The budgeting process in Riverside in the second half of 2009 (for fiscal year 2010) looks like it’s going to be an interesting one. It’s a hybrid effort involving traditional department level cost centering and village management recommendations, a limited audit by part of the elected village board and some sort of input from residents.

It could be a liberating experience for those involved. It could also be a frustrating experience. We’re guessing for staff it will be more frustrating than liberating, and that the whole deal will be an eye-opener for elected officials, four of whom are embarking on their first municipal budgeting effort. Talk about seeing how sausage is made.

The idea here, as we see it, is to make the budgeting process as complete and transparent as possible this year given the limited time to get the 2010 budget done. The new board majority also wants to see whether they can’t come up with some sort of out-of-the-box way of delivering services at lower cost.

Since there has been no discussion about addressing the revenue side of the equation, the board is going to have to be especially creative on the expense side. And we’re guessing some of those decisions will not be popular.

One of the things kicked around even last year was the idea of opening talks with the village’s union employees. With non-union employees facing a second consecutive pay freeze, it’s time for the whole team to start facing this reality.

The village finds itself in the unenviable position of asking for such a concession in the midst of three contracts negotiated in good faith and in place until no earlier than the end of 2010. A one-year pay freeze for union employees is, to us, fair. We imagine that Riversiders from 26th Street to the Des Plaines River would think that’s fair, too.

With personnel costs representing over 60 percent of general operating fund expenditures, seriously considering reopening those talks with a view toward obtaining a one-year concession from union employees.

Who’s who

If there’s a lesson to be learned in the strange case of James Duffy, the part-time volunteer wrestling coach at Riverside-Brookfield High School, it’s that no matter how small a part someone is playing in the public education arena, school officials have to find out exactly who that person is before allowing him or her one-on-one interaction with students.

Even if it’s an over-eager dad who has expertise and wants to pitch in, the message has to clear: There are rules for the way we treat coaches and we follow those rules in all cases.

This doesn’t mean that everyone who walks through the building needs to go through a background check, but in the cases of coaching and teaching, where relationships between students and mentors are necessarily personal ones, the due diligence is paramount.