There is some good news to come out of what has been a difficult and, at times, fractious budgeting process in North Riverside this summer. It’s the agreement by the village board, upon the recommendation of Finance Director Sue Scarpiniti, to begin the annual process sooner.

For years the practice in North Riverside has been to wait until the end of the first quarter of its fiscal year to complete its annual budget and pass its appropriation ordinance. By state law, the ordinance must be passed by the end of the first quarter.

We see no reason why municipalities have made it a practice to wait until that deadline to finalize their annual budgets, but North Riverside is not alone in doing so. For many years that was the practice in Brookfield, one that ended in 2006.

One explanation given is that the village has a better idea of actual revenues from the previous fiscal year and can more accurately predict revenues. But there’s always an element of guesswork in budgeting, and Scarpiniti, particularly in recent years, has provided very conservative revenue projections due to the weak economy.

A big problem with waiting until the end of the first quarter to finalize a budget is that you’ve already spent a quarter of what you haven’t planned for. The North Riverside village board as late as mid-June, halfway through the first quarter, was kicking around proposals for wage and program cuts. How does that work if the wages and programs are already being paid for?

Scarpiniti could not be more right than to recommend that the village board begin this process in January and agree on a budget and pass an appropriations ordinance prior to the end of the fiscal year, on April 30. We’d throw in that the appropriations ordinance should mirror the expenditures laid out in the budget.

New use for dead wood

Well, our request for ideas on what to do with the remains of Brookfield’s Constitution Tree, knocked down in a storm last month, has elicited only a few responses, but they’re good nonetheless. If you have more, feel free to email them to

From Brett Rush, of Riverside: How about as park benches? This could be a great community project, with Scouts supplying the manpower, local carpenters/woodworkers union chapter supplying the know-how, a local hardware store supplying any additional materials, and the park district arranging for the installation.

From Roy Lehto, of Brookfield: How about taking a solid section of the trunk and notching out a flat area in the middle. The trunk could be used as a bench and put back to its original home at Kiwanis Park. 

Or use a solid section of the trunk and have a chainsaw artist create a sculpture and keep it on display at Kiwanis Park. 

From Saverio Gentile, of Brookfield: The noble wood of this tree could be used to build a gazebo in the park. Musicians could periodically perform under the “Constitution Oak Gazebo.”