Finances biggest issue facing village
Kevin Bowens is Libertyville's Village Manager. | Joe Cyganowski~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: January 21, 2013 1:56AM
LIBERTYVILLE — Kevin Bowens has been handling the day-to-day operations of the village for more than two decades.He talks about the village’s finances, the Sports Complex and the village’s government’s transparency with the Libertyville Review.
Q. What are the top three issues Libertyville faces?
A. First, the cost of capital improvement projects. Like other communities, when the economic downtown hit, the village put off some projects. We had a big referendum in the spring, where along with electrical aggregation, residents approved up to $20 million in bonds for road improvements. We had fallen behind. Second, the Sports Complex. It generates a profit, but the profit does not cover our debt service. We have to subsidize the facility out of our general fund.
Third, continuing to provide services and budget for those costs. We need to continue looking at options to save money and provide better services.
Q. Given the economy, how would you describe Libertyville’s fiscal situation?
A. We are cautiously optimistic. We see improving projections. The Finance Committee updated the five-year financial plan and the revenue stream is improving. Our Moody’s bond rating went from Aa1 with a negative outlook to Aa1 with a stable outlook. We still have the Sports Complex debt to deal with.
We have had a lot of good signs. We had 60 new businesses open in 2012. Of our 13 auto dealers, five have or are in the process of big improvements. That’s encouraging. And the old Frank’s Nursery site is slated for a specialty grocery.
Building permit revenue is increasing. We have seven existing businesses doing major expansions. We have light manufacturing and industrial properties being bought. There is new interest in the Sports Complex as there can be other uses for that property.
Q. How is the state’s pension crisis affecting Libertyville?
A. We levy for our pension payments through a tax levy. The Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund is not part of the discussions on the state level. We are close to 80 percent funding (for non-emergency services personnel). The police and fire pension funds are sound. The fire pensions are 65 percent funded. The police pensions are 60 percent funded. We continue to try to improve on those funding levels. We don’t have anything close to the state pension-funding issue, where the state is not funding the pensions.
Q. What is Libertyville doing to promote economic development?
A. Several years ago, we hired a consultant to figure out the economic development situation. We brought on a full-time economic development coordinator who is a liaison to keep existing businesses here and happy, and to try to attract new businesses. We have an Economic Development Commission of business people giving input on business issues and a Marketing Committee that looks at how to market the village. A lot of good data has been gathered. We have been very aggressive.
Q. Do you think Libertyville is doing a good job conducting its business transparently?
A. I think we are very transparent. We are very public with our processes. We try to conduct everything in open meetings. We go to great lengths to keep the public involved. We have a village newsletter, letting people know about various programs in town. We provide updates on construction projects. The Village Board is very public in its discussions … We keep people informed. Our budget is online, the bills are online, and employee salaries are online.