The following answers are taken from issue-focused questionnaires, where candidates for Orland Park Village Board were given the option to reply in writing, sit down for an in-person interview or participate in a phone interview. Answers are posted in the order questionnaires were returned or interviews were held.
Trustees and staff plugged a $1.8 million budget gap this fall by increasing certain fees and fines, including vehicle stickers, without cutting staff. Is there anything you would have done differently?
John Brudnak (phone interview)
You have to look at cutting staff. At the school board we cut staff, now we’re looking at the administrative level. At my company, everybody took a hit, from top management to the lowest guy in the shop pay-wise. When business picks up you bring people and positions back. Doubling fees for stickers is not an answer. That’s a band-aid. Along with the staff not decreasing, there are also benefit costs and insurance on top of salary. I’m sorry but you have to make cuts where they are needed. Not decreasing staff is irresponsible. No one wants to make cuts or layoffs, but sometimes you have to make those decisions to keep things running the way they should.
In the last 3 years the Board has reduced full time staff by 28 persons (10%). In
the last 2 years the Board has reduced operating expenses by $4.4 million.
John Fotopoulos (written submission)
Yes. If elected I would introduce an ordinance demanding that the car sticker increase set to go in effect in July be repealed and any tax levy increase for recreation be withdrawn. Plain and simple we must stop balancing the budget on the backs of the working families in Orland Park. The 100 percent increase for car stickers for village residents is sticker shock to say the least, but the 1,000 percent increase for our seniors to purchase their car stickers is outrageous, especially for those on fixed incomes.
The Orland Park Village Board, with yes votes from the incumbent trustees seeking re-election under the United First Party Banner, voted to increase the car sticker tax. The trustees also proposed a tax levy increase for the recreation department from 8/10 of a cent for every 100 of assessed value to 3 cents of assessed value. This is a $60 increase on a resident’s property tax bill for a house with a two hundred thousand dollar value.
We have to change the way government does business. I propose that instead of raising taxes to balance the budget in 2011 that Orland Park Village Hall close for business on the 5 slowest days that residents use Village Hall for government business. The cost savings from employee salaries, except those deemed necessary to provide essential services, together with electric and heat to run the building, I believe would be enormous.
The proposed shut down days are as follows:
- April 22, 2011-Friday
- May 27, 2011-Friday, Memorial Day Weekend
- July 1, 2011-Friday, Independence Day Weekend
- September 2, 2011-Friday, Labor Day Weekend
- November 25, 2011- Friday after Thanksgiving
Trustees raised the price for vehicle stickers 100% for passenger and motorcycles plus 1000% for seniors, which is predicted to be an increase of about $544,000 in vehicle sticker fees. I find this unacceptable; I would not raise vehicle sticker’s fees.
While the budget may have won awards from government finance officers, the presentation for the average citizen is such a mess that it is nearly impossible for the average person to consume and understand if the village is doing a good job at managing expenses other than in generalities like “taxes keep going up so they must not being doing a good job.” For example, in the expenditures for the MIS department there are 8 separate categories for “Supplies – General,” 7 of which have expenditures in 2011. I’m sure the included account numbers mean something to the employees in the village finance department but they don’t to the taxpayers. So, the village staff isn’t doing themselves any favors by putting out information in this format.
To answer your question, absolutely I would have done things differently. I would have cut discretionary spending even deeper to keep the promise of rebating property taxes to village taxpayers.
There is $1 million dollars in the open lands fund that I would have eliminated. I understand the desire to acquire property when it becomes available but in economic times like these, you have to cut the nice-to-have things, it’s a reality that every homeowner is facing today and the village should be held to the same standard. There is $300,000 spending in the Metra Triangle fund that wouldn’t be necessary if the incumbent board members hadn’t made a bad decision relative to that initiative; there is $16.7 million in the capital improvement fund that I would have prioritized and eliminated any nice-to-have items; and it appears we are now paying nearly $94,000 for public officials' insurance premiums. I’m not sure why we need to pay for the insurance of part-time elected officials. There are many “other” expense items in each of the funds that I believe need to be scrutinized more carefully.
All in, there is lots of fat still left on the hog we call the village budget before we have to look at reducing staff.
We have reduced full time staff by 28 employees, mainly by not filling positions vacated by retirement. We have a very professional staff and they have been asked to take on additional responsibilities to help the village through this difficult time. We have been able to continue to provide for our residents because cuts made were done in a way to have minimal impact on the residents of our community and the services they expect. The board also cut $4.4 million in the last 2 years from our budget.
I believe you may be confusing the budget request with the actual budget approved. The Board refused many of those staff expenditures. They took a balanced approach in reducing expenditures, which included personnel costs, and raising some fees that had not been raised in many years.
I feel the Orland Park residents have been hit with enough expenses as of late. Now is not the time to double the cost of vehicle stickers and increase other miscellaneous fines. I have spoken to many residents who are fearful they won’t be able to afford to live in Orland Park unless some changes are put forth in the very near future. This is a major concern of mine; as a mother of five young children I want Orland Park to remain an affordable and attractive place to raise a family. I think a comprehensive evaluation needs to be made of the budget, including staffing levels, to determine where cuts could be made to make up for the $1.8 million budget gap.
Tom Cunningham (written submission)
Yes! Number one. I would have held pay raises to nothing. In Orland 135 School District we as a Board did not give our administrators a raise last year. If the revenues aren't there you can't keep taxing the homeowners to death.