Below are candidate-submitted answers to a biographical survey Riverside-Brookfield Landmark sent out to all candidates running in this year’s elections.
All of the VIP Party candidates for North Riverside trustee, including Deborah Czajka, Matthew Decosola and Martin DeLeonardis submitted joint answers to the Landmark’s questions.
Previous political experience: 18-year member of the VIP Party, North Riverside trustee 2013-17, former Riverside Township trustee, former chairman of the NortH Riverside PLan Commission.
Previous Community experience: Active member of Sts. Peter and Paul Lutheran Church in Riverside, active with an dcontributor to charitable causes in town, such as costumes for a cause, Christmas for a cause, MKayor’s Youth Scholasrhip Golf OUting, Mater Christi Golf Outing.
Occupation: 14-year employee of River Forest Public Works
Education: St. Joseph High School graduate, 1989.
What is the present state of the village of North Riverside’s financial situation? What is being done and what can be done to ensure its long-term viability and make it more resistant to downturns in sales tax revenues?
The Village of North Riverside is currently financially sound and we understand that the past ways of relying on sales tax revenues is fading alongside big box stores as more and more people do their shopping online. North Riverside has been diversifying its revenue base by adding additional businesses, which provide other taxing opportunities such as our Eating and Entertainment Taxes. We believe that expanding these revenue sources and diversifying our revenue streams will allow us to keep property taxes low while still maintaining high quality services.
North Riverside firefighters have been working without a contract since April 30, 2014. What is the realistic long-term solution for the North Riverside Fire Department? How do you think your preferred model can be accomplished given the experience of the past five years?
North Riverside is facing what every small municipality faces with regards to pension issues. The Village established a policy in 2014 to pay 100% of its annual pension obligations, all without taxing residents separately. Until the State fixes this problem, we continue to support our administration exploring alternatives. The union and residents of North Riverside need to realize this and if allowed to use substitutions, we could save money and not affect other village services such as recreation and public works.
North Riverside historically has asked homeowners to pay very little in property taxes to support village services. With pension obligations continuing to grow and the state of retail sales on uncertain ground, how would you continue to keep property taxes low? Do residents need to start paying more to fund obligations such as pensions? Why or why not?
North Riverside, being a non-home rule community, cannot tax residents to pay for pension obligations without a referendum, which most likely would not pass. We need to continue to be creative in diversifying our revenues. While we have been criticized for the number of video gaming establishments in town, these have generated the needed revenues, which have allowed us to continually fulfill our pension obligations as outlined in our policy that was established back in 2014. We will continue to look at additional feasible opportunities in the future so as to not burden the residents.
Would the village benefit from a comprehensive planning process, perhaps as part of the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning a la Riverside and Brookfield? If not, why not?
North Riverside is very unique and our problems are not the same as those faced by Chicago, Riverside or Brookfield. We still enjoy a large sales tax revenue base and this is where our concentration should be directed. We recently approved an agreement with the former head of business development from the village of Oak Brook who will be preparing a comprehensive road map for the village to use going forward with the changing dynamics over at the mall and other retail outlets located within North Riverside. This dashboard, so to speak, will act as our own CMAP and designed specifically for our town.
What are the other important issues facing North Riverside in the next four years? How should those be addressed?
The major issues facing the village over the next four years include our increasing pension obligations and the decline of large retail space, all while the state tries to balance their budget on the backs of small municipalities like North Riverside. We need to continue to look towards more diversified revenue streams and develop a plan for the continual decline of the big box stores. More entertainment opportunities, which generate places for applying Eating and Entertainment Taxes, will be part of the focus of the study being conducted as mentioned above which will assist officials in making more sound, long-term decision in and for the future.