The Riverside-Brookfield Landmark sent questionnaires to each person running for public office in 2023. The Landmark’s questions are in bold and the candidate’s responses are below.
Name: Joseph Maruska
Previous Political Experience: None
Previous/Current Community Involvement: Chair, Riverside Chamber of Commerce
Occupation: Owner, T&L Graphic Systems, Inc.
During the past two annual budget discussions, North Riverside trustees have been faced with steep general operating fund deficits. In 2021-22, federal COVID relief funds offset a projected $1 million deficit, but those funds are not available in 2022-23, a year in which North Riverside projects an approximate $900,000 deficit. Village staff have projected operating budget deficits of more than $2 million annually for the 2023-24 and 2024-25 fiscal years.
With that as a backdrop, how would you as a village trustee approach the following financial issues:
1. With paramedic services coming back in-house and the village poised to hire six additional firefighters/paramedics over the next three years, North Riverside will be adding to its long-term pension burden. How will that additional pension burden be absorbed in future budgets?
Now that North Riverside has brought the Paramedics in house, like so many other municipalities, it will be able to save a lot of money on not paying the overtime to a third party private company for the services that we all rely on. After a five-year battle against the Firefighters at a cost to tax payers around $1 million in legal fees and lost, North Riverside will have it’s Firefighters and in house Paramedics.
2. Red light cameras, which produce more than $1 million in revenue for the village each year, will be removed from the Harlem/Cermak intersection this spring and could be permanently gone if the state does not approve a new application for their installation. Would you support reinstalling red light cameras at Harlem and Cermak once the intersection is improved this year? If not, how do you believe North Riverside can make up for that loss of revenue?
As a driver I hate Red-Light Cameras, who doesn’t. Unfortunately, due to North Riverside’s Financial short comings, the red-light camera at Harlem/Cermak intersection served a purpose. The revenue it generated helped pay the police/fire pensions. There is this misconception that Red-Light Cameras help make in intersection safe, they do not. All they are good for is to be a cash register for the city or municipality that installs them. As time goes by that city or municipality heavily relies on that revenue because that camera did not fix anything all it does is allow that city or municipality spend more frivolously. In the end the reason for why it was implemented gets drowned out by more debt.
3. From 2017-19, the village embarked on a major project to improve its Cermak Road water main west of First Avenue. The project got as far as 11th Avenue before coming to a halt in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Do you believe that it is important for the village to continue this project and, if so, how can the village fund this work, which has cost almost $500,000 for each of the first three phases?
Well, I am not an engineer. I have no idea if this scope of work is warranted. As aforementioned, North Riverside needs implement a spending freeze. Any hiring or projects need to be on hold until an audit of all departments can be completed. Once that done this project should be addressed by a qualified licensed engineer, that can do a complete assessment of main lines. Meanwhile, while that is be done North Riverside should do its homework in investigating grants that could help pay for this.
4. If the village were in a position to gain an adult-use cannabis dispensary, would you support such a use in the village? If yes, in what area of the village do you think it should be located? Do you believe that there are any specific village expenses that the village should prioritize using cannabis tax revenues?
Personally, I am not for a Dispensary. In a small town as North Riverside this is not warranted. We need to work on growing the community with destinations that families want to go to. I think a dispensary cheapens our little town. I don’t want NR to be ‘That Town’. If too it’s prevail, the location will have to be chosen very carefully somewhere away from schools and children! Now from a government aspect, I understand the argument NR needs money. If and when it comes down to a vote, and if it were to pass the money would have to be earmarked for pension payments or paying down the debt.
5. In the absence of a cannabis dispensary, would you support an expansion of video gambling parlors? How would you respond to those who believe video parlors should be limited to the existing 10?
It is to my understanding that North Riverside is already capped at 10 free standing gambling licenses. Along with those locations, NR also has individual business’ that have gaming as well, such as restaurants and gas stations. Expansion by increasing gaming licenses is not warranted. We need to NOT mismanage the money we do bring in.
6. Would you support placing a referendum on the ballot asking for the village to become a home rule community? Why or why not? Would you support seeking home rule status for the village?
Absolutely not! By allowing Home Rule we give our governing body a blank check to mismanage. This governing body does not understand what it means to spend within your means. Home Rule would be enabling their spending problems.
7. Would you support placing a referendum on the ballot seeking to impose a tax levy to fund police and/or fire pension obligations? Why or why not? Would you support a pension levy referendum?
This question kind of falls in line with the previous question. My answer is no! My no has nothing against the Police or Fire Departments. This is against the current governing body. The VIP/United Party went years without funding the pensions. Now we want to burden the citizens of North Riverside and have them pay for our government mistakes. I DON’T THINK SO! I don’t think we the tax pay need to fund the incompetence of the administration of the VIP/United Party!
8. The village in 2020 bought the former Presbyterian church property at 24th Street and 8th Ave. How do you believe the village should determine the best use for that property? Should the village keep it? If so, for what purpose? If not, why not?
This should not have been purchased by North Riverside. We did not have the money then, and we sure need that money now. From a business point of view, sell the property to a developer, and make sure the land is zoned for residential single family housing. North Riverside needs to recoup as much out of pocket expense as it can from this huge mistake.