Agreeing on a mechanism for funding capital projects in Riverside beginning in 2015 is a start. It’s a strange place to start, but at least it’s a kind of progress on a village board that has been clearly split on capital funding policy.
The general agreement goes like this: In 2014, the village’s $2 million bond issue – approved by voters in 2004 to pay for road improvements – expires. At that time there are a few options.
1. The board can seek to simply retire the bond issue and give everyone in the village a small break on their property taxes.
2. The board can ask voters to approve another $2 million bond issue to replace the old one for the purpose of funding capital projects in Riverside. It won’t give residents a tax break, but it won’t add more than they had already been paying for the past 10 years. The new bond issue would be repaid over 10 years at which time the village can decide whether it wants to do it all over again.
3. The board can retire the bond issue and replace it in perpetuity by asking voters to approve a property tax hike that would approximate what they had been forking over to repay the 2004 bond issue.
According to Finance Director Kevin Wachtel, the debt service on the 2004 bonds is about $250,000 per year. Spread across the entire village, that would not make a noticeable dent in anyone’s tax bill. It also wouldn’t pay for a whole lot of capital projects, though it would certainly be better than nothing, which is currently the case.
On June 6, the board came to a consensus that it would favor choosing either Option 2 or Option 3. Now no one knows whether most, or any, current trustees will be on the village board when 2014 and 2015 roll around. It’s nice for the present board to set policy for that future board, though.
What the present board continues to avoid is setting policy for itself on capital funding, much less operational funding, which will be an acute issue come 2015 if all things remain the same.
Trustee Jean Sussman gets a lot of eye rolls and grief for her insistence on setting clear policy direction. At the June 6 meeting, she got a rather short response to her concerns from Trustee James Reynolds who, in classic Richard J. Daley fashion, demanded to know “What are your solutions?”
The Riverside Community Alliance has had a lockdown majority on the village board since being elected in 2009. It’s time for them to stop asking Sussman to do the heavy lifting and set policy for the future capital and operational funding for the village of Riverside. Or, even bolder, set a policy for enhancing revenue for capital and operational needs. Right now the majority is simply avoiding policy.
It’s not good enough to wait until 2014 or 2015, when it’ll possibly be someone else’s responsibility, to set a course. These issues need to be addressed now, not four years from now.