Oak Lawn Mayor Sandra Bury provided the State of the Village Address recently to the Chamber of Commerce that was highlighted by her constant references to the word awesome as well as the presentation of three awards prior to the speech.
Bury, admitted that she wasn’t comfortable as a public speaker. She started by saying the “State of the Village is Awesome”.
Bury used a variety of slides and apologized early for providing so many statistics. The first slide set out in the presentation, which she called the Oak Lawn Team Scorecard, showed check marks and the word “up” for sales tax revenue, business licenses, and pension payments. On the bottom of that same slide she showed the word “down” for municipal debt, municipal tax levy and crime trends.
She said that sales tax revenue was “mostly from cars” and said that Oak Lawn doesn’t have a mall or university. Bury said that Oak Lawn ranks as number 19 out of 1299 municipalities in the amount of sales tax revenue it receives. She said it was impressive and called the sales tax sources “diverse”. Fifty three percent of the revenue comes from auto sales. Eating and drinking establishments account for 12.5% of the revenue according to Bury. The Mayor categorized another 10.08% coming from what she called miscellaneous and drug” sales with general merchandise accounting for 6.71% and food sales amounting to only 6.55%. While the total referred to by Bury didn’t add up to 100 percent she didn’t explain where the other 11 to 12 percent of the sales tax revenue comes from and nobody asked her to explain when given the opportunity an hour later.
Bury also spoke about the Oak Lawn Chamber of Commerce, of which she is a member, saying “I love you guys”. She said that the chamber now has 354 members. Bury said the Chamber has a new sign and that it sent out 16,000 directories to Oak Lawn residents.
She said the village had “so many ribbon cuttings this year” and claimed that “they weren’t all Stonycreek Promenade”. She went through the list of ribbon cuttings for the year listing them one by one, adding some comments and showing a slide of each one.
Ability Prosthetics, Cooper’s Hawk Restaurant and Winery, they didn’t cut ribbons but they uncorked the wine and that was wonderful. Congratulations again to them. Firehouse Subs, Forsa Training, Fruteaco, Great Clips, Hawk Ford, Massage Envy, Meatheads, MG Tech Support, Mooyah Burger, I love saying the name Mooyah, Nothing Bundt Cake, Oak Lawn Bank and Trust, Starbucks, United Health Care, and Wing Zone
After listing all the ribbon cuttings, Bury said, “so how about that for a record year let’s give each other a round of applause on that one. Great job, great job”.
She then turned her attention to pension payments which she said are “still not what they should have been” although she said the village “found a million dollars” to put toward pension payments. She said the strategy is to reduce the village’s debt and to use those savings to apply to pension payments. She projected the village’s total debt to be over 118 million dollars in 2016.
Echoing Governor Bruce Rauner, the Mayor said that Illinois is one of the highest taxed states in the country and she said that high taxes drive residents away pointing to Indiana. Bury showed a slide asking the question, “If you’re lowering taxes, why did my taxes go up?”
In what some may consider a backhanded swipe at the schools, the township, the park district and other taxing bodies, Bury said that the Village has reduced property taxes but said the village is not the only taxing body that taxes residents. “I want to challenge our other taxing bodies, who are faced with the same tough decisions we are, please help, let’s keep these taxes low. It’s a big, big deal and it will keep Oak Lawn more competitive”.
Bury said that the budget is over $54.3 million dollars and said that twenty six percent of the revenue comes from the village’s property tax. Bury said that the other revenue comes from the State of Illinois income tax, local and sales tax revenue, refuse service charges, paramedic fees, electric tax, cable franchise fees, and the list goes on in descending order…”
Bury said that the more robust the other taxes are the less the village has to levy in property taxes. The other taxes are paid by Oak Lawn residents including a controversial utility tax that Bury successfully passed. She said that 72 percent of the budget is spent on people, meaning the village’s workforce.
She said that even one extra criminal element can skew the crime numbers admitting that violent crime fluctuates and stated that next year they may increase again. She summarized her crime numbers claiming that the crime trends are “really really wonderful”.
While Bury praised the police department, she stated that the fire department “only spends two percent of its time fighting fires” with sixty eight percent of the calls being EMS calls.
She also referred to the outsourcing of the 911 Emergency Services noting that Norcomm, a private company handles the 911 calls rather than the former union workers that she replaced. Despite complaints about the village’s services from residents, police officers, and fire department personnel, she praised the Norcomm dispatchers as “wonderful, highly professional and highly trained”.
She said the Stonycreek Promenade Development has created 870 jobs at the various stores, including Mariano’s. She called that news “awesome”. To further emphasize it, Bury then showed a slide asking what does 870 look like with small figures of 870 people. She said the story is “amazing”.
Bury also said that she was publicly announcing for the first time that Culvers would be opening at the old Papa Joe’s Pizza site. However, she did note that the company had not yet gone through the process for approval with the village. The news of Culver’s had already leaked out to the Mayor’s favored news outlets prior to the announcement.
She also announced, surprisingly, that while the village is still working on a new senior center at the VFW location, she was working with Trustee Bud Stalker on a new location in District 5. During the budget discussions, the VFW location was dismissed due to funding issues. She said “we are still discussing it, we did not forget you seniors”.
Bury referred to “partnership” between the village, park district and library also. She said that the village, with the library, are providing “free Wi-Fi” on the village green, around the library and at the train station. Bury said she thinks the free Wi-Fi agreement is “awesome”. She said it brings the library outside. According to Bury, the library has the bandwith and the village has the “infrastructure to bounce it off”. If successful, the park district may join with free Wi-Fi in the parks according to the Mayor.
She called a program at District 123 that was solely developed by its administration and board, “awesome”. She named a long list of events and programs that District 123 has ongoing during the year. In particular she said that the entrepreneurship program is “awesome”.
Bury didn’t leave out one of the other school districts in Oak Lawn noting that District 122 also has many new initiatives. She said that the “Pre-School for all program” is currently serving 215 three and four year old children for free. Bury said “this is awesome to have this (pre-school) free for them at that age…” She also provided statistics about various other programs and building projects at the schools at District 122.
Bury also read news about Oak Lawn Community High School and Richards High School reciting the accomplishments of each institution while noting “I’m kind of a geek” as she spoke about some of the accolades. Bury also read news about events sponsored by the Oak Lawn Park District, Oak Lawn Library, the Children’s Museum of Oak Lawn, and the not for profit organization, Park Lawn.
Bury also spoke about the new tower that Advocate Christ Hospital built. She said she stayed in hotels that she paid a lot of money for that didn’t look as nice as the rooms in the hospital. She said the hospital did a great job with the project. Bury said she had three pages of the children’s hospital’s “awards and allocades (sic)”. She said that the hospital has the highest rating and called it a great asset for the community.
The speech, which Bury admitted was running long, did have technical difficulties at the end making the sound impossible to hear. However, the sound was restored and Bury concluded the speech by thanking everyone. She said, “Oak Lawn is doing awesome. We have a lot of reasons to be proud…”
Bury was prepared for questions, but none of the audience members had any questions for the Mayor or the entire staff that accompanied her to the luncheon.
Jim and Joanne Buschbach received the 2016 Mayor’s Humanitarian Award. The Buschbach’s are longtime active members in the community and business owners. Cooper’s Hawk Restaurant received the 2016 Mayor’s Architectural Award, and Mariano’s received the new business of the year award.
The entire address can be viewed below.