Unable to identify additional sources of revenue and unwilling to find savings by cutting services, North Riverside trustees have decided to hold off on hiring additional police officers and firefighters as they prepare for passage next month of the village’s 2022-23 fiscal year appropriations ordinance.

At their third and final budget workshop on June 20, trustees also agreed that they would balance the 2022-23 fiscal year budget – which projects an operating deficit of $870,000 – by using cash reserves.

The preliminary budget presented to trustees back in May projected an operating deficit of $1.68 million. On June 20, Village Manager Sue Scarpiniti and Finance Director Ryan Lawler said they were able to lower that projected deficit by adjusting revenue expectations.

The village stands to gain an additional $150,000 in state income tax revenue and take in about $280,000 in building permit fees related to the construction of a new Aldi store at the North Riverside Park Mall and a major renovation of Zeigler Ford.

They also adjusted sales tax revenue projections with the recent opening of both Amazon Fresh at the North Riverside Plaza shopping center and Forman Mills at the mall.

The budget also reflects the fact that the village will receive roughly a full year’s worth of red-light camera fine revenue in 2022-23 after receiving word that reconstruction of the Harlem-Cermak intersection would not start until the very end of the fiscal year.

That roughly $1.6 million revenue stream, which funds the village’s fire pension obligation, will disappear next spring and may never return.

While trustees avoided making more difficult revenue/expense decisions by opting to use cash reserves to balance the budget, Scarpiniti warned that path is not sustainable for the future.

“I will tell you the village does not have ample reserves to be able to meet this kind of operating deficit for more than a few years,” Scarpiniti said.

Elected officials vowed to soon revisit their desire to add three more police officers and three more firefighters to the village’s ranks, if funding can be identified.

Trustees also agreed to explore asking voters to approve a referendum that would make North Riverside a home rule community, which would give it greater latitude with respect to taxation. 

Home rule communities are not bound, as non-home rule communities are, by state limits on property tax increases. It could allow the village to impose a real estate transfer tax and a host of other taxes non-home rule communities are denied by the state, such as sales taxes on tobacco products, packaged liquor, admissions and amusements, gasoline and more.

Trustee H. Bob Demopoulos argued that while it would be difficult to convince voters to support a referendum to impose a tax to fund pension obligations, a home rule referendum “might have a strategic chance.”

It would be up to the administration to lay out the case for home rule, which likely would mean such a referendum would not come before voters prior to the village elections in spring of 2023.

In any case, any financial benefits arising from a successful home rule referendum would take some time to be realized.