Taxing bodies work together to share expenses
Talking at the meeting (clockwise from left) Jeff Fougerousse, Executive Director of the Vernon Hills Park District, Carol Levin, Public Relations Director, Green Oaks, Libertyville, Mundelein, Vernon Hills Area Chamber of Commerce, Stephen Kershner, Library Director at Cook Memorial Public Library District, Tommy Koo, Cook Memorial Public Library trustee, Carol Sente, Illinois State Representative, David Doerhoefer, President of the Vernon Hills Park District Board of Commissioners, Bruce Robbins, commissioner on the Vernon Hills Park District, Nathan Johnson, Cook Memorial Public Library trustee, Al Fleming, Associate Superintendent Libertyville-Vernon Hills High School District 128, Jean Aucutt, Assistant Principal for Student Development at Vernon Hills High School, Norm Roth, board member Green Oaks, Libertyville, Mundelein, Vernon Hills Area Chamber of Commerce, Nick Brown, Hawthorn School District 73 Superintendent and Michelle Comitor, Vice President Hawthorn School District 73. | Michael Schmidt~Sun-Times Media
Updated: March 25, 2013 1:18AM
VERNON HILLS — Offering better services at a lower cost is what brings each Vernon Hills taxing body together every four months.
Representatives from five governments met on Jan. 16 with hopes of taking cost sharing to the next level.
“We all get paid by the same people,” said Jeff Fougerousse, executive director of the Vernon Hills Park District. “It’s in our best interest to spend wisely and be good stewards.”
The Village of Vernon Hills is a staple of the group, but could not send a spokesperson to the January meeting.
State Rep. Carol Sente, (D-Vernon Hills), joined representatives from the park district, Vernon Hills High School, Hawthorne School District 73 and Cook Memorial Library District at the meeting.
Each entity provided a report on challenges, successes and upcoming projects before a general dialogue was opened.
One example of recent cost sharing occurred when the park district included the Countryside Fire Protection District in a landscaping bid last year. By bringing the firehouse into a larger project, the rates were lowered and fire officials saved $8,000 compared to rates they were given in 2011 when they bid independently.
Park Board President David Doerhoefer offered the same landscaping cost-sharing for 2013 since the park district will be issuing bids soon.
In another cost-sharing example, the park district and the village teamed up to buy the Central Lake YMCA property. Doerhoefer said the park district could have applied for a loan from the bank but a 13-year interest free loan from the village saves the park district considerable cash.
“It was a great partnership,” Doerhoefer said. “Serving our residents in the best way possible was our common goal.”
The $2.2 million loan came from the village’s then $20 million cash reserve.
Park officials are knee-deep in bids for a new maintenance facility at Century Park, which was created when the village offered the acre of land to the park district.
“It’s a huge savings for the taxpayers when we don’t have to buy land and they can get rid of unusable land,” Doerhoefer said.
Other cost-saving agreements include the park district completing snow removal on village walkways. In return, the village provides salt for the park district’s parking lots and sidewalks.
Maintenance of retention ponds is another area where the village and park district share expenses. The village works on feeder pipes that run near roads, while the park district is responsible for shorelines.
During the park district’s annual Rib Fest, the village provides public works employees and police officers. In return, the park district sends employees to work the annual Summer Celebration.
Vernon Hills High School allows the park district to use the auditorium for performing arts annual recital in exchange for access to the Sullivan Center for athletic teams to practice, with each organization waiving its rental fees. A similar agreement exists between the park district and Hawthorn School District 73.
As a result of the Jan. 16 meeting, the park district and Cook Library will explore a joint effort in production, printing and distribution of their combined 42,000 newsletters.
“I’m not aware of anything like this happening in any of the other communities I serve,” Sente said of the group cost-saving effort.
“We’ve just scratched the surface,” Doerhoefer said. “A lot of this stuff takes time and planning because not everyone’s contracts expire at the same time, and without conversation you don’t always realize how certain expenses affect you.”
The group plans to meet again on May 13.