A Winfield village board candidate has an idea to address the town's financial problems: Ask Central DuPage Hospital to make an annual donation to pay for 10 percent of the police department's budget.
The suggestion by trustee candidate Phillip Mustes comes nearly four months after the DuPage County sheriff's office put the brakes on a controversial plan to take over police protection in Winfield.
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With the outsourcing proposal dead, officials are struggling to find other ways to raise money to fix the town's deteriorating streets. One proposal expected to be considered as part of the next budget is reducing the size of the police force from 17 sworn staff members to 16.
Mustes, one of six people vying for three seats on the village board, claims his idea would give Winfield hundreds of thousands of dollars for road repairs while keeping the size of the police force intact.
"The police have been dangling slowly in the breeze for the last year as to whether they're going to have jobs," said Mustes, who is running on a slate with fellow newcomer James McCurdy and incumbent Jack Bajor. The three other candidates appearing on the April 9 ballot are Tom Blackburn, Charles Jacques and incumbent Jay Olson.
Mustes insists there has to be "a commitment made to the police" that includes fully funding the department's budget.
Police department expenses for the current fiscal year, including pension contributions, total roughly $3.2 million, village officials said.
Because an estimated 10 percent of the town's police calls originate from CDH, Mustes says the hospital should be asked "to pay for their excessive use of our police services." He said the annual amount requested from the hospital should be equal to 10 percent of the department's budget.
When asked about their running mates's idea, Bajor and McCurdy voiced no concerns.
"I think it's a concept that's never been explored before," Bajor said. "But I think all funding opportunities should be on the table."
A spokesman for Cadence Health, CDH's parent company, said the company is willing to review any formal request for funding the village might propose.
"We've always prided ourselves on our collaboration with the village of Winfield," Cadence spokesman Christopher N. King said. "We've got a long legacy of providing financial support for a variety of needs."
Cadence already has agreed to make several large donations this year to Winfield, including $100,000 to support the "community chest" program that provides grants to not-for-profit groups in the village.
The company also will give $100,000 that the village can use in its general fund for the coming fiscal year, which starts May 1. Finally, Cadence is going to provide more than $200,000 to repair and restore a water tower near the hospital.
Still, Olson and Blackburn both say they oppose asking CDH to help pay for police services based on the number of service calls.
To maintain consistent police services, Blackburn said, funding for the department must come from "consistent, recurring sources."
"Given CDH's status as a not-for-profit organization, the village has no means to compel them to donate every year in a like amount," Blackburn said. "Changes in management philosophy at Cadence Health and in village government from year to year may put such donations, and by extension service levels, in jeopardy. Reliance on this amount puts the entire village budget at risk."
Blackburn said there is more value in Winfield working collaboratively with Cadence Health to get ancillary projects built in town that would generate more tax revenue for the village.
"Cadence Health has the ability to attract other medical-related private businesses to locate near their facility," Blackburn said. "This would not only enhance the village's tax rolls, but it would bring other visitors to Winfield's Town Center area."