In the State of the Village address Friday, Feb. 17, New Lenox Mayor Tim Baldermann noted the amount of change exhibited within the Village over the last year.
Balderman said a foundation for success is evident, and he hopes this trend continues moving into 2017 and beyond.
“We want to make sure that when our kids and grandkids come back here, they continue to have a community they can be proud of, that’s providing for them, and that’s our promise from the Village Board to you,” he said.
New Lenox has made a number of promises to its people over the years, one being to create a tax rebate program.
Baldermann said he’s pleased knowing this is an initiative they’ve continued to honor.
“Now we started that rebate program on a promise seven years ago, and over that seven years, we have returned nearly $6 million to our residents,” he said. “This year, we’re at 75 percent of what we’re going to be rebating of the local property tax to our people.”
Baldermann said this year’s rebate, for which checks are set to go out to residents in the coming weeks, amounts to close to $1.1 million dollars in property taxes paid for, which needs to be returned to the people.
“That means the average homeowner in our community may be paying at the end of the day $8 a month for their police services, for their public works services, for their Village Hall services,” he said.
Baldermann said the Village is to remain committed to supporting new businesses as they come into town in 2017 also.
Last year, New Lenox saw 25 new businesses come into town, and they include Beast Training Academy, Five Guys, Papa John’s and Anytime Fitness.
“You can see these new businesses that have come, people want to invest in our community,” Baldermann said.
In 2017, new developments set to join the business community in New Lenox include Durbin’s, Fleckenstein’s Bakery and Alden Estates.
Baldermann urges people to take note of the Village’s efforts not only to bring in the big box stores but also to support small businesses.
“A lot of these business owners are our residents, or they live in the general vicinity, and they decided to put their hard money that they worked hard for into our community where they live,” he said. “That’s why it’s extremely important that we support the local businesses. We love having big box stores. They’re wonderful to provide some tax base, but those small businesses, the in-filled businesses, a lot of times those are our residents.”
One common theme to note in surveying the Village’s success is the routine effort to adhere to five strategic goals.
To this, Baldermann said the people can rest assured they’re in good hands for a number of reasons, one being the Village’s intent to maintain fiscal responsibility.
Typically, local governments like to have 25 percent built into their reserves.
In New Lenox, the reserve is set at more than 30 percent.
Baldermann said though they have good financial footing, the Village still looks to lawmakers at the state level for support.
Like other municipalities, New Lenox is facing its share of challenges.
Baldermann said he and other Village officials receive calls regularly about water and sewer bills.
Balderman gave credit to the elected officials he works with to ensure that Village services meet the needs of the people.
“We said our main responsibility is not just today, it is the promise of tomorrow and future for New Lenox,” he said. “New Lenox will be around a lot longer than me or any of the trustees,” he said. “We made the tough decision that everybody needs to participate. Residents, businesses—everybody’s paying a little more [on their water and sewer bills], but we will have improved roads, we will have an improved water system, and we will be set for decades to come.”
Baldermann urges elected officials to make the tough decisions, not what’s politically expedient.
“I’m grateful that the six board members that I serve with feel the same way,” he said. “We take some tough hits, but we pay the water bills, too. We realized it’s not easy, but that’s part of living in a growing community, and we are going to continue to provide for our future in these areas of infrastructure.”
Balderman used a portion of his State of the Village address to comment on the ongoing battle in Springfield between politicians, saying that “it’s horrible; it’s unconscionable; it’s irresponsible.”
“Now, as the mayor, I’m in a nonpartisan position,” he said. “It’s no secret what my personal party beliefs are, but I will tell you that I’m a strong believer in people before party. I will support whoever supports our community. I don’t care what their party affiliation is. If they’re going to work hard for the people of New Lenox, they will have my support.”
Baldermann added that he’s glad they don’t face issues with their local state representatives.
“What is truly, truly unique in New Lenox is the way that we all work together,” Baldermann said. “The way that we work with our park district, our library, the County, the State, the Township, you’ve got our federal government, our fire protection district, the chamber of commerce, ShareFest—where you’ve got many faiths coming together for the good of our community. That’s rare; I can tell that that doesn’t happen in a lot of towns. There’s in-fighting.”
The hope, according to Baldermann, is that New Lenox can serve as a model for other communities.
He said the key for success is to know that “we all work together for the good of our community because we realize we’re all serving the same people.”