For the second year in a row, the RCA majority on the Riverside Village Board has refused to include information in the annual village budget about deferred payments that significantly impact our village finances. Because I believe this provides misleading information to our residents, I again voted against the budget as presented by the majority.
Since 2009, the majority has deferred approximately $640,000 for known obligations coming due in the next few years. And, given the majority’s stated views, it likely will continue to defer additional payments of about $300,000 per year. These deferrals include legally required contributions to the Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund, and payments for scheduled vehicle replacements and IT maintenance.
Certainly in difficult economic times it is sometimes necessary to postpone expenditures. But that does not mean we can pretend these liabilities no longer exist. The majority first defers payments, then refuses to keep track of these deferred payments in an open and transparent manner, and then portrays these deferred payments as savings. This is what is misleading about the majority view – not paying a bill does not convert that money into savings.
It is bad practice to ignore known needs and compile massive debt with no plan for meeting our obligations. The majority dismisses such planning as “academic,” and instead treats all village funds as one pot of money to be spent whenever something happens to come up.
This approach negates the entire point of budgeting, which is to make realistic projections about the future and then plan accordingly. It also fails to acknowledge that our village requires both operational and capital funds to function and thrive.
Our residents deserve straightforward accounting of village finances. We should take no comfort in funny money, but demand that our budget clearly reflects our actual financial status.
Ben Sells is a Riverside village trustee.