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Oak Lawn approves budget, adds pension funds

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By Joe Boyle

Oak Lawn officials approved the 2023 budget Tuesday night, but several board members were even more impressed at how it was accomplished.

“I want to compliment everyone for making this a robust budget,” Trustee Alex Olejniczak (2nd) said. “We did this without any property tax increase and a notable increase to our pensions.”

Mayor Terry Vorderer was also delighted that no property tax increase was in the budget.

“We added $2 million to our pensions,” Vorderer said. “We did it this year and that was more than expected. We have to do this. Other municipalities have kicked the can down the road.”

Vorderer noted that $1 million each went into the police and fire department pensions, and $6 million has been set aside for road repairs.

Village Manager Tom Phelan echoed the comments of Vorderer and Olejniczak. He was hoping that a deal could have been reached with Labor Union 150. Negotiations continue and they are close to an agreement, Phelan said.

“Our management staff has done a great job putting this together,” Phelan said. “The people who are part of this are not millionaires. The average income for families in Oak Lawn is $70,000.”

Phelan did admit that inflation and rising costs will make for a rough road ahead.

“Let’s hope that the recession that hits us next year will be short and not long,” Phelan said.

Olejniczak said the process of caring for an aging infrastructure is occurring throughout the village. While this may not always be the first issue that comes up, Olejniczak said it is vitally important to improve the streets and curbs throughout the village.

He also said the first phase of the water main project along Southwest Highway and Central Avenue should be completed by mid-January.

Olejniczak also said it was important to provide more funding for the fire and police departments.

“We always talk about the fine job the fire department and police department do,” Olejniczak said. “Putting $2 million more than required to do is because this is what we should be doing for them who have worked many years and should expect a pension. Our staff has done a great job. I commend them.”

In other action, the board approved the appointment of Olejniczak as the fire department liaison and Trustee Ralph Soch (6th) as police department liaison.

The board also approved the ownership change of Arena Lanes, 4700 W. 103rd St. Bill Bard and his family had agreed to sell the bowling lanes to William Brennan IV.

Bard and the new owner were at the meeting. Vorderer thanked the Bard family for operating Arena Lanes over the year. Vorderer said he was sure the new owner will do a fine job with the bowling alley.

Both Soch and Vorderer passed along their condolences to the family of Hometown Mayor Kevin Casey, who died suddenly last Friday. He was 68.

“He was the mayor of Hometown since 2009,” Vorderer said. “He was a lifetime resident.”

Trustees and Vorderer passed along holiday greetings during the meeting.

“I want to extend a Merry Christmas to all our residents in Oak Lawn,” Vorderer said.

The Oak Lawn Village Board meeting scheduled for Tuesday, Dec. 27, has been canceled due to the holidays.

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