Cook County

Cook County (Tribune illustration / March 25, 2012)

Park Ridge is looking for a new finance director after the Monday resignation of Kent Oliven, who nursed the city's fiscal health through a year and a half of budget battles, revenue woes and warnings from bond rating agencies.

City Manager Shawn Hamilton told aldermen of Oliven's departure at the city council meeting Monday night, saying he and Accounting Manger Andrea Lamberg will fill in until a replacement is hired.

"He thought the timing was right to make a change in his career. I can't speak for him as to what those changes would be," Hamilton said Tuesday. "Kent was definitely a visionary, meaning he always brought forth a lot of ideas. He was well credentialed and brought a lot of experience."

Mayor David Schmidt seemed less than distressed with Oliven's departure.

"Kent was a very nice guy. He had some real strengths, but I felt, and I think many of the aldermen did, (too), that there were just too many mistakes," Schmidt said Monday night.

In a letter to Hamilton and aldermen, Oliven said he timed his resignation so he could complete the refunding of 10-year-old debt that had paid for water system improvements in the redevelopment of Uptown (as Park Ridge's downtown is known).

On Monday, the city sold $7,858,977.54 in new debt to refund those bonds. The move lowers the average interest rate from 4.52 to 3.10 percent, which means a "net present value" – i.e., today's dollars – savings of $878,435.31 over the remaining life of the bonds. They must be paid off by Dec. 1, 2025.

Hamilton said the savings could affect water rates next year and will be analyzed before the annual water rate discussion in November or December.

In his letter, Oliven cited his accomplishments as helping to heal the city's financial health, including bolstering the general fund, which pays for basic services like fire, police and public works; mitigating the fiscal damage being caused by the ailing Uptown Tax Increment Financing district; and stabilizing the bond rating, which was downgraded in January 2012 by Moody's Investor Services to Aa2 "with a negative outlook," meaning another downgrade was likely within two years.

In January, Moody's gave the city an Aa2 "with a negative watch," meaning another downgrade was imminent. But in April, Moody's put the city back on a "negative outlook" which gives officials two more years to stabilize or improve the fiscal picture before the next bond rating review.

Oliven was hired in November 2012 to replace Allison Stutts, who left City Hall to start her own financial planning firm. Oliven previously served on Palos Park's Village Council from April 2011 and was that community's finance director from 2006 through 2008.

Oliven could not be reached for comment.

The finance director position has been posted at Park Ridge's website, as well as with the Illinois City/County Management Association and Illinois Government Finance Officers Association, Hamilton said.

The ad lists a salary range of $101,588 to $142,181, depending on experience and qualifications, which includes at least 10 years of government experience.

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