Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Orland Park has a What? Budget deficit? Since when? TAX Increase on the way!

Mayor McLaughlin broke the bad news to the Village Board Monday night, June 30, at a special meeting of the Village Board called by Clerk David Maher on June 27. The Village of Orland Park has a "budget deficit" of $4.8 Million. Considering the village budget is only $127 million, that's a huge deficit of about 4 percent. Huge!

Here is my prediction: Mayor McLaughlin is setting the stage to RAISE ORLAND PARK TAXES BIG TIME!

Here are some issues I have with the announcement:

I -- The first is a possible violation of the Illinois Open Meetings Act:

Maher may have violated the Illinois Open Meetings Act in posting the notice of the meeting: The notices are supposed to be posted publicly at least 48 hours in advance. But, in posting the notice of the Special Meeting, called on Friday June 27 for 6 PM Monday June 30 (the Open Meetings Act requires that notices be posted publicly at least 48 hours in advance ) , Maher added a little provision on his own to the top of the notice:

Posting publicly 48 hours ina dvance means posting it "publicly." But you can read the posting of the notice for the special meeting yourself and see that the Special Meeting Notice posted by Maher begins at the very top by stating "NOT FOR PUBLICATION."

What does that mean? Well, it means the Village thinks it can get away with calling a special meeting 48 hours in advance, without letting the public know. (They probably just let the media know so theyc ould be at the meeting and report it afterwards.) But, clearly, the Village Board and Mayor McLaughlin DID NOT WANT THE PUBLIC TO ATTEND TO ASK QUESTIONS.

II -- But the second issue has to do with the deficit itself:

What did Mayor McLaughlin know and when did he know it?

Every year McLaughlin gives a very glossy, shinny "State of the Village" speech to the members of the Orland Park Area Chamber of Commerce. Usually, McLaughlin brags about how great he is doing as Village President/Mayor.

In 2005, for example, McLaughlin told OPACC members:

"The Village has maintained its AA bond rating with both Standard and Poor’s and Moody’s. This is important and a big benefit when we sell bonds. The better bond rating allows us a better interest rate. Our budget for Fiscal Year 2005 was more than $131 million dollars and we are the seventh largest revenue producer in the State. We abated almost $1.5 million in property taxes which is a benefit to all property owners."

And it has been as cheery, and optimistic every year since.

Just four months ago, Mayor McLaughlin gave his most recent State of the Village Speech (February 27, 2008) at the OPACC's Installation Dinner for new officers. It was, once again, boring and very self-congratulating.

"There is a lot to go over in a short period of time. We have again prepared a handout that will be available that summarizes some of the things that have been done over the past year. I think you’ll be impressed."

The president of the OPACC thanked McLaughlin for his comments, saying:
"Thank you again to Mayor Dan McLaughlin for taking time from his busy schedule on Wednesday February 27th to address our Chamber members with his annual "State of the Village" message at Silver Lake Country Club. As always the event was well attended with over 130 chamber members on hand. We believe it is critical for our members to hear from the Mayor and other Village Officials about past accomplishments as well as any upcoming challenges, projects and goals that could impact the local business community."
"Upcoming challenges?" … What "upcoming challenges?"

McLaughlin noted that single-family "new starts" were down (new residential homes), there was an additional investment of $100 million in business investment, mainly many new restaurants in Orland Park …

He said there is still investment taking place and "confidence" in the community.
"The Finance Department received the Government Finance Officers Award for Excellence in Financial Reporting and was awarded the Government Finance Officers Distinguished Budget Award for fiscal year ending September 30, 2007. We continued to rebate the property taxes to the residents. This year we will be rebating over $5 million. We also are continuing to abate property taxes, which is beneficial to businesses.

"This year over $2.5 million in property taxes will be abated in addition to the mount that’s being rebated to the homeowners. The village continues to be ranked eventh in the State in terms of sales taxes and holding strong. This might be the time to mention that we just passed our 2008 budget. The budget is about $127 million. I found in my collection something that might interest you. This is the reasurer Report for the State of Illinois. It says that the amount of all funds in the State Treasury as of this date is $2.4 million. Of course, that was 1878."

No. What would interests us, Mayor McLaughlin, is how in three months, the Village of Orland Park's financial situation went from such a rosey and cheery picture that you painted to one that is bleak and disconcerting?

Coincidentally, our former Village Manager Robert J. Zeder resigned his post on November 5, 2007. What did he know and when did he know it?

He was just replaced by Paul Grimes, who bragged that one of his specialities was dealing with a budget deficits. Grimes, a U.S. Navy veteran, worked in the private and public sectors. He was last a business development executive with United Healthcare in Warwick, R.I. And before thatm he was director of administration for Cranston, Rhode Island, a city of 80,000 where he helped close an $11 million deficit by both cutting services and raising taxes.

The talk now is that McLaughlin says he can cut expenses that he detailed at the SECRET SPECIAL BOARD MEETING where the notice was NOT FOR PUBLICATION.

But not $4.8 million. So it turns out that Paul Grimes is not just the new Village Manager. He's our new Village Political Grim Reaper!

I've emailed questions to McLaughlin, Grimes, Maher and some members of the village board. We'll see how they respond.

Ray Hanania

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