1. Call to Order
Mayor Ron Sandack called the regular meeting of the Village Council of the Village of Downers Grove to order at 7:00 p.m. in the Council Chambers of the Downers Grove Village Hall.
Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag
Mayor Sandack led those present in the Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag.
2. Roll Call
Present: Commissioner Marilyn Schnell, Commissioner Bob Barnett, Commissioner William Waldack, Commissioner Sean P. Durkin, Commissioner Bruce E. Beckman, Commissioner Geoff Neustadt and Mayor Ron Sandack Non Voting: Village Manager David Fieldman, Village Attorney Enza Petrarca and Village Clerk April Holden The Council meeting is broadcast over the local FM radio station, WDGC . In addition, a tape recording and videotape of the meeting are being made using Village owned equipment. The videotape of the meeting will be used for later rebroadcast of the Council meeting over the Village cable television Channel 6.
The Council will follow the rules of conduct for this meeting as provided in Sec. 2.5 of the Downers Grove Municipal Code. These offer the public the opportunity to comment at several points in the meeting. First, immediately following approval of the minutes of the past meetings, an opportunity will be given for public comments and questions on the active agenda items for this evening’s meeting. Following this, an opportunity is given for public comments and questions on any subject. Finally, if a public hearing is scheduled for this meeting, an opportunity is given for public comments and questions related to the subject of the hearing.
The presiding officer will ask, at the appropriate time, if there are any comments from the public. If anyone wishes to speak, the individual should raise their hand to be recognized and, after acknowledgment from the presiding officer, approach the microphone and state their name and address. Remarks should be limited to five minutes, and asked that individuals refrain from making repetitive statements.
Mayor Sandack said there are agendas located on either side of the Council Chambers, and he invited the audience to pick up an agenda and follow the progress of the Council meeting.
3. Minutes of Workshop and Council Meetings
Council Meeting – November 3, 2009 Budget Workshop – November 3, 2009 Workshop Meeting – November 10, 2009 There being no additions or corrections to the minutes, Mayor Sandack said they would be filed as submitted.
Capital Projects Update
Naneil Newlon, Director, Public Works, reported on a number of projects: On Ogden Avenue, 1/3 mile has been completed with respect to driveways and sidewalks. Additional work will begin in the spring after the Sanitary District completes its work. On Washington at Burlington, all paving projects have been completed. On Prentiss Street, street lights are being installed this week. Staff has held three neighborhood meetings to date. This is a unique project and staff is eager to see how the work progresses.
Ms. Newlon referenced a report on change orders reflecting that, overall, change orders are running under the bid amounts this year.
Mayor Sandack asked about the operation of the lighting system in Prentiss Creek, noting that the Village received a grant for much of that project. The lights will be unique and use solar and wind power. He asked if there is a battery connection of some kind. Ms. Newlon said the battery system holds about 2 1/2 days of energy. She said the grant was equal to about 50% of the cost. Staff has worked with the neighbors who are in support of the street lights, as they previously had no street lights in this area.
Commissioner Beckman said he is pleased that Prairie and Rogers are completed. He thanked the staff for its diligent work to get the jobs completed.
Commissioner Waldack said $17,073,000 has been authorized for projects, and the budget is under by $1.263 million due to change orders.
The Mayor said staff brings forward change orders because they are necessary. He asked that the report be put on the website for public review.
4. Public Comments and Questions
A. Comments and Questions on Active Agenda
John Miller, 5405 Blodgett, spoke regarding speed humps. He does not like addressing this matter one street at a time. The area between Main and Fairview needs to be reviewed comprehensively. Staff recommended a more comprehensive approach, but the Transportation and Parking Commission (TAP) asked what could be done this year. He urged that this start where staff recommended.
Bill Wrobel, 7800 Queens Court, spoke regarding the Blodgett Avenue traffic calming motion. He attended the TAP meeting and witnessed people getting excited about traffic calming devices. He asked last week if there were some way to help with that project and reiterated that thought. At last week’s Workshop, a resident asked as to the purpose of the motion, since no funds are available. He attended the TAP meeting last week regarding sidewalks for 2010. The amount of funding has been cut in half and 60% of the people said they do not want sidewalks on their streets. We are funding sidewalks that are not wanted and not funding traffic calming that is wanted within the same Commission. If this motion is approved, it is put on a shelf. There is a public safety need and it should be funded if at all possible.
John Schofield, 1125 Jefferson, referenced items F, G, H, and I on the Consent Agenda regarding real estate transactions. He does not recall any discussion and would appreciate a presentation regarding this.
Chris Fregeau, 1918 Elmore, said she attended the TAP meeting last week and had a different take on the meeting. She said residents expressed concerns about stormwater. Staff needs to be able to address stormwater issues with residents.
