Norridge gov must restructure in wake of tax revenue plunge

Village sales tax revenue is crashing due to the virus, here is how we can get costs under control

On March 25, acting Village President Daniel Tannhauser declared a local state of emergency over the COVID-19 “coronavirus”.

The “open” meeting appeared to have been made behind closed doors, in violation of the Illinois Open Meetings Act.

Putting aside the questionable legality of this meeting for the time being… this disaster proclamation didn’t in any way take steps to get ahead of what will soon become a financial crisis in Village government.

Village of Norridge restructuring

Of the public bodies serving Norridge, the Norridge municipal government is the most reliant on local sales tax revenue, which is in dramatic free-fall, as a result of the Illinois state government’s economically crippling response to the COVID-19 outbreak.

Whether these state actions are justified or not, is a topic for a different discussion.

Regardless, under no circumstances should the Village government assault us with yet another tax increase. It should take the following actions.

Number one – I am calling on all Village of Norridge elected officials, all Village Trustees, Village President, and Village Clerk, to forgo their taxpayer funded salaries for the remainder of the year, and return what they have already received, retroactive to January 1st.

Each trustee earns $16,000 a year, the clerk $12,000, and the Village President $50,000.

The money should be diverted to a fund used to acquire sufficient inventory of protective gear including N95 masks for the Norridge Police Department’s first responders, and anyone else at the PD who interacts with others.

The Norridge PD should not be put in the position of being exposed without the proper protection.

This was proposed in Chicago, and while I don’t often look to the City of Chicago for positive political inspiration, it was a good suggestion, and I will give credit where it’s due.

Number two – I am calling for the immediate cessation of all payments to the Harlem Irving Plaza, including the millions in corporate welfare being paid out for the mall’s expansion, and the $4.2 million being paid out for the Norridge Marketplace.

No further “agreements” should be signed with the mall’s wealthy owner, any of his proxies, or any other corporate entity. The Village could not afford this before, it absolutely cannot afford it now.

Number three – I am calling for a restructuring of the Village of Norridge government for the coming 2020-2021 fiscal year that starts May 1st.

The Village is going to have to make some hard choices given the revenue they are expecting. This virus issue may go on for awhile, and perhaps even become a yearly event during the cold months.

The federal government passed a $2+ trillion dollar “stimulus” bill, which may help the Village with COVID-19 related issues, but it won’t make up for lost tax revenue.

On top of that, Illinois governor JB Pritzker has threatened to cut off or delay monies to local governments if his “progressive” income tax referendum does not pass – which, if you like small businesses, you should oppose.

The Norridge government’s restructuring must include appropriate levels of staffing based on actual needs.

Employees hired because they are friends or relatives of politically connected people, is not a need. Privatize where it makes sense, but the patronage gravy train must end.

The restructuring should includes cuts sufficient to roll back the 35% and 32% property tax levy increases in 2018 and 2019.

Whatever form this restructuring of the municipal government takes, it should not impact the operational effectiveness of the Norridge PD.

Nor should the the current Village rulers use police officers as a tax-increase bargaining chip.

Some restructuring of the PD’s top leadership, however, should not be out of the question.

Right now people are losing their jobs left and right. It may be temporary, but it also may take a long time to recover. Some businesses may not survive.

What happens when people lose their jobs? They stop paying their bills.

Unemployment may be available, but it only provides a portion of the lost income.

Property taxes are one of the biggest bills homeowners receive every year… and a bill you keep getting even if you have no income.

It is a burden for the many who are not politically connected.

Other public bodies must cut costs

In addition, the other public bodies who are taxing Norridge residents should take steps to trim expenses.

I call for Norwood Park Township to cancel its property tax levy entirely for the current fiscal year.

It takes in far more than it needs to perform its few legitimate duties. The township can cut expenses dramatically while having little to no impact on residents.

Township politicians should give up their salaries as well – elected positions pay between $12,000 and $31,000, costing taxpayers over $130,000 total every year.

I am calling on Districts 80 and 234 to continue moving forward with school district consolidation.

I ask District 79 to drop it’s unjustified “no-way-in hell” opposition, and join the effort.

Residents in Harwood Heights may want to prod District 86 to change its passive opposition and actively support it, as well.

We also have two additional and expensive nonessential public bodies taxing us – the Eisenhower library, and the Norridge park district.

Both of these public bodies provide taxpayer-funded services that are utilized by only a subset of our residents.

I am calling on the park district and library to slash their budgets by a minimum of 10%.

In 2014, I attended a library board meeting where I asked the board to charge nonresidents for library services.

I again call on them to implement fees for non-resident library services (like Park Ridge does), and to use those fees in order to reduce its $4.4 million property tax levy by 25%.

I was outraged to discover that, last year, the library board asked for $4.7 million dollars from property owners, nearly 8% more than it levied in 2018.

An 8% increase makes even less sense when the library’s $115,000 director Stacy Wittmann stated the library was “at or under budget“.

In the age of the internet, I can’t see any justification for a $4.7 million library, especially when nearly half of those receiving services do not pay for them.

The park district, to their credit, charges all users for services, with nonresidents paying more. The library should follow their example, and at least try to make a case for their $4+ million existence.

Plan to vote for fiscal conservatives

I urge all registered voters to plan to vote for fiscal conservatives who publicly and unambiguously commit to lowering the tax burden.

The next opportunities to vote for our local representatives to state and federal offices is at the November 2020 general election, and for local government, in April 2021.

I can understand if you don’t agree with some of these candidates’ positions on social issues – I, too, am not a fan of legislating social policies, whether those polices come from the right or the left.

Except, their social policies doesn’t matter because they aren’t going to become law in Illinois. And right now, the fiscal issues are the big existential threat to Illinois and its local governments.

If you’re concerned with getting too close to people at the voting places, request a mail-in ballot for you and all registered voters at your address.

You and your family can vote in the comfort of home, and without the harassment by the “poll watchers” you have to deal with when voting in person.

Do we need so many local governments?

Most of the public bodies throughout the state have been entirely shut down, or continue to function minimally.

Many government employees are being paid sitting at home and not able to do any work, while many millions of Americans are being laid off.

This must lead us to ask the question: if we didn’t need this much government before the virus… if we don’t need them when they are shut down because of the virus… then do we need this much government at all?

From my observations, the people of Norridge are, by and large, pretty independent.

They don’t miss the services the local governments aren’t providing, because they never needed it in the first place. And local volunteer groups have sprung up to offer alternatives, in any case.

What the people of Norridge miss are the local businesses, local restaurants… all private businesses partially or fully shut down by big government (again, justified or not).

If we wanted more big government, we’d move to Chicago. Some have been trying to bring even bigger Chicago-style government to Norridge.

If we don’t take swift and decision action now, then our already-expensive local governments – that we may or not really need – are about to get a whole lot more expensive. at a time our people can least afford it.

Adam Chudzik, Norridge

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