City Budget Requires Will To Say “No!”


The Park Ridge City Council chambers was packed for Saturday’s budget workshop, which was a big change from the little interest residents paid to budget workshops in years past.

But depending on whom you talk to, “many” or “most” of those in attendance were City employees who were there to oppose rather than applaud the expense-cutting austerity budget that City Mgr. Jim Hock unveiled – one which calls for the reduction of 17 full-time city employees, including police and firefighters, to produce savings of approximately $700,000.

[You can find the budget document on Mayor Dave Schmidt’s website – – until City Staff gets around to posting it on the City’s own site]

Two things you need to know before we go any further, however, are that (a) the City is projecting [pdf] a $3,297,400 deficit for the current 2009-10 fiscal year, with a commensurate reduction in the City’s fund balances to make up that deficit; and (b) Hock’s proposed 2010-11 budget is projecting [pdf] a $227,600 deficit, which means it still isn’t “balanced.”

Oh, yes…and that projected 2010-11 deficit budget already includes a water rate increase, a sewer fee increase, a 1 cent/gallon gasoline tax increase, and a 5% increase in the City’s portion of our property tax bills, which comprises approximately 12% of the total bill when the Library is included.

If that’s not discouraging enough, the initial comments coming from the five aldermen present at Saturday’s workshop – Alds. Jim Allegretti and Frank Wsol were missing – sent a pretty clear signal that this City Council doesn’t have the collective will to change the financial practices of the past several years which have bled the City’s treasury even as they neglected vital maintenance of the City’s infrastructure.

The first sign of more “business as usual” on spending came early in the meeting when Ald. Joe Sweeney (1st Ward), facing his first budget as an alderman, proclaimed that he would not vote for any budget that included cuts to public-safety personnel – a sentiment promptly seconded by Ald. Don Bach (3rd Ward). And to show his support for that position, Ald. Robert Ryan (5th Ward) actually thanked the police department for taming the mean streets of Park Ridge to the point where one can safely “walk across town at 2:00 a.m. blindfolded.”

Note to Ald. Ryan: Park Ridge is not South Austin or Englewood, either at 2:00 a.m. or 2:00 p.m., and whether blindfolded or not.

Curiously, Bach, who has spent the past year demanding cuts to City personnel, criticized Hock’s proposed personnel reductions by claiming they are “the wrong cuts” because they are directed at rank-and-file employees rather than management.

Note to Ald. Bach: the City’s director of economic development and its public information coordinator – both of whom are scheduled to get the axe this coming year – are not “rank-and-file” employees.

What has become painfully obvious is that, after years of irresponsible refusal to face economic reality by various City administrations going back to at least former mayor Ronald Wietecha, the chickens have come home to roost – just as they have for the incompetent and deceitful politicians who have run Cook County and the State of Illinois into the ground.

To his credit, City Mgr. Jim Hock, who inherited this particular mess from the administration of former mayor Howard Frimark and former city mgr. Tim Schuenke, has taken a brave first-step in trying to stop the City’s hemorrhaging of money. But the politicians who sit around The Horseshoe at City Hall far too often sound far too willing to pander to the special interests – those certain residents and some City employees – who see themselves as entitled to a lot more from City government than they pay in taxes.

Although we are decidedly skeptical of the Council’s desire to begin the painful process of becoming fiscally responsible with the taxpayers’ money, tonight’s City Council meeting (7:30 p.m., 505 Butler Place) has two key matters on the agenda [pdf] that could be bellwethers of the Council’s resolve to change the City’s course.

The first test will be the report of the O’Hare Airport Commission [pdf], which is seeking $500,000 of City funds in budget year 2010-11, including $335,000 in legal expenses to fight O’Hare expansion – despite City Attorney Hill’s report at the February 15, 2010 City Council meeting [pdf] that one of the country’s pre-eminent anti-airport expansion law firms could not offer any encouragement for combating O’Hare through litigation.

The second test will be the first reading of the ordinance to raise water rates to reflect the increased cost to the City of water purchased from Chicago. That ordinance barely got out of the Committee of the Whole, with Alds. Allegretti, Bach and Ryan voting against it. Its passage, however, is crucial to generating the revenues needed to balance the budget this coming year.

Thomas Jefferson encouraged “(a) wise and frugal government.” Unfortunately, City government has been neither; and, as a result, we now face a lot of unpleasant decisions.

And most of them will require the word No.

6 comments so far

Lost in the budget commotion is one hopeful development: Mayor Schmidt has been invited by Washington D.C. by Jan Schakowsky to make a case for $2 million federal stimulus dollars, which apparently is available for the purpose of sewer system upgrades. This amount won’t solve the entire infrastructure crisis, but it would be extremely useful as seed money to get the process moving. I trust that the recent posters who have vilified Schmidt for making nice with Democratic types will find it in their hearts to accept this largess should it be forthcoming.

“But the politicians who sit around The Horseshoe at City Hall far too often sound far too willing to pander to the special interests”

It’s a fine line between pandering to special interests and correcting a wrong.


Correcting what “wrong”?

Didn’t Frimark always brag about how the City was raising its share of the taxes by “only 3.5%” of something like that? Sounds like a typical RINO, keeping taxes low but borrowing like crazy (in this case, from our own reserves)

3-1 1:03:

When is this meeting taking place? I hear Jan has been trying to get him moving on this. If we are going to get Fed Stimulus cash do you think they are going to want to review our books?!?!?!!? Oh no!!!!!!


On the outside chance the Feds would be so diligent in reviewing the books of those to whom they dole out our tax dollars, they will be able to find the City’s “books” conveniently published on the city’s web site!


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