Riverside trustees, on Dec. 3, approved the village’s 2013 operating budget, funded in part by a proposed 3.8-percent increase in property taxes also approved by the village board that night.
The balanced budget did not sail through without dissent. The final vote on the document was 4 to 1. Trustee Jean Sussman voted against the budget, while trustees James Reynolds, Ben Sells, Lonnie Sacchi and Mark Shevitz voted in favor of it. Trustee Joseph Ballerine was absent from the meeting.
Trustees voted unanimously to approve an increase in the village property tax levy for 2013.
Even while voting yes for the budget, Sells criticized the document, saying it misled residents regarding the overall financial health of the village.
“It continues to be a no-plan, no-policy approach to budgeting,” said Sells “The basic problem is that it doesn’t allocate resources to our known and future needs. It’s fixated on inflating the [general operating fund] reserve and misrepresents the nature of our finances.”
Sells was referring to a $5.6 million unassigned balance in the general operating fund, which pays for day-to-day operation of the village. The village has identified millions of dollars in capital expenditures, both ongoing and future, but has not matched all of those projects with ways to pay for them.
Both Sells and Sussman have repeatedly criticized the board majority and President Michael Gorman in the past four years for failing to account for those expenditures in their budgeting.
However, Sells said he was voting for the budget because “I think this is the best budget our staff could have given us,” based on direction from a majority of the village board.
The budget is balanced by a margin of $16, a figure arrived at late last month after a majority of trustees agreed to use a liability insurance surplus to cover what had been an $18,000 deficit.