With a plan to spend roughly $21.5 million in the new fiscal year, Forest Park’s commissioners will have to keep a close watch on their departments if the village’s revenue comes in as projected. The 2009 spending plan carries a thin margin for error with public officials banking on a year-end surplus of less than $30,000.

Council members voted June 23 to approve its appropriations ordinance for the fiscal year, which came to a total of more than $30.4 million. The figure used in the ordinance is purposefully inflated, according to Village Administrator Mike Sturino, to give the municipality the authority to exceed its spending plan, particularly in the event of an emergency. The alternative would be for the village to adopt an amendment to its appropriation ordinance during the course of the fiscal year.

Department heads and commissioners will, however, rely on itemized spreadsheets to guide their spending decisions in the hopes of avoiding yet another budget deficit.

“We’re operating under what’s in the [budget] worksheets,” Sturino said.

For the 2008 fiscal year, which ended April 30, Forest Park will incur a deficit of roughly $500,000, according to Sturino. At the close of the fiscal year, the village had a budget shortfall of more than $1.6 million.

In fiscal year 2007 Forest Park saw a significantly smaller deficit of $88,000.

Few changes were made to the proposed spending plan during a pair of budget workshops, and the net effect was relatively small. At a hearing in May, commissioners were presented with a spending plan in which revenues outpaced expenses by some $28,000. At the June 5 hearing, the last before the budget ordinance was approved, that margin shrunk to $26,600.

Included in the spending plan is roughly $78,000 to fund a new position within the police department. The officer’s time would be devoted to working with landlords and property managers in an effort to reduce crime in the community. A series of local ordinances regulating rental properties would likely be part of that program, according to local officials.

Police Chief Jim Ryan and Mayor Anthony Calderone have said drug-related crimes in particular stem from poorly managed rental properties, though they have not yet provided statistics to support those claims. The mayor has said the council will receive a thorough presentation from the police department prior to the release of those funds.

The $21.5 million in budgeted expenses represents a slight increase over last year’s budgeted amount by 1.5 percent. Compared to what was actually spent in fiscal year 2008 – which was reduced from the budgeted amounts to compensate for revenue shortfalls – the proposal marks a 3.9 percent increase.