If body language counts for anything, it looks like Brookfield trustees are scared to death to contemplate asking voters to accept a property tax increase to pay for village operations.

Of three trustees who chose to even approach the subject – which looked to be a major discussion item for the board’s committee of the whole meeting on Monday night – just one ventured a definite opinion on the matter. One said she hadn’t made up her mind, and a third wanted a few questions answered.

The other three trustees appeared to be trying to get as far away from their microphones as they could.

President Michael Garvey, as is often the case, did most of the talking. Perhaps he knows that he has the votes to move forward with a referendum, so the silence of his colleagues doesn’t concern him so much.

Garvey clearly is for moving forward on asking the question, if not in February then in November. The reason for a referendum seems pretty clear – the village is close to being out of money. By the end of 2009, there will be about $300,000 in the bank, which isn’t enough to pay salaries for more than two weeks.

Trustees, it appears, seem more comfortable with handing back grant money for such important infrastructure projects as Grand Boulevard than they are asking residents for more money to pay for services.

Maybe they’re uncomfortable about the big question they will inevitably be asked about the current state of affairs – where did all the money go?

Lots of things happened to it. Salaries and benefits continued to rise faster than tax revenues. Pension investments took a nosedive in the poor economy, meaning the village had to make up the difference. Property tax revenues fell as foreclosures soared. Other factors included an Ehlert Park development project that went over budget and a tax levy snafu that fell directly to the bottom line.

But make no mistake, that money is gone. Anyone looking to cast blame can give that discontent a voice in the 2011 local elections. But that’s not going to change the basic landscape. No matter who is in power then, Brookfield will be in for quite a ride if there isn’t any more money to cover basic services.

So, uncomfortable or not, it’s time for the village board to find its voice. Maybe that happens on Monday when the 2010 budget will be there in black and white for all to see. Maybe then, trustees can clutch their microphone stands and struggle to get their mouths close enough to it so residents can hear what they think.

Book ’em

Lots of burglaries in the past couple of years. Name any town in the western ‘burbs and they’ll tell you that residential, garage and vehicle burglaries are way up.

That’s why we’d like to tip our hat to local police, particularly in Brookfield and Riverside (but really in all of the suburbs who participate in agencies like WEDGE and MCAT). In the past few weeks, good old-fashioned detective work has helped produce arrests and gain insight into what looks to be a large-scale burglary ring operating in the suburbs.