B. Comments and Questions on General Matters
Greg Bedalov, President, EDC , said he had three pieces of information. Highland Landmark V was awarded the Suburban Office Development of the Year by NAIOP Chicago 22nd Annual Awards for Excellence. Opus North Corporation staff were presented with the Suburban Broker Transaction of the Year with the relocation of DeVry Institute at Highland Landmark V. Mr. Bedalov then announced that the Dover Corporation is relocating to the Highland Landmark office complex, bringing 120 jobs with them. This is a perfect example of how state, county and local governments work together. With this move, Landmark V will be 90% full.
The Mayor thanked Mr. Bedalov for his efforts. He noted that the Dover Corporation relocation involved no economic development tools.
Commissioner Beckman said he was in the EDC offices when the negotiations took place. The EDC was well prepared to meet with the Dover staff. This community is well prepared to provide the support needed by a corporation of this size. He commended staff and the EDC for their work.
COR00 -03942 A. Claim Ordinance: No. 5821, Payroll, November 6, 2009 Sponsors: Accounting A motion was made to Approve this file on the Consent Agenda. Indexes: N/A
BIL00 -03943 B. List of Bills Payable: No. 5974, November 17, 2009 Sponsors: Accounting A motion was made to Approve this file on the Consent Agenda. Indexes: N/A
MOT00 -03944 C. Motion: Authorize $20,795 for a Software License and Maintenance Agreement with GBA Master Series, Inc., Overland Park, Kansas Sponsors: Public Works A motion was made to Authorize this file on the Consent Agenda. Indexes: Water Service
RES00 -03945 D. Resolution: Authorize an Extension to an Agreement with Elevator Inspection Service, Inc. Sponsors: Community Development Summary of Item: A RESOLUTION AUTHORIZING EXECUTION OF AN EXTENSION TO AN AGREEMENT BETWEEN THE VILLAGE OF DOWNERS GROVE AND ELEVATOR INSPECTION SERVICE , INC.
RESOLUTION 2009 -101 A motion was made to Pass this file on the Consent Agenda. Indexes: Elevator Inspections
RES00 -03946 E. Resolution: Authorize a Customer Service Agreement and Addendum Agreement with United Communication Systems, Inc. Sponsors: Information Services Summary of Item: A RESOLUTION AUTHORIZING EXECUTION OF A CUSTOMER SERVICE AGREEMENT AND ADDENDUM AGREEMENT BETWEEN THE VILLAGE OF DOWNERS GROVE AND UNITED COMMUNICATION SYSTEMS , INC.
RESOLUTION 2009 -102 A motion was made to Pass this file on the Consent Agenda. Indexes: Telephone System
RES00 -03956 F. Resolution: Authorize a Real Estate Contract for the Property Located at 122 55th Street, Downers Grove, IL Sponsors: Village Attorney Summary of Item: A RESOLUTION AUTHORIZING EXECUTION OF A REAL ESTATE CONTRACT FOR THE PROPERTY LOCATED AT 122 55TH STREET , DOWNERS GROVE , IL
RESOLUTION 2009 -103 A motion was made to Pass this file on the Consent Agenda. Indexes: Village Property – Acquisition
RES00 -03957 G. Resolution: Authorize a Real Estate Contract for the Property Located at 125 8th Street, Downers Grove, IL Sponsors: Village Attorney Summary of Item: A RESOLUTION AUTHORIZING EXECUTION OF A REAL ESTATE CONTRACT FOR THE PROPERTY LOCATED AT 125 8TH STREET , DOWNERS GROVE , IL
RESOLUTION 2009 -104 A motion was made to Pass this file on the Consent Agenda. Indexes: Village Property – Acquisition
RES00 -03958 H. Resolution: Authorize a Real Estate Contract for the Property Located at 118 55th Street, Downers Grove, IL Sponsors: Village Attorney Summary of Item: A RESOLUTION AUTHORIZING EXECUTION OF A REAL ESTATE CONTRACT FOR THE PROPERTY LOCATED AT 118 55TH STREET , DOWNERS GROVE , IL
RESOLUTION 2009 -105 A motion was made to Pass this file on the Consent Agenda. Indexes: Village Property – Acquisition
RES00 -03959 I. Resolution: Authorize a Real Estate Contract for the Property Located at 121 8th Street, Downers Grove, IL Sponsors: Village Attorney Summary of Item: A RESOLUTION AUTHORIZING EXECUTION OF A REAL ESTATE CONTRACT FOR THE PROPERTY LOCATED AT 121 8TH STREET , DOWNERS GROVE , IL
RESOLUTION 2009 -106 A motion was made to Pass this file on the Consent Agenda. Indexes: Village Property – Acquisition
MOT00 -03960 J. Motion: Receipt of Minutes of Boards and Commissions Summary of Item: Library Board – October 28, 2009 Zoning Board of Appeals – October 28, 2009 A motion was made to Note Receipt Of this file on the Consent Agenda. Indexes: Boards and Commissions Minutes Passed The Consent Agenda
A motion was made by Commissioner Schnell, seconded by Commissioner Barnett, that the consent agenda be passed. The motion carried by the following vote: Votes: Yea: Commissioner Schnell, Commissioner Barnett, Commissioner Waldack, Commissioner Durkin, Commissioner Beckman, Commissioner Neustadt and Mayor Sandack
ORD00 -03947 A. Ordinance: Amend Parking Restrictions on Claremont Drive Sponsors: Public Works and Transportation and Parking Commission Summary of Item: This amends parking provisions on portions of Claremont Drive.
