A comprehensive line-by-line examination of Riverside’s budget by its elected officials will have to wait until next year. That was the decision of village trustees Monday night, after they determined there wasn’t enough time left in 2009 to accomplish such a task and allow staff time to prepare a budget that could be adopted prior to the end of the year.
Instead, Village President Michael Gorman and Trustee Lonnie Sacchi, who is the board’s finance chairman, will undertake a limited line-by-line analysis of the 2010 budget prior to its adoption later this year.
“We talked about resident input and the time required; we considered our familiarity with the budget process and the impact it would have on the board, staff and village manager,” Gorman said. “We considered the need to have a different look at the way services are delivered, service levels and cost trends.
“We arrived at the decision that a proposed budget for 2010 should proceed at the department level, with a limited, line-by-line review based on actual results and budgets from 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2009.”
Gorman prefaced his statement about the budget process by acknowledging that the board majority, elected in April, had promised to “take a fresh look at the budget.”
Gorman and Sacchi have met with Interim Village Manager Robin Weaver and Finance Director Kevin Wachtel to discuss approaches to budgeting for 2010.
“[We] met last week to discuss approaches to the budget and how we felt the process could be improved with an eye on fulfilling the promises in the campaign,” Sacchi said. “Myself and President Gorman, using the 2009 budget as a guide, will begin a line-by-line review to identify areas where costs have exceeded expectations or projections and focus on those.”
That hybrid budget process drew some fire from Trustee John Scully, who is in the midst of his second term on the board and was not involved in the spring 2009 campaign.
“How will the public see this line-by-line review?” Scully asked. “I can’t see doing a line-item review in the village manager’s office. I think it should be done at a public meeting.”
Gorman objected to what he considered Scully’s “accusatory” statement and Sacchi moved to assure Scully that the review would not be replacing trustee discussion of the budget.
“This won’t supplant it,” Sacchi said. “There will be public workshops.”
Trustee Mark Shevitz later suggested that perhaps those line-item review sessions could be open to members of the public and that summaries of those discussions could be put on the village’s Web site.
“If we wanted to have these open to the public, is there any reason we couldn’t?” Shevitz asked.
The basic idea of a line-by-line review of expenses, however, had broad support from trustees.
“I applaud the effort to do a line-by-line review,” said Trustee Jean Sussman. “The more open it is and the more we can understand, the more we can be on board.”
Other broad points of consensus included the notion that the draft 2010 budget be balanced and that pay for non-union employees is likely to be frozen next year as trustees attempt to balance expenses with revenues.
There was varied opinion regarding funding assumptions in the 2010 budget for the recreation department. Scully and Sussman stated the 2010 budget ought to presume zero-level funding for recreation based upon the promise by the Playgrounds and Recreation Commission for the department to become self-sustaining.
However, Shevitz favored some funding for the department as it works toward self-sufficiency.
Laure Kosey, the director of parks and recreation, is expected to give trustees a status report on the group’s move toward self-sufficiency in September. Meanwhile, in mid-August, the village board is expected to host a meeting where residents can give input into the budgeting process.
That work will set the stage for the board’s traditional budget workshops in mid-October, with an eye on trustees coming to a consensus on a final budget by Nov. 2.