Brookfield officials unveiled a balanced operating budget for 2018 at the village board’s committee of the whole meeting on Jan. 22, but said they were already considering “alternatives” – including staff layoffs – if revenues did not come in as expected as the year progresses.
“We’ll look at whether we’ll need staff reductions or other significant reductions,” said Village Manager Keith Sbiral after presenting a budget that includes little in the way of capital spending outside of referendum-funded residential street improvements.
The budget assumes roughly flat revenues compared to the 2017 budget – about $17.2 million — but last year revenues came in about $800,000 short of projections, forcing a corresponding reduction in expenditures.
“This is as tight as it gets,” said Village Trustee Michael Garvey. “We’re one big snow storm or wind storm [away from a financial problem].”
In order to help bolster revenues, village administrators are in the process of reviewing the entire range of fees paid for things like liquor licenses, business licenses, building permits, water connection fees and fines for parking tickets and other local ordinance violations.
Staff indicated that there is likely to be across-the-board increases in fees and fines, though the extent of those increases has not been determined yet.
Residents can also expect the village to be cracking down on vehicle sticker scofflaws, after experiencing revenue related to vehicles stickers drop steadily since the last time the village took a hard look at vehicle stickers in 2012, which was also the last time the village raised fees and fines.
Aside from the planned road improvements, which will be funded by a second bond issue this summer, almost all of the capital spending scheduled for 2018 has been slashed, including $317,000 in planned expenditures for fire department equipment, a $150,000 investment in information technology, a $450,000 expense for water system leak detection and about $75,000 slated for police department vehicles.
The capital spending that remains in the budget includes one police patrol vehicle, an expense of about $45,000, and long-planned streetscape and other improvements to the area around the Prairie Avenue Metra station.
Most of that $630,000 streetscape improvement project is being funded through grants from the West Suburban Mass Transit District and Metra. The net cost to the village for the project is estimated at between $102,000 and $110,000.
Brookfield officials scrapped the Metra station area improvements last fall after getting high bids for the work. The village has rebid the work and expects to announce the results of that process early in February.
But even the streetscape work and police vehicle purchase will wait several months, because officials say they are unsure revenue projections will come in as planned.
“Capital items will be delayed until our revenues are clear,” Sbiral told village trustees on Jan. 22. “We’re going to take some care in implementation.”
The village board is expected to pass both the budget and the 2018 appropriations ordinance on Feb. 12. The budget is the policy document informing the appropriation, which is the village’s legal spending authority.
Also built into the 2018 budget is $400,000 in operating expenditures related to the completion of the West Central Consolidated Communications (WC3) joint emergency dispatch center.
The state-mandated consolidation has been in the works for a couple of years and is slated to launch in early May. Brookfield, North Riverside and Riverside are partners in the dispatch center, with McCook joining as an associate member. The three full members have been splitting infrastructure and operational costs equally.
But what the full financial hit to the village will be is unclear. It could be $400,000 or it could be less, depending on grant funding that may become available to the villages via a state grant program.
As it stands now, staff is projecting that revenues will come in about $25,000 ahead of expenditures in the general operating fund, which pays for day-to-day expenses like salaries and benefits. Staff expenses account for about 80 percent of the proposed operating budget, said Finance Director Doug Cooper.
For the third straight year, Brookfield will also defer making a contribution to the special operating reserve fund, which was established in 2008 as a “rainy day fund” in case of emergencies. That fund stands at about $1.7 million, Cooper said.
However, the village’s general fund also had a reserve of about $2.9 million on Jan. 1, according to the draft budget unveiled on Jan. 22.