AN ORDINANCE AMENDING PARKING RESTRICTIONS ON CLAREMONT DRIVE
ORDINANCE NO . 5094 A motion was made by Commissioner Schnell, seconded by Commissioner Barnett, to Adopt this file. Mayor Sandack declared the motion carried by the following vote: Votes: Yea: Commissioner Schnell, Commissioner Barnett, Commissioner Waldack, Commissioner Durkin, Commissioner Beckman, Commissioner Neustadt and Mayor Sandack Indexes: Parking Restrictions – Claremont Drive
MOT00 -03949 B. Motion: Note Receipt of Transportation and Parking Commission Recommendation re: Installation of Permanent Traffic Calming Devices on Blodgett Avenue, Between Maple Avenue and 55th Street Sponsors: Public Works and Transportation and Parking Commission Summary of Item: This accepts receipt of the Transportation and Parking Commission’s recommendation regarding the installation of permanent traffic calming devices on Blodgett Avenue, between Maple Avenue and 55th Street. Commissioner Barnett spoke regarding the public comments. He said it is important to continue to press for a resolution to the problem in this area. It is a real problem and it is important to insist on a solution for the overall area. He said we can and should address this in 2010 with capital project funds.
Commissioner Waldack said the Parking and Traffic Commission had a history of saying “no” to items before them and the Transportation and Parking Commission says “yes” on a project by project basis. What is needed in the downtown area is a parking plan, and ideas as to how to move traffic more effectively. Some of the issues are that there are only a few locations to cross the tracks, peak traffic hours, and the parking deck. We need an overall plan. He hopes this can be done next year. He will support this motion.
Commissioner Beckman said he shares the view of the other Commissioners. Most of the concern expressed by residents was with the traffic flowing off of Fairview. The problem may be Fairview rather than Blodgett. He agreed that we need a plan to study this matter.
Commissioner Schnell said there are neighborhoods that need to be studied for traffic flow, speeding, etc. Staff is equipped to do much of this work and she would like to see this done next year. A motion was made by Commissioner Beckman, seconded by Commissioner Neustadt, to Note Receipt of this file. Mayor Sandack declared the motion carried by the following vote: Votes: Yea: Commissioner Schnell, Commissioner Waldack, Commissioner Durkin, Commissioner Beckman, Commissioner Neustadt and Mayor Sandack Nay: Commissioner Barnett Indexes: Traffic Calming
ORD00 -03951 C. Ordinance: Amend Freedom of Information Procedures Sponsors: Village Attorney Summary of Item: This amends procedures related to Freedom of Information requests.
AN ORDINANCE AMENDING FREEDOM OF INFORMATION PROCEDURES
ORDINANCE NO . 5095 A motion was made by Commissioner Neustadt, seconded by Commissioner Waldack, to Adopt this file. Mayor Sandack declared the motion carried by the following vote: Votes: Yea: Commissioner Schnell, Commissioner Barnett, Commissioner Waldack, Commissioner Durkin, Commissioner Beckman, Commissioner Neustadt and Mayor Sandack Indexes: Freedom of Information Act, Open Meetings Act
ORD00 -03952 D. Ordinance: Establish Procedures for the Recording of Closed Sessions Sponsors: Village Attorney Summary of Item: This establishes procedures for recording of closed sessions.
AN ORDINANCE ESTABLISHING PROCEDURES FOR THE RECORDING OF CLOSED SESSIONS IN THE VILLAGE OF DOWNERS GROVE , ILLINOIS
ORDINANCE NO . 5096 A motion was made by Commissioner Waldack, seconded by Commissioner Neustadt, to Adopt this file. Mayor Sandack declared the motion carried by the following vote: Votes: Yea: Commissioner Schnell, Commissioner Barnett, Commissioner Waldack, Commissioner Durkin, Commissioner Beckman, Commissioner Neustadt and Mayor Sandack Indexes: Freedom of Information Act, Open Meetings Act
ORD00 -03953 E. Ordinance: Prohibit Drinking in Certain Areas Sponsors: Police Department Summary of Item: This prohibits drinking in the parking areas of the Prentiss Creek apartment complex.
AN ORDINANCE PROHIBITING DRINKING IN CERTAIN AREAS
ORDINANCE NO . 5097 A motion was made by Commissioner Durkin, seconded by Commissioner Schnell, to Adopt this file. Mayor Sandack declared the motion carried by the following vote: Votes: Yea: Commissioner Schnell, Commissioner Barnett, Commissioner Waldack, Commissioner Durkin, Commissioner Beckman, Commissioner Neustadt and Mayor Sandack Indexes: Alcohol Enforcement Program
RES00 -03954 F. Resolution: Authorize an Agreement with PPRG -RAIT Portfolio Member, LLC Sponsors: Police Department Summary of Item: This authorizes the Village to enforce Section 15-8 which prohibits drinking in the parking areas of the Prentiss Creek apartment complex.
