Infrastructure, finances remain top focus for Hinsdale manager
Hinsdale Village Manager David Cook says the village finances are stable, "but there's not a lot of excess. Any kind of unexpected event can make (the finances) go downhill." | Kimberly Fornek—Sun-Times Media
Updated: January 14, 2013 4:46PM
HINSDALE — With April municipal elections approaching, we sat down with village managers to ask about issues facing their community. David Cook has been Hinsdale’s village manager since 2005.
Q: What are the top three issues Hinsdale faces?
A: Completing our master infrastructure plan. We’re spending $86 million over a 15-year period (to improve streets, water lines and the sewer system). We’re in the third year.
We also have been working very hard on consolidating the Police Department with Clarendon Hills. Hopefully, the legislation will pass during this veto or lame duck session giving us statutory authority to move forward. (If so, the consolidation) could come to fruition in 2013. That could mean $700,000 to $800,000 in potential savings.
(The third priority is) our fiscal stability. I have conversations on a daily basis about that with my finance director. We are constantly looking at revenue streams and checking we are doing things in the most efficient manner.
Q: Describe the village’s fiscal situation.
A: Like a lot of municipalities, we took a major hit from the recession. It took us two years to change our operating model to get to a stable financial status. Before the recession, we had 117 full-time employees. Now we have 92. That’s a major reduction. We outsourced our dispatching, we committed to an automated mutual aid agreement for fire services with Clarendon Hills. All of these have reduced our operating costs.
Q: How does the state’s pension crisis affect the village?
A: Like all municipalities, we rely on the state to share revenue from sales tax, income tax, corporate replacement tax and motor fuel tax. Every year they make proposals to reduce the money we receive.
(Local) public safety pensions need further overhaul to make them stable for the future as well. Our unfunded liability is over $15 million between our police and fire pension funds. Ours are about 60 percent funded, which are better than most. We are a tax-capped community. Every other dollar we have to pay for employee pensions can’t go to operations.
Q: How does the village promote economic development?
A: The demographics of Hinsdale are very appealing to a lot of business owners. We work closely with the landlords and some of the larger brokers to attract tenants that mix well with our downtown.
Q: Do you think Hinsdale conducts its business with transparency?
A: We pride ourselves on being very transparent. We have been televising (almost all official village meetings) live for about six or seven years. That’s one of the biggest examples you can have, and they’re not closed agendas. Citizens have the ability to come in and talk. We try to put as much information as we can on our website. . . . When everything is wide open, there is nothing to hide.
(The village has not posted individual employee salaries on its website due to concerns about their privacy, but will provide the numbers to anyone who requests them in person).
Although (under FOIA laws) we have five days to provide requested information, usually if you want to stand there and wait for 10 minutes, we’ll get it for you.