Oak Park closes projected $1.7 million deficit for 2011

Vacant positions, tax and fee increases help make village hall whole

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By Marty Stempniak

Staff Reporter

The Oak Park village board was presented with a balanced budget for next year on Monday night, a plan which eradicates a $1.7 million deficit in 2011. But trustees will need to figure out in the coming weeks whether they're on board with the cuts and tax increases used to fill the hole.

Village staff was able to make the numbers line up by keeping a handful of positions vacant in 2011 to save about $1 million, said Chief Financial Officer Craig Lesner. Oak Park bridged the rest of the gap through a number of maneuvers, including upping its revenue projections and cutting back on landscaping planters around town.

The village is not eyeing any layoffs next year, having already trimmed about 70 positions over the past three years. However, Oak Park is currently proposing to raise some parking fees, the water rate and its share of property tax bills.

Water rates are expected to increase modestly, by about 2.5 percent next year, to account for any increases put forward by the City of Chicago. Quarterly parking permits are proposed to go up by an average of $9 in 2011. And people who want to park in garages for 10 hours will pay an extra $2, or an extra $5 if they stay for the maximum time allowed.

Those changes to parking rates will deposit another $250,000 into village coffers.

Oak Park is also proposing to raise its portion of property taxes by about 3 percent, or $871,778. The majority of those extra dollars will go toward increased contributions to the police and fire pension funds.

The village is upping what it levies for police and fire pensions by 12.56 percent. Trustees urged village staff to come up with a plan to address the skyrocketing line item in the budget.

"If this doesn't change, it will bankrupt our village," said Trustee Colette Lueck.

Overall expenses for the village are projected to increase by 2.4 percent, year to year, from $122.4 million to $125.3 million in 2011. Lesner said various factors led to the increased expenses, including more than $4 million in the spending plan to redo Roosevelt Road and six years worth of salary raises for Oak Park firefighters, after they settled their contract earlier this year.

Several local nonprofits who receive money from the village will not see cuts in 2011, after the village slashed its contributions to those organizations over the last few years.

Oak Park had originally planned to dip into its projected fund balance of $2.2 million in order to close the deficit, but trustees balked at that idea and asked staff to find savings elsewhere.

Trustees will discuss the proposed budget in the coming weeks, and are tentatively scheduled to adopt it on Nov. 15. Residents can view the financial plan and comment on it by going to http://www.oak-park.us/Finance/Finance.html.

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Reader Comments

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Michael Iversen from Oak Park  

Posted: October 16th, 2010 9:43 PM

According to the proposed 2011 village budget, revenue from water sales resulting from increased water fees is estimated to increase by $205,000, or 2.5%. It also states that the village expenditure for water being purchased from the City of Chicago being increased by an estimated $125,000. The increase in water sales is more than the increase in water purchase by $80,000 (64%), and therefore represents more than water costs being passed through to Oak Park users, as stated by Trustee Johnson.

Richard Taxed from Oak Park  

Posted: October 15th, 2010 9:02 PM

Cook county/ OPRF needs their own proposition 13! I've met several people recently scrapped plans to move to OP due to the taxes. Let's raise the fincome tax and stop kicking the homeowner to death. I bet we can save jobs if ee can end all of the Marion street/peoplesoft/foley/ trader joes condos nonsense that burns Village cash with little return. Poor fiscal choices and bloated projects have done notable damage to OPs reputation and quality of life in my 4 short years here.

David Barsotti  

Posted: October 15th, 2010 1:21 PM

Oak Park should not raise property taxes to cover the budget shortfall. The $871,778 should from the TIF or the fund balance, which is being done in other communities. Unlike Oak Park, other communities seem to understand the burden high property taxes have on a community.

Question from Oak Park  

Posted: October 14th, 2010 7:34 PM

70 positions laid off - I want to see the number of years those employees were on the job and their salaries over those years and realize the cost of inefficient governments.

Ray Johnson from Oak Park  

Posted: October 14th, 2010 10:48 AM

Mr. Murtha,I don't think the article meant to leave the impression we are 'taxing' water. However, we do buy water from the City of Chicago and pass through their water rate increases to Oak Park users.

Robert Murtha from Oak Park  

Posted: October 13th, 2010 4:43 PM

So, now they want to tax our water!?!? Last I checked water is a basic necessity to life. I'm happy to pay for clean water, but for a tax to be levied on it so they can fill a budget gap... I don't think so!

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