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  • Writer's pictureTricia Babischkin

Budget Workshop and Board Meeting Review

Wow. Seriously, Wow.

When campaigning, I would get asked about how I've been particularly critical of the current board and yet I'd be expected to work with three of them after the election. If elected, how was I going to do that? I have written and spoken at length about my hopes for the future of the board and that hopefully the current board would respect the will of the people and see the votes as 'performance review' of sorts. I called out that I hoped that Brian Augustine would feel comfortable sharing his thoughts in a safer and bully free environment; that Doug Ulrich might show greater depth on issues relating to the village that his typical snarky one-liners; and that Ryan Berman would understand how his attitude was not endorsed by the residents and look to change. I was reminded that it is not solely my job to figure out how to work with them, they too must come to the table to work with me (and my fellow United4Lakewood team).

When the United4Lakewood team is sworn in, every person on the Board of Trustees will have been duly elected by the residents of this village. There will be no appointed trustee filling a seat at the request and favor of the President. Additionally, I think we need to consider the level of support each of the next board got when they were elected:

From 2019 -- these are the three board members who will be up for re-election in 2023.

From this past April: The United4Lakewood winners universally got nearly DOUBLE the votes as the incumbents in 2019. They will argue turnout as they ran completely uncontested --- but Lakewood voters showed up in April of this year and said with the one tool at their disposal that matters -- We Want/Need Change!

Ryan, Doug, Brian -- I'd highly suggest that you listen to the residents. They didn't vote for us because there was no other choice -- they voted for us because they don't like what is happening at board meetings today -- and last night was proof that you could work on your listening skills.

First, the Budget Workshop. In the past -- when we had them -- they were participatory events. I spoke to prior Trustees who described it as interactive and people asking questions. Additionally, long term residents have told me that as the budget that is being discussed is actually the one the new board would be using, it is common that the candidates (as these workshops should have occurred in March) are included in the discussion. Yet again, we saw none of our sitting board ask a single question with regard to the budget.

It was lovely at the end of the conversation, which felt like Phil was rushing because he prioritized a 15 minute break between meetings over actual discussion, that he asked the Trustees-elect if they had questions regarding the Lake Patrol Budget (it was his intention to pass the budget in the following meeting). I'm glad he asked for comments because I then was able to inquire about the legality of trying to pass the Lake Patrol Budget as proper notice to the public was not given per IL code and there was no public hearing. Fortunately, when asked Mr. Smoron, village attorney, while admitting he was not aware of the kind of notice that the village gave, if it was not done per code, they could not in fact pass it. What I wasn't allowed to ask were my other questions about the budget that we had presented to us. Phil said that the public hearing was the time to do that -- EXCEPT, then it would be too late to make the alterations that might be needed based on my questions.

Then we have a board meeting. Can we be honest? Phil lost control of the meeting with the first public comment and never actually got it back. Whoa. Powerful neighbor story shared and I got the impression that residents were neither surprised nor shocked to hear it. It's those stories that drove our residents out to the polls on April 6th -- and when you conduct yourself in a meeting like the current majority board did, no one stood up and thought "hey, that couldn't possibly be true."

Trying to pivot to village business, I spoke -- I wanted to get answers or at least be able to ask the questions I had as part of the workshop. Yes, I sent a list of my prelim questions to the CAO and she answered or half answered most of them. She didn't tell the board or the public that there is a major error in the health insurance budgeting -- we traditionally have paid about $150K in health insurance for the general fund departments and she budgeted $16K. When you correct this expense, the balance for the general fund goes from a budgeted loss $133,000 to a loss of $267,000.

Let me share a few other corrections to what was said in the meeting:

  1. The letter from Todd Richardson was in fact written prior to the incident with Phil in front of Village Hall on May 4, 2020.

  2. Todd Richardson was NOT added to the Brady List. This move was fully rejected by the State's Attorney and Phil's claim otherwise is untrue.

  3. The potential development at Bard and Turnberry Trail is a concept at best right now. Despite the back-patting, there was supposed to be an 'informal' meeting with P&Z this coming Monday (odd and potentially OMA issues aside) and that was canceled as of this morning. The email I received stated that the developer needed more time before bringing a proposal to P&Z.

  4. And -- can anyone explain to me how adding 50 houses on 30 acres of land (that will also need roads -- so those lots would be less than the standard minimum of half an acre -- is going to REDUCE traffic?

  5. I can not find in 2019 where the Lake Patrol budget was approved separately from the full budget -- and based on public notices, if this was in fact done, it would have been done improperly.

  6. The STP funding for the Haligus road project is a reimbursement project -- meaning we get the money AFTER we spend it. But there are other caveats that need to be understood:

    1. This project just went out for letting (bids for those of us laymen). If the bids come in above the project estimate, the village is on the hook for all the overages -- the Council of Mayors has no extra funding beyond the amount already allocated to us. This is key because as we saw with the paving for 2020, there's a chance this could come in over budget.

    2. I'm still trying to understand if the construction is reimbursed to the village or a direct payment to the contractor -- the key here is that if a direct payment, we shouldn't show the $700K on our budget; if reimbursed, then we need to show the fund we are going to borrow the funds from in our budget. The MFT fund does NOT have a $700K balance to float this without an interfund loan.

    3. One other thing is that construction engineering is also on us to pay for. This board appears to have approved HR Green to do this work without an estimate of costs -- this was approved on 3/23/21. So, one needs to ask where did the estimates for the budget come from.

    4. Anyone think these are questions that need to be asked BEFORE the public hearing?

Mr. Ulrich and Mr. Berman seemed to be affronted that despite my sharing on this site and my Facebook page, that I still made a comment and asked questions. Again, I ask them the question they refuse to answer -- when will you stop ridiculing residents and do your actual job. Mr. Ulrich, it is not combative to ask a question -- it is the role of the Trustee. You accuse me of hiding behind a screen and yet you are the trustee who is never on camera anymore. And is it not your friend, Phil, who is hiding in these remote meetings and hiding from the outraged public who so overwhelmingly voted him out of office?

Mr. Ulrich, Berman, and Augustine: I want to work WITH you. I'm actually willing to work WITH you. But to do that, each of you needs to step back and put the WORK of the village before your hatred of me, my website, and my research. I've learned a lot in these past months -- likely more than you realize. I will not stop asking questions, even the hard ones. I will not stop sharing what I've learned, whether my original reviews were right or wrong. I will not stop listening to the residents who elected me and working for even those who did not. The campaign is over, the work will begin and you can be part of the movement or you can stand aside. Those are in fact, the only two choices. Ball is in your court, which will it be?

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Apr 14, 2021

Is the board meeting from last night available to view ? I can’t believe the way the current board members spoke to you, that was embarrassing to watch. I ran for school treasurer back in 5th grade, and these grown men last night were really crawling in the mud, made my grade school experience feel almost presidential !

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