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.