Riverside trustees are expected to approve a 2023 fiscal year budget next month that includes new hires in the police and public works department, an estimated 41-percent increase in the cost of third-party paramedic services and $6.4 million in capital spending, including a major sewer and water main project; preliminary engineering for the Des Plaines River Trail extension initiative and design engineering for making over the East Quincy Street streetscape and big-ticket vehicle purchases for the police, fire and public works departments, among other items.

Elected officials took a first pass at the proposed budget at their meeting on Oct. 15 and are expected to have another go at it on Nov. 17, but the document presented last month projects a balanced general operating budget that’s expected to change little prior to trustees adopting the budget on Dec. 1.

In a memo to trustees included in the Oct. 15 village board meeting packet, Finance Director Karin Johns laid out significant new expenditures in the 2023 budget, including hiring two additional police officers “to ease transition with upcoming retirements” and filling one police officer position currently vacant.

The 2023 budget proposes spending $668,164 more in non-capital police department spending compared to 2022. Most of that year-over-year increase – about $586,500 — is for patrol officer salaries. 

Public Safety Director Matthew Buckley said the new hires would bring a fully staffed department to 22 officers from the present 20, help ease overtime costs and help the department to remain adequately staffed when expected retirements occur.

Buckley said he has applied for federal grant funding to help the village fund the new hires, but he indicated obtaining that funding might be a longshot.

New public works positions proposed in the 2023 budget include hiring an in-house engineer whose salary, which was not specified in Johns’ memo, will be split between the public works and community development departments as well as the water fund.

According to Johns, “This will be an overall savings to the village due to [the] construction management portion of the job description and robust street program in the Capital Improvement Plan.”

The budget also calls for hiring a new full-time water/sewer employee for public works as well as a new general maintenance employee whose salary will be split between the public works and recreation departments.

According to the proposed budget, the village will spend $103,621 more next year for the street/bridge division of the public works department, a 21-percent increase, compared to 2022 and $87,521 more for the forestry division, a 37.5 percent increase.

The Landmark requested copies of staff memos and analysis justifying the new hires and their economic impact, but the village denied that request, claiming they were “preliminary” records exempt from FOIA, despite the village factoring those expenditures into the publicly available proposed budget.

In response, the Landmark has appealed that denial to the Illinois Attorney General’s public access counselor, asking them to expedite the case since the village board is poised to act on the budget in a month’s time.

Johns’ memo also noted that elected officials should prepare for a spike in fees for paramedic services, which are provided to Riverside by Paramedic Services of Illinois (PSI).

The village’s five-year contract with PSI expires in 2023, and the company reportedly has been informing municipalities it serves to expect steep increases.

“In new contracts communities are experiencing high increases due to the nationwide paramedic shortage and inflation of wages and benefits,” Village Manager Jessica Frances told the Landmark in an email.

The budget unveiled on Oct. 15 estimates Riverside having to pay $769,299 for paramedic services in 2023 compared to the $544,169 the village projects paying in 2022.

Capital expenditures, some of which may not yet have funding sources attached to them, include a police patrol vehicle and a new vehicle for the public safety director which come at a combined cost of $175,000.

The department also will also pay $68,000 in 2023 for police body worn and in-car cameras and Tasers. That payment represents the second in a five-year contract approved last year. Police have also asked for $30,000 to expand its village-wide surveillance camera system.

Both the police and fire departments will begin an initiative to replace its portable radios at a combined cost of $110,000 in 2023. That amount will fund replacement of between 10 to 13 radios annually. Police seek to replace a total of 21 radios, with fire seeking replacement of 32 in all.

Public works has requested earmarking $200,000 for an aerial bucket truck so department staff can remove damaged branches without resorting to a third party in all cases. The department also proposes spending $100,000 for a new dump truck to replace a 2007 vehicle with about 56,000 miles on it and which requires “substantial repairs,” according to Public Works Director Dan Tabb.

The village share of the cost for preliminary engineering for the Des Plaines River Trail extension, a collaborative initiative with Brookfield and other municipalities, is estimated at $216,000, with about $173,000 of that figure coming from a grant.

Design engineering for making over the streetscape along the downtown portion of East Quincy Street is planned for 2023 at a cost of $57,500, of which about $46,000 is grant funded. 

Construction of the improvements in the future depends on Riverside receiving additional grant funding.

The costliest project for 2023 is a water main and sewer upgrade on Shenstone Road. The water main portion of the project is estimated to cost $1,065,222 with the sewer upsizing pegged at about $361,000.