RB Landmark sent questionnaires to each person running for public office in 2023. The candidates’ replies are as shown as they were received by the Landmark. For more on a candidate, click their name or photo.
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?
Since my tenure on the village board began, I have committed myself to making sure that the village pays it required contribution towards pension payments. With these new hires in place, I will work to ensure that the village avoids taking pension holidays and continues to fund the ongoing pension costs year over year. With the onboarding of these new hires, the cost will be minimal due to these employees just starting their careers with North Riverside. As we continue to keep funding the pensions every single year at the required level, we should be able to keep up with our pension payments, so there will not be as much a strain on our annual budget.
The decision to remove the private paramedics was the popular decision, but it may not have been the financially correct one made in the last 40 years. Six more firemen aren’t going to be hired, it will require 9-10 to make up for 6 contract paramedics. The pension costs will be unsustainable and layoffs for recreation and public works are going to happen. Ways to generate more revenues must be found.
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.
In-House paramedics has long been the proposal of the opposition party.
Background: Let’s not forget that it was always the position of the VIP/UNITEDs to continue with PSI. They waged a 5-year war against the Firefighters from 2014 through 2019. They lost at every turn and cost the taxpayers an estimated million in attorney fees. During this same period, we were promoting bringing paramedic services in-house, using the Silver Spanner program and saving the citizens of North Riverside an estimated $100,000 per year.
Proposal: There appears to be no reason why these annual savings will not hold up; even after the expense of employing an additional three (not six) firefighters with their salary, benefits and pension costs. It is also my understanding that the Administration botched grant applications that were available to help pay for new firefighters over a three-year period. We must look into these grants once again. If the program is properly implemented, there will be a cost savings to the Village. These savings must be documented and earmarked for very specific uses, and not just absorbed into the general fund where, as history tells us, they will be mismanaged by the current administration.
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.
With the addition of Firefighter/Paramedics this is more people contributing to the pension fund. Newer employees are not paid top pay as are the employee’s salary is less than retiring employees along with new employees contributing to the pension fund will either offset or be a plus to the fund. Another big that the Village will save on overtime.
After sitting through the last two years of budget meetings, I’ve seen how difficult it can be to make some of those hard decision. Figuring out ways to limit our pension liability will be one our biggest challenges for North Riverside. As a current trustee on the Fire pension board for nearly 2 years, I can understand the funding, contribution, and liability of both sides. One way to fund the pensions could be through contract negotiations. Making decisions during contract negotiations that benefit the village and its fire fighters is. Also, continuing to explore what works best for other neighboring communities is a good idea. We are not the only town dealing with this. As hard as it will be, I believe the appropriate decisions can be made if all of the trustees bring ideas to the conversation.
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?
Yes, I am personally in favor of the red light cameras being reinstalled at that intersection once the improvements have been made. They seem to be generating revenue because there is an influx of drivers who are frankly disobeying the law and continually avoiding stopping at these lights. We don’t have the resources to position an officer at this intersection at all hours of the day. As much as people don’t like the concept of red light cameras, it’s been determined that the intersection of Harlem and Cermak is one of the most heavily trafficked intersections in the state of Illinois. This is why IDOT is committed to changing out the signals and rework lane configurations in an attempt to make the intersection safer as a whole. Looking at the amount of violations handed out by the cameras at that intersection alone, you can clearly see that traffic control methods like this are essential for the safety of residents. Placement of a red light camera at this intersection will hopefully continue to assist with deterring drivers from not stopping / speeding through these lights and hopefully avoid serious accidents in the future.
The village should do everything possible to keep red light cameras; the revenue comes mostly from non residents and pays pensions. The loss is devastating, and the elected officials should have, and could have gone to Springfield to try and stop its removal.
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.
Background: If you follow the news; red-light cameras remain controversial for a number of reasons; and continue to be both a blessing and a curse on all communities that use them. Relying on this elusive revenue source is a mistake to begin with.
Proposal: Making up for loss of revenue is ALWAYS a multi-pronged approach. The current Administration has never properly approached the budgeting process. All they have ever done is spend and mis-manage. All budgetary line items must be researched and scrutinized. We should look for budget SAVINGS FIRST, before we automatically look for increased revenues.
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.