A RESOLUTION AUTHORIZING EXECUTION OF AN AGREEMENT BETWEEN THE VILLAGE OF DOWNERS GROVE AND PPRG -RAIT PORTFOLIO MEMBER , LLC
RESOLUTION 2009 -107 A motion was made by Commissioner Schnell, seconded by Commissioner Barnett, to Adopt this file. Mayor Sandack declared the motion carried by the following vote: Votes: Yea: Commissioner Schnell, Commissioner Barnett, Commissioner Waldack, Commissioner Durkin, Commissioner Beckman, Commissioner Neustadt and Mayor Sandack Indexes: Alcohol Enforcement Program
ORD00 -03955 G. Ordinance: Repeal the Prohibited Possession of Telecommunication Devices on Public School Property Sponsors: Police Department Summary of Item: This repeals a code provision which prohibits possession of telecommunication devices on public school property.
AN ORDINANCE REPEALING THE PROHIBITED POSSESSION OF TELECOMMUNICATION DEVICES ON PUBLIC SCHOOL PROPERTY
ORDINANCE NO . 5098 A motion was made by Commissioner Barnett, seconded by Commissioner Beckman, to Adopt this file. Mayor Sandack declared the motion carried by the following vote: Votes: Yea: Commissioner Schnell, Commissioner Barnett, Commissioner Waldack, Commissioner Durkin, Commissioner Beckman, Commissioner Neustadt and Mayor Sandack Indexes: School District 58, School District 99
Materials to be Received
Materials to be Placed on File
The Manager commented on the four real estate contracts approved on the Consent Agenda, noting that the land acquisition is part of the Watershed Infrastructure Improvement Plan (WIIP). He asked Ms. Newlon to address this matter.
Ms. Newlon said these parcels are in St. Joseph’s Creek Watershed Sub I, a 50 acre watershed bounded by 5th Street, 55th Street, Williams and Florence Avenue. This is a depressional area where water backs up and causes damage, flooding and structural flooding. The WIIP originally suggested that up to eight parcels in this area be purchased. After further study, the purchase of four parcels was recommended. This represents 1.8 acre feet of storage. There are no other ways to alleviate the problems. A dry bottom basin will be constructed. Ms. Newlon explained the stormwater plan for this area. She noted that detailed plans are available in the Public Works Department.
Future Active Agenda
10.Council Member Reports and New Business
Commissioner Durkin said he called 911 this past weekend for his son. He expressed his appreciation to Sonya Jackson, the dispatcher who directed the Fire Department to their home and also contacted Poison Control. He also thanked Station 5 Gold Team for their help and response. His son was taken to the Emergency Room. He said we are very fortunate to have our emergency personnel. The money for training and equipment is well spent.
Commissioner Beckman referred to comments he made recently regarding an article about Downers Grove in the West Suburban Living Magazine. The Council has spent a long time discussing issues concerning the budget. He thought about many of the components highlighted in the magazine that make Downers Grove unique that are now in danger of being eliminated, reduced or severely curtailed. The cuts will have an effect on how the Village is perceived.
The Mayor thanked his friends at Lester School for inviting him to the school to read the book, “Chicks and Salsa” to the 4th grade class. It was a good book, with recipes, and the students were wonderful. He said District 58 has a “breakfast and books” program which he enjoys.
Manager Fieldman said there are two items for tonight’s discussion: Review of the budget proposal and the 2009 estimated tax levy which sets the ceiling for what can be levied.
Based on direction at the November 3 budget workshop, staff has made reductions to the General Fund in the amount of $69,000 through the elimination of the bike race, further reductions in Heritage Festival expenses and elimination of payments for participation in parades. Expenses are reduced from $40.8 million to $40.76 million. Further, the use of cash reserves is reduced from $1 million to $910,000.
The Mayor called for questions or comments from the audience.
Bill Wrobel, 7800 Queens Court, spoke regarding the police and fire pension funds. He said $825,000 was mentioned last week and those expenses will increase annually. He said 80% of the budget is personnel expenses. Municipalities are looking at going after big dollars. Heritage Festival, DARE , etc. are small programs. Reducing a large program by 10% makes a big difference. The town of Highwood is addressing the suspension of the police department due to costs. We employ two difference work forces – an active and retired work force. We all have to tighten budgets and cannot afford retirement benefits that exceed take home pay. Taxpayers are saddled with this and it has gotten to the point where we have outspent our ability to be responsible. We cannot continue at this pace and we need to encourage volunteerism.
