As is its tradition, Brookfield passed its annual budget Monday over two months into its current fiscal year. While we can only hope that strange bit of timing will change in the future, it seems unlikely in light of the election cycles.
Since elections are in April, having contentious and politically driven budget talks during the campaign season seems like an unusually bad idea, and Brookfield’s politicians have avoided that by putting them off until after elections are decided.
In order to avoid that scenario, Brookfield would probably have to change the definition of its fiscal year, which would come with its own set of problems. In short, Brookfield is likely stuck with the current situation.
Which brings us to this year’s budget. Although operating revenues are expected to increase just 2 percent in 2005-06, the village board has proposed general operating costs that are 8 percent more than last year.
That left the village with a half million dollar deficit in its general fund operating budget for 2005-06. The village ended up passing a balanced budget. In fact,, when it’s all said and done, the general fund is expected to increase some $5,000 by the end of the fiscal year.
That feat was performed by the magic of fund transfers. The village has several different funds from which the village pays its expenses. The general fund pays for day-to-day operations in the village?”everything from paying the cashier at the village hall window to paying for tree trimming and police salaries. There are also funds specifically for capital projects, such as street improvements, water main replacements and the like. There are also funds set aside to pay out police and fire pensions and to pay the village’s debt service.
The 2005-06 budget was balanced in large part by a fund transfer of almost $750,000 from the water and sewer fund. The reason given by the village was that in past years, costs attributable to the water fund were not charged against that fund. Rather, those charges came directly out of the general fund. This year’s fund transfer was a way to “reimburse” the general fund for its generosity.
In the short term, the village will see fallout from the fund transfer in mainly political terms. When VIP was in power just several months ago, the administration proposed transferring water fund money into the general fund to bolster a sagging general fund balance. The opposition, including some who just approved the very same thing, was able to quash the transfers. There’s already been some political grumbling about the maneuver, but the deed is done.
What will be more interesting is to see how the same village board deals with the budget next year. With those “reimbursements” to the general fund already back in the bank, how will the board deal with a similar spending plan.
If past statements are any indication, dipping into the general fund balance won’t be happening. So where will the money come from?