Palatine officials fed up with state's delayed payments

Friday, September 10, 2010

As the burden from the state's fiscal mismanagement continues to trickle down to the municipal level, one suburb is exploring ways to protect its own coffers.

Palatine officials this week discussed what to do about the $2.3 million in delayed payments the state owes - an issue that pushed some to their boiling point with news the village is operating at a deficit.

"Maybe the sad thing about the state we live in is that the people we have in office are so incompetent, we're never going to see this money," Councilman Scott Lamerand said.

Officials supported Village Manager Reid Ottesen's idea to look at withholding money owed by Palatine to Illinois in exchange for credit against the delayed state payments. The village pays the state for Illinois Department of Transportation maintenance contracts and streetlight electricity on certain stretches of roadway.

"It'd be a pittance in comparison to $2.3 million, but it's the fundamental principle of having to write a check to the state when the state owes us money," Ottesen said.

The council also discussed looking into possible litigation, as well as reaching out to an intergovernmental group representing 42 municipalities known as the Northwest Municipal Conference to press Cook County on getting property tax bills out - another sore point.

Though bills for 2009 second installments were supposed to have been mailed by Sept. 1, it's likely that won't be mailed out until after the Nov. 2 election, pushing back payment to the village.

Ottesen said there is strength in numbers and that practically every taxing body from townships to mosquito abatement districts are all owed money.

Prompting the Palatine council's discussion about taking action was a budget update showing revenue $390,000 less than expected through the first half of 2010.

Though spending is also down 2.5 percent, the council Monday will consider implementing $560,000 in miscellaneous cost-cutting measures from not filling two job vacancies to less expensive liability insurance. That will likely ensure Palatine ends the year with a balanced budget, Ottesen said.

Palatine has healthy enough reserves to meet its debt obligations come December. Still, with the village paying interest on bonds to construct a new fire station and new police headquarters, Lamerand said Palatine is borrowing $2.3 million more than it should because of the state.

"The state is obviously behaving in a ridiculous manner that's going to make all municipalities suffer," he said. "Unfortunately, we're not like the state. We have to pay our bills and we take pride in doing so."