Dave Humphreys, 4221 Saratoga, said he is a lifetime resident of Downers Grove. He worked on the Community Events Commission for 19 years and 26 years on the Community Grants Commission. Both commissions provide needed, low cost and close to home options for people looking for entertainment. They attract visitors and contribute to a positive image and are well established parts of the community. Heritage Festival offers an opportunity to raise funds and create awareness. He referenced nonprofit organizations that participate in Heritage Festival and spend the rest of the year giving back to the community. Significant cuts are inevitable, but the complete elimination of these programs will make it difficult for these organizations to make a comeback. He asked Council to consider reducing funding, but to not eliminate the programs and to charge the Community Grants and Community Events Commissions to develop plans for operating at the reduced funding levels.
Greg Mayyou said he followed his dream to become a police officer employed by the Downers Grove Police Department. He loves his job and believes in the Village. The safety and protection the Police Department provides is second to none. His concern for residents, however, is that if they have not needed police services, they may question the need for the service. Officer Mayyou said that crime is present in the Village. Police work to keep a sense of safety. He said some proposed revenue increases have been discussed, including vehicle stickers, red-light cameras, and a liquor tax. He noted that if these sources are introduced as revenue, they will have to be enforced, which will require the services of a police officer. Officer Mayyou then mentioned that the proposed elimination of DARE , as well as two sworn officers, would bring the police force from 81 to 79. He is officer 81. People resort to crime with the current economic situation, and the Village will be minus two trained officers. As an employee of the Village and a resident he is opposed to the reduction in the police force.
Anthony Puccini, 740 40th Street, reiterated Dave Humphreys’ comments. He said he is a Life Scout of Troop 89 that mans a booth at Heritage Festival to earn money for the Scout’s budget. Heritage Festival is a huge event in the Village. He enjoys it, as do others.
A volunteer with Campus Life of 607 Rogers Street, said Campus Life is a non-profit organization that looks forward to Heritage Festival each year. They look for kids to come to their booth more than the money. It is a huge event for them and an important part of their organization. She urged that the Council consider the potential loss for all the nonprofit organizations that participate in Heritage Festival.
Mary Puccini, 740 40th Street, reiterated what Officer Mayyou said. The DARE program is very good for the students. Her children enjoyed it and it is needed in Downers Grove. She would hate to see the program and the officers cut.
The Mayor then called for comments from the Council.
Commissioner Beckman asked what is left for the Community Events Department if Heritage Festival, and the Bike Race are eliminated. The Manager said that Community Events is involved in Heritage Festival, the Independence Day Parade and Fireworks, the Bike and Buggy Parade, and the Christmas Tree Lighting ceremony.
Commissioner Beckman said he has been concerned about the way we are conducting Heritage Festival in relation to how the Village has changed over the years. He wondered if they could rethink Heritage Festival, whether it would be appropriate to outsource the activities currently performed by the Community Events Department. The Manager said that they have explored outsourcing, and have talked with the EDC regarding that. The Village staff is very proficient at this activity, and to outsource it would mean to look at a major change in scope.
Commissioner Neustadt said that there is a Community Events Commission meeting on Thursday to review a new 2010 Heritage Festival. The Commission understands it will not be the same as last year. They have begun to look at the scope, vendors’ fees, costs, etc. The 2010 Heritage Festival will be completely different. Efforts will be made to control personnel costs, and he thinks it will be better. It will be contained and changes will be noticeable to those that have served the community for many years, but may not be that noticeable to the public. The economic impact of attendees in one weekend is sustainable. There are direct dollar correlations related to Heritage Festival, and he looks forward to working with the Community Events Commission and staff at perhaps a smaller level, or adjusted levels.
Commissioner Beckman said his perspective is that if they have the same people doing the same things over again, we tend to have the same decisions. He feels that the Village may need a fresh perspective and take it in a different direction. There are incurred costs in Heritage Festival.
The Manager said that Heritage Festival expenses would be reduced by $90,000 and revenue enhanced by $50,000. There will be a reduction to three entertainment stages.
Mayor Sandack said that Commissioner Barnett has discussed appropriately the real costs of Heritage Festival. With the reductions and enhancements to revenue, he asked what is the real net impact. The Manager said that staff would provide that information and would add in the cost of overhead of the Community Events staff.
Commissioner Schnell said that in addition to the planning, the three days of Heritage Festival virtually shut down Village Hall. Her concern is if they are trying to right size Village government, it becomes more difficult to have employees to do all that is expected of them. The economic downturn is allowing government to redefine how things are being done. She has spent a good deal of time thinking about this. They have been talking about throwing a party that costs $300,000, while also eliminating police officers, Meals on Wheels, counseling services, etc. If Heritage Festival is not eliminated, it could be curtailed considerably and have further cuts. She doesn’t think the Village can tell the residents that it will raise taxes, make cuts and throw a big party. It doesn’t make sense to her.
Commissioner Schnell said what does concern her is that if they are saving $90,000, they need to look at taking this off the property taxes or reinstating some of the proposed cuts. This is her 22nd budget, and this has been unique. A record number of residents have come to the meetings; there has been input from staff as well. What has not happened is a dialogue on the dais in an effort to work through compromises. She is concerned about not working through the desires of the minority. Core services are police, fire and public works, but for those on fixed income, core services can be taxi subsidies and Meals on Wheels. Counseling and Social Services is a leader in addressing domestic violence. She would like to see more of an exchange of ideas among the Council. The cuts proposed by staff since the beginning of discussions have not changed. She is concerned that there has not been any compromise, no give and take. She thinks that staff has made valid suggestions of compromises that could keep some of these programs in place, and these suggestions have not yet been discussed by the Council. She would prefer to see those discussions take place.
