Letter to the Editor: Homer Township spending for parks

7/21/2016

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As many of the followers in this FB group know, Homer Glen Village Square Facebook  site is the only place where Homer residents can hold our local government accountable. Last month, we analyzed our assessor’s office and found that Homer Township pays the highest salaries in Will County. We asked the assessor for an explanation and we have yet to receive a response. I am sure she will get around to sending me the email she promised and when she does, I will post her response on the website.

Our Homer Township board is responsible for managing another fund which supports Park maintenance. The Park fund levied almost $195,000 in property tax last year. The Illinois Township Code is very clear and it states the levy is solely dedicated to parks. Specifically, the statute is 60 ILCS 1/120-20, Park Maintenance Tax, section (c) “The maintenance tax, when levied and collected, shall be kept separate and distinct from all other township funds and shall be applied exclusively to the expense of maintenance and upkeep, adornment, and development of parks acquired by the township or to the acquisition of other lands to be used for public park purposes.” Homer Township has 93 acres of park space which includes the Homer Athletic Complex as well as Sendra, Yangas, Goreham, Culver, Morris and Lamers parks.

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We looked at Homer Township’s Budget vs. Actual report for the period 4/1/15 – 3/31/16 to see where the Town Board was spending our Park fund money. The first thing that jumps out on the report is the personnel expenses. The township paid $108,497 in employee costs last year. Once you add in the operating and maintenance costs, the total maintenance expenses were $177, 499 to support 93 acres of park space. Our township parks are not very complicated and maintaining the parks is basically mowing grass, taking care of the landscape and removing trash. The idea that Homer Township’s annual cost per acre is $1,908.60 ($177,499/93 acres) to maintain our parks seemed way out of line.

Last year, the village of Homer Glen used a subcontractor, R&R Yard Design, to maintain the 96 acre Heritage/Woodbine park space. R&R was responsible for mowing and trimming the grass to a 3 inch height, keeping landscape weed free, pruning trees and shrubs, removing dead shrubs and leaves, trash removal and power edging. I would expect R&R’s services to be very similar to the services that the Township Park maintenance employees deliver. According to the village’s check register from last year, Homer Glen paid R&R Yard Design $68,009.50 in service fees for the period 4/1/15 – 3/31/16. This calculates to an annual maintenance cost per acre of $708.43.

Comparison of Homer Glen and Homer Township spending link below:

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It’s outrageous that Homer Township spent over $1,200 more per acre than the Village of Homer Glen to maintain our parks last year. The township paid over $109,000 more in park maintenance costs to support the same amount of park space over the same time period. Once again, the Homer Township taxpayer is overpaying for services. Homer Township should be outsourcing its park maintenance to subcontractors and reinvesting the cost savings into parks amenities. I see the posts about splash pads, new equipment, pavilions, water fountains, benches, picnic tables, etc. We can have all of these amenities in our parks WITHOUT A TAX INCREASE if the supervisor would manage our park fund correctly. Instead, we have a supervisor that treats our parks as an afterthought and 4 trustees that rubber stamp every one of her budgets with no questions asked.

So, let’s review the financial performance of our Town Board. We have a park maintenance department that costs more than twice as much as a subcontractor and we have an assessor’s department that carries the highest payroll in Will County. Elections are coming up next year. If you have ever had any interest in serving the community as a Homer Township trustee, assessor, clerk or supervisor, please send me PM. We have 40,000 people that live in Homer Township and we can do better than this. This has to stop!

Jim Orbin

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