Economy, technology among top village issues in Oak Park
Cara Pavlicek is the interim village manager for Oak Park. | Jon Langham~for Sun-Times Media
Updated: December 16, 2012 6:33AM
OAK PARK — Interim Village Manager Cara Pavlicek discusses some of the priorities and challenges Oak Park faces in the coming year.
Q: Can you briefly describe the top three issues Oak Park faces?
A: One of the three things I think are a focus for us are long-range fiscal planning. I think the why is because, obviously, the last four years, there have been substantial changes in economic conditions. It’s really challenged local government in that it can’t talk about budgeting in terms of a single fiscal year.
Another key issue is technology applications in local government. People now upgrade cell phones every year. There’s a new iPad every year. For a government so heavily invested in process, it’s a challenge to keep pace with what the constituents have. It’s a significant challenge for us to see how can we prioritize our limited resources so we can identify the best and most affordable technological resources out there so we can deliver services.
The last one is the building block of all of these: employee training. Whether it’s a computer program to deliver services or completely using the Internet to deliver services, we have to make decisions about what employees need and how we can prepare them to do their jobs. To train the employee to deliver the services is a critical component of government.
Q: Given the economy, how would you describe Oak Park’s fiscal situation?
A: Well, I really do think there’s been very tough decisions made over the last four-year time period that had put the village on a very positive course. With this year’s budget we are spending less resources than we have so we can save some money for emergencies. There’s good discipline for financial management, but it’s still a fragile economy for city governments.
Q: How is the state’s pension crisis affecting Oak Park?
A: When you look at the state of Illinois, it’s still one of a handful of states where the pension plan is a defined benefit plan, not a defined contribution plan. That certainly puts the responsibility on the employer to put away and invest the funds for the employees. Oak Park is meeting its obligations. We locally manage two pension funds, the police pension fund and the fire pension fund. The village then makes the necessary contributions based on an actuarial analysis to make sure the pensions are healthy … When interest rates dip low, returns aren’t as high as they used to be. The pension strategies we take tend to take a much longer term look. In this fiscal year budget, we backed down long-term interest estimates for what the pension funds would generate.
Q: What is Oak Park doing to promote economic development?
A: We have two types of economic development. We have the retention piece. That’s let’s pay attention and consider what we’re doing for the people who are already here. We have Loretta Daly in the role of managing those relationships. Having a person in that role certainly doesn’t mean the rest of us aren’t responsible for promoting the village, but it helps to have a person designated to that responsibility.
We also have the recruitment side, which the broker tour a couple of weeks ago fell a little bit on the side of … On the broker tour, we try to focus on all the business districts we have. We have so many great business districts here that we want to make sure we are out there letting potential business owners know.
Q: Do you think Oak Park is doing a good job conducting its business transparently?
I think so. I think a couple of things put in place over the last couple of years has been positive. The Oak Park Village Board has been broadcasting its meetings, but lately they’ve been archiving them online, too, so if you need to go back and check what happened, you can. I guess my attitude has been show people what you have. There are very few things that are truly confidential, (such as) employee discipline, litigation strategy.