Following three separate meetings, the River Forest Finance and Administration Committee voted 3-0, March 18, to recommend that the full village board consider and pass the 2008-09 budget at its meeting, April 14.

The proposed budget is available for viewing at village hall, 400 Park Ave. The village board was originally scheduled to discuss the budget following a public hearing at a special board meeting, April 7, starting at 7:30 p.m. That was changed last week to April 14, then back again Monday to April 7.

The tentative budget, prior to finance committee deliberations, was $11,766,549. By and large the budget was balanced by a one-time injection of revenue from the sale of a village-owned cell tower for $250,000, the transfer of $277,853 to the Capital Equipment Replacement Fund, increasing the transfer from the Motor Fuel Tax fund by $119,000 and cutting approximately $190,000 in expenditures, largely personnel expenses.

The full board still has some budget work to do. The finance committee rejected an additional 9 cents per unit (100 cubic yards) water rate increase, which, if the full board agrees, will require finding an additional $66,000 in increased revenues or expenditure cuts.

However, after a discussion between Village Administrator Steve Gutierrez and committee Chairman Steve Hoke, Gutierrez conferred with an expert on Tax Increment Financing (TIF) and found $74,500 in general fund expenses eligible to be paid out of restricted funds generated by the village’s Town Center shopping malls TIF. That promises to offer some degree of flexibility in easing pressure on the village’s general fund.

At the March 18 finance committee meeting, Hoke noted that numerous expenses were already partially or fully funded from TIF revenues, and asked Gutierrez if there were any way to allocate more budgeted expenses to the TIF.

“If we can expand those categories, we can maybe move some stuff off budget and over [to the TIF] where we have a surplus,” said Hoke.

“It’s something we’ve looked at,” Gutierrez replied. “We’re going to seek some more expert refined advice on that.”

Hoke concurred and urged Gutierrez to confer with an expert from Klein, Thorpe & Jenkins, noting, “Every dollar we spend on legal fees will probably pay us back a hundred dollars.”

Hoke cast the dissenting vote in a motion to add $30,518 in additional “market adjustment” salary increases to five senior village management employees recommended by Gutierrez, saying he’d “potentially support the increases for some of the employees, but not all.”

The village is now required to pay an additional $9,668 for medical exams for fire personnel certified to handle hazardous material incidents. Such exams were previously mandated every three years. Under tightened OSHA regulations, those exams are mandated on an annual basis.


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