The Oak Park Board of Trustees kicked off its deliberations on the fiscal year 2020 budget, and the future looks tight.

Department heads gave trustees an overview of their obligations and operational priorities for the year, but wish-list items are likely to come at a minimum this year, according to trustees.

Oak Park faces a number of challenges with the 2020 budget that were covered last year by using $1.4 million in cash reserves from the municipality’s general operating fund.

That draw on budget reserves and other spending cuts enabled the village to hold the village’s property tax levy increase at 3 percent last year, but trustees are unlikely to take money from the reserve fund again this year.

That means the total levy of about $33 million in fiscal year 2019 could increase substantially in 2020.

Trustee Dan Moroney noted that union contracts resulted in a $1.3 million increase for salaries in the police and fire departments, and a proposed $400,000 pension contribution for police and fire would push that to $1.7 million for the departments.

“That would be a 5 percent [levy] increase with just those two numbers,” he said, calling the task of holding the line at 3 percent “daunting.”

Moroney said drawing from the fund balance this year is not an option.

The expiration of tax increment finance (TIF) districts in the village also will impact revenue, he said, adding that the board faces “challenges up and down the process.”

“We have to have tradeoff, sacrifices, deferring implementation of certain projects, a high level of focus on efficacy of all our expenditures and realizing we can’t accommodate every advocate and narrowly focused constituent,” he said.

Trustee Simone Boutet said the budget presented to trustees at their Aug. 26 meeting is a preliminary document but the outlook for the 2020 budget is “looking pretty bad in terms of the debt service and some of the other projections.”

She said spending this year must be based on “outcomes and programs that have identified cost and outcomes so that we can make decisions.”

Deputy Village Manager Lisa Shelley reminded trustees and residents who attended the meeting that the budget discussion is still in its early stages and requests for various expenditures have not yet been placed in the draft budget.

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