Franklin Park’s Budget Blues

Thanks to the person who sent a link to IAFF Local 1526 representing the Franklin Park firefighters. It’s always an education to find out how other communities are coping in these times. Franklin Park is a village of 19,500 situated near O’Hare. It is contemplating laying off 6 firefighters and 7 police officers as part of a strategy to balance its budget. A rally to protest such a move is planned for January 23 and Village Mayor Barrett Pedersen is a particular target because of campaign promises he made last year to protect union jobs and to resist the formation of a regional fire department.

Indeed: in a statement on the Mayor’s page of the Village website, Mayor Pedersen thanks the voters and lays out his priorities:

Public safety is our first priority. Our upcoming budget will include funding to improve our public safety departments and provide an increased police presence in our neighborhoods.

Whoa! What’s happening here? Well, for one thing, neither police nor fire departments have contracts right now so they’re on the table. Also, it’s possible the mayor’s been whacked with a reality stick since the election:

We are still accepting your ideas for cutting our budget and streamlining our expenditures. The Village still must make significant cuts to balance its budget.

As I indicated last month, the Village has been over spending each year since 2002. This year’s deficit is $2.5 million. This deficit has not been caused by a downturn in the economy. The deficits will not disappear when the economy recovers. Next year we will face the same problem. One time, short-term gimmicks will not cure long term overspending…To put the Village on firm financial footing, significant, permanent cuts must be made. [emphasis added]

I don’t know the Village of Franklin Park nor Mayor Pedersen’s story. Here in DeKalb, there is plenty to cut before you get to public safety positions but who knows if that is the case in FP. Also I suspect FP’s proximity to O’Hare may complicate issues in ways I don’t understand. At any rate I wish them the best in hammering out agreements that are sound and fair to all Village residents.

Meanwhile, can you imagine how it would change the local dialog if the City of DeKalb stopped blaming all its financial troubles on the economy and the State of Illinois, and got to work fitting the budget to what we can afford? We’d make phenomenal progress.

Right now, though, DeKalb is on track for a revenue shortfall of $3 million. Spoiler alert: It’s a circular track of tax hikes and fees and a head-on collision with the layoff train at the end.

Bonus: Mayor Pedersen’s other priorities:

Second, economic development and tax relief are needed to advance and support existing businesses while encouraging new business development and job creation.

Third, we will enact ethics reforms by ending nepotism in village hiring. When family members of elected officials are placed on the public payroll, it gives the wrong impression that they were hired for who they know rather than what they know. Ethics reforms will also prohibit the Department of Inspectional Services’ past practice of asking for campaign contributions from the businesses and residents they inspect.

Fourth, the Department of Inspectional Services will be thoroughly overhauled. In addition to requiring employees to treat residents and businesses with courtesy, dignity and respect, the practice of charging for permits that have little or nothing to do with health and safety concerns will be discontinued. These unnecessary fees amount to an unjust tax that discourages homeowners from improving their properties and pushes businesses away.

And finally, Franklin Park’s main streets, business districts and neighborhoods must be cleaner, more attractive and better maintained.

2 thoughts on “Franklin Park’s Budget Blues”

  1. So I would support regionalization of police, fire and education. Some of the huge savings in administration could go to fund required staffing levels in rank and file. Some of it could go towards tax burden reduction. Win. Win?

    Spoiler alert: It’s a circular track of tax hikes and fees and a head-on collision with the layoff train at the end.

    I fear I must agree with part one and when the collision then happens, because revenue will again not meet projections, the last straw of integrity will be plucked from City Hall — and it will indeed be the shortest straw.

  2. There is not going to be enough revenue to pay the current number of public safety personnel at the current rates. But, the services need to be provided. Something has to give, and the sensible thing to do under these circumstances is to reduce wages, salaries, and benefits for the duration of the downturn. This causes a great deal of screaming and yelling. But, back during the downturns in the 1980’s the small firm where I worked was in trouble, and engineers and management took 2 back to back pay cuts, (totaling 20%) while the production workers were reduced to a 4 day week. When things turned around, our salaries and wages were restored to the prior levels. We kept our jobs, and back then that was very important. Now, it is again. Laying off staff who are unionized is based on seniority, so the younger people get laid off first. But, it becomes difficult to maintain acceptable service levels with reduced staff.

    The first place that DeKalb should look to reduce costs to meet diminished revenues is in overtime pay. Proper scheduling for fire and police should be able to reduce this cost considerably. This, too will be fought. So, something needs to be done before the crisis gets any worse. Staffing levels, facilities, and compensation for local governments has rapidly increased for more than a decade. But, it can no longer be supported by incoming revenues. The state of Illinois is currently in the hole by about $5.7 billion. They have their own massive problems. I suspect that things are not going to turn around any time soon, as this recession/depression has some strong systemic causes. So, the local governments are going to have to largely fend for themselves. Whistling past the graveyard, and hoping for a sudden upturn are not viable financial strategies. I have tried to outline my thoughts on this sad situation, and what I see is that there is no easy way out, nor a painless way to meet the declining revenue base. But, we really have no choice in the matter.

Leave a Reply