Riverside is projecting an operating budget in 2019 that is balanced, just barely, with some proposed fee increases still yet to be determined and the amount of general fund reserves to be transferred to support capital improvements still unclear.

The Riverside Board of Trustees is expected to adopt both the 2019 operating budget and its 2018 tax levy ordinance at its meeting on Dec. 6. According to the proposed budget, the village will finish 2019 with an operating fund surplus of about $3,700.

Among some of the higher profile capital improvement projects slated for next year are a handful of infrastructure projects deferred this year, including a resurfacing the main commuter parking lot with permeable pavers at the downtown Riverside train station,  realigning the roadway and improving the streetscape in and around the train station and the intersection of Riverside and Bloomingbank roads.

Barrypoint and Herrick roads as well as most of Forest Avenue will also be resurfaced next year, and the village has budgeted $52,000 for new gateway, central business district and parking wayfinding signs.

Other high-priority projects identified in the 2019 budget include a grant-funded initiative to provide more bicycle parking in the central business district, park improvements, buying bulletproof vests and one new patrol vehicle for police, replacing computer hardware and software and swapping out water meters.

To help balance the 2019 budget, staff suggested a series of fee increases that would raise between $61,500 and $133,925 in new revenue. The suggestions included everything from hiking pet license fees 33 percent, increasing vehicle sticker enforcement, raising code compliance fees from $200 up to $750, adding a new $25 administrative fee to compliance fees, increasing building permit fees and raising fees for building, fire and parkway inspections.

When the fee increases were first brought to the board in October, trustees were not convinced that all of them were appropriate. However, the proposed fees remained part of the 2019 budget presented at a formal hearing on the document on Nov. 15.

Also on that date, trustees held a formal hearing on the village’s proposed 2018 tax levy, which will be collected in 2019.

The levy, which includes the annual tax levy for the Riverside Public Library, is 5 percent higher than last year’s tax levy, though that request will be reduced by the Cook County Clerk’s property tax extension office.

Illinois law allows non-home rule municipalities like Riverside the ability to extend their tax levies by 5 percent or the consumer price index (CPI), whichever is less. In 2018, the CPI is 2.1 percent.

However, state tax law allows municipalities to exceed tax caps in assessing levies on properties that have undergone significant improvements, which accounts for the village asking for more than the 2.1 percent CPI cap.

After three straight decreases, the village is proposing increasing the amount of the tax levy it will direct to general village operations. The 2018 levy directs $900,000 for corporate purposes. That number had fallen from $1.2 million in 2014 to $675,000 in 2017 as the cost of the village’s police pension obligations rose.

Police pensions in 2019 will cost the village $1.38 million, which represents 28 percent of the entire annual operational tax levy for the village. In 2014, by comparison, Riverside’s police pension contribution was $695,000, or 15 percent of the levy.

The village in its 2018 tax levy is offsetting the $54,000 increase for police pensions by reducing the proposed levies for street and bridge improvements, street lighting, playgrounds and recreation, liability insurance and for non-police staff pensions.

New this year is a separate, uncapped tax levy to fund the village’s participation in the West Suburban Special Recreation Association (WSSRA), which the village joined this year.

The village is levying $80,000 for that fund, which should result in an increase in the village’s portion of a homeowner’s property tax bill of $7.55 per $100,000 of a home’s market value, said Riverside Finance Director Karin Johns on Nov. 15.