Mayor votes to approve Oak Lawn budget after 3-3 split on the board

  • Written by Bob Rakow

Trustee Robert Streit actually sided with fellow trustees Tim Desmond and Alex Olejniczak.


Trustee Carol Quinlan, who recently called Mayor Sandra Bury "a piece of work" at a board meeting, actually agreed with the mayor on this one and was in the unfamiliar position in being in the same camp with Terry Vorderer and Mike Carberry.


It not not a usual night -- or vote -- when it take to Oak Lawn's village board meeting on Tuesday night. The usual Streit/Quinlan vs. rest of the board blueprint on important issues was shaken up.


A deadlock on Oak Lawn’s 2015 budget forced Bury to cast a rare tiebreaking vote to approve the spending plan Tuesday.


Streit, Desmond and Olejniczak—the latter two who are allies of Bury—voted against the budget following extended debate about the $54.3 million plan.


Vorderer, Quinlan and Carberry voted in favor.


Olejniczak first asked the board to delay a vote on the budget so village officials could revisit the document and find more cost savings for the village. His motion died for lack of support.


“I don’t know what the big rush is,” Olejniczak said.


Olejniczak and Desmond agreed that the village should approve the leanest budget possible in order the make further strides in funding its pension obligations.


Streit did not comment on the budget prior to the vote.


“The fact is, we owe our employees these pensions,” Olejniczak said.


The problem for Oak Lawn and many other municipalities is that the pension funds are seriously underfunded and the state is looking to resolve the problem.


The state has mandated that towns and cities start a payment plan to gradually improve their police and fire pensions to 90 percent of the funding they need.

If required pension contributions aren’t made, the state will automatically subtract the required contribution from the village’s share of sales and use taxes.

Olejniczak also disapproved of the village’s decision to sell property it owns to help balance the budget, calling the move poor long-term planning.

Village manager Larry Deetjen pointed out some positives of the spending plan, including no fee increases, $2.3 million dedicated to infrastructure improvements and an increase in pension funding over the previous year.

“We don’t have all the money to do what we want to do,” Deetjen said regarding infrastructure work, which includes road, alley and sewer work.

He added that mostly through attrition, the village’s work force is 25 percent smaller than it was 15 years ago.

Village Treasurer Pat O’Donnell said the village must focus on its finances over the next three years with an eye funding the pensions.

“We’ve stopped taking on debt, but we still have a ways to go,” O’Donnell said.


The village must submit its tax levy by Dec. 30, which would give the staff and the board nearly two weeks to fine tune the budget, said Olejniczak, who did not offer specific suggestions for further cost savings.


The budget is good, but we could do better,” he said. “All I’m asking is that we sharpen the pencil and take another look. Are there other things that are out there? We’re not being honest with the residents.”


Vorderer disagreed saying the budget process was lengthy and included several workshops in which trustees could voice concerns or propose cuts.


“The budget didn’t [just] get here tonight,” Vorderer said. “How much can you cut out of this budget. It’s realistic. We got this down to the bare bones.”


He added that he budget is not etched in stone and department heads car be asked to make additional spending cuts during the year if needed.