Figures for Oak Park’s 2007 budget were not finalized Monday when the village board adjourned at approximately 11:30 p.m. But preliminary numbers put the village near the break-even point in its $46 million General Fund, in part by raising fees.
Spending in all village funds is expected to approach $126.4 million, a roughly 0.6 percent increase over spending last year, according to village figures that are still in flux.
In the General Fund-where operating expenses are found-spending is expected to be up 3.4 percent over the 2006 budget and 4.8 percent over estimated spending in 2006.
Village Manager Tom Barwin warned the board Monday night, though, that the deficit might grow before Wednesday night, when the board is expected to finalize its figures and approve the budget.
Barwin will recommend fee increases to keep the village from asking taxpayers for more than the 3 percent raise tacked onto every levy by the county. The village has lived with that cost-of-living increase for the past three years.
Fee hikes will include a 5 percent water/sewer bump, a 3 percent garbage raise, and increases in parking fees. The rising water rates reflect a need to pass on to users the costs of delivery. No increases are expected for water itself, which is purchased from the City of Chicago. Village officials say it’s been too long since the village raised its rates to keep in line with actual costs.
Waste Management dumped the garbage fee on the village, which in turn is expected to pass it on to residents.
Greg Melnyk, representing the Business Association Council, said his group did not necessarily oppose proposed hikes to metered, garage and permit parking fees, but that they just received the proposed increases and need time to review them.
Melnyk asked the board for a 30-day review before approving the increased parking rates.
Trustees responded that waiting to approve new rates would be fine because they are planned to be implemented April 1; however, concerns were raised that the village would need to meet the $700,000 in new income that the fee increases would generate.
Citizens urged the board to support a program that would send Oak Park Elementary School District 97 stop-gap financial support over the next two years. However, the board did not discuss the matter Monday, and such a program is not part of the 2007 budget. The board could amend the budget later if a support program for Dist. 97 were approved.
Barwin didn’t begin with fee increases, though. He sent every department head back to his or her budget to try to jettison any available excess.
The police department was a notable exception to decreasing budgets across many departments. The police budget is charted to rise more than 10 percent in ’07, with $1 million being added to investigations alone. That’s an increase of about one-third over the same budgeted figure in 2006.
Peter Haefner, interim budget director, said police budget jumps are explained by the fact that the department has been chronically understaffed for years but is planning to staff all of its positions next year. He told the board he would have more information on the sharp rise in investigations at Wednesday’s meeting.