The below list of items are areas Park Forest leaders are looking to partner with county, state, and federal officials on.
Property Tax Reform
Correct the Property Tax Delinquency Issue (State)
The Village requests that legislation be considered which would force tax-delinquent commercial or industrial property owners to pay their tax obligations without the ease or option of walking away from the property. Tax-delinquent property owners currently have the ability to abandon a parcel of land after having not paid taxes for a long period of time while still reaping economic benefits during this time frame. If a municipality secures the property through the no-cash bid process, an assessment should be done comparing the owed amount in tax delinquency compared to the value of the property.
Cook County Property Tax System (State)
The way taxes are collected in Cook County at present penalizes communities that are poor in industrial and commercial properties while rewarding those that have an abundance of such parcels. Legislative action is required in order to remedy this situation. A small working group of local municipal staff has researched some potential remedies utilized by other states. In addition, a small working group from within the South Suburban Mayors and Managers Association has been meeting with representatives of Cook County and the general assembly to discuss legislative action. Legislators are encouraged to support legislation that would create a pilot program in the south suburbs based on the research that is forthcoming.
School Funding Reform (State)
The Village of Park Forest continues to support the need for legislation to change how schools are funded in Illinois by placing more burden on the state income tax and reducing reliance on the local property tax. The Village also believes that the State Board of Education and the State of Illinois need to review and revise the system for student funding of Charter Schools.
Sales Tax Revenue Sharing (State)
With a changing opportunity for sales tax revenue among a number of communities that are not as well situated geographically as others and thus have less opportunity for commercial development, the Village of Park Forest favors legislation to provide for some form of sales tax revenue sharing; the Village’s position is that the larger portion of the local sales tax revenue should go to the community where the generating business is located, in order to accommodate infrastructure costs, etc., but that a significant portion likewise should be distributed to all municipalities based on population, such as is done with the motor fuel tax.
Less Intrusion on Local Revenues (State)
The Village of Park Forest urges legislative controls over the amount of local municipal revenue that the State of Illinois can withhold (e.g. photo tax, utility tax collection fee, etc.). Also, ensure that ample legislative controls are in place so as to avoid currently provided state services or programs from being curtailed and passed on as a local government obligation.
Void Exemptions for Residential Investment Property (State)
When an owner-occupied residential property becomes a rental, the Village supports a mechanism to cause the property tax bill to be adjusted to remove the homestead, senior and senior freeze, disabled persons, returning veterans, and disabled veterans exemptions unless there is legal standing for the property owner to qualify otherwise for any such exemptions.
Public Policy Advocacy
Level I Trauma Center for the South Suburbs (State)
The residents of the South Suburbs are without a Level I Trauma Center. This untenable situation is one wherein paramedics must transport more than 19 miles to Christ Hospital in Oak Lawn for any patients needing Level I trauma care. When every second of every minute is critical, the situation is oftentimes exacerbated by traffic or weather conditions or when Christ Hospital is on bypass, meaning patient care is delayed even further for continued transport to the next available Level I Trauma Center. Regional and State, perhaps even Federal, Support is needed in developing a solution. Park Forest and southland residents and their children are as valuable as are the men, women, and children of the West Suburbs or the North Suburbs where there is an abundance of Level I Trauma Centers.
Vacant Foreclosed Property Contact Information (State)
The Village of Park Forest seeks policy reform to require the contact information (name, address, and phone number) of the plaintiff filing a property foreclosure notice to be provided on the Notice of Foreclosure and other related foreclosure filings. Locating the plaintiff’s contact information is a cumbersome task that adds a layer of work to already overworked municipalities. Providing the plaintiff’s contact information will aid in expediting municipal code enforcement for vacant foreclosed property.
Land Banks (State)
Small land banks (such as the South Suburban Land Bank Development Authority and a few new land banks proposed for downstate Illinois) presently struggle financially in ways that the state’s largest land bank (the Cook County Land Bank Authority) does not; some sort of funding mechanism at the state level seems best for addressing this issue. In addition, the smaller land banks also have more difficulty dealing with real estate tax exemptions, tax foreclosures, and extinguishing back taxes and need legislative action to expand their authority in these areas. Legislators are urged to craft land bank legislation that addresses funding, real estate tax exemptions, tax foreclosures, and extinguishing back taxes.
Public Safety Employee Benefits Act (PSEBA) Reform (State)
The Village of Park Forest strongly encourages the State of Illinois to revise its definition of catastrophic as it relates to the Public Safety Employee Benefits Act.
Support of a Living Wage Standard (State/Federal)
The Village of Park Forest supports the concept of a living wage so that adult citizen workers might earn the income necessary to meet the basic needs of living in a community. Employers should provide wages and benefits which afford their workers the requirements to have a basic quality of life that is not dependent on governmental subsidy programs for additional income or other financial support.
Minimum Wage Relief for Seasonal/Recreational Positions (State)
With a structured increase in minimum wage established by the State of Illinois some years ago, a classified exemption was eliminated as relates to summer/seasonal recreational positions typically staffed using high school or college students. The impacts on seasonal and summer Park Forest recreational programming and venues such as the Aqua Center have been substantial. The Village of Park Forest urges the State of Illinois to create an exemption that provides relief from paying minimum wage for high school and college students engaged in temporary/seasonal employment.