I am in favor of the red light camera not only for revenues but for the safety that comes with it. People who may think of going through a red light or turn on the red light will think twice. The red light camera will reduce accidents and injury.
Yes, I am a proponent of the red-light cameras. There are a few reasons why I believe they are in important. Many resident s may not know this but in an emergency, those 24 hours cameras serve as eyes for the Police Department. They assist in traffic accidents, and can be used for investigative purposes. Another important reason is that red-light cameras serve as revenue generators. I understand that red light cameras can be unpopular when we address them as revenue generators, but they are. I’m sure many residents have been in a situation where they wish a police officer was around to catch reckless driving. The surveillance is available to watch online if a ticket is generated which seems straight forward. If you run the light, do not yield to traffic signs or almost run over a pedestrian, you should expect a ticket. I think most people tend to slow don’t or are more observant if a police officer is next to you or if they notice the red-light camera.
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?
It is important for the village to continue this project. A project of this undertaking is essential for creating the right amount of pressure needed on the farthest section of town away from the stand pipe. We discussed as a board this project and we knew it would be a multi-year commitment. That is the reason why our current water rates are high. The board discussed the increase in water rates in order to cover those capital expenditures. Our water rate has been set to take care of the operating deficit in that fund. We have been operating this fund for 20 years and this is the first time we are operating in the black, as opposed to the red. Not only have we replenished our deficit, we have actually built up a surplus of funds to cover unexpected projects. So with that being said and with this project in mind, I feel we are able to handle the remaining phases of this project.
The infrastructure should have been continued because it’s necessary for a proper water system in the west. The infrastructure was aging and needed to be replaced. If it can be restarted we should look for grants to help whatever is in the until now. Homeland security used to offer infrastructure grants in the past. Maybe that is something that can be explored again.
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.
Background: We were told that MFT funds and CDBG funds were going to pay for the majority of this project. We all also remember the HERMANEK WATER ADMINISTRATION FEE that was quietly added to all water bills several years ago. We were also told that this fee would go toward the water main improvement.
Proposal: LIES again. It is doubtful that the Covid 19 pandemic had anything to do with the project halting. Inquiring minds guess that the Administration ran out of money and is broke. A full audit of the project is required to determine WHY it stopped and HOW to complete it. If the project must be completed for the water system to properly function; then it will have to be funded through cost-saving measures elsewhere in the budget.
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.
I would want to see a project that was started get completed. Seeing that this was a planned project that started over 6 years ago I have to look further into the project plans. With large projects like this there is sometimes state funding available. There are also other funding options that may be available.
Yes, I believe it is important for the Village to continue this project. We should be exhausting all possible ways to receive Grant money for projects regarding health and safety in our Village. Some resident s may not be aware, but the State of Illinois is requiring Villages have lead pipes removed from residential water lines that connect to the Village main line and be replaced with copper lines. It is important that residents are aware of these issues. I am in favor of maintaining home and Village water mains to insure safe water to all our residents.
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?
Yes, I personally voted to change the zoning laws to allow for the establishment of a dispensary within our village. I feel that we have several possible locations in town as long as they maintain an acceptable distance from both residential areas and school zones. In terms of revenue generated from these business and how it should be allocated, I feel that we have a long list of large capital projects that the board has already identified. We have beautification projects, much needed reexamination of lead based pipes in the village, infrastructure projects, etc. Our town is 100 years old and we have 100 years of infrastructure that we’ve have only been able to piecemeal repair and this would give us consistent funding to focus in on areas of our infrastructure that need attention.
The village should do everything in its power to have dispensaries. The revenue is necessary, and non residents will be ones mostly using them if they are placed in the right location. More revenue that comes from non residents the better, that fact keeps our taxes lower.
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.
Background: We are aware that a new round of dispensary licenses (approx. 55) will be issued by the State through a lottery process in the near future. All applicants must meet social equity criteria. So, there is currently no way of knowing if any such applicant has been selected in the lottery that would desire to locate in North Riverside. Licenses are limited.
Proposal: I am neither a proponent or opponent of legal adult-use cannabis facilities. That is a State licensing matter. Should any applicant be approved for a North Riverside location; it should be only in a commercially zoned area, away from schools and children. Further, any estimated revenues from such an operation should be thoroughly analyzed and discussed through the budgetary process. Use of these funds could be earmarked for special and needed programs and projects. These additional revenues must not be absorbed into the general fund where, as history tells us, they will be mismanaged by the current administration.
