The Oak Park Board of Trustees approved a $146 million budget for 2018 as one of their last orders of business last week, including a tax levy increase of 5.7 percent.
Expenditures in the general operation fund for 2018 have been reduced roughly $3 million compared to last year’s budget. The levy increase is also down from recent years; it’s been as high as 13 percent.
The tax levy extension represents a roughly $2 million increase in revenue compared to 2017, to about $32 million. The village’s portion of a residential property tax bill is about 15 percent of the entire amount, which is split between other taxing bodies such as the schools, park district and county agencies. The village’s tax levy extension is expected to increase a homeowner’s total tax bill by 0.85 percent.
Earlier this year, trustees were presented with a budget that would have increased the levy 17 percent, but a series of cuts to various spending proposals, along with revenue increases, over the last few months dropped the levy increase to roughly 9 percent.
A last minute change to the budget on Dec. 11 meeting reduced the levy further, to a final 5.7 percent.
That change, proposed by Trustee Dan Moroney, cut a proposal to put $400,000 into the Oak Park fire pension plan, a payment that would have been beyond what the village was obliged to contribute to that retirement fund.
Trustees also included a last-minute change to the budget that shifted the source of funding for a required payment of $750,000 to the village’s Self-Insured Retention Fund, which supports worker’s compensation costs. Rather than adding that to the tax levy, trustees paid the bill from the village’s general fund cash reserves.
“This is very palatable to me,” Moroney said, adding that reducing the levy increase “has been my goal from the very start of the process.”
Oak Park Mayor Anan Abu-Taleb said that drawing from the general fund reserves will still keep the village board within its own self-imposed policy of maintaining a reserve fund within 10 to 20 percent of annual expenditures.
The general fund’s unrestricted balance was $7.5 million on Jan. 1, a little more than 11 percent of budgeted general fund expenses in 2017.
Abu-Taleb said it is a vast improvement from about four or five years ago when the village had a fund balance of zero.
“We can live with a bit less in the fund balance,” he said in a telephone interview following the meeting.
Trustee Jim Taglia called the budget “laudable,” because of the small levy increase. “Last year the budget was $149 million and this year it’s $146 million, so that’s a reduction of $3 million, and you don’t see that a lot in municipal government,” he said.
According to the approved budget document, expenditures in the general operating fund – which funds day-to-day operations of the village — is predicted to increase from a projected $58.8 million in 2017 to $61.25 million in 2018.
Trustee Deno Andrews also praised the budget for reducing the levy increase, calling the 5.7-percent increase a win for the board and the village. It was the first time going through the budget process for Andrews, who along with his colleagues Moroney, Taglia and Simone Boutet, joined the board earlier this year.
“I feel like we new trustees have genuinely been heard,” he said.