Suburban leaders react (unhappily) to proposed cuts

  • Al Larson

    Al Larson

  • Tom Hayes

    Tom Hayes

  • Kevin Burns

    Kevin Burns

  • John Kalmar

    John Kalmar

  • Jeff Lawler

    Jeff Lawler

  • Terry Weppler

    Terry Weppler

 
Updated 2/18/2015 10:50 PM

'Doesn't bode well'

"We balanced our budget for years. We took some hard cuts. How do we cut this amount from our budget?" asks Libertyville Mayor Terry Weppler, talking about more than $1 million that would disappear from the village if the state cuts its income tax payouts to communities.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Libertyville does not have home rule powers or an independent park district, so it has fewer options to raise revenues than bigger towns. Less revenue could mean a cut in services, Weppler said, angry that, in his words, Illinois continually tries to balance its budget on the backs of local government.

"It doesn't bode well for local governments and our residents," he said.

'Armed robbery'

"Municipalities throughout the state have been pickpocketed for years by Springfield and now Gov. Rauner's proposal to eliminate 50 percent is akin to armed robbery," Geneva Mayor Kevin Burns said. Unlike the governor's call to get "our house in order," municipalities have always had their houses in order, as state law requires them to balance budgets, Burns said.

Geneva gets about $2.1 million a year, which is about 12 percent of the city's general fund that pays for most city operations. A $1 million cut means reduced services and slower services, Burns said. "It's not about collaboration. It's about clobbering," he said of the state's relationship with municipalities.

Too early to know

Schaumburg would lose about $3.5 million a year if the 50 percent cut holds up.

"This would be a permanent change," said Village President Al Larson. "It wouldn't be nearly as painful if it was for only a specific period of time."

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Still, Larson says it is too early to treat Rauner's proposal as law.

"We have to wait until we find out what the final numbers are before we make any premature comment," he said.

As bad as Schaumburg would have it, Larson added that non-home rule communities will really be in a pickle over this, since they have nowhere but their property tax levy to look for more money.

Food and beverage, utility, and hotel taxes don't exist for non-home rule municipalities.

"I'm not suggesting we're going to do these things, but non-home rule communities have nowhere to go," Larson said.

'No excuses for us'

One of those towns without home rule power is Barrington, where the $500,000 it would lose isn't pocket change, said Village Manager Jeff Lawler.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Lawler finds it odd that the state would look for a way out of its financial problems by hurting the municipalities that struggled and cut to live within their means during the recession.

There's a limit to how far one can cut, without harming public services, Lawler said. And the complaints about a decline in service would come directly to the municipalities, not the state.

"There are no excuses for us," Lawler said. "We have to deliver the services and do it expediently."

'A non-starter for us'

"We are always looking at the state's revenue projections and evaluating the possible impacts," said John M. Kalmar, Vernon Hills village manager. "Clearly, we understand the seriousness of the state's financial problem but the proposed 50 percent cut is a non-starter for us."

'We can't cut more'

Arlington Heights would lose about $3.7 million a year. "We're very concerned about the burden that's going to place on our already burdened taxpayers," said Village President Tom Hayes. "We, like all villages ... have been tightening our belts as a result of the economic downturn over the past 5-7 years."

Arlington Heights reduced staffing by 10 percent several years ago, eliminating about 45 positions.

"We just can't cut anymore from our village staff without cutting into essential services," Hayes said. "If this is going to go forward we're going to have to make very tough decisions that are going to adversely impact our residents either in the loss of essential services or in the exploration of additional property and sales tax increases."

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