Riverside’s village board earlier this month gave the green light for staff to finalize the village’s 2017 budget after adjusting last month’s financial forecast and delivering a balanced preliminary budget for the upcoming year.

Staff’s prior forecast suggested the village’s operating fund would end 2017 with a deficit of about $230,000. But after trustees and the village president asked staff to sharpen their pencils and find a way to close that budget gap, they returned with a preliminary budget that shows a $25,000 operating surplus in 2017.

“We sat with every department head and did a line-item by line-item review of projected expenditures and needs,” said Village Manager Jessica Frances. “We looked at every single thing.”

Among the budget reductions made in the preliminary budget, said Frances, were cuts to professional development, equipment replacement and supplies. The budget, for example, eliminated out-of-state travel expenses for Frances and Police Chief Thomas Weitzel to annual conferences.

Frances and Finance Director Marco Salinas also revised cost assumptions for fuel and vehicle maintenance, based on a newer village fleet which includes more fuel-efficient vehicles.

Some costs in the budget were reallocated, taking them out of the operating budget, which pays for day-to-day expenses, and shifting them to other funds. 

For example, about $30,000 was removed from the operating fund budget by shifting the cost of police and fire dispatch center maintenance to the E911 fund. Likewise, the village will now allocate a portion of its IT infrastructure costs to the water and sewer fund, since the water department also uses those services.

Riverside’s non-union employees will also pay a higher percentage of dental and health insurance premiums in 2017, allowing the village to forecast lower expenditures for its share of those premiums by between $5,000 and $10,000, Frances said. Those changes still need to be finalized.

Finally, sales tax, state per capita taxes and investment revenues were all adjusted higher. In all, about one-third of the deficit reduction is due to increased revenue predictions. Two-thirds of the deficit reduction is coming from cost cutting, Frances said.

 

$6.25M in capital projects

Riverside’s 2017 preliminary budget includes about $6.25 million in capital improvements. Among them is $3 million for what looks to be the first phase of a multi-year storm sewer improvement project in the First Division. That work would be funded out of the water and sewer fund.

A total of $500,000 is set aside for street improvements and $366,599 has been earmarked to resurface the main commuter parking lot. That expense would be paid from the parking lot fund, whose revenues come from parking permit and meter fees. 

The budget includes nearly $1 million for repairs to the downtown train station roof, which is being largely grant funded, and $25,000 for interior improvements at the station. There’s also $140,000 in the budget to build a secure double lobby for the police department as part of the creation of a consolidated police/fire dispatch center and to remodel the communications and records rooms.

The capital projects budget for 2017 also includes a downtown façade improvement program ($30,000); the completion of a village marketing plan ($45,000); $142,000 for Forest Avenue bridge lighting, along with downtown wayfinding and Harlem and First avenue gateway signage; and $132,000 for design engineering for the East Quincy Street streetscape plan, a project for which the village has sought grant funding.

The capital budget also includes a $27,000 line item to begin the Swan Pond Park flood damage restoration, which likely will be phased in over a period of years, and $100,000 for sidewalk replacement.

Frances said the final budget presented at a public hearing in November will be very close to the preliminary document given the OK by trustees last week. The village board is expected to pass the final 2017 budget in December.

Riverside looks to hike some police fines

If you get pulled over by police in Riverside next year, be prepared to pay a little more for certain violations.

On Oct. 6, Police Chief Thomas Weitzel presented a proposed updated schedule that would increase initial fines for five violations, including having expired vehicle registration, failure to display a village vehicle sticker, failure to display a parking permit, possession of drug paraphernalia and driving an overweight truck.

Following Weitzel's presentation to the village board, Riverside trustees directed the village attorney to prepare an ordinance amending the village's code to increase the fines. The increases are expected to bring in an additional $10,000 or so in revenue, according to the preliminary budget presented to the board that same night.

The initial fines for having expired license plates, failing to display a village vehicle sticker, and failure to display a parking permit are all going up from $35 to $50. Possession of drug paraphernalia fines are increasing to $100 from $50. Overweight truck violations will now cost their drivers $150 instead of $100.

Weitzel did not propose increasing penalties the village imposes if violators are late in paying the tickets.

"Right now we have an over 90-percent compliance rate," Weitzel said of the people who are ticketed and pay the initial fine. "They're walking into the police department and paying those fines. That's much better than having somebody fight the ticket just because of the fine and not because they may have committed the violation."

Weitzel also recommended keeping parking tickets at $35.

"We almost have 100-percent compliance with those straight parking tickets," Weitzel said. "We have such a high compliance rate, I thought it would serve us better to stick with that [rate]."

­— Bob Uphues