Commissioner Waldack said he agreed with Commissioner Schnell. He sees Heritage Festival, however, as more than a party. The expenses versus revenues are close, but there is a lot of overhead. He thinks the Village can redirect it. He said that they are putting a lot on the not-for-profits through various eliminations. This event does a lot for the not-for-profits. He said there is “good stuff” that goes on at Heritage Festival. He thinks they can cut expenses and redirect some of the activities. He would like to see it continued, but scaled down.
Commissioner Durkin said that it is too late in the year to eliminate Heritage Festival. He would be in support of cutting it back. The downtown is not what it used to be due to the addition of residential units. If there were an emergency, he doesn’t know how it could be handled. They need to right-scale Heritage Festival. He knows the value to the not-for-profits, and the Village has received many accolades for the event. Unless the Village can get out of the contracts without a loss, he would like to see the Village partner with the EDC and bring it back to a more local event.
Commissioner Barnett questioned a comment in staff’s memo regarding elimination of the Community Events Commission, and holding a downsized Heritage Festival. Conceptually, he could live with that; however, he doesn’t think the figures related to the recommendation match. The Manager said he prepared a memo regarding the impact of eliminating the entire department. Staff said expenses would be reduced by $617,000, with revenues reduced by $400,000, with a net savings of $218,000. Staff would recommend direction to downsize Heritage Festival for 2010 and give staff time to figure out a transition plan.
Commissioner Barnett then asked about the potential savings. Mr. Fieldman said staff proposed a reduction of expenses of $90,000. The Community Events staff would operate with two full-time people instead of three. He needs to understand if the Council is okay with the Heritage Festival component of the budget. If so, then staff would take further direction and further downsize the event. Commissioner Barnett said this is not close to breaking even, but he understands that this cannot be closed immediately. He does not mean that there may be no event, but a distinct change would be made in how it’s operated. He noted that many other programs are also being cut. If there were some way to do a phase out, he would support this.
Mr. Fieldman responded to the previous question of overhead. Prior to the updated proposal there is about $186,000 of general overhead. The Community Events staff spends 70% of their time devoted to Heritage Festival. The net deficit would be $150,000 without tonight’s proposal.
Commissioner Schnell asked how much productivity is lost over the two days of Heritage Festival. The Manager said a great deal of time and effort is spent by Public Works on Friday, and many staff participate in the event.
Commissioner Neustadt said he can support a cutback for 2010, but he would not support phasing it out, until they see the outcome of the event.
The Mayor said the Council asked staff to continue to review the program. He said the Council and staff have been meeting since May on the Long Range Financial Plan to purposefully and unemotionally plan the future finances of the Village given certain financial facts. There are certain things that are undeniable. Real leadership requires making unpopular decisions. There are many ebbs and flows on the issues. The Council has to coalesce on a budget and a property tax levy. It is disturbing to many when the Council and staff have to make business decisions that are unpopular. He said that the Council’s job, however, is to make decisions that are appropriate for the Village. The public responds both positively and negatively to Heritage Festival, and he could see this issue being decided by a referendum. The fact is, in light of the proposed cuts to Counseling and Social Services, Meals on Wheels, reduction to taxi subsidy, the reduction of police officers, they are still deficit spending and raising property taxes by $1.3 million. The Village is duty bound to meet its pension obligations. Mayor Sandack said the Village has lived far too long on economically driven sales tax tied to the economy. With reference to Heritage Festival, he understands staff’s proposal to offer a reduced Heritage Festival and Community Events Department for 2010, and to outsource it in future years.
Commissioner Neustadt said they should keep Heritage Festival, but asked where the money would go if it were eliminated. The Mayor responded it could go to core services, or replenish reserves, or toward any number of items.
The Manager said that the original budget proposed $65,000 in Heritage Festival expense reductions. Staff then introduced $25,000 additional cuts for the Festival, or $90,000 in cuts. The question then is should they operate Heritage Festival with the $90,000 cuts.
Commissioner Neustadt said he would advocate operating with the $90,000 in cuts, but he would prefer to see how the 2010 Festival goes before deciding on future years. If Heritage Festival is discontinued, they should keep the property tax and put the funds toward core services.
Commissioner Waldack said he would like to keep the Heritage Festival at a reduced amount. He would like the Community Events group to come up with some ideas. Regarding what would be done with the funds, he would like it to reduce the impact on senior services and counseling services.
Commissioner Durkin said he supports staff’s recommendation but wants staff to continue to seek a way to reduce it further. He suggested perhaps obtaining a sponsor for the beer tent, or a stage, etc. He is looking for ways to streamline the event, and in good conscience cannot back out of long-term commitments.
