Make Yourself Heard Tonight On Proposed City Budget


The Park Ridge City Council is holding a “public hearing” on the City’s 2009-10 budget tonight at 7:00 p.m. at the Park Ridge City Hall.  The Council is supposed to adopt a budget by May 1, so time is definitely of the essence. 

We strongly encourage every civic-minding, thinking Park Ridge citizen to show up and to ask questions and speak your minds on this subject, because it sure is looking like City finances are facing a “perfect storm” that could have the power to sink us if we aren’t careful.  As we pointed out last week in “Time For Fuss About City Budget”, the City is facing a number of critical budgetary problems that have been brewing for the past few years as the result of budget deficits that were concealed from the taxpayers – or, if we wish to be generous to the folks over at City Hall, not as well publicized as they should have been. 

Part of the problem was that former City Mgr. Tim Schuenke apparently just made up revenue numbers out of thin air, possibly in combination with low-balling expenses.  But the other part of the problem was that soon-to-be ex-Mayor Howard “Let’s Make A Deal” Frimark had no clue about balancing the City budget: he was too busy running around cutting sweetheart deals and trying to build a new cop shop.  And because Frimark had no clue or care, neither did his Alderpuppets – or if they did, they sure weren’t going to say anything that might offend the guy who pulls their strings. 

So what we got for the past two years appears to have been a big dose of fiscal irresponsibility masquerading as benign neglect, including the typical governmental fund-accounting shell game and budget cuts in such essential infrastructure needs as street repair, sewer repair and relief sewer construction.  Unfortunately, we’ve already seen, up close and personal, how well that has worked out for us.

Whether the proposed budget on tonight’s agenda will be much better is anybody’s guess, especially if our elected representatives and City staff insist on pulling more of those fund-accounting tricks, like “balancing” the General Fund with worthless(?) IOU’s from other bankrupt funds – such as the allegedly “successful” Uptown TIF fund.  That fund currently sports a gaping $3.8 million hole and is projected to come up another $1.3 million short this year, in part because of the approximately $1.3 million of annual debt service on the $27 million of bonds the City issued in 2005 and 2006 in connection with that project. 

And in case you’re wondering, that $27 million in bonded debt does not include the $16,770,000 in bonds the City issued in 2004 to build the new reservoir and pump station.    

How many of you know that we just got hit with a 15% water rate increase by the City of Chicago that is going to cause a $400,000 deficit in the water fund this year?  And there’s another 14% increase coming Jan.1, 2010!  If we understand City Mgr. Jim Hock correctly, the City has been subsidizing water use for years (how many of you know that?), which causes us to wonder how in the world the City was able to build up a water fund balance of almost $4 million.  Maybe somebody will be able to explain that at tonight’s hearing.   

Meanwhile, for all you folks who have begun to consider stocking your basements with bass or walleye every time it rains heavily, you might want to show up tonight and ask exactly how much money is being set aside in the proposed new budget for sewer repair and installation of relief sewers – because it looks like, for the third year in a row, those infrastructure items will go begging.

In addition to showing up at tonight’s meeting, we also encourage you to check out the City’s website and give a read to the budget information posted there so that you’ll have some idea of what’s going on.  But you need to get that information from what was posted for Saturday’s budget workshop – all you’ll find on the website for tonight’s hearing is the agenda.

Government budgets are where the rubber meets the road.  Given the mess that’s staring us in the face, can we really trust the folks at City Hall to get this right without our input?

4 comments so far

You people and PRU are both on this budget beat today, and rightly so. And you’re right to predict a “perfect storm” for city finances – I read the stuff on the city’s website from Saturday’s workshop, and this is lot to worry about when Hock’s report says things like “Future cash solvency is a concern”, “This long-term trend…is worrisome”, “the practice of spending in advance of revenues is problematic” and “the City may have difficulty replacing the $1 million dollar fire pumper in 2015.” Sounds like we’re looking at bad news not only currently but 5-6 years out.

They’re going to be cutting Christmas lights ($45,000), the cleaning of Uptown streets and sidewalks on weekends ($45,000), and City Hall landscaping ($1,000), yet these yokels wanted to lock us into paying $1.2 million a year for the next 23 years on a police station?????

Cutting the cleaning of Uptown streets and sidewalks on weekends? Does that include the free clean-up services for taste of Park Ridge? Oh no because we need the Taste of Park Ridge and we can’t ask The Taste of Park Ridge Inc. to pay for it.

Did anybody hear what happened last night? Will our streets be neglected on weekends? Will we have to do without holiday lights this year? Will all those 501(c)(3) charitable corporations actually have to raise their own funds instead of taking handouts from the City Council?

Aren’t you glad now, that PADS wasn’t around to suck up some funding?!

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