It’s Budget Season in Park Forest, and I Couldn’t Be Happier

Gary Kopycinski

By Gary Kopycinski

It’s budget season in Park Foreset, and I couldn’t be happier.

I’ve always been a geek. I’ll admit to that. I completely enjoy talking ideas, philosophy, logic, numbers, political theory, social theory, macro economics, micro economics, Keynesian economics, Neoclassical economics, administration, police, fire, health, recreation and parks, public works, economic development and planning, community development, swimming, tennis, parking, refuse, water, DownTown Park Forest and sewers.

Yes, sewers. You’d be amazed at what you can learn about sewers.

It’s budget season. Rejoice.

At tonight’s Village Board meeting, staff formally presented the budget that the Village Board received Friday night. The Fiscal Year 2010/2011 Budget now lies in the hands of the mayor and the trustees. Village Manager Tom Mick and department heads have spent months putting together their respective proposed budgets. Now the Village Manager and staff must explain and justify next year’s proposed expenditures to the citizens as represented by the Village Board. Now the members of the Village Board must scrutinize the proposed budget, ensure that the proposed budget is in line with staff and board goals.

May in Park Forest means hours of meetings where the Village Board reviews the budget, one department at a time.

I strongly encourage the public to attend these meetings. I learn so much from these meetings, each and every year, and you will too. If you can’t attent, please stop by Village Hall and pick up or read through the first two chapters of next year’s proposed budget. The transmittal letter always provides a comprehensive overview of the budget. I always learn so much.

Park Forest has an amazingly transparent budget process. Other municipalities in Illinois and beyond would be wise to take notes.

Here’s my favorite line from the proposed budget so far: "The budget does not constitute a mandate to spend; only the authority to do so."

We are not obsessed with spending money in Park Forest. The solutions to the challenges that face society, in my opinion, are not "more government" or "less government," but "how much government do we need?" In othe words, what is the optimum amount of government? What do we want government to do? Once we’ve answered those questions, we need to ask ourselves, how much of this can we afford? What are financial limitations vs. the needs of residents of Park Forest?

Dates for the public meetings are as follows: Monday, May 10 at 6:30 p.m where items on the agenda include the the Introduction and Overview, Financial Summary and Challeges; Tuesday, May 11 at 6:30 p.m. where agenda items include Police and Fire Departments, Economic Development, Economic Development, the DownTown, TIF, and Capital Projects; Thursday, May 13 at 6:30 p.m. includes Public Works (lots to talk about here) and Adminstration and Finance; Tuesday, May 18 at 6:30 p.m. includes Recreation and Parks, the Health Department, and Community Development; Saturday, May 22 at 9:00 a.m. is reserved for outstanding issues, and may, in fact, be canceled if all items are covered during the week day sessions.

Formal first reading of the budget and the Public Hearing on the budget will take place Monday, June 14 at 8:00 p.m.. The budget is scheduled for formal adoption on Monday, June 28, at the 8:00 p.m. meeting of the Village Board.

Fact: for the past several years, no one has ever shown up to comment at the Public Hearing.

While members of the public may not comment formally at the numerous budget sessions held in May, members of the public may, in fact, and are encouraged to contact members of the Village Board with concerns. Many of the comments and suggestions made by members of the public at neighborhood meetings have been incorporated into each and every budget passed since these meetings began. Please, please contact members of the Village Board if you have concerns. This is the time when the board makes the big decisions for the next fiscal year.

So, let us all rejoice: Budget Season has arrived!

The writer is a Village Trustee in Park Forest.