By Anna Lothson
The Village of Oak Park continues to hit positive marks, according to Chief Financial Officer Craig Lesner who is confident about Oak Park's current and future financials after reviewing the third-quarter report before the board of trustees Monday night.
Following a handful of tough economic years for the village, Lesner and Interim Village Manager Cara Pavlicek gave the board its first full look at the 2013 proposed budget, which will likely be passed in the next month. The budget process that began in July, followed by the finance committee's in-depth review of each department, will be available for further review at a public hearing at the board's Nov. 5 meeting.
Village leaders have expressed concern about certain numbers — e.g. low parking fines and rising pension costs — but have said the village is in better shape than it was in past years. "Overall, we're pretty happy with where we are at," said Lesner after summarizing the report Monday. The parking fund, he said, remains a concern, which has been reported throughout the year, but he highlighted positives such as real estate tax revenues that will help the budget. He estimated that the recent Whiteco and West Suburban Hospital sales have brought in more than $900,000 to the village coffers. Lesner also said the village had some one-time expenses that have been addressed and won't affect future budgets.
A major talking point during the meeting was the fact that the village plans to spend only what it brings in, a topic discussed by the finance committee since the budget process began. The concept of a "salvage" budget has also been discussed. That would allow the village to bank whatever it can to address past debts and create a fund balance for the future. "We're not looking to spend beyond that," Lesner said.
Because the budget has been studied by each department, the input provided to the village board members Monday came after many eyes had reviewed the proposal. Incorporating each department's input is an example of the village's performance management model being factored into the 2013 budget process, which was not overlooked by the board.
"Everything seems to be moving forward," Trustee Ray Johnson said. "I just want to applaud everyone's efforts."
This concept was echoed by trustees John Hedges and Bob Tucker at the finance committee's last meeting on Oct. 22. Village President David Pope specifically hit on the point that the village will be in a much stronger position once the performance management model is implemented.
"I think this budget process has been the best one I've seen," Hedges said. "It's much clearer and more complete [than in the past]."
Monday's special village board meeting offered a general summary of the board's individual departments, which included questions and concerns to be addressed before the budget is passed before the end of the year. To review the full budget proposal, visit oak-park.us/finance.