La Grange strives to keep economy humming
La Grange Village Manager Bob Pilipiszyn talks about the economy, economic development and transparency. | Jane Michaels~Sun-Times Media
Updated: January 14, 2013 4:48PM
LA GRANGE — With April municipal elections approaching, we sat down with village administrators to ask about issues facing their communities. Bob Pilipiszyn is the village manager of La Grange.
Q. Can you briefly describe the top three issues that La Grange faces?
A. Financial management, capital projects and economic development. We are continuing our cost containment program saving $1.5 million since 2009 by maintaining three vacancies, increasing employee contributions for health insurance and reducing compensation for village employees.
We are conducting pre-budget development workshops for a medium- to long-term financial perspective. Our increases in pension contributions, health insurance and wages have exceeded 5 percent in each category, compared to the Consumer Price Index/tax cap, which has averaged 2.5 percent over the last 18 years.
Looking at capital projects, we seek to maintain our capital assets and replace infrastructure as needed.
Q. Given the economy, how would you describe La Grange’s fiscal situation?
A. Village finances are beginning to stabilize. We have a five-year balanced budget projected. Our general fund reserves, which at one time were projected to be in the low 40s as a percentage, are actually now just over 50 percent.
Our revenue sources appear to be recovering. Our sales tax is increasing, as well as building activity.
Q. What is La Grange doing to promote economic development?
A. We continue to work closely with the La Grange Business Association and the business community at large to conduct marketing and promotions with advertising for events like the Fall Festival we had just before Halloween. We maintain a climate to attract businesses and customers. Our shopping areas are clean, bright and safe. We put up seasonal decorations and install banners we updated this year.
Our formula for success over the long term has been public investment in infrastructure, which spurs private redevelopment.
Q. How is the state’s pension crisis affecting La Grange?
A. We don’t participate in the state’s employee pension plans, but it impacts us indirectly. It’s raised awareness that the weight of benefits granted and compounded cannot be sustained under the current economic conditions.
Q. Do you think La Grange is doing a good job conducting its business transparently?
A. Absolutely. We have good policy-making and governance as shown by the frequency, diversity and depth of workshops conducted by the Village Board. Following a detailed staff report outlining options, the board conducts an in-depth discussion of issues, and they are fully engaged. They then provide us with consensus direction. It’s clear and thoughtful, a shining example of transparency as basic an exercise of democracy as there can be.