Public Employee Pension Plans (State)
The Village of Park Forest urges that any legislation relating to municipal employee benefits, including pension benefits, allow for some levels of control by the employing local government (e.g., to be included in collective bargaining). Also, the Village encourages legislators to consider parity between the benefits conveyed through the public safety pension plan and those offered to other municipal employees through IMRF.
Home Rule (State)
The Village of Park Forest supports legislation that any referendum to reverse home rule status, in order to pass, must be approved by no less than 60 percent of those persons casting votes in the said referendum.
South Suburban Mayors and Managers (SMMA) Legislative Agenda
Upon approval by the Village Board, Park Forest supports the legislative agenda of the South Suburban Mayors & Managers Association, the Illinois Municipal League, and the National League of Cities.
Local Health Programs (State/Federal)
With the onset of Nationalized Health Care, the Village of Park Forest urges legislation to foster an annual stipend from the State of Illinois and the federal government for communities that operate health departments, thus easing health-related burdens for Cook/Will Counties, the State of Illinois, and neighboring communities.
Health Care Support (State/Federal)
The Village of Park Forest encourages legislation that would fund an annual stipend from the State of Illinois and the federal government to the Access to Care program, which brings critical primary health care access and resources to the uninsured of Cook County who are caught in the gap of having private insurance coverage and qualifying for assisted public health insurance.
Environmental Recycling (State)
The Solid Waste Planning & Recycling Act is not working, and municipalities are burdened with the disposal of electronic waste. The broke system is also causing hardships for residents, solid waste agencies, and the recycling industry. While it is proper that e-waste is prohibited from disposal in landfills, the current system in which goals are weight-based means that heavy items such as televisions and computer monitors allow for mandates to be reached too quickly. An interim “fix” passed by the legislature is temporary and limited in its effect. Legislators are urged to create 1) improved reporting and coordination by the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency to assure accountability by collectors, manufacturers, and recyclers; and 2) a system for accessing funds from the Solid Waste Management Fund to provide relief to local government collectors.
Clean Energy (State)
Three proposals were before the legislature in the last session of the General Assembly: 1) the Clean Jobs Bill advanced by the Clean Jobs Coalition; 2) a counter proposal advanced by ComEd, and 3) another bill that gained little support advanced by Exelon (parent company of ComEd). All three have as a goal to increase funding for clean-energy resources such as solar. The Clean Jobs Bill appears to be the most consumer-friendly and beneficial from a sustainability perspective. An effort for the Clean Jobs Coalition and ComEd to reach a compromise seemed likely at one point but now appears dead. Legislators are urged to reconsider the Clean Jobs Bill in its original form, putting the onus on ComEd to come up with specific amendments to support their opposition to the bill.
Energy Efficiency (State/Federal)
Park Forest supports programs for residential, commercial, and industrial energy efficiency. Consumer savings reduced Green House Gas emissions and increased economic/job development would be the result of increased funding of programs promoting more efficient energy use.
Adaptation Planning (State/Federal)
The effects of climate change can be witnessed all throughout Illinois. Extreme storms are happening more frequently, and the devastation caused by them is extremely harmful to residents and have a negative economic impact on the region/state/country. The Village of Park Forest supports increased funding for programs including green stormwater management, green infrastructure, Smart Grid, and formal adaptation planning so that communities are more resilient to the effects of climate change.
Local Food Production (State/Federal)
Barriers should be eliminated at the regional/state/federal level for small-scale gardens/farms to grow food for local consumption, as additional funding is made available to support the growth of local food production.
Public Transportation (Federal)
As part of its ongoing efforts to promote long-term sustainability, the Village of Park Forest supports legislation to provide financial incentives for collaborative efforts among local units of government that create public transportation systems to serve local residents. The Village also seeks increases in 1) the number of bus routes; 2) the operating hours of buses; and/or 3) dial-a-ride options available to the public, especially the working public.
South Suburban Airport (State)
The Village of Park Forest supports the Illinois Department of Transportation’s expedited development of the South Suburban Airport.
Illiana Expressway (State)
The Village of Park Forest supports efforts to increase local ground transportation routes, such as the Illiana Expressway, to ease congestion in the region.
Manufacturing Training for Secondary School Students (State/Federal)
The Village of Park Forest has spearheaded laying the groundwork for the opportunity of high school students to obtain National Institute for Metalworking Skills (NIMS) credentials which would enable them to enter into one of several potential courses of vocation upon graduation from high school. These include an expedited transition into the workforce by operating manufacturing equipment, easy transition into applied science programs at the community college level, and pursuit of college degrees in engineering or business administration with the long-term goal of becoming administrators within manufacturing plants or eventually having their own such businesses. This initiative needs financial support for start-up, equipment, and facility costs. Still, the long-term benefits will be broad in scope as Park Forest, and its partners demonstrate to potential manufacturers that the south suburban community has a trained workforce at the ready.