*** At this moment the Village is working on a site in a commercial area that may be used***
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.
I would support adult cannabis dispensary. I think it should be located in an area with high traffic such as Cermak Road. The village can benefit the most by people purchasing the cannabis. The additional income can be used for many things within the Village. It can be used to guarantee that the great services that the Village currently has and provide additional services to keep the village safe.
Yes, absolutely. Allowing a business that is regulated by the state while generating some astronomical tax revenue dollars for many communities could be a great idea. Having the proper procedures and protocols in place is key. Creating an ordinance that makes the most sense is the first step. A dispensary would best be suited in our Business District to keep traffic at a minimum and more visual to traffic. One of our neighboring towns is estimating a sales tax revenue of $250,000 per year from a cannabis dispensary. If we are able to acquire a cannabis dispensary, I would like to see the revenue earmarked towards current and future pension obligations. Having a plan is always going to me the key to our success. Knowing what we will do with the revenue is very important to keep chipping away at current liabilities.
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?
I believe that a well run village is able to diversify its various revenue streams. We can’t focus all on one area (ie. video gaming parlors), despite the substantial amount of revenue they generate, which has taken off the pressure in some areas. We can’t put all our eggs in one basket. We need to continue to look at other ways to generate consistent funding, and i don’t believe additional gaming parlors is the answer.
We need all the revenue we can get, especially with the hiring of so many more employees. The revenue from non residents is essential. I believe the capping of existing licenses to 10, hinders the village. Revenue streams like this are important. Important to taxes and fees that go to the village. Important for the business owners that operate these establishments. Placed in the proper location, it would be a win win.
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.
Background: Currently, in addition to the limit of 10 freestanding gaming parlors in the Village, licenses are also available to restaurants, liquor establishments and other retail outlets such as convenience/gas stores.
Proposal: I do not believe that expansion is warranted. With these types of revenue sources, you reach a saturation point. There is only so much discretionary $$$$ to go around. Additional outlets in our small Village will not generate substantial additional revenue; but will most likely just move it around. Also, the vast majority of residents that have expressed an opinion to me have indicated that what we have is “enough.”
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.
I believe the amount we have in Village now is good. But I have an open mind to discuss this further. If it would greatly benefit the village then I would agree.
Yes, I support an expansion of video gaming parlors that are limited to our Business District. re-zoning our Business District to keep additional parlors out of residential areas. Video gaming generated the Village of North Riverside for year 2022 $476,605.48. The Chief of Police has mentioned numerous times that the Police Department does not get many, if any, calls from these establishments. The crime is lower than some may think, and the Village is benefiting from the liquor license fees on top of the monthly revenue they generate.
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?
Frankly, I’m not in favor of being a home rule community, but I’ll admit I need to further educate myself on the concept and its implications, just as the members of our community should as well. Ultimately, it’s up to the residents to make the choice and I hope they would do so only after fully understanding what it all entails. The key to home rule status is having a cohesive board that understands the operations of the village and one that is willing to listen to the professional staff at its disposal to help guide them in hard decision making.
We need home rule to create more necessary revenue. However, that is a question that should be proposed to the resident. Also responsible officials need to be elected to oversee it properly. Transparency is key for this board to succeed.
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.
Background: This issue emerges every few years in our community. It is said that by establishing North Riverside as a Home Rule Community, there would be greater opportunity to increase revenue through fees and taxes that are not currently available to out local government. Without home rule, you must rely on those sources that are either authorized by state statute or are citizen authorized through a referendum.
Proposal: I say NO to establishing Home Rule in North Riverside. While I am aware of some benefits to being a home rule community; I also know that we cannot trust the current decades long administration of the VIP, and now United Party. They have already mismanaged and bungled our finances for many years and we are the laughing stock of the western suburbs. Why should we, as citizens, trust these people with new taxing and fees powers. They can’t competently handle the responsibilities that they have. It is best to demand transparency and accountability from this Administration then to blindly trust them to do the right thing with new powers.
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.
I would have to research home rule a little more as far as what benefits would be I believe that it would have to be a board decision. Also I will like to make sure that if was on the ballot our residence understood the purpose and benefits.
