Covering non-recurring expenditures with reserves allowed River Forest officials to present a balanced general fund budget for the 2021-22 fiscal year to the village board on April 12.

Estimated revenues for are $15,991,888, up from $15,909,336 in 2020-21. Estimated total expenditures are $1,591,620, down from $16,645,256 in fiscal year 2020-21. A deficit of $599,732 will be offset by $614,819 in non-recurring expenditures that will be covered by reserves. The budget shows what officials called a “modest” surplus of $15,087.

The fiscal year starts May 1 and ends April 30, 2022. 

Lisa Scheiner, acting village administrator, presented the budget at the virtual village board committee of the whole meeting April 12. A public hearing on the budget was held during the regularly scheduled village board meeting that followed. Adoption of the budget is expected at the April 26, village board meeting.

The budget does not reflect the $1.34 million village officials expect to receive through the federal government’s American Rescue Plan. Scheiner noted that announcement of the American Rescue Plan funding was made during the budget process and specifics have yet to be discussed.

Despite the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on village finances in fiscal year 2020-21, Scheiner said River Forest is in a “strong financial position.”

Estimated property tax, non-home rule sales tax and income tax revenues in the general fund are down for the 2021-22 fiscal year, but estimated state sales tax and other revenues are up.

Property tax revenue is estimated at $6,556,697, down from $6,702,507. Meanwhile, state sales tax revenue is estimated at $1,831,850, up from $1,725,566. The village’s non-home rule sales tax revenue is estimated at $643,341, down from $661,180, while income tax revenue is estimated at $1,238,975, up from $1,133,580.

 Other revenue is estimated at $5,720,025 for fiscal year 2021-22, up from $5,686,503 in the current fiscal year.

Estimated salaries and benefits and commodities expenditures in the general fund, which pays for day-to-day operations of the village, are down for 2021-22, but contractual services expenditures are up.

Salaries and benefits expenditures are estimated at $12,