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: Sandra Greicius
Education: B.S., University of Illinois at Chicago; master’s degree in teaching, National Louis University
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?
We must know where we stand to begin to move forward. Successful businesses conduct audits to ensure operations are running efficiently and to appropriate funds for essential projects. This is the first step for all financial undertakings. In the short term, it is important to develop innovative strategies to prevent any additional tax burden on the residents from a reduction in revenue from pension obligations or the loss of the red-light cameras. With such a plan in place, any funds collected from red-light cameras, once approved, would be reserved to decrease the current debt. Further, in-house paramedic services will provide timely cost-savings in the interim.
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 stated, developing a variety of methods to compensate for the loss of proceeds from red-light cameras, as well as pension obligations, is key. Creating innovative strategies to form new streams of revenue, investigating current programs for best use and viability, and researching grants, government programs, and fundraisers would not only lessen our dependence on the red-light cameras, but an approval for reinstalling the red-light cameras would provide revenue to decrease the 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?
Similarly, in working to decrease the debt, it is important not to create additional debt and closely monitor all spending while still providing necessities for the Village. The continuation of the water main project must be evaluated to determine if the expense is warranted at the current time. Funds for the water main and future projects may then be budgeted accordingly.
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?
Some potential sources of revenue, a cannabis dispensary or more video gaming parlors, require additional forethought due to the sensitive nature of such matters. Resident input would allow greater autonomy to build the Village into a cohesive whole. The establishment of regular neighborhood meetings would provide a forum for residents to address concerns and ideas prior to issues arising. As such establishments would be located in a commercial district, suggestions to improve these areas would be constructive as well.
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?
As stated, expansion of video gaming parlors is an issue that requires additional consideration. Improved methods of communication with residents is important in meeting our financial goals while addressing safety in the Village. With support, any such establishment must be limited to commercial areas.
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?
Home rule, I feel, suppresses the voice of the residents and provides the local government with more laxity in making decisions resulting in increased taxes and approving referendums without voter input. I would not support a home rule referendum.
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?
In the same way home rule limits the voice of the residents, it is unethical to propose any tax-increase referendums when balancing the budget and assessing financial integrity is in order. Again, as businesses conduct audits to determine best practices, we must determine the best practices for conducting business in the Village and in the interest of all residents.
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?
The best use for the former Presbyterian church property, now the vacant lot at 24th Street and 8th Avenue, is residential property development. The sale of the property would offset the expenses incurred, not add to the current debt, and increase tax revenue. Through addressing this issue as well as other concerns with an innovative, business-oriented mindset, may we develop a strong Village for all.