Brookfield’s recent look at what it will actually cost to keep up with infrastructure and other capital projects certainly must have been sobering for members of the village board.
The village certainly never has avoided replacing old emergency vehicles or resurfacing streets and sidewalks. It’s just that it would set aside what it could and deal with large expenditures as they came up. Never before had the village put all of its capital needs on paper, with a proposed schedule and an estimated cost associated with those items.
Put in that perspective, village officials must have swallowed hard because it would appear that in order to keep up with what needs to be purchased and/or repaired, the village must spend three times as much as it typically spends in a given year.
Of course, barring a tax increase, which voters surely would not approve, there’s probably no way the village will be able to fund the plan entirely. But that’s OK; no municipality can possibly fund street repairs or vehicle purchases on a set schedule.
There are always variables that play into the equation, whether it’s a sudden downturn in the economy (as we’ve recently seen) or an emergency need (like building a pumping station to reduce flooding).
Unexpected money, such as grant funding for street replacement, streetscaping or park improvements can also move projects up on the schedule, delaying others.
It’s not that creating a capital plan magically will result in these kinds of projects. The value of a capital plan is so the village board — not just this one, but boards far into the future — have an idea of exactly what they’re up against.
Take the issue of side street replacement. Streets in some areas of Brookfield (we’re thinking of Congress Park in particular) have their original concrete pavement, probably close to 100 years old. If you’ve ever driven down Shields Avenue west of Maple, you know those streets are well past their prime.
Brookfield hasn’t done any side street replacement in years, opting to address main streets using grant funding. The village needs to get back to residential streets, and it will take millions each year to get the worst streets repaired over the next decade.
The village board hasn’t seen such a replacement plan in more than a decade, and it will need to ponder financing options for those repairs. What the capital plan puts on paper is an estimated cost, per year, of what it’s going to take to get those repairs done (it’s along the lines of $3 million).
Trustees will no longer be able to look at an annual operating budget in a vacuum and ignore what it takes to keep the village on track with its road replacement plan. That number will be staring them in the face every year, along with what it will take to buy new squad cars, new ambulances and new fire trucks.
The board will have to make choices, but having that plan in print will allow them, and the public, to put into perspective the inevitable hurdles ahead.