Friday, August 1, 2008

At least one newspaper is talking truth about Orland Park's budget problems

It amazes me how easily local newspaper reporters have allowed Mayor McLaughlin and the Orland Park Village Board to tell residents, "Don't worry, everything is intact." There is a $4.8 million budget shortfall, a word the village doesn't like, and no one seems to really care, and the only real answer so far is to cut the property tax rebate by 35-40 percent.

The biggest mistake is in accepting the false claims by the village that "everything is okay" with the property tax rebate and that increases in fees are okay because there are other places that charge far more. Isn't that why Orland Park is BETTER than other communities?

The truth is, things are not going to be okay, even though Mayor McLaughlin is on record only a few months ago patting himself on the back claiming Orland Park is financially sound and has no problems.

The Regional, at least, has outlined the cuts in services and the increases in costs that the Village is considering. And increases in fees are soft tax increases because "fees" are a form of taxes.
The Regional's mistake was to play the property tax rebate at the bottom of their story. It's the LEDE! It's what people really care about. The real headline that every newspaper missed is this:

Village Proposes Major Cut in Property Tax Rebate

Every paper has been afraid to say that. Too bad. That's the real story out here. That's what everyone is talking about. That's what concerns everyone.

How about some real reaction from real residents of the Orland Park, instead of printing word-for-word the press releases issued from McLaughlin's office? I can read the same press releases on the village web site (which is very good because the village has one of the nation's top IT Departments and staff). Why do I need to read them in a local newspaper. Word-for-word?
The village has a $3 million hole in the pension fund and they need to take it out of the capitol budget so they are going to cut the property tax rebate by as much as 40 percent -- that's huge -- and shift the savings to the pension funds.

That's outrageous! Do the math, people. You're getting screwed. But maybe you don't care. Or more likely, you think there is nothing you can do about it.

There is something you can do about. Make your voices heard. Tell the village that just because some things are great in Orland Park (some dude in New York working at Money Magazine says we're one of the best places to live, not as great as last year but still on their list, way down), it's not acceptable for them to hide behind that to do things that are not so great.

Orland Park is one of the best places to live not because of the government doing their job, but because of the people who live here. We're a great community.

Although nothing has been formally approved by the village yet and all the proposals from our newly hired village manager Paul Grimes are just that, proposals, you, the community, can still stop the changes. Each and every trustee has to vote on the changes. You can make your voices heard.

Recreation Department fees may increase 10 percent. That's huge.

Costs for other services are going to increase, too.

They're not talking about the routine increases that the news media has failed to cover like the increases int he Water Bill -- 60 percent of which are unrelated to the increase in the cost of water. (That's only 40 percent of the bill.) The village is increasing fees for sending you the water bill, and collecting garbage, sewer services and rain water drainage.

I say if the village board can't protect the property tax rebate, then they don't belong in office any more and we should find someone else. And Paul Grimes can go back to where he came from. He's starting to sound more like a Chicago Machine Bean Counter than someone who understands what makes Orland Park what we really are.

Ray Hanania

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