Naperville Township defends budget cuts in road debate
Naperville Township Supervisor Rachel Ossyra says trustees who voted to cut the township highway commissioner's budget by more than $500,000 in the midst of a debate about road services acted within their rights, despite a lawsuit that says otherwise.
Ossyra said trustees' actions were legal when they set the road district's budget May 10 by approving parts of Highway Commissioner Stan Wojtasiak's proposed spending that they deemed necessary to fund operations. Approved spending totals $2,075,005.
But Wojtasiak's lawsuit, filed May 17, alleges Ossyra and township trustees Janice Anderson and Kerry Malm cut Wojtasiak's spending "specifically to deprive" the highway commissioner of his right to run the road district as he was elected to do.
The suit seeks to nullify the reduced version of the road district's budget approved May 10, prevent interference by township trustees in road district operations and require the township board to approve Wojtasiak's tentative budget of $2,619,330 -- or enough to "properly fund the functions of the highway commissioner and road district."
The budget cuts came after Wojtasiak rejected a proposed intergovernmental agreement with the city of Naperville, under which the city would conduct road maintenance, landscaping and snow plowing services for 49.3 lane miles of township roads.
"The road district did not fulfill its express commitment made to the board on April 6 to negotiate in good faith with the city of Naperville to reach a mutually satisfactory outcome," Ossyra said in a written statement released Sunday.
The city estimates the agreement would save $700,000 a year from recent road district operations spending of $1.8 million. Wojtasiak says his costs and the city's are about the same when spending on capital improvement projects is not considered.
"If you read between the lines, they're forcing me into that agreement," Wojtasiak said.
The lawsuit has a preliminary hearing scheduled for Thursday, Wojtasiak said. One potential downside, no matter the outcome of the legal action, is taxpayers could be on the hook for legal fees, Naperville Mayor Steve Chirico said. That could decrease any potential savings.
"There was an opportunity for Naperville Township taxpayers to enjoy a meaningful tax reduction with this (agreement)," he said.