Higher police and fire pension contributions, cost-of-living adjustments for non-union employees and several non-recurring projects will contribute to a 3.75 percent increase in operating costs for River Forest this year.

Trustees recently approved a budget that includes a $15.315 million spending for police, fire, administration and public works. The spending plan covers expenses for what are called “recurring expenses” from May 1 to April 30, 2017. 

Officials termed the budget “balanced,” although the general fund is also expected to expend $150,000 for what are termed “non-recurring expenses” in fiscal year 2017. Those expenses — which include $50,000 to update the 2003 comprehensive plan; $50,000 for “communications enhancements” in the forms of website upgrades and the hiring of a public relations firm; and $50,000 in loans to fund the formation of future tax increment financing districts on Madison Street and North Avenue — will be paid for by spending general fund reserves. By the end of fiscal year 2017, the general fund reserve is expected to stand at about $6.7 million.

That TIF expense will be repaid once the districts go online, Village Administrator Eric Palm said. Trustees set these projects as priorities during last fall’s goal-setting session.

Village President Catherine Adduci called the non-recurring expenditures investments in the village’s future. An updated comprehensive plan can offer a glimpse into how development could affect future community growth. Technology upgrades can allow the village to provide more efficient customer service.

“Making our website more user-friendly will allow users — be they residents, developers or staff — to access information quickly and easily,” Adduci said. “And as time is money, it will save users money and help make staff more effective. It’ll be a win-win for us.”

 Village pension contributions will rise this year by 10.36 percent for police and 9.93 percent for fire, $124,822 and $98,150 respectively. They result from new policies adopted in 2014 that will ensure that village contributions are sufficient to adequately pay future police and firefighter pension fund retirement and disability pensions. 

Revenues in the general fund are projected to be $15.317 million, a 2.7 percent increase over last year. Higher property and income tax revenues, building permit fee revenues due to planned residential and commercial development, ambulance and garbage fees contribute to the increase. Use tax revenues will also go up as a result of the Amazon.com tax collections that began in February 2015.

Trustee Carmela Corsini, chairwoman of the board’s finance committee, said the village is in a good financial position.

“With good management and good controls, we have steadily increased our reserves over the years, which allows us to have a little comfort level in case of unforeseen circumstances,” she said.

There will be big-ticket items this year as was the case last year with installation of the Northside Stormwater Management Project.

The one low point in revenue is state sales tax revenues, which are only expected to increase $5,040 in fiscal year 2017. In preparing this year’s budget, Finance Director Joan Rock pointed out that the budget didn’t include any revenue coming from Fresh Thyme Farmers Market. 

No work has been on the North Avenue site since February when part of the façade on the northeast side of the building collapsed. And the village has taken Fresh Thyme and Mid-America Real Estate, the landlord of the property, to court in hopes of getting them to rehab or demolish the building.

With respect to capital expenditures, the village also plans to replace three squad cars, a fire truck, dump truck, street sweeper and cargo van and other items. Money for those purchases will come from the Capital Equipment Replacement Fund.

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