Kenilworth looks to infrastructure, pension challenges
KENILWORTH Wednesday Aug 22 2012 Kenilworth village manager Patrick Brennan | Michelle LaVigne~Sun-Times Media
Updated: April 9, 2013 1:21AM
With the state and national elections behind us, and the local elections looming ahead in the spring, Pioneer Press took a minute to talk with local village managers to get an unvarnished look at where each stands at the end of 2012.
Kenilworth Village Manager Patrick Brennan talked about the challenges of sewers, roads and pension needs.
Q. Can you briefly describe the top three issues Kenilworth faces?
A. “First, we have an aging infrastructure. In the past, long-term funding plans for infrastructure were not considered as a normal management “best practice” for maintaining that infrastructure. At the same time, modern lifestyles result in commensurately more impact on infrastructure designed to deal with the needs and demands of earlier decades.
“Here are some examples. Because we have more impervious surfaces today than we did years ago, even more rain and precipitation runoff goes into our aging storm sewer system than was once the case, and we experience more surcharge problems. Because we have higher traffic counts today, and because residents make more use of public transportation, our roads are put under more pressure, and our growing parking needs are unmet. All of these result in a growing urgency to replace and upgrade aging sewer, storm, water and roadway networks, even as our ability to fund the improvements has been strained.
“Second, our benefit costs are outpacing inflation. Pension benefits have been increased by the state of Illinois, with little or no regard for the ability of local governments to pay for those benefits. In addition, health care costs are rising far above the rate of inflation. In 2013 Kenilworth’s costs will rise nearly 9 percent.
“Third, we need to find the most cost-effective way to provide services when faced with shrinking resources. We must aggressively seek opportunities to partner with other public and private entities to lower municipal costs. We must also look at new ways to provide municipal services without reducing our core service levels.”
Q. Given the economy, how would you describe Kenilworth’s fiscal situation?
A. “That is a little bit of a trick question. If you look at the regular delivery of our core services, I believe that we are financially stable so long as the State does not attempt to ‘adjust’ local revenue sharing models. If you look at what is needed to replace, repair, and service our existing infrastructure to meet the immediate and long-term needs of the community, I believe that we are faced with a very large fiscal challenge. How we address that challenge has been on the radar of the Village Board for some time and we continue to seek the best ways to provide a safe, healthy, and desirable community for our residents.”
Q. How is the state’s pension crisis affecting Kenilworth?
A. “Today, the impact is related to delayed payment of funds due from the State to the Village. For tomorrow, there is growing concern that the State will make “adjustments” to local funding methodologies in an effort to provide the state additional revenue. Doing so will likely be a state tax increase passed down to the local communities who have no other options.”
Q. What is Kenilworth doing to promote economic development?
A. “We are initiating a multi-level approach to economic development, looking at everything from how well our process works for helping new businesses put up their shingle in town to working with the Chamber of Commerce to find ways to help our current businesses stay in town and be profitable. While we may not have a very large business district, each and every business is an important fiber of the community.”
Q. Do you think Kenilworth is doing a good job conducting its business transparently?
A. “I believe that we are doing well, but I also recognize that we have some room to improve. Our Board meetings are announced well in advance of the meeting (commonly 10 days before the meeting), the agenda is available 24-hours per day on our website, and we have a strong email contact list for Village news. With that being said, I am always curious to hear how our residents think we are doing. If they are seeking common information but don’t know where to find it, I believe it is incumbent upon us to find a way to ensure that residents can easily find what they need. Commonly requested information should be available either on our website or by making one (and only one) call to Village Hall to get a question answered. We are here for them.”