Buoyed in large part by one-time expenses, village council members are expected to sign off on a $21.2 million spending plan for the new fiscal year later this month.
The operating budget represents more than a 9 percent increase over the $19.4 million allocated in fiscal year 2007, which ended on April 30, however, actual spending levels fell short of the budgeted amount by roughly $514,000. With that adjustment, the 2008 budget calls for a 12 percent spike over what was actually spent last year.
During the second and final budget workshop attended by village commissioners on Monday, Commissioner Marty Tellalian was the most vocal critic of the overall increase, and balked when commissioners suggested raising municipal fees as a way to generate more revenue.
“Do we want these types of increases with a 12 percent increase in our budget,” Tellalian asked.
Tellalian’s colleagues defended the spending proposal as an effort to take the long view and improve the efficiency with which the village operates.
“We have to increase revenues to provide better services,” Commissioner Rory Hoskins said. “I don’t want to think short-term, Marty.”
Village Administrator Mike Sturino also noted that $315,000 of the roughly $1.8 million in new spending was inherited from the previous council, which approved that amount to purchase property at 1000 Beloit Ave.
Those departments requesting the largest increases in their budgets are the village administrator, the fire department, the department of public property and parking. With a nearly 59 percent requested jump in the village administrator’s budget, Sturino sought the largest bump in spending. Much of that increase comes in computer maintenance contracts, hardware and IT consulting costs that will be distributed to other departments by his office, Sturino said.
Forest Park currently has one employee responsible for maintaining computer technologies for all the departments, Sturino said, and that employee is “spread pretty thin.” His request for $50,000 to hire an IT consultant will help employees more efficiently use the equipment and software relevant to their departments.
“I’m not going to say it’s broken, but it certainly could do a lot better,” Sturino said.
In managing the village’s public parking lots, commissioners actually cut $30,000 from the request and will install four new collection systems in the coming year. The original request was to expand the automated collection system put in place last year at the Desplaines Avenue rail station to six municipally owned lots. The new system will do away with the coin operated parking meters at those locations and is expected to reduce maintenance costs while boosting revenues.
Commissioners also discussed raising the cost of monthly parking permits for overnight and daytime parking, as well as the cost of trash removal.
Though legal fees are expected to see a dramatic dip in the coming year, which will bring about some savings, the village will see a 20 percent spike in its liability insurance premiums. Some $496,000 was spent during the last fiscal year on liability insurance, but because of an onslaught of legal problems involving village employees and a former commissioner, Forest Park is expecting to pay more than $599,000 in the coming year.
“We were told by our broker that our recent experience had a great deal to do with this increase,” Sturino said.
The village is expecting some $4.1 million in local property tax revenue, a 9.4 percent increase over the previous fiscal year. Permits and fees assessed by the various municipal departments are expected to bring in slightly more than $1 million.
The council is expected to vote on its budget appropriation July 23.