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Ridge cuts budget, still expects surplus in 2013

By Kelly White
Correspondent

Chicago Ridge plans to reduce spending by 2 percent in 2013, and projects a small surplus in its annual budget.

Village trustees have approved a 2013 budget with expenditures of $13.07 million, a decrease of $266,991 from the $13.34 million spent last year. Revenues are projected at $13.09 million, a decrease of $248,223 from $13.34 million in 2012.

The budget has a projected surplus of $18,179, compared to a $589 deficit last year.

"With nearly 75 percent of the budget attributed to salaries and benefits consistently over the last three years, it is quite an accomplishment for the ability of the village to control costs effectively," said Chicago Ridge village Clerk Chuck Tokar.

The budget will include $1.54 million toward the village's police pension fund, an increase of $500,000 from the $1.04 million in 2012. The fire department pension fund will get $587,974, a projected increase of $37,974 from the $550,000 last year.

To help compensate for the increase in money allocated to the police pension fund the village has increased its home rule sales tax rate from .75 percent to 1 percent, its motor fuel tax from 5 percent to 6 percent, and its food-and-beverage tax to 3.25 percent. The home rule sales tax hike will essentially offset Cook County's .25 percent sales tax rate decrease that became effective Jan. 1.

The village has earmarked $3.04 million for this year's sewer and water fund budgets. The water fund ($2.64 million) includes $120,000 for water main improvements, while the sewer fund ($401,422) includes $125,000 for new vehicles.

Under capital improvements, upgrades to computer servers and the village's website will cost an estimated $25,000.

"Budgeted revenues for capital improvements are expected to decrease significantly from 2012 because [state] grants have decreased substantially, and the village would not be surprised to not be issued any grants from the state of Illinois for 2013," Tokar said.

Barking up the academic tree


Thirty-two seniors at Richards High School in Oak Lawn have been named Illinois State Scholars by the Illinois Student Assistance Commission. Roughly 10 percent of high school seniors in Illinois earn such recognition each year.

The honorees are Mahmoud Abdel, Mohammed Ahmed, Hadell Al-Taher, Briana Allen, Nyssa Amato, Brian Artz, Yvita Bustos, Nicholas Costa, Lauren Davis, Francisco Deloera, Rebecca Dunterman, Jessica Flores, Elizabeth Gacek, Hanna Grochal, Emily Guerin, Vanessa Huerta-Correa, Brendan Johnson, Kelly Kaminsky, Amber Kunz, Nicholas Malecki, Kelly McGreal, Nethaum Mizyed, Jordan Moeller, Nicole Norris, Jeffrey O'Boyle, Dariusz Obrochta, Jasmine Ortega, Eftihia Peroulas, Carlos Rodriguez, Neil Slowinski, Alyssa Straits and Rachel Thomas.

Duty, Honor, Country


Army Spec. Johnny L. Hurst Jr., of Oak Lawn, has returned to the United States after serving overseas at a forward operating base in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.

Operation Enduring Freedom is the official name given to antiterrorism military operations involving U.S. troops and allied coalition partners. Active duty and reserve component members from all branches of the armed forces have been deployed to support the war against terrorism outside the United States. U.S. troops serve in South, Southwest and Central Asia, the Arabian peninsula, the Horn of Africa, islands in the Pacific, and Europe.

Hurst has served in the Army for two years. He is the son of Mary Hurst-Kendrick of Oak Lawn. He is a 2001 graduate of Lockport Township High School.

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Air National Guard Airman 1st Class Jessie Goytia Jr. has graduated from basic military training at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio.

Goytia completed an eight-week program that included training in military discipline and studies, Air Force core values, physical fitness, and basic warfare principles and skills. Airmen who complete basic training earn four credits toward an associate in applied science degree through the Community College of the Air Force.

Goytia is the son of Jessie Goytia of Oak Lawn.

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Darnell S. Walls has been promoted to the rank of master sergeant in the Air Force.

Walls is the assistant chief of training assigned to the 628th Air Base Wing at Charleston Air Force Base, S.C. He has served in the military for 16 years.

Walls is the son of Isabella and Luther C. Grayer of Oak Lawn. He graduated in 1994 from Fenwick High School Oak Park, and received an associate of arts in 2012 from the Community College of the Air Force in North Charleston, S.C.

Open house for Palos-Worth-Ridge Relay is next week

The American Cancer Society Relay For Life of Palos-Worth- Ridge will hold its annual kick-off open house from 6 to 8:30 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 13 at Shepard High School, 13049 Ridgeland Ave. in Palos Heights.

This year's Relay For Life will be held May 11 at Shepard. Volunteers are needed to organize and recruit teams, secure community support, coordinate logistics, obtain refreshments and prizes, assist with publicity and plan entertainment activities.

For more information contact the American Cancer Society at 633-7770, Ext. 3, or visit Relayforlife. org/palosil. Teams may register online.

Quake survivor shares story with Conrady students


From Jim Hook
N. Palos School Dist. 117

There are few learning experiences as valuable as eyewitness accounts of historical events.

Just ask the students in Tara Damhoff and Amanda Cole's reading class at Conrady Junior High School in Hickory Hills.

Students who had been learning about natural disasters were riveted to their chairs as a survivor of the deadly earthquake in Haiti described - in compelling and, at times, chilling detail - some of what occurred on that fateful Tuesday in January 2010.

That survivor's name is Evens Paul, and he is the husband of one of Damhoff's friends who met Paul in 2009 during a church mission to Haiti. Paul was the group's interpreter.

Paul described the fear and shock he felt as the magnitude 7.0 earthquake struck some 16 miles west of the capital city of Port-au-Prince.

"We were all very scared when the quake hit," he told the class. "At 3 o'clock the phones stopped working, and by 5 o'clock the power was out everywhere."

Paul told the students that he lost many of his friends in the earthquake, which killed more than 300,000 people and left an equal amount injured. More than one million people were left homeless.

Most people weren't even aware of an earthquake because "so many people are uneducated," he said. People didn't know what was happening or what they should do.

"Many people in Port-au-Prince hid under beds or tables which led to their deaths because they were trapped," he said.

Paul said he joined others in the search and rescue mission. Many of those who were trapped died because they were in poor health, and many children became orphans after their parents were killed, he added.

Paul, who moved to the United States in 2011, and his wife started a non-profit organization that focuses on collecting donations and sending money and other items back to Haiti. The donations have helped provide jobs and pay for a neighborhood school being constructed in Haiti. Students who do not have the financial means to attend school will now be able to attend.

Paul said he was one of the lucky ones in Haiti, growing up in a middle-class family that could afford to send him to school. He grew up in the countryside, so he had to leave his family at age 12 to begin high school in the city.

"There is no way to pull yourself up out of poverty in Haiti unless you have an education," he said.

Realizing this, Paul studied agricultural engineering so he could help teach people how to grow crops and raise animals and stop so many people from going hungry or dying from malnutrition. Students' families will be taught how to grow their own food so their children do not starve to death. A water pump is being installed to provide drinking water to the community.

Paul and his wife plan to move to Haiti in the next couple of years to continue their mission.

Conrady students were so moved by Paul's story that they offered to bring school supplies for the Haitian children.