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Release of funds gives local governments get some holiday cheer

  • Written by Dermot Connolly

 

Municipalities throughout Illinois received a holiday present of sorts on Monday when the state Senate unanimously passed a bill that Gov. Bruce Rauner promptly signed, releasing $3.1 billion in funds that had been held up since July due to the ongoing budget impasse in Springfield.

The legislation, which was approved by the House last week, will reportedly send $1 billion to lottery winners whose payments had been held up. But it was the revenue from local gaming, as well as $582 million in motor fuel taxes that was due to local governments, $77 million for local 911 emergency centers, in addition to local use taxes, a percentage of sales tax revenue, that local mayors are most looking forward to receiving.

“We have a phone call in to the state comptroller (Leslie Munger) to see whether or not we can expect to receive the funds this fiscal year, ending Dec. 31, or whether we will have to wait until next year,” said Chicago Ridge Mayor Charles Tokar.

He said that the MFT funds, and revenue from video gaming and other monies his village is owed, could amount to hundreds of thousands of dollars.

“We have a budget hearing next Tuesday, and we want to know if we can expect a lump sum or whether it will be coming in dribs and drabs,” said the mayor.

“I’m grateful that they were at least able to do this much, but I hope the guys in Springfield will be able to come to some agreement on the entire budget,” added Tokar, who has stressed at recent village board meetings the difficulty of finalizing the village’s budget for next year when cuts to the funding municipalities get from the Local Government Distributive Fund are considered likely in any eventual state budget.

The Orland Park Village Board approved the 2016 budget following a brief hearing on Monday, and Mayor Daniel McLaughlin said whether or not state funding would be allocated didn’t play into it.

“We were conservative, but we figured that they have to give us the same amount as last year. State senators and representatives know we depend on those funds,” he said.

“I’m just glad to see some movement toward agreement. Hopefully, this will spur them on to do more,” McLaughlin added.

“All our local governments are happy about this,” said Palos Hills Mayor Gerald Bennett, who is president of the Southwest Suburban Conference of Mayors. “Hopefully, the funds will start coming to us in January.

“The hold-up of these funds affected 1,300 cities and villages around the state,” Bennett said. “It took a lot of work to get this done, and to get (legislators) to see that this money was never part of the state budget, and shouldn’t have been included in it.”

“This is a win-win situation for both sides in Springfield. Whether it spurs them on to come to agreement on the budget is debatable, but before long, they will have to start work on the following year’s budget so it will get convoluted,” Bennett noted.

“We’re relieved to know that they are releasing our funds, our taxpayers’ money,” said Palos Heights Mayor Robert Straz. He said his city expected to receive perhaps about $200,000, including MFT funds and the portion of the local use tax.

Like Orland Park, he said his city was not depending on the state action to balance the budget.

“We have very good staff members who go through every line item. We try to live within our means,” Straz said.