A month after announcing they would lay off a public works employee and essentially cut the pay of non-union employees by decreasing merit pay raises, Riverside trustees have backed off both cuts.

In addition, money has now been set aside in the 2011 budget for an economic development director, although the details of how that position would be staffed remain in flux.

The upshot of the changes is that expenditures in the 2011 budget now exceed projected revenues by $246,441. After the village board’s budget workshop in October, Finance Director Kevin Wachtel pegged the general operating deficit at about $140,000.

After a discussion among trustees at a meeting earlier this month, Wachtel presented the village board with a revised budget on Monday. The updated budget retains the public works employee slated for elimination and provides for 3-percent merit pay raises for non-union employees. Previously, trustees had agreed to a 2-percent pool for merit increases.

Trustee Lonnie Sacchi on Nov. 1 stated he wanted to reconsider his position on the merit raises. Given that non-union employees were also being hit with six unpaid furlough days in 2011, Sacchi said he was uncomfortable with what amounted to a pay cut for those employees.

“It’s not something I want to see happen,” Sacchi said.

Trustee Jean Sussman agreed with Sacchi on the merit raise issue and also suggested revisiting the furlough days, saying “I don’t believe our intent was to penalize staff and make it harder for staff.”

In the end, trustees agreed to increase the merit pool to 3 percent and retain the furlough days.

Trustees also agreed to retain the public works employee, a move recommended by Trustee John Scully, especially in light of Sacchi’s insistence on adding an economic development director to the mix.

“If were going to have somebody to do community development, I think we ought to reinstate the public works person,” Scully said. “If we have enough money to do community development, we have enough money to keep the public works employee in there.”

While money was added to the 2011 budget for economic development, staff and some board members don’t agree on how to proceed with that hire.

In a Nov. 5 memo to trustees, Village Manager Peter Scalera recommended hiring a planning firm to provide community development services on a part-time basis at an annual cost of about $40,000. Hiring a full-time employee would cost the village more than $100,000, including salary and benefits, Scalera said.

“It became clear that perhaps the best option for the village was to contract with a planning firm that had the expertise to serve as the village’s community and economic development arm,” Scalera wrote in his memo. “This is not an uncommon practice, and in the past the village used the services of Camiros Ltd. for this purpose,”

But Sacchi disagreed, saying he favored hiring a full-time staffer to do that work.

“Personally, I don’t favor doing this by contract with an outside firm,” Sacchi said. “I’m in favor of doing it with a staff person or not at all.”

Other trustees felt the issue needed more discussion, in particular specific details on where this new person would focus his or her attention.

“Peter is clear in saying we need assistance in planning,” said Sussman. “My suggestion is to chunk out the recommendations Peter has made and decide if these are the kinds of things we want to fund.”

Village President Michael Gorman favored keeping the $40,000 placeholder figure in the 2011 budget.

“We have a lot of potential to really expand the vibrancy of our downtown,” Gorman said. “I think we owe it to [residents] to start moving in that direction.”