One of the few things that just about everybody in Brookfield agrees on is that there needs to be money set aside for park improvements. When it comes to improving Jaycee/Ehlert Park, it's even clearer?"the village must set aside money for its improvement.
The reason for the urgency is that the village received a federal grant, which it used to buy park land from School District 103 in 2004. The grant required the village to improve the park land within three years of purchasing the property.
Trouble is, there's not a whole lot of money floating around for park improvements. Apart from money earmarked to improve the Harrison Tot Lot last year, nothing was approved for park improvement in 2004.
By spring of 2007, the village must begin improvement of Ehlert Park or be in violation of the grant terms. That may seem like a long way away, but the 2005-06 budget is currently being drafted by village staff.
A sack of money isn't expected at village hall any time before that budget is passed. And in any case, the village will have $440,000 less at its disposal after trustees voted to abate taxes in Special Service Areas on Monday night. If those abatements don't get rescinded, the village will have denied itself roughly $900,000 over a two-year period.
To say that the abatements are irresponsible would not be putting it too harshly. The SSA abatements are pure politics, playing to a small segment of voters to the detriment of the many.
While it was denying itself $440,000 in tax payments, the village board voted to transfer $400,000 more dollars from the garbage fund into the general fund to pay for future Ehlert Park improvements. That's an $840,000 night for the residents of Brookfield?"roughly 8 percent of next year's budget in one fell swoop.
Urgency was the reason given for the fund transfer. Earmark the funds now for the benefit of the children before the money is used for something else. When the board has voted to abate $900,000 in taxes in two years, that kind of urgency rings hollow. It's a crisis of the board's own making.
Should Brookfield attempt to obtain another federal grant to help fund park improvements? By all means. Should the village declare a surplus in the garbage fund and shift money to the general fund for park improvements? That very well may be a fine idea.
But perhaps the village could do even more. Perhaps they could set aside money for park improvements out of a general fund that includes SSA taxes that residents voted to pay to the village. Maybe the garbage fund surplus could help address Brookfield's alleys, which have got to be some of the worst in all of the western suburbs.
Stop the politics and start enacting responsible policies.