Riverside trustees expressed surprise last week after Finance Director Karin Johns reported that, five months after the end of 2017, that last year’s general operating budget posted a roughly $230,000 deficit.

When it was passed, the general operating fund, which pays for day-to-day expenses of the village, such as employee salaries and benefits, was expected to end 2017 with a small surplus.

“I thought I was watching this pretty closely,” said Trustee Michael Sedivy during a discussion of the matter at the May 17 meeting of the village board. 

“I was not aware that we were running a 3-percent deficit [last] year,” Sedivy said. “So finding that out in May of 2018 … I’m wondering what I missed.”

Johns brought the information to the board in order to have trustees pass an amendment to their 2017 budget ordinance, since several expense line items in last year’s budget came in over estimates.

The amendments needed to get board approval in order for the village’s auditor to continue preparing Riverside’s certified annual financial report for 2017.

While trustees voted unanimously to approve the amendments, they also called for a full accounting of where the village came up short, especially with respect to revenues.

“”I’d like to see that in the staff summary,” said Trustee Doug Pollock. “I would like to know what that is.”

Among the line items that came in over budget in 2017 were payments to the Intergovernmental Risk Management Agency, which handles liability insurance for the village.

Riverside was hit with a large worker’s compensation claim in 2017, said Village Manager Jessica Frances, which resulted in Riverside paying about $50,000 more than expected to IRMA last year.

The village also spent $44,600 more with its law firm last year, much of it in connection with village-board approved lawsuits related to code enforcement matters and its purchase of commercial property on Harlem Avenue. 

Riverside also spent almost $30,000 more than it anticipated in training for firefighters, as a result “significant staff turnover,” according to Johns’ memo regarding the budget amendments to the village board.

The 2017 budget also apparently did not include a $37,000 line item related to sales-tax reimbursement incentives the village board approved in late 2016 and in early 2017 for two downtown restaurants, La Barra and Sawmilly.

Johns also told the village board on May 17 that projected general operating fund revenues fell about $135,000 short of expectations in 2017. According to Johns, the village collected about $130,800 less than it had anticipated for its share of the state income taxes.

Last year, the Illinois General Assembly cut its income tax disbursements to municipalities by 10 percent last year.

However, the picture in Riverside could have been worse if not for greater-than-anticipated revenues related to recreation fees, building permit fees and restaurant food sales in 2017.

Revenue related to building, zoning and inspection fees came in $110,000 over estimates, and Riverside also collected $25,000 more than it expected from its places-for-eating tax. 

The village also collected $45,000 more than expected in recreation program fees in 2017.