Riverside trustees saved the village police department from any cuts, but approved the rest of the reductions proposed by the village manager for Riverside’s 2011 budget at a special workshop Saturday morning at the Riverside Township Hall.
As a result of their decisions Saturday, the village will have to use about $140,000 in undesignated operating reserves to balance next year’s budget.
While trustees will allow for 2-percent merit raises for non-union employees in 2011, they agreed to effectively cut wages for employees next year by freezing base pay and imposing six furlough days. The move will have the effect of reducing non-union salaries by 1 percent next year, officials said.
Moreover, the decision will have a direct effect on services for residents, since trustees also agreed to mandate that the furlough days be taken on the same days, effectively shutting down the village offices for six days in 2011.
“That will start to communicate to village residents that we have a finance problem,” said Trustee John Scully, who proposed the idea of having non-union village employees take the furlough days.
“We’ve talked for the last four years that the sky is falling. I think the clouds need to come down on the residents,” Scully said.
Trustees also agreed to eliminate a laborer’s position in the Department of Public Works. In a department with seven maintenance workers, the cut represents a 14 percent cut in staffing for a department that was already shorthanded after the elimination of a position in 2010.
“It’d be hard to imagine [the cut in staffing] wouldn’t be felt,” said public works Director Edward Bailey. “It most probably will be felt in snow removal and extend the time it takes to plow areas.
“If it’s reduced by one employee, it simply means we’ll do less and take us longer to do what we’re doing. I think it’s a strapped workforce right now.”
Trustees told Bailey that the board would be open to reconsidering the cut based on the department’s experience next year, but went ahead with the cut for now.
“I think it’s time,” said Trustee Lonnie Sacchi. “It’s a tough decision for me, but I’m in favor of doing it. We have to start making some changes, some serious ones.”
As for the police department, no trustee was in favor of cutting two officers, which had been proposed by Village Manager Peter Scalera as a potential cost savings. But with crime on the rise and the department staffing shifts at minimum levels, trustees not only kept staffing at its current level of 18 officers, but agreed to fund an additional officer.
While the new officer was put into the budget for 2011, it could be some time before his or her presence would be felt in the village. Depending on when Riverside can place an officer into the academy, it could take six to nine months before he or she is independently patrolling the village.
Adding the officer will have some positive effects in reducing overtime and increasing ticket revenue, but it won’t account for all of the additional expense, roughly $85,000 annually for salary and benefits, of hiring a new officer.
Sacchi also called for the hiring of an economic development director for the village, a full-time, possibly hybrid, position that could cost as much as $75,000 annually in salary. Trustees did not officially sanction such a hire at the Saturday meeting, but directed Scalera to put together a potential job description and obtain additional salary information.
“Having a volunteer commission meet once a month is never going to get us anywhere,” said Sacchi, referring to the village’s Economic Development Commission. “I think the downtown can be better. It’s a good time to put this position in place.”
Scully, while not rejecting the idea, said that if Riverside does hire someone to do economic development, the idea needs to bear tangible fruit.
“We’ve just been telling staff there’s no [raises], we cut staff and we’re spending reserves. We better have a good story here,” Scully said. “If we’re going to do this, a year from now I want to see some empty storefronts filled. This sends kind of a mixed message, and that concerns me.”
There was also consensus among trustees to withhold a $253,000 contribution toward the village’s vehicle replacement fund. There is enough money in the fund right now to get the village through the next four to five years, said Finance Director Kevin Wachtel.
“We have $400,000 to $500,000 under our belt,” said Trustee James Reynolds. “This is an opportunity to defer our immediate expenses.”
Trustees Jean Sussman and Ben Sells opposed the decision to defer funding for vehicle replacement.
“I think it’s a mistake,” said Sells. “It’s just kicking the can down the road.”