Riverside’s village board settled on the main aspects of its 2012 operating budget during a two-hour budget workshop on Oct. 19 in which trustees decided to give raises to non-union employees, scrap a plan for unpaid furlough days and defer planned contributions for scheduled vehicle replacement for the second straight year.
The budget that will be presented for passage in December will be balanced, promised village staff, after the board passed deficit budgets for both 2010 and 2011. As it turned out, Riverside ended 2010 with an operating surplus and expects to do so again in 2011.
“Because of the efforts of staff and unfulfilled positions, deferring certain expenses and so forth, both of those budgets ended up in a surplus position at the end of the year, contributing to our general reserves,” said Village President Michael Gorman.
“The budget we’re looking at today is a balanced budget,” Gorman added. “I’m sure the board here will want to make some adjustments to these numbers, but as I look at these adjustments compared to the past two years, I do not see the sacrifice in basic village services we were presented with the past two years.”
While it’s clear that a majority of trustees are on board with the revised budget, others renewed their calls to start facing the eventual costs of deferring things like contributions for vehicle and sidewalk replacement.
Trustee Ben Sells called for the budget to include a list of vehicles, beyond police squad cars, that will need to be replaced in upcoming years to get an idea of what the future holds from an expense viewpoint.
By deferring the 2012 vehicle contribution, the board will have deferred making a contribution from the general operating fund to the vehicle replacement fund for three out of the past four years. In 2011, the village deferred a $253,000 contribution for vehicle replacement. In 2012, that figure is $242,000.
“That seems like a bad idea to not to know, except year to year, what our vehicle replacement fees are going to be,” said Sells. “It seems to me it would make more sense to have some kind of long-range view.”
That view was echoed by Trustee Jean Sussman, who said that there should at least be a placeholder in the budget to keep track of what are inevitable expenses.
“We know that these kinds of things are going to happen and I think we’re sticking our heads in the ground not to acknowledge that it’s a capital item that we are using up,” said Sussman.
Trustees also balanced the budget by cutting $12,500 for staff training, $20,000 for tree trimming and $49,000 for office equipment replacement. In addition, the village is using a $17,000 investment income credit from its risk-management firm to help bolster the general fund.
The village expects to experience $12,000 in savings in lower salary costs by hiring a new finance director and expects its risk-management insurance contribution to be $20,000 less than anticipated. The village’s payment for paramedic services will also not be going up in 2012, a savings of $19,000 from a previously expected 2.5-percent increase in fees.
Some of those savings allowed trustees to abandon six furlough days for non-union and public works employees, which had been proposed by staff earlier as a budget-balancing measure.
The savings on paramedic costs, the finance director’s salary and risk-management contributions is also allowing a 2-percent pay raise for all non-union village employees in 2012, something championed by Sussman at last week’s budget workshop.
Initially, staff proposed the second-straight year of salary freezes for all non-union employees.
Sussman’s proposal to give village hall staffers raises was countered by Trustee Mark Shevitz, who said that giving raises to public employees when private-sector employees were hurting was wrong.
“It’s tough to ask our taxpayers … to fund raises for our public sector employees,” said Shevitz. “In the private sector household income has been reduced; since 2007 it’s down 9.8 percent.
“I think it’s fundamentally unfair to our taxpayers, who are by and large private sector employees to fund a pay increase for the public sector whether union or non-union when their real household income is declining.”
But Sussman argued that the reason Riverside has turned deficit budget into surplus budgets in the past two years is due to the village employees and that village employees have sacrificed to make that happen.
“I think we have a very lean staff, I think they do work very long hours and we do have the money to invest in human capital just like the way we have money to invest in machinery and equipment.
“I think that it’s disrespectful and I think that it’s inappropriate to say somehow human capital is less important than physical capital.”
In the end, Gorman joined Sussman, Sells and Trustee Joseph Ballerine in supporting a 2-percent pay hike for non-union employees. Trustee Lonnie Sacchi said he could be persuaded to give his blessing as well, as long as the final budget was balanced.