$3.2 million for violating the minimum manning court order along with $2.8 million in lost revenue from the State of Illinois are just two huge debts that Oak Lawn’s Mayor Sandra Bury and the Village Trustees will have to pay with either higher taxes or additional service cuts according to Mayor Bury, who has urged people to “Shop Oak Lawn” in order to fix the “…leaky bucket”.
The Mayor and Village Board recently announced that it will appeal the $3.2 million dollar minimum manning judgment owed to the Oak Lawn Firefighters for the Village violating the collectively bargained labor contract. The decision was made with a 4-1 vote with only Trustee Robert Streit (Dist. 3) voting no to the appeal. Streit said that the village has lost 7 straight times on the issue and that continuing the litigation will cost legal fees and interest to accumulate. Over $500,000 of the award is already an interest penalty.
The $2.8 million dollars in lost revenue is speculative based on Governor Bruce Rauner’s proposed budget. Rauner has proposed cutting the Illinois Income Tax in half and reducing the share of revenue to municipalities that comes from the tax. Last year, Mayor Sandra Bury argued in favor of extending the temporary income tax surcharge that eventually expired on January 1, 2015.
Bury recently estimated that property taxes in Oak Lawn would increase by 20% to make up for the $2.8 million dollar loss if the village board voted to increase the levy or establish a special levy. She has not announced how the village intends to pay the $3.2 million dollar award.
In the Village’s State of the Village Speech, Bury did not mention the Governor’s proposed budget cuts or the $3.2 million dollar minimum manning award. Instead, she pointed to the fact that residents spend a lot of money outside the village limits thereby depriving the village of sales tax revenue. She told audience members, “Oak Lawn is the whole bucket. Here’s the problem: it’s a leaky bucket.”
As Bury spoke an image of a water bucket leaking from a dozen or so holes appeared on a large screen. Mayor Bury urged residents to spend their money locally rather than shopping in other communities such as Chicago Ridge and Orland Park. It isn’t a new argument and the previous Mayor, Dave Heilmann, had proposed an upscale shopping center at 111th and Cicero to provide an outlet for Oak Lawn’s shoppers who often have to travel outside the village limits. After Mariano’s agreed to be part of the development, this administration has turned its attention to securing leases with small fast food outlets rather than clothing retailers.
Bury said that residents have $689 million in spending power right here in Oak Lawn and $3.7 billion dollars within 15 minutes of the village. Bury said that the problem is “We’re taking our full bucket and spending our money outside Oak Lawn. We need to make our business community strong, plug those leaks and keep our taxes low.”
For years, the Village’s business community and political leaders have repeated the phrase “Shop Oak Lawn”. Bury, who operates a local optometry practice, has been particularly aggressive in pushing “Shop Oak Lawn”. She said that she hears about Oak Lawn residents traveling to Orland Park to purchase a car and noted that such an item could be purchased in Oak Lawn.
Bury suggested that by spending even $50 every once in a while at three or four Oak Lawn establishments, the leaky bucket could be fixed and businesses would be “thriving”. The Village of Oak Lawn receives part of the Illinois sales tax revenue on every purchase made in Oak Lawn. For purchases such as automobiles, the revenue can be significant.