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Village plans for expected boost in state funds

Appropriations ordinance reflects optimism about state grants

July 23rd, 2019 12:50 PM

By Robert J. Lifka

Contributing Reporter

Planned infrastructure projects, and an anticipated influx of grant money to help pay their costs, are the major factors behind a 16 percent increase in the annual appropriation ordinance approved by the Forest Park Village Council, July 22.

The appropriation ordinance authorizes spending $28,216,788 in the general fund, an increase of 4 percent over last year, and $53,022,942 overall.

The general fund covers the village's working budget and day-to-day expenses. Other funds are special revenue, debt service, enterprise and public library. The Forest Park Public Library falls under the auspices of the village but is governed separately. The fiscal year began May 1 and will end on April 30, 2020.

Following a public hearing that preceded the regularly scheduled village council meeting, the ordinance was approved 5-0. It will be the basis of the property tax levy, which will be approved and filed with Cook County in December.

In a memo to the village council, Letitia Olmsted, village finance director, described the appropriation ordinance as a document that sets spending limits and is not to be confused with the line-item budget, which is the working document for all financial activities. She explained in her memo that expenditures other than salaries are categorized with allowances ranging from 10 to 25 percent for unexpected maintenance and repairs; insurance premiums; and capital expenses. 

Mayor Rory Hoskins also cautioned against confusing the appropriation ordinance with the budget.  

"We inflate the numbers so there is money we can legally spend in case of emergency," he said. "There's no way we're going to spend all the money that has been appropriated." 

A $2.45 million increase in state grants helped increase the general fund by $1.1 million from $27,111,495 to $28,216,788. Forest Park received $635,683 in state grants last year but is angling for $3,089,404 this year. 

Already announced is $750,000 from the state that will allow Forest Park to demolish four abandoned buildings on the village-owned Altenheim property at Madison and Van Buren streets. The village bought the 11-acre property for $3.6 million in 2001. Over the years, several ideas for development, including from Fenwick High School and the West Cook YMCA, were eventually scrapped. More recently, the village is considering creation of a cultural park on the property.

Separately, village officials anticipate using a $1 million grant from the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District to help fund a sewer separation project in the Roosevelt/Hannah Tax Increment Financing (TIF) District on the far south end of the village.

Village officials also are hoping to use state grant funding to revive two projects that have been on hold for four years, resurfacing the CTA Blue Line parking lot and installing a backup generator at the pump station on Hannah Avenue. The village had received notification that grant funding would be provided by the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, but funding was frozen in 2014 due to the state's budget impasse before either project could be undertaken. Estimated costs are $550,000 for the parking lot project and $250,000 for the backup generator.

In addition, Hoskins said village officials are considering applying for financial assistance for capital projects at the Howard Mohr Community Center, 7640 Jackson Blvd., especially for improvements to the playground and parking lot.  

Planned infrastructure projects helped increase the special revenue fund $3.7 million from $8,474,250 to $12,214,457 and the enterprise/water fund $2.5 million from $7,197,868 to $9,785,143. Over $6.7 million is appropriated for the Roosevelt/Hannah TIF District sewer separation project and a multifaceted infrastructure project in the Brown Street TIF District on the north end of the village. In addition, over $4 million from the water fund will be used for infrastructure projects.

The increase in state grants helped accounts/finance rise $1.8 million from $10,766,319 to $12,595,921. Salaries, insurance benefits, office equipment, debt certificate payments, police pension costs, fire pension costs, local grants and liability insurance also increased under accounts/finances and village clerk/HR administrator, audio/consulting services and federal grants decreased.

Olmsted noted that the police and fire pensions are funded at 100 percent for the third consecutive year.

Other increases in the general fund are $29,578 in health and safety, due primarily to additional appropriation for consultant fees due to zoning code updates, and $178,298 in streets, due primarily to the request for a replacement dump truck.

Decreases in general fund categories are public affairs, down $325,942 in part due to a reduction in the anticipated cost of consolidated dispatch; police department, down $236,675; community center, down $32,413; fire department, down $29,007; and public property, down $308,148.

In the special revenue fund, planned infrastructure projects helped increase the Brown Street TIF $2.9 million from $1,281,000 to $4,230,500; the Roosevelt/Hannah TIF $1.6 million from $1,281,000 to $2,977,755; the Roosevelt Road TIF from $181,000 to $430,500; and the Village Improvement Program from $1,880,000 to $2,194,952. 

Estimated costs for the infrastructure projects are $2.1 million for the Brown Street TIF District project and $2.7 million for the Roosevelt/Hannah TIF District project. 

Also in the special revenue fund, the Forest Park Mall TIF decreased $1.5 million from $1,706,000 to $110,500 as phasing out continues following the district's termination last year, and U.S. Customs increased from $75,000 to $200,000. Unchanged are police seizure, $235,250; Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund, $350,000; Social Security, $385,000; and motor fuel tax, $1,100,000. 

The debt service fund also increased from $710,650 to $713,850 and the library fund increased from $2,035,867 to $2,092,704. 

In 2016, the general fund appropriation increased 8.3 percent and the overall appropriation increased 6.1 percent. In 2017, the general fund appropriation increased 4.8 percent and the overall appropriation increased 4.6 percent. In 2018, the general fund decreased 3.1 percent and the overall appropriation decreased 7.5 percent.