Yes, when it comes to home rule education is key for residents and trustees. I am always in favor or let’s have a conversation to figure out what is best for OUR Village. North Riverside is being limited in areas of funding. Home rule allows a Village Board the options to increase fees such as: gaming licenses, places for eating tax, entertainment establishments, administrative fees. It doesn’t always mean increasing property taxes as some may think. The decisions we make as trustees need to be made for the benefits of the Village. Continuing to move forward as a Village is a key factor.
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?
Possibly, but only if it’s done correctly and it’s phased in and manageable for the residents to absorb.
The tax levy referendum needs to be voted on up or down. The deficit is unsustainable. I believe we are near crisis mode and need to make decisions as such. The elected officials need to kick it into gear and find ways to plug the leak.
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.
Background: As noted above (in the General Section) the current VIP/UNITED Party
Administration has already screwed this up miserably. 1) The Illinois Appellate Court (Case # 2016 Il. App. (1st Dist.) No. 1-152687) in 2016 ruled against the VIP Administration; finding they illegally “failed” to fund the pensions for over six years, as required by law. 2) After they screwed it up, they have still failed to establish a plan to get back on track; and 3) They still can’t balance a budget so that they might have a surplus to address the issue.
Proposal: WHY should the citizens support higher taxes (through a referendum) so that we can bail out the VIP and UNITED PARTY incompetence and illegal pension funding activity? WHY don’t we force the VIP/UNITED Party cronies to give up their cushy jobs and exorbitant salaries and benefits for their failures and negligence. The taxpayers have been bailing them out for way too long. New taxes must ALWAYS be the last resort.
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!
I would like to do more research on this matter. If the benefit would be that the Village can add more police and fire personal that is always a plus.
Pensions have been an issue for the Village of North Riverside as well as many others in the State of Illinois. North Riverside has funded their contribution the last 7-8 years at an average of 106%. Due to the red-light cameras potentially being removed, for a while, I believe that the Village needs to explore every option to keep those pensions funded moving forward.
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?
I believe that how the space is developed should really be in the hands of the village residents and not up to the board to fully decide. New, undeveloped green space is historically rare in land locked communities like ours, so the ability to capitalize on available space and transform it through a possible “green initiative” type project might be one of the better options. I personally feel that the best use of the land AS OF NOW would be to allocate it to the Rec. Department for outdoor activities, sports, etc. This allows us to maintain control of the property. Land does not depreciate in value. When the time comes to consider further development of the space through the use of our Economic Development Committee, THEN I feel it would be the time to turn to the residents to get their input on how the space can be utilized in the future and allow them a voice in the matter.
The property should be eventually be made a recreation center for the residents when it can get the grants to construct it. In the mean time, it should be a temporary site for recreation activities as it is now.
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.
Background: Once Again – THEY LIED. (Your VIP / UNITED PART Administration). In 2020, while the Village was languishing in debt, with a deplorable bond rating, and heading headlong toward bankruptcy, your Administration spent $600,000 of your money to purchase the abandoned church and demolish it. There was NO feasibility study, NO Plan and NO PUBLIC INPUT. Then they LIED and stated that they got a State Grant to fund the project. Three years later and they still can’t substantiate that claim. WHY? Because they lied.
Proposal: If they had any competence and they had $600,000 laying around; why didn’t thy pay down some of the pension debt. It’s three years later and we still have NO PLAN. I am open to citizen input and professional analysis to determine if a realistic approach for public uses of the property can be achieved. Otherwise, perhaps it is time to try to recover the funds that we lost from this lunacy? Have the property appraised and seek bids from developers for a residential development that would put the property back on the tax rolls.
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.
I believe that the Village should sell to developers so that houses can be built. If the parcels can be subdivided there is a good chance that the sale would bring a profit to the Village. Also once the houses are build it will be additional tax revenue to the Village also.
I believe that North Riverside should have the property appraised. Village owned property allows for the Village to make the best decision on what will come and benefit the residents. I think there are a bunch of great ideas that have been tossed out. I can tell you that I would be in favor of something that would generate revenue, create a safe space for our children play or teenagers to work, somewhere that bring light into the community. I think it should be something that will make residents happy to have part of the community.