After some tweaks, the village has crafted a budget that, if all goes according to plan, will leave it slightly ahead at the end of fiscal year 2012, which began on May 1.
Considering the times, that’s no mean accomplishment.
The $21.8-million budget will leave the village with a roughly $140,000 surplus on April 30, 2012. But, if it snows too much next winter, the village could just as easily run a deficit. That’s the razor’s edge of budgeting in tough times.
“Essentially, this is a balanced budget and no more,” said Village Administrator Tim Gillian, at last week’s meeting. Gillian’s assessment is an accurate one: there’s not a whole lot of wiggle room here, so the village has to be very careful about how it spends its money. He appears to be aware of that and so too, do the board members.
Commissioner Mark Hosty said that, at this point, the budget is a “map.” He said that, based on what revenue actually comes in, the village will need to adjust its spending to match. He was explaining the budget process to newly elected Commissioner Chris Harris, in response to Harris’ showering both Gillian and Mayor Anthony Calderone with questions about various sums of money requested in a number of line items.
Hosty’s explanation was a good one, and our hat goes off to Harris for asking both the mayor and the village administrator to explain why certain sums of money were requested.
For a little while it looked like the village board was actually having a healthy conversation with regard to how it plans to spend public money. But, like so many times before, things quickly took a turn for the worse.
Harris has already made a name for himself by going out of his way to publicly question Calderone and his loyalists, which, in the case of last week’s meeting, included Gillian. Harris is a rookie and has a lot of questions (some of them scathing, at times); Calderone should welcome his inquisitiveness and do his best to familiarize the new board member with the process of governing. But, Harris should lay off the theatrics (something Calderone is no stranger to).
Last week, Harris noted he was the only one with questions. Yes, but the other commissioners were not peppering Gillian to explain why $8,500 was budgeted for dog-park maintenance. That’s .04 percent of the budget. Pick your battles, Commissioner.
So, fighting eventually erupted between Harris and Calderone; and Hosty eventually got into the mix and slammed Commissioner Rory Hoskins, who, lately, he seems fond of publicly challenging.
It’s great that the village appears to be budgeting responsibly in these dire times, but last week’s meeting was troubling for a few reasons.
The exclusiveness and divisiveness has gotten way out of hand. Calderone’s VIP club, of which Hosty is a long-time member and which now includes freshman board member Tom Mannix does not appear remotely accessible to the other two board members.
With a budget surplus so slim there is little margin for error. Now, more than ever, is when the council needs to be working together to closely discuss ways to operate and spend as efficiently as possible.
If last week’s budget hearing is any indication of how the board will function during FY’12, and for the next four years, there is serious cause for concern.