WESTMONT – Despite having to replace millions in tax revenue due to the loss of home rule authority, the Village of Westmont has "kept its head above water."
That was the message Mayor Ron Gunter and village officials brought to a crowd at the 2013 State of the Village luncheon on Oct. 30, held nearly six months to the day Gunter was elected.
"I basically hit the ground running," Gunter said, referring to the beginning of his tenure as mayor. "We're very fortunate to have the staff we have in this community."
Gunter went on to discuss the loss of home rule, bonds, the comprehensive plan, TIF districts and stormwater issues as the focal points of his young tenure. The luncheon was held at Neat Kitchen and Bar, 246 N. Cass Ave., and was hosted by the Westmont Chamber of Commerce.
The mayor also elaborated on his efforts to boost cooperation and communication internally and externally.
"We've started doing that now at the village level," Gunter said. "The current board works extremely well together. Everyone is talking to one another."
Two key changes have led that effort, he said. The village hired a full-time communications director – Larry McIntyre, who had been part-time – and moved the Public Works and Community Development departments into Westmont Village Hall.
"Everybody is working for the same goal – to provide better services to this community," Gunter said. "I couldn't be prouder of where we're at right now."
Infrastructure has also become front-and-center, Gunter said, and the ability to issue bonds with a bond rating of AA+ to fund improvements has been economical.
The bond rating has saved the village about $300,000, according to Finance Director Spencer Parker, who also spoke at the luncheon.
"We were able to get that rating from a history of good, sound financial decisions," Parker said. "Our past boards as well as our current board have made a lot decisions that have really impacted this rating."
Parker also spoke of the $10 million bond issuance to fund road resurfacing and stormwater improvements. He said the village will repay the bonds without hiking property taxes through the new eating tax and other revenue streams.
Community Development Director Shannon Malik addressed economic development at the State of the Village, stating that Westmont has added many new developments, including Mariano's, which is expected to bring 400 to 450 jobs to Westmont once open at 150 W. 63rd St.
"[Mariano's] is the first large scale project that would be occurring in the south TIF District," Malik said. "That's great news. We feel very strongly that it will serve as a catalyst for other development opportunities."
The meeting ended with Gunter thanking the Westmont Chamber for hosting the State of the Village address.
"I cannot tell you how proud I am to be in this community with the chamber," Gunter said. "With [Chamber Director] Larry Forssberg's leadership, we've been very blessed to have him in this community."