Oak Park is slashing in half a controversial lobbyist contract at the urging of the village board. The maneuver, which will save the village $90,000, was one of several changes made to the 2011 budget plan by village officials last week.

Since 2003, the village has been using a Washington, D.C., law firm to help keep tabs on the possible expansion of the Eisenhower Expressway, and to help the village obtain federal dollars related to the effort.

To date, the contract has resulted in some $1.3 million in expenses, with another $180,000 budgeted each year for the next five years. Trustee Ray Johnson started beating the drum a few weeks ago that Oak Park should scale back or eliminate the contract, since the law firm hasn’t been as active as in years past.

Oak Park trustees reduced the budgeted amount to $90,000. Village officials said they have found savings in the contract before, just last year spending $90,000 less than the budgeted amount. Johnson wanted to take the cuts further, but Village President David Pope asked the board to hold off until they get more information on the contract from village staff.

“I think this number should come down significantly more,” said Johnson, who is running for re-election in April, later adding, “I am nowhere near supporting $90,000 for this.”

Trustees seemed to be on board with several other cuts proposed by village staff, including reducing money toward “external support” ($14,000), memberships ($8,000) and special events ($20,000).

On the other side, some new items were added into the budget last Thursday, including $150,000 to update Oak Park’s comprehensive plan, an extra $50,000 in funding for the Oak Park Regional Housing Center, $16,000 for support services in the police department, and $66,500 for “training and investigations” in human resources.

After the final budget meeting last week, the village board is scheduled to adopt the 2011 budget on Nov. 22.

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