Harsh Reality Emerging On City Finances


Like the typical incumbent politician running for re-election, current Park Ridge Mayor Howard “Let’s Make A Deal” Frimark brags up a storm about how well the City is humming along under his stewardship.  Until recently, his bragging included keeping the City’s property tax increase at around three percent per year by “streamlining” City government.

But that kind of self-promotion is becoming a harder sell as the actual facts about City finances continue to emerge from City Hall.  And those facts, unlike Frimark’s propaganda, suggest that what he calls “streamlining” is really cutting into important City services – while at the same time digging us an increasingly bigger financial hole.

For example, the budget for fiscal year 2007-08 had a $1.7 million hole in it: budget “reality” was $1.7 million worse than budget “fantasy.”  And a similar reality v. fantasy is emerging for the current year’s (2008-09) budget as well. 

According to a Herald-Advocate story (“Higher fees or reduced services may hit Park Ridge,” March 6), building permit revenues were projected at $2 Million (fantasy) but are looking to be a lot closer to $800,000 (reality).  That’s a $1.2 Million – yes, $1.2 MILLION! – fantasy/reality differential.  And while that may be the single worst such differential, the H-A story notes that there is a combined $1 million-plus of additional revenue shortfalls in other taxing categories, like property transfers and telecommunications.

Not surprisingly, Frimark the Politician has already started off-loading responsibility (a/k/a “blame”) for those troubles on his former right-hand man, departed city manager Tim Schuenke.  But, as the H-A reports, the post-Schuenke proposed budget for 2009-10 is already projecting a $1 Million-plus deficit, which likely will lead to higher fees and/or reduced services. 

Worse yet, all these budget holes are occurring even though City expenses have generally decreased, partly because (as you already might have guessed from rattling over our pothole-scarred streets or kayaking in your basements) the Frimark Administration reduced – or should we say “streamlined” – the amount of street resurfacing and relief sewer installations. 

For those of you who enjoy the parallel universe of government fund accounting, we have to point out – again – that the “positive” balance in the City’s General Fund looks to be made up of a lot of I.O.U.s from some of the City’s other funds, like the Uptown TIF fund and the pension fund.  Given the precarious nature of City finances, does anybody want to guess where the money to pay off those IOU’s will be coming from?

Meanwhile, our mayor continues on his hell-bent crusade to borrow and spend boxcar numbers on a new police station, the exact number of millions depending on the day of the week and the composition of the audience he’s talking to.  And when he’s not doing that, he seems to be on the lookout for opportunities to throw our scarce, hard-earned tax dollars at his friends and campaign contributors.

Could that be his version of a Park Ridge “stimulus” package?

11 comments so far

Thank you for explaining the reality of our current City finances.

I’m not any kind of financial expert and so I don’t understand how these projections got made in the first place. How does a city manager project income from things like building permit revenues? How could the projections be off by so much?

Thank you.

It’s really quite simple. He literally pulled many of the numbers out of his ass to make the budget income balance to the budget spend. And then he crossed his fingers… oh, and then he left town. Not kiddin’.

i have no confidence in this mayor, this city council or this city manager to make any sound long-term decisions for this community.

that the city could spend all the time and engergy it did on something as irrelevant as a pads shelter while we’re bleeding money out of both ears is ludicrous. that it could still be talking about building a new police station, or substantially expanding the current one, is irresponsible.

Is it true that Illinois communities put in for “stimulus” money for public works projects, but that Park Ridge submitted nothing?

8:50AM –

At the COW meeting last night, it was reported that Park Ridge asked for $28MM total ($20MM for a police station and $8MM for roads, sewers, etc.). Alderman Schmidt questioned the priorities as well as the total amount. He also said that neighboring communities have asked for a lot more money than PR did.

Apparently there is a web site where you can find this information, but I did not take note of it.

Anonymous on 03.10.09 9:52 am:

“It was reported” by whom? And what, exactly, was reported about how that stimulus money was requested?

The reason we ask is because the “stimulus” website we are familiar with – – shows no projects submitted by Park Ridge. And if you check out that website you will see that it is devoted to “shovel ready” projects, something our proposed “$20MM” police station is not even close to being.

We need to find out more about what specifically the City did to receive stimulus money. But from what we have seen so far, this may be yet another instance of Frimark & Company being asleep at the wheel. At the very least, we wonder why the $20MM wasn’t sought for needed streets and sewers instead of the police station.

Public Watchdog:

I attended the COW meeting last night. The amount of $28MM was being discussed by the city manager and Alderman Schmidt. I believe that Mr. Hock reported it first, although I am not certain of that. Perhaps he responded to someone’s question. To my knowledge, no one stated how the money was requested.

I agree with your comments about the use of the funds. Our sewers and roads require immediate repair or replacement. This is far more important than a new police station.

Alderman Schmidt, can you shed any additional light on this subject?

$20 million for a police station? Hock and Frimark cannot be serious. Our roads have fallen apart, the streets and many basements flood regularly, two schools sit right in the path of 200+ planes landing per day and have no sound proofing thus negatively effecting our children’s education and the list of needs-rather than wants- goes on and on. How incredibly irresponsible of Hock and Frimark to think we should get federal stimulus money for a taj mahal police station with a fitness center, shooting range and mass arrest holding cell. Frimark should be escorted from the building today-not in April. He has proven over and over again that he is beyond incompetent and not fit to lead or serve.

I saw nothing about Park Ridge on the StimulusWatch website. Is Hock now jerking us around for Frimark, or covering up for him?

Hi 11:26. The request was made by City Manager Hock to State Senator Kotowski via a January 28 letter. Presumably he did this in conjunction with the mayor who is on record (as well as his chief allies on the Council) as believing that a new police station is by far our number one priority. Go figure.

Thanks, Ald. Dave.

But why would Hock be giving his wish list for federal stimulus money to an Illinois State senator, instead of to Cong. Schakowsky, or Sen. Durbin?

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