Riverside board needs to hear from residents

A majority of the Riverside Village Board agrees that we have to spend village reserves in 2010 if we want to maintain minimum services for our residents. At issue is the proper source of these reserves.

“Undesignated reserves” are village savings not currently allocated for any particular use. The money in this fund comes primarily from deferred maintenance and capital spending over a period of years. “Cash flow reserves,” are equal to three months of village operating costs, and are used to cover village overhead when tax receipts are delayed (as they are this year). “Capital funds” are used to maintain village infrastructure and public facilities, and are allocated to cover capital expenses over a five-year capital improvement plan approved by the board.

To balance the budget for 2010, the board proposes: 1) spending $315,000 of undesignated reserves; 2) not paying $290,000 for existing capital fund projects; and 3) underfunding an existing pension obligation by $39,000.

I agree with using undesignated reserves to cover the 2010 deficit, but I object to using capital funds or deferring existing pension obligations. It is neither wise nor economical to spend money set aside for long-term needs on day-to-day expenses. President Gorman acknowledges that doing so is “kicking the can down the road,” and that deferring payments will cost the village more in the end.

To have a clear idea of where we are financially, we need to focus on our true savings, and not count money already designated for existing needs. Refusing to pay our bills does not convert that money into “savings.”

It muddies the water to defer paying $329,000 for known obligations and then try to count that money as savings: $290,000 of this amount is specifically allocated for existing projects in the village’s capital improvement plan. The capital improvement plan was just approved on Oct. 8 by the same majority that now refuses to fund it. The remaining $39,000 is likewise a known obligation.

A fair projection of undesignated reserves left at the end of 2010 is $670,000 (roughly one-half the undesignated reserves left at the end of 2009), not $1 million. At this rate, undesignated reserves will not cover the 2011 deficit.

That leaves three existing revenue sources for village operations: cash flow reserves, capital funds and village assets. There is general board agreement that we cannot use cash flow reserves to pay for operations. A majority is willing to spend capital funds on operations, while a minority (including me) is not. It is unclear what position the board will take on selling village assets to pay for operations.

Reasonable minds can disagree on a proper course, but we need accurate information to have an honest discussion. It does no good to pretend that things are other than they are.

As a business owner, I know how to focus on the basics, and how to make adjustments according to circumstance. And I also know that facts don’t change just because you don’t like them. Calling a pig a dog won’t make it bark.

Weathering hard times takes faith that we have the vision, skill and dedication to make things better. Ideas and ideals are why we do what we do – who ever had a burning desire to maintain the status quo? President Gorman says that such talk is just a cliché. But belief in a better future becomes a cliché only when we stop believing that good things are possible.

I encourage residents to participate in these discussions. Let the board know what you think.

Ben Sells
Riverside village trustee

A split RBHS board can be a good thing

Full disclosure: I was treasurer of the SWiM Party, and am a longtime friend of Matt Sinde.

Democracy in action is not always pretty. This adage holds true for the present RB school board as well. (You’re screwy. Now pay us; editorial, Oct. 21)

The last election (in which three new board members were put in place) showed that the public was not too thrilled with the way the old board was conducting business (the handling of Jack Baldermann, the school approaching deficit spending again). One could reasonably opine that voters felt the board was too insulated from the public.

I had the distinct impression that the old school board felt that the public sector was not (or should not be) beholden to the private sector, and almost viewed the RB taxpayers as an annoyance. In the balance, I think most people believed RB operates as a fine high school, but – frankly – needed to act a bit more like a fiduciary of the public trust. Given that only three of the seven positions were up, voters did what they could to change this board.

So now we’re left with a board of four vs. three on several issues, and I’m not sure that anything is wrong with that. It’s when boards start voting in 7-0 lockstep that one starts to wonder if everything is being discussed and debated as it needs to be. Does a 7-0 board make for an easier time for school administration? I guess so. But is that the goal here?

How important is a “great” superintendent? I’m sure it helps, but RB seemed to do just fine with Mr. Bonnette’s predecessor – and I’m not sure anybody would use the term “great” to describe him.

Clearly, David Bonnette is doing a fine job, and the search firm sees that. Allow him to keep doing this fine job (I trust the new board is not interfering with him), and go hire a strong principal.

While the board seems split on several issues (mostly economic, from my vantage point), I don’t want anybody – from either side of the split – to abandon their beliefs in order to “just get along and sing ‘Kumbaya.'”

The public is not stupid and elections eventually solve those issues – if they need to be solved at all.

Stan Czerwien

The Gorman gang needs to get tough

I’ve lived in Riverside since 1971. For the majority of that time, the village has struggled with adequate funding to cover reasonable operating cost. The “silver bullet” of the revitalization of the CBD, while nice to look at, will not solve the financial challenges the village faces. We either need a real estate tax increase, which is very distasteful to many, or something more creative like home rule, which opens new revenue streams not necessarily burdensome to the homeowners but kind of scary since we need to trust that the current and future village boards will administer this power responsibly.

I hope the Gorman gang figures this out quickly, before the damage of severely restricted funding digs deep into the village’s capabilities to serve the residents and maintain the infrastructure.

I also hope they have the courage to get this reality out to the residents and support these realities with the same vigor they showed while working to get their turn in the box. If they do, I’ll really be surprised!

Ed Mantel

Been there, done that-31 years ago

In 1978, I worked with some old-line Riversiders in what was the Riverside Central Business District steering committee. Through some really great leadership on the part of Jim Paul and a wonderful supporting cast – including Chet Kendzior, Hank Kluck and, of course, Ed Straka – some really meaningful improvements were integrated into the downtown CBD.

Our discussions at the time routinely went to the issue of economic development. We concluded that if a market for services emerged, someone would fill it. That whole supply-demand, free enterprise thing.

Apparently people in town feel compelled to have that same discussion 31 years later. (What will revitalize the downtown economy? Students compare and contrast Riverside with other Metra towns; news, Oct. 14)

Our conclusions, which will soon be confirmed by the NIU students: Potential for economic improvement exists.

The sidebar: Residents do not need it or really want it. They just want Riverside to be Riverside.

S.A. Lamb

Near schools, drive courteously

Fortunately, our family lives close enough that we are able to walk to Komarek School. (As a kid, I walked … North Riverside still a far piece from RBHS; news, Oct. 14)

I am thankful that I do not have to get involved in the driving congestion of the traffic as parents drop off or pick up their children. However, because of this fact, I am much more aware of the fact that drivers are not heeding to pedestrians. I know that as the weather changes and we face rain, snow and ice, these issues will only be magnified.

As parents, we teach our children to stop, look and listen, and to cross at the crosswalks. In taking our Rules of the Road tests, we learned that the vehicles must yield to pedestrians. While the North Riverside Police Department generally has a great presence at drop-off and pick-up times, there is only one officer there – who cannot possibly do it all.

So I am pleading with the parents/guardians driving to and from school: Do not block the crosswalks. Instead of backing up into the crosswalks trying to get around the car in front of you, wait until the car moves. Do not park where it is illegal (resident driveways, yellow no parking zones, etc.). And yield to the pedestrians.

Knowing that there are so many pedestrians, especially children, around the schools, please take safety into mind when behind that wheel. Rules of the road and common courtesy go a long way, if only we remember to follow them.

Amy Beggs
North Riverside