First reported 10/1/2009 4:23 p.m.

With the Oak Park having laid off 19 people this year, little work needs to be done in order to balance village hall’s budget.

Staff last week presented a balanced 2010 budget to trustees, which includes a 3.13-percent increase to village hall’s share of property taxes.

Oak Park was facing a deficit of about $1.7 million in 2010, but that was before officials laid off five firefighters and four other employees, Village Manager Tom Barwin said in an interview after Oak Park’s first budget meeting on Sept. 29.

Oak Park also used about $400,000 of its “rainy day” fund to help further close that gap, along with transfers from other funds within the village budget.

In 2010, the property tax levy will go toward higher contributions to the police and firefighter pension funds, which have slumped because of market conditions, says Chief Financial Officer Craig Lesner. Oak Park is levying $6.02 million next year for police and fire pensions, $595,166 more than in 2009.

The $1.7 million deficit, officials say, was caused partly by taxes and fees coming in at about $2 million less than anticipated in 2009. Trustee Ray Johnson said he thinks projections for tax revenues next year are too optimistic. And if the village follows that line of thinking, expenses may need to be cut more, Barwin said.

Staff is projecting revenue increases in areas such as sales taxes, real estate transfer taxes and building permit fees compared to 2009. But Johnson warned that Oak Park shouldn’t count on about $500,000 in revenue increases next year, spread over several revenue and fee categories.

Village staff is also proposing a 10 percent cut in funding for several nonprofit agencies in Oak Park – the Oak Park Development Corp., Oak Park Area Arts Council, Oak Park Area Convention and Visitors Bureau and the Oak Park Regional Housing Center.

Those agencies have also faced stiff cuts from the village over the past few years.

“It’s going to be difficult,” said Rob Breymaier, executive director of the housing center. “We have done everything we can over the last three years, in which we were facing cuts, to trim whatever administrative costs we could trim.”

Two other agencies, the Oak Park Housing Authority and Oak Park Residence Corp., may have their village funding completely eliminated. All that will remain is the $25,000 the Residence Corp. receives for its small condo program. The organization received $225,000 from the village in 2008 and $150,000 this year.

The village is also proposing increases to fees for water, sewer and solid-waste collection.

Oak Park hopes to finish 2010 with a $2.4 million operating fund balance, about half of which would be cash, Lesner said. He’s anticipating ending 2009 with a fund balance of about $2.5 million. However, with a general operating budget of $40.78 million, officials say they’d like to have that number be closer to $8 million.

Despite the proposed 2010 budget being balanced, the village still has a structural deficit, where expenses continue to outpace revenues in the coming years. Officials estimate that in 2011, Oak Park will have a deficit of $536,000, which, if unaddressed, will grow over the next five years to a $3 million deficit in 2015.

Since the beginning of 2008, the village has shed 26 positions by layoffs and 35 through attrition, saving some $2.1 million a year, factoring in benefits and severance pay. The village’s workforce has decreased from 439 at the start of 2008 to 378 at the end of September.

The village next plans to hold a meeting on its proposed 2010 budget on Oct. 26 to answer trustees’ questions and make adjustments. The budget is expected to be adopted Nov. 16.

CONTACT: mstempniak@wjinc.com

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