Village Attorney Enza Petrarca said there are no long-term contracts for Heritage Festival at this time. If they did eliminate it, Commissioner Durkin said he would want them to reduce the amount of money pulled from the reserves.
Commissioner Beckman said he could support staff’s suggestion to continue the 2010 Heritage Festival and then review the elimination of the Department and outsourcing activities. With regard to potential savings, he would want them directed to sustain Counseling and Social Services.
Commissioner Barnett said he would like the Village to get out of this, and supports staff’s recommendation to look for a way to eliminate it next year. Regarding the savings, they are using the reserves and he does not support deficit spending.
Commissioner Schnell would support downsizing it more than $90,000, and look toward its elimination in the future and develop a plan. With those savings, she would like to see it split between a reduction in the tax levy and keeping police officers and Counseling and Social Services.
The Mayor commented that he does not want to reduce senior services, taxi subsidies, Counseling and Social Services or police officers. He wants to reduce these services less than eliminating Heritage Festival. He noted that throughout the discussions on Long Range Financial Planning, services were identified as core services and secondary services. He believes that the Heritage Festival needs to be subdued and cognizant of the fact that other services are being cut. He is conflicted with the idea of continuing Heritage Festival this year, and feels that it should be staff’s charge to bring it back in a reduced form.
Mr. Fieldman said he understands there is continued support for staff’s recommendation, with further ideas and options to increase the reductions or create other plans for future years. The cuts would reduce the dip in reserves.
The Mayor said that a prudent use of reserves is warranted in his opinion. There was a consensus at the Long Range Financial Planning discussions to use the reserves and then replenish and preserve them going forward. He said that the Council has the obligation to vote on an estimated real estate levy. This is a cap that they cannot go over but they can reduce.
Commissioner Waldack commented regarding the levy, that it is an estimated tax levy and he would like to see it increased by $500,000 to keep the conversation going. Regarding the reserves, they did not have the option to discuss an effective date of January 1 for the Home Rule Sales Tax, which would have eliminated the need for dipping into the reserves. He doesn’t understand why it was not brought to Council and is upset by that. As for calling this deficit spending, it is good financial advice to set aside money for that rainy day fund. That’s what the reserve fund is. It’s a rainy day fund and not deficit spending. The Village is not reaching into its pocket for a credit card. He referenced a comment made by Dr. Gordon Goodman regarding adjusting the calendar for the reserve policy that would allow the Village to retain services.
With regard to the Senior Citizens’ Council, Commissioner Waldack stated that they obtained $120,000 from the County that is stop gap money. They have been hit so hard with cuts that the Senior Citizens’ Council has to reassess everyone receiving the services. There will be a waiting list for people seeking services such as Meals on Wheels, and frozen meals will be delivered to the neediest on Mondays. Another loss will be the well-being checks. He then asked about the cost to the Village to respond to calls, noting there were 21 calls for emergencies in Downers Grove in October alone, which extrapolates to over 250 calls per year at $150 per call, or $37,000. Commissioner Waldack said that the senior citizens grant is money well spent. He thinks this is a wrong time to cut Counseling and Social Services. The Council is not just Village government, but consists of community leaders, and whether you agree with them or not, they have progressed the community. He said that the Village is a fabulous community and it is a shame that one Council turns us back 60 years or more. With regard to the levy, he wants to see it raised by $500,000 to continue discussion.
Commissioner Neustadt said he was comfortable with the levy as presented.
Commissioner Durkin said he agrees that times are different. He doesn’t want to be known as the progressive community that raises taxes to maintain the status quo. The Village cannot be everything to everybody, and it provides 24-hour core services. There will always be needs, but right now the Village is faced with a deficit. He is satisfied with what is being proposed. He then asked questions of staff regarding the comfort level with the Library’s tax levy and their budget and operations. The Manager responded that the Library is a component unit of the Village and is an autonomous Board. The Library Board approves the levy. The Village’s influence is in the appointment of the Library Board.
Commissioner Durkin then asked if staff can find $100,000 for traffic calming either in the road maintenance budget, or sidewalk programs, or bids that came in under budget. He also mentioned that the Village offered early retirement options and asked whether there are any plans to re-introduce this option.
Commissioner Beckman said that this is one of the most difficult votes he has ever made in his 26 years of public office. He never voted against an annual expenditure request by staff, in this case the levy. This year there has been little or no compromise from his perspective. He suggested retaining Counseling and Social Services and Meals on Wheels, but nothing happened. In today’s economic environment, appropriate counseling is necessary to avoid abusive home environments or depression, to assist the elderly, or children living in an abusive world who cannot afford private counseling services. These are tough decisions. Staff provided the Village with revenue alternatives. Counseling services are not as readily available as some people have stated, and those that exist are not financially feasible. None compare to what the Village charges. According to the last memo, staff is not preparing to seek any comparable resources, as it is not their job. He therefore, has come to a very uncomfortable position of having to support a levy that doesn’t support a program which he believes in strongly or not supporting the levy. He will state his displeasure at this year’s process by voting no.
