Oak Lawn’s budget, approved by the Mayor and Board of Trustees, has a annualized $2.2 million dollar deficit based on revenue that should have never been put in the budget and a slight decrease in sales taxes.
The sales taxes are down $300,000 for the first six months but the real loss is a $1.5 million dollar phantom revenue item that should have never been budgeted. Last year, the previous Board of Trustees and Mayor Sandra Bury added the phantom revenue item in the form of a “fair share payment” from Advocate Christ Hospital.
Advocate Christ Hospital never agreed to pay that amount, or any amount for the fiscal year, yet the item was placed in the budget as an expected revenue. As of September 14, 2017, the hospital has not agreed to any fair share payment and the Illinois Courts have repeatedly held that not for profit hospitals do not have to pay property taxes if the amount of charitable spending from the hospital equals or surpasses the property tax amount. Advocate Christ Hospital provides such an amount and is exempt from property taxes on the hospital. Despite this fact, the previous board and Mayor Sandra Bury insisted on including the item in the budget.
Now, village officials are scrambling to fill the budget shortfall with potential one time property sales, such as the 87th Street property sale to a used car dealership. This type of budgetary fix was criticized by Bury in 2013 when she first ran for Mayor. She claimed that the village’s sale of the property where the Oak Lawn Bank is located, was the wrong way to balance a budget.
As Trustees were given the bad news at a recent board meeting, Mayor Bury’s solution was to urge everyone to “shop Oak Lawn”. The Village’s Finance Director, Brian Hanigan, said that the village will have to find a way to adjust expenses but noted that seventy percent of the expenses come from salaries.
Hanigan told the Board of Trustees that it will be a tough couple of years. On December 14, 2016, the Oak Lawn Leaf printed a story regarding the possibility that the budget could be unbalanced. At that time,Trustee Robert Streit questioned the inclusion of the payments from the hospital in the budget without an agreement. “If we aren’t successful in securing a voluntary payment, this budget will be unbalanced,” said Streit.