Will Revenue “Tricks” Be Used To Balance City Budget?


Tomorrow morning beginning at 8:30 a.m., the Park Ridge City Council will take on another phase of the 2010-11 budget during a “workshop” (in the Council chambers, 505 Butler Place) dealing specifically with revenues.

In years past, the “revenues” portion of the budget was where former city mgr. “The Amazing” Tim Schuenke used to perform his most wondrous magic tricks – making revenue figures appear out of thin air, or making them multiply two and three times over without his even having to say “Alakazam!” – to create what appeared to be a “balanced budget.”  By year’s end, however, the City would be looking at a significant deficit; Schuenke would gin up some semi-plausible explanations; and the flummoxed City Council would promise to do better “next year.”

When “next year” came, however, the same thing would occur…with the exception of budget year 2006-07, when the City posted a $200,000+ surplus even without counting the additional $6.1 million it got for the one-time sale of the Target Area 2 property to PRC for the Uptown project.

Ironically, in another example of “no good deed goes unpunished,” that Council was rewarded for its efforts with then-mayor Howard Frimark’s cut-the-Council referendum, which sent all but three of them (Alds. Rich DiPietro, Jim Allegretti and Frank Wsol) packing, but not before they passed a balanced budget – which was promptly spent into a 2007-08 year-end deficit of $1,716,767 by those three survivors and new Alds. Dave Schmidt, Don Bach, Robert Ryan and Tom Carey.

Since then, those same seven have bestowed on us taxpayers additional deficits of $2,368,724 in budget year 2008-09, and a currently estimated $3.3 million for budget year 2009-10.

As Chevy Chase’s “Ty Webb” character would say: “Thank you very little” – although, since then, at least now-Mayor Schmidt has found “religion,” confessed error, and vowed to veto any non-balanced budget.  That’s a step in the right direction.

Unfortunately, our first read through of the proposed 2010-11 budget reveals some revenue numbers that seem to be, for lack of a better term, more than a tad “optimistic.”  And that’s troubling because, even with those optimistic revenue numbers, the proposed budget still shows a $200,000+ deficit.  So any Schuenke-style shenanigans with the “revenues” side of the budget could put us taxpayers in a nasty trick bag.

If last week’s workshop was any indication, we can expect another good-sized turnout of police and fire department personnel, especially because two of the other items on tomorrow’s workshop agenda [pdf] are police and fire.  With the proposed budget already calling for the cutting of 4 police officers and 3 firefighters, expect some significant audience pressure on those politicians sitting around The Horseshoe to find other cuts so that those 7 salaries and benefits can be salvaged.

But these aldermen are already balking at the existing cuts, which makes the fabrication of some magical new revenues an attractive alternative for pandering politicians and duck-and-cover bureaucrats.

Somewhere up in Wisconsin, The Amazing Schuenke is smiling.

1 comment so far

Excellent points Pubdogs.

Tis better to over-estimate costs and under-estimate revenues, than the reverse…

The revenue projections this clowncil should pay particular attention to are in the areas of “discretionary consumer spending”…things such as eat(ing), drink(ing), and be(ing) merry are not likely to be in full-swing during the coming year…. and also of course, revenue projections for anything real estate related…transfer taxes, permit fees, etc.

The 07/08 budget, was balanced (no projected deficit)…however, projected revenues fell considerably short of the “magic” numbers originally provided by Schuenke. The recession hit and as one might expect sales tax and real estate related projections took a big hit…but oddly, some of the revenue projections for things like court fines, adjudication fines, parking meter fines were waaaaaaaay off…under 50% of projected revenues. Ouch!

Anyhoo…here’s hoping the clowncil is awake during the whole workshop!

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