Commissioner Barnett supports staff’s recommended levy. Contrary to what seems to be the sentiment of some, the Council has assessed the weight and magnitude of the decisions. There are many elements that people are uncomfortable with, and he doesn’t believe the concept that our community is defined by any one piece. Many things that are in the scope of present targeting are not long-standing programs. The Council is choosing to try to stay within the Village’s means, focus on those things that can be sustained, and maintain the core services so we don’t have the same discussion next year. He supports the work that has already been done, and it is not short on empathy.
Commissioner Schnell said she cannot support a 12-1/2% tax levy. There have been alternatives presented that should be instituted to reduce taxes or restore programs, such as red light cameras and other things. She doesn’t understand how they can tax people at 12-1/2% and not support red light cameras. She will not be supporting this, and she thinks this is the first time she has not supported a proposed levy.
Mayor Sandack reviewed the positions stated by Council members. There has been a lack of consensus but not compromise. There are about 20 different components to the budget. He is hearing suggestions to raise the property tax $500,000. Why not raise it $1 or $2 million and place the extra money in the hands of the not-for-profit organizations. The Village does not have the money to provide specific services. The real underlying question is whether certain services should be part of local government at all. Counseling and Social Services is a wonderful service and does the best it can with limited resources. However, there are plenty of other services people require that the Village does not provide. He asked if that means that the Village doesn’t care about the community? He said that the facts are that $27-$28 million is spent to provide police, fire and public works services. That figure goes up year after year. The Village gets approximately $9 million in property taxes. Personnel costs are about 75% of the entire budget. If you want to reduce costs you have to reduce people. He takes umbrage at people throwing out numbers, saying there is no compromise because they could not get consensus. It is easy not to like something in the budget, but he is duty bound to find a way to make it work. Mayor Sandack said it is easy to criticize, but hard to come up with alternatives that make money. He will vote for this levy, and this is not done without pain. We are increasing taxes because we do too much. He stated that the Village cannot be everything to everybody. The Mayor said that the Council has the responsibility to set a course of sustainable Village government, and has the opportunity to the right shape of the government and make it responsible for core services. He has great empathy for those who spoke at the meeting. He reviewed some of the services that have been provided such as taxi subsidies and Meals on Wheels. The worst thing they can do is to increase taxes in this type of economic situation. If they don’t make this decision now, it will be worse next year.
VOTE TO ESTIMATE THE 2009 AGGREGATE TAX LEVY
MOT00 -03950 Motion: Estimate 2009 Aggregate Tax Levy for the Village of Downers Grove Sponsors: Finance Summary of Item: Motion to find and determine that the aggregate levy for the Village of Downers Grove, as defined in the Illinois Truth and Taxation Law, estimated to be necessary to be raised by taxation for 2009 upon the taxable property in Downers Grove is $25,796,756. This amount is based upon an estimated levy of $5,942,486 for corporate and police; $2,850,000 for fire; $1,705,508 for police pension; $1,979,952 for fire pension; $3,965,265 for library operating; $656,980 for the 2003 library debt service; $231,750 for Central Business District 2000 Series debt service; and $358,412 for Central Business District 2001 Series debt service; and $513,695 for G.O. Water Issue 2001A debt service; $346,408 for Central Business District 2002 Series debt service; $419,000 for Central Business District 2005 Series debt service; and $711,308 for Fire Station 2 2007 Series debt service; and $3,997,862 for Stormwater 2008A Series debt service; and $501,700 for Central Business District 2008 B Series debt service; and $1,345,900 for Central Business District and Fairview Avenue 2009 Series debt service.
The estimated levy for Special Service Area #2, CBD Special Service Area, is $261,859. The estimated levy for Special Service Area #3, Prince Pond Special Service Area, is $8,671. A public hearing will be held on these proposed levies on December 8, 2009 at 7:00 p.m. in the Village Council Chambers. The adoption of the proposed levies will be held on December 15, 2009 at 7:00 p.m. in the Village Council Chambers. Staff is also directed to prepare ordinances to abate said 2009 tax levies. Commissioner Waldack noted the counties that offer a taxicab subsidy of 70% or higher.
Commissioner Beckman said this is the last opportunity to discuss this as we move forward. He said he differs with the Mayor’s opinion and considers Counseling and Social Services a core service.
Commissioner Barnett said he will prepare additional information regarding the Library levy. A motion was made by Commissioner Durkin, seconded by Commissioner Neustadt, to Accept this file. Mayor Sandack declared the motion carried by the following vote: Votes: Yea: Commissioner Barnett, Commissioner Durkin, Commissioner Neustadt and Mayor Sandack Nay: Commissioner Schnell, Commissioner Waldack and Commissioner Beckman Indexes: Tax Levy – 2009
Commissioner Schnell moved to adjourn. Commissioner Neustadt seconded the Motion. Mayor Sandack declared the Motion carried by voice vote and the meeting adjourned at 9:29 p.m.