October 10th, 2017 1:07 PM
By Bob Skolnik
Living in Forest Park is about to get more expensive.
The village council appears poised to impose a sewer tax and raise a host of fees and fines in an attempt to shrink a more than $1 million budget shortfall. Last week the council met with top staff in another budget workshop to consider a variety of "revenue enhancements."
In addition to adding a $2.80 per 100 cubic feet of water sewer tax to the village's current charge of $7.20 per 100 feet of cubic feet of water (about 748 gallons of water), the village council appeared ready to increase the cost of parking at the village-owned lot at the Forest Park Blue Line and beginning to charge for parking on Madison Street.
These were just some of the ideas Village Administrator Tim Gillian presented to the council on Oct. 5 in a lengthy working session.
The new sewer tax is estimated to cost the average homeowner an additional $18.50 a month.
"It is the right thing to do," said Mayor Anthony Calderone. "Most communities have a sewer tax."
The sewer tax is also attractive to village officials because the village's sewer system is aging and the revenue from a sewer tax could be used to pay off bonds that the village could issue in the future to raise money to modernize the system.
"We have an aging infrastructure," Gillian said. "We struggle to find funds to do a small amount of new work and keep up on maintenance."
Steve Glinke, the director of Health and Safety, said the sewer tax would encourage water conservation in addition to providing a revenue source.
"Nobody likes additional taxes but this program should sell itself," Glinke said.
Gillian said a $2.80 per 100 cubic feet of water sewer tax would put Forest Park in the middle of the pack compared with surrounding communities. Oak Park charges the equivalent of $1.95 per 100 cubic feet of water while River Forest charges $4.30.
Sewer tax revenue would be used only to replace water mains in the short term and to fund longer-term infrastructure. No sewer tax revenue would go to the village's general fund.
Increasing the daily parking fee at the village-owned CTA lot from $3 to $5 would raise about $200,000 in additional revenue. Raising the parking fee to $5 a day would mean it would cost the same to park at the village-owned lot as it does at the less convenient, and lightly-used, CTA lot just south the expressway.
"If we go to $5 I still think it's a bargain," said Commissioner Dan Novak.
Gillian said he believed Madison Street business owners would support charging for parking on Madison Street, with parking limited to three hours during the day. Some business owners would like parking to remain free in the evening.
A pay box system, similar to what exists in Chicago, would be established, although Forest Park would use the latest technology, which would eliminate the need to place a paper parking receipt in your car. There would be likely two pay boxes on each block.
Some believe limiting parking on Madison to three hours during the day would help business by making parking easier for customers.
"I think what we have now is a lot of owners and employees parking there so customers can't park there," Commissioner Joe Brynes said.
In a memo to the village council, Gillian suggested charging 50 cents an hour during the day and one dollar an hour at night.
This could generate additional revenue of about $400,000 Gillian estimated.
The parking company, Total Parking Solutions, would pay for the installation of the pay boxes and the village and TPS would split the parking revenue until the pay boxes are paid off. Pay boxes cost about $9,000 each. It is possible that pay boxes could also be installed on some side streets close to Madison.
Charging for parking on Roosevelt Road from Harlem to Circle is also being considered.
The fees for parking permits which allow owners to park at village-owned lots throughout town is also probably going up. Gillian is recommending raising the day and night parking permits by $15 each and raising the cost of a 24-hour parking permit by $25 a month. Currently, a day parking permit pass costs $20 a month, $25 for night parking, and $40 for a 24-hour pass.
The council is also poised to raise the cost of parking tickets. The cost of a ticket for parking overnight on the streets could rise from $30 to $50. This could bring in at least $173,000 in additional revenue. Any $20 ticket could be raised to $30.
The village will likely increase its garbage fee which has not been raised since 2012. The village will now seek to increase the fee in line with rise in the consumer price index, which governs the increases the village's waste hauler, Republic Services, charges the village.
The village is also considering allowing the installation of two additional red light enforcement cameras, one on eastbound Madison at Harlem and the other on eastbound Jackson at Harlem. Currently there are three red light cameras in the village, operated by the company Red Speed.
The village will also seek new bids on its paramedic services.
Commissioners were not enthusiastic about imposing a place-of-eating tax on restaurants.
"I think it may be worthy of further discussion down the road," Calderone said.
The council is not likely to vote on any of tax and fee increases until December. Byrnes suggested holding a town hall community meeting to gather citizen input on the proposals before taking formal action.
"Any time you're raising fees, people will get upset," Calderone acknowledged.
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