Trustee Tim Desmond reported that he received a phone call from a resident who was upset about receiving a letter that claimed he had not purchased a village vehicle sticker. The problem is that the resident did buy a village sticker and had the receipt to prove it.
It is a familiar story that has been told by many on various Facebook pages such as “Concerned Citizens of Oak Lawn” or the Oak Lawn Leaf’s Facebook page. People were upset, including Desmond’s unnamed constituent, that they either already purchased the village sticker or had to pay an exhorbitant fine.
Desmond said he received a letter also and blamed it on “miscommunication” between the State and the Village of Oak Lawn. Desmond said the caller was “a bit upset” and he said he said that people should understand that the whole letter campaign came about with “the intention of eliminating village stickers completely…”
Mayor Sandra Bury, who was elected in 2013, said “many Trustees and I have talked about this (eliminating the stickers) for a while”.
The Oak Lawn Leaf’s review of every agenda and the meeting minutes for every meeting from Bury’s 2013 election do not reflect any items when the idea of eliminating the village stickers was discussed. However, Bury claimed that she has asked Village Manager Larry Deetjen to look at ways to eliminate the village sticker.
Bury said the village stickers are a revenue source and we can’t just say “we are taking out a revenue source”.
The other Trustees didn’t seem to be on the same page as Bury making comments that seemed to support the effort to collect the village sticker fines and repeatedly noting that the budget hole would be difficult to fill if the board eliminated the stickers.
Trustee Alex Olejniczak said that the Finance Committee directed the staff to send the letter. Village Finance Director Brian Hannigan said the village contacted the state for a list of all registered vehicles in the village and compared that list to the village’s list. Letters were then generated to those that had not purchased a sticker.
Hannigan said the effort resulted in the collection of $70,000, including $40,000 in penalties. The cost of sending the letter was $8,000. Hannigan said there were some mistakes and the residents didn’t have to come to the village to resolve the issue. Olejniczak said the biggest complaint he received was that residents had to come to the village to resolve the issue. He defended the village’s efforts noting that it was the first time the letters have ever gone out and the issues will be ironed out by next time.
Nonetheless, Desmond asked how much the village stickers generate annually and Hannigan informed him a couple of times that the total yearly revenue was $900,000.
Hannigan threw cold water on the discussion of eliminating the vehicle sticker repeating, “Nine hundred thousand dollars. I don’t know how else to say it when we have a lot of pension payments due”. The village has failed to make the recommended pension payments as recommended in the last few years.
Hannigan said he was “all ears” on how the $900,000 could be replaced and noted that raising property taxes may be a bad option or the amount could be put on a water bill although he didn’t say how someone with three cars compared to one car would pay the fee.
Hannigan said the data base would be cleaned up in the future although he said the program did work to catch the “scofflaws”.
Trustee Terry Vorderer, after being told that the total sticker revenue is $900,000 said, “$800,000 to $900,000 of our total budget comes from the sale of the vehicle sticker…” He said that the twenty percent of the people didn’t purchase the stickers and the people that were upset were mad because they had to pay the fine.
Trustee Mike Carberry noted that it would be interesting to see where you can get $900,000 to replace the revenue.
It appears that despite the Mayor’s own words, the village will not be looking for ways to eliminate the village vehicle sticker. Village Manager Larry Deetjen recently sent a memo to Trustees discussing the budget and the vehicle sticker elimination was not listed as a budget matter to be discussed.