Below are candidate-submitted answers to a survey Landmark sent out to all candidates running in this year’s elections.
Office sought: Trustee, Village of North Riverside, Illinois
Previous political experience: None
Previous community experience: Civil Service Commissioner, July 2013 till Present.
Occupation: Retired, Illinois State Police Officer
Education: Master of Arts in Political and Justice Studies, Governors State University
Police and fire pensions are a heavy burden on the village’s annual budget, but they must, according to state law, be funded. What can the North Riverside Village Board do in the future to make sure those obligations are met?
I believe that public safety workers, including fire fighters, should get additional benefits when it comes to their retirement in light of their service to the community. The only long term solution to our unfunded liability is to grow our economy. Many communities, including North Riverside, are landlocked and cannot grow any more residentially.
The Village Board is seeking a proposal to control pensions through an innovative idea by contracting out the fire department. This would not only save the village money, it would prevent layoffs since the contractor agreed to keep all current firefighters, preserving their current base salaries, earned pension benefits and current health insurance.
If this does not happen, the only way to fund is to cut services and lay off employees.
The Village Board should address the General Assembly of Illinois (State Representatives) on the State Law that requires each municipality to fund pensions. This Law needs to be revised (change the schedule that it needs to be fully funded) so that municipalities can actually meet this requirement without filing for bankruptcy.
North Riverside ended its freeze on local property taxes by raising the tax levy in December 2014. How should the village board approach the issue of extending the tax levy in future years?
The Village of North Riverside, as a Non- Home Rule community can only exercise powers explicitly given to them by the Illinois statutes and laws, and has a budget that it must balance. If not, then the village must raise the tax levy. The levy rates for property taxes can vary significantly. Factors such as the number of residents living in the village, the size of the school district, the amount of revenue left over from the previous fiscal year, and the village’s revenue from other sources all directly affect the total property tax levy for the area in any given year. The Village also needs to continue to seek revenue-producing businesses for the community.
In some villages, residential voters also directly influence the levy rate variable by voting on referenda regarding which services to offer to the community, increases and/or decreases in funding for specific services or purchases, or both. The Village Board should have the Tax Levy addressed at a series of meetings and then address it as a referendum to the citizens of the village. Let the citizens not only be informed but give them the ability to say” yes” or “no” to an increase in their taxes.
Are there spending cuts or increases you would recommend, and is there any way to make cuts without diminishing services to residents? Are any areas off limits for spending cuts?
I believe that through consolidation of services (that are duplicative in nature) and staffing cuts should be done through attrition. This would not diminish services since the employees will be doing more with less. An example would be: the dispatching of the Fire and Police should be combined or contracted out altogether. The Village of North Riverside needs to seek-out, and hire, employees that are dedicated to the constituents of the Village.
Nothing is off limits for spending cuts; everything would be on the table.
What is the most important issue facing the village in the next four years? What should be done about it?
Without a doubt, the most important issue is pension obligations and being able to pay pensions without sacrificing services residents deserve. This must be addressed to the General Assembly since the State actually runs the pension systems.
Should elected officials and their families be eligible for the village’s health insurance program? Why or why not?
I believe that if it is offered then it should be up to the individual to either accept or decline.
What other issues do you feel will be important for the next village board to address? How should they be addressed?
Issues of infrastructure should be looked into: Such as sewers, water pipes and street repair.
These issues should be in order of priority.