Public Watchdog.org

FY 2012-13 Budget Recap

04.06.12

The good news about what happened at City Hall Monday night is that the City Council approved a FY 2012-13 budget that is projected to produce – if performance matches projection – what appears to be the largest surplus in the General Fund (the City’s main operating account) in more than a decade: approx. $450,000.

This watershed result can be attributed to the almost Herculean efforts of City Finance Director Allison Stutts and first-year Council Finance & Budget chair Ald. Dan Knight (5th), along with the fiscally-responsible leadership of Mayor Dave Schmidt and some fiscally-responsible followership by some of the new aldermen who, after only one year in office, already seem to “get” the budget process far better than any of their predecessors. 

What a difference a year makes!

Knight noted in his comments during the public hearing Monday night that, although the budget shows an overall deficit of approx. $4.37 million, virtually that entire deficit is the result of capital expenditures from individual funds (e.g., sewer, water, parking and library) in which substantial balances were accumulated over the years specifically for the purpose of financing such capital projects.  

But all that good news does not mean we’re out of the woods.  Not by a long shot.

As noted by Knight, the City posted a cumulative deficit of $10 million in 4 of the fiscal years since FY 2005-06 – during which time the City’s cash balance (in the General Fund) eroded by approximately $3.6 million, due to (a) past Councils’ refusal to hold down spending, or to increase taxes (and/or other revenues) to match those spending increases, and (b) the Uptown TIF’s continued cash-sucking underperformance.

In fact, the TIF is projected to suck another $773,000 out of the General Fund this coming year, effectively consuming that approx. $450,000 of operating surplus and draining an additional $310,000 in cash from the General Fund. 

That means that by FY 2012-13 year end, the General Fund cash balance will be approx. $2.74 million – or a mere one month of operating costs in reserve, compared to the City’s target of three months’ reserves.

Not surprisingly, Schmidt already has indicated he intends to veto some of the spending.  And with a little luck and the continued fortitude of Knight and at least two other aldermen, at least some of those vetoes might be sustained.

One of those vetoes will be the continued irresponsible handout of $49,500 to private corporation Center of Concern, which is such a “pet” charity of Ald. Rich DiPietro (2nd) that he – along with Alds. Joe Sweeney (1st), Jim Smith (3rd) and Tom Bernick (6th) – decided all of us taxpayers should be contributing to it with our tax dollars.  Joining DiPietro in his CofC advocacy this time around was City Clerk Betty Henneman, who must have forgotten to preface her comments with the disclosure that she is one of many local political figures on the CofC Advisory Board.

We particularly enjoyed Henneman’s claim that CofC has come forward “every year” with “full reports” of the services they are providing and the residents to whom they are providing services; and her insistence that CofC “raise[s] money in every way they can think of.”

CofC’s “full reports” are a joke, as we discussed and demonstrated in our 05.16.11 post about CofC’s 2011 application for City funding, which didn’t provide any cost per service unit figures or any identification (even to the City administration) of the alleged 6,770 City residents who received CofC services.  And an even bigger joke is CofC’s meager “fundraising” efforts, which we also wrote about in that same post.

Unfortunately, Park Ridge has a number of private “community groups” which seem to prefer living on the public dole while using their “private” status to keep most details of their operations secret.  As Knight correctly pointed out Monday night: “When any 501(c)(3) hangs out its shingle, I think the last place they should be depending on getting funding from…is government.”

Exactly! 

And Knight also properly called out self-proclaimed “Libertarian” Ald. Smith for the incongruity of his branding the $49,500 for CofC as a “relatively small” amount of money while arguing that the General Fund needed the $14,000 the Council voted for the license-plate recognition camera the police department wanted. 

Meanwhile, Ald. Marty Maloney (7th) showed some flashes of the savvy that earned him our endorsement last April when he encouraged a comprehensive policy-based review of why the City gives money to certain community groups and not to others, noting that the only rationale seems to be “because we’ve always given money to these groups.”

No discussion of City Council business, however, would be complete without an anecdote or two about the Council’s self-appointed court jester, Bernick.  In response to comments about how human services are funded in the State of Michigan, Little Tommy called that state a “dump” and claimed he wouldn’t want to live in Indiana, either, despite both states’ better financial standing than Illinois’.   Oh, and neither of them have even one of their ex-governors ensconced in a federal Graybar Hotel.

Bernick also took a shot at Schmidt’s opposition to taxpayer funding of CofC when he questioned whether the mayor had personally contributed to CofC…before telling Schmidt not to answer when it was pointed out that such personal questions are out of order.

But by our scorecard Bernick got at least two votes “right” Monday night: his joining Knight and Maloney in a losing “no” vote on 2% pay increases for those non-union City employees who simply meet performance standards; and his winning “yes” vote – joining Knight, Sweeney and Smith – in favor of a remote water meter reading system that is supposed to address the loss of over $400,000 a year in water revenue. 

For Bernick, even just two “rights” in one night is an all-star performance.

To read or post comments, click on title.

5 comments so far

A step in the right direction, but not a large enough step. Holding the salaries to zero percent increase was the right move that they did not make.

An 11% increase in property taxes is still on the table, if I understand correctly. As you have mentioned the Debt Service Coverage increases dramatically in the next couple of years.

I usually think you are too harsh in your written blog assessments. Perhaps, because it is Good Friday you are being kind to our elected officials.

You don’t go looking for the champaigne glasses while the titanic is sinking.

EDITOR’S NOTE: We are not being “kind” to anybody. We are simply acknowledging that this step is notably bigger and better than any other City Council achieved in more than a decade. Unfortunately, it appears that it’s also about as big a step as this particular Council is capable of.

And while this achievement isn’t champagne worthy, it’s probably reason enough to crack open a Stella Artois.

Go Bernick!

No… I mean Bernick…go!

This budget process (and its operating surplus) is the single best thing I have seen City government do since I’ve lived here. Keep up the good work, gentlemen. And a big round of applaus for Ms. Stutts.

…meanwhile, we’re all getting in the mail from a major labor union representing government employees these cards directing us to NoMoreCutsIL.com. They tell us to tell our elected representatives not to cut any more spending. I’m calling and telling them to cut more! Why?
This is why:
http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2012-04-08/news/ct-edit-health-20120408_1_retiree-health-pension-reforms-pension-underfunding

EDITOR’S NOTE: And tonight at City Hall the City’s so-called “labor attorney” is scheduled to show up and encourage the City Council to enact the ridiculous new, pro-union/anti-taxpayer Council Policy No. 8 – complete with secrecy provisions and the delegation of all negotiation responsibility to our crack staff of lost-in-the-funhouse City Mgr. Jim Hock and giveaway artists like Fire Chief Z (who went rogue and proposed unauthorized firefighters negotiation ground rules but then didn’t have the integrity or the plain decency to admit it when the mayor asked, twice, at the May 2, 2011, Council meeting).

Whose side is he on?

Is this Jim Hock ever going to get the boot?

EDITOR’S NOTE: Dogger, we slightly edited your comment to remove a gratuitous term that didn’t add to the discussion. But to answer your question, we have no idea – in part because current Alds. Joe Sweeney and Rich DiPietro, along with previous Alds. Don Bach, Jim Allegretti, Robert Ryan, Tom Carey and Frank Wsol, gave Hock a contract in late 2010 that will pay him approx. $120,000 if he is fired without “cause.”



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