City manager discusses finances, development, transparency
Park Ridge City Manager Shawn Hamilton
Updated: December 16, 2012 6:09AM
PARK RIDGE — City Manager Shawn Hamilton recently answered a few questions for the Park Ridge Herald-Advocate on several matters concerning municipalities today and how they apply to Park Ridge.
Q. What are the top issues facing Park Ridge right now?
A. I’d have to say financial is number one and that is all related to the situation with the Uptown TIF. We’re in a situation where the Uptown TIF fund is over $5 million in deficit and that money is being lent from the General Fund and so that’s a big issue that needs to be addressed. We’re starting the process of getting some good numbers on that and finding a possible long-term solution for that.
Economic Development is always going to be up there. The city of Park Ridge wants to be portrayed as a business-friendly community. We want to bring new businesses to Park Ridge, we want to encourage people to shop locally. That brings more people and sales tax revenue to Park Ridge.
Q. How would you describe the current fiscal situation in the city?
A. I’m going to say it’s ‘OK’ for a couple reasons. We’ve got a problem with the Uptown TIF. That’s not going away. We’ve got a hole and that hole is continuing to grow and grow and grow and we’ve got to figure out how to address that. If you take the Uptown TIF, which is a big problem, out of that question and say in general, how are finances? I say ‘OK’ because I have to give credit to staff, department heads and employees. We are doing everything we can to reduce costs where we can, consolidate where we can, streamline when we can and those changes that we can make carry in perpetuity throughout future budget cycles.
Expenses continue to grow, so costs go up, benefit costs go up, salary costs go up — and that’s our biggest expenditure, salaries and benefits. We’ve got to figure out the ways to reduce those expenses.
Q. Is the state’s pension crisis affecting Park Ridge?
A. It could. Every year we get renewal rates for IMRF — the Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund. If the percentages keep increasing for IMRF, those increases are passed on to Park Ridge and we have to pass those increases on to the taxpayers. It’s an “ask me when we get the new renewal rates and I’ll tell you” kind of thing.
Q. How is the city making efforts to promote economic development?
A. An economic task force was put together and their final recommendations are coming forward. There have been some ideas that have been brainstormed by myself and (Director of Community Preservation and Development) Jim Testin and proposed by the mayor to try to bring back somebody who has the focus of economic development. I think at a high level the best thing we can do here at City Hall is demonstrate we are a business-friendly environment, that the permitting process is easy, that we’ll do things to encourage economic development and new businesses to come to Park Ridge.
Q. Do you think Park Ridge is doing a good job of conducting its business transparently?
A. I don’t know in all the years I’ve been around that I’ve seen a more transparent form of government, even inclusive of allowing residents the opportunities to speak on every issue at a meeting. We are always putting documents online, broadcasting our meeting, we’re always looking for things that maybe we’re missing and not putting online. For the most part, every piece of information an elected official receives is available on our website and then residents can see it.