearby residents and businesses; engagement with the broader community; fairness in decision-making; and courage to voice her concerns. I trust her judgement and her ability to be a good steward of our funding while being equitable in decision-making.
It is time for change in River Forest. I endorse Patty Henek for Village President.
Margie Cekander, River Forest