Typically, the December meeting of the Brookfield Village Board is where trustees vote to approve the operating budget for the upcoming fiscal year, following up that policy document with passage of the village’s official spending authority, the appropriations ordinance, in January.
However, the 2018 operating budget is still an unfinished document and won’t be adopted, along with the appropriations ordinance, until the village board’s meeting on Jan. 22.
The principal reason for the delay is that Brookfield has been without its finance director, Doug Cooper, since early November when he suddenly was hospitalized and underwent heart surgery.
“The Saturday before Halloween something happened, but I waited to go to the doctor until Nov. 1,” said Cooper in a phone interview.
The doctor sent Cooper straight to the hospital and the next day, he underwent aortic valve replacement surgery. He spent the next two weeks recovering in the hospital.
“Things are much better now,” Cooper said.
While he is expected to return to village hall on a part-time basis this week, Cooper won’t be back full time until at least Jan. 2.
“I’ve been talking with Doug on the phone,” said Brookfield Village Manager Keith Sbiral. “We’re working through the budget, getting it done.”
Because Cooper’s staff is small and he is the only certified accountant, his presence is pivotal in the budgeting process.
“It’s huge,” Sbiral said of Cooper’s absence. “There’s not a lot of bodies around here. He’s critical to the whole organization. We’re doing what we can to pick up the slack, but we need someone with Doug’s skill set to do this.”
According to Sbiral, proposed spending for next year pretty much has been worked out. The majority of village spending goes toward salaries and benefits for employees, including health insurance, pensions and scheduled expenditures for things like replacing vehicles, maintaining streets and removing trees.
The main budget challenge, said Sbiral, is nailing down predicted revenue streams to pay for everything. Labor costs alone, he said, are predicted to rise about 4 percent in 2018. The village’s property tax levy extension next year will probably settle in closer to 3 percent once the county clerk determines the value of new development in the village during 2017.
“There aren’t a lot of changes in the budget,” Sbiral said. “It’s pretty much status quo with a few reductions.”
According to Cooper, general operating revenues in 2018 likely will be about $400,000 less than 2017 due to cuts in the share of state income taxes doled out to municipalities.
“We’re still trying to figure out where to fill the holes,” Cooper said.
Some big-ticket items budgeted for 2017, such as the purchase of two police squad cars, have been put off until 2018. Next year, Sbiral said the village may purchase up to four squad cars, depending on final revenue projections.
The village will spend about $5 million next year for the ongoing residential street improvement project. Brookfield will complete the second of three planned bond issuances, approved by voters in 2016, to fund the street improvements.
Other large expenditures in the 2018 budget are about $380,000 for the village’s share for resurfacing Custer Avenue south of Ogden Avenue. The village of Lyons is funding roughly half of the cost for that improvement.
The village will also incur additional costs for design engineering related to the replacement of the Brookfield Avenue bridge over Salt Creek. The bridge replacement, which has been in the works for the past three years, will cost an estimated $2.4 million. Most of the project is being funded through a federal grant, but Brookfield’s share of the project cost is expected to be around $480,000.
Work to replace the bridge is expected to begin in the summer of 2019 and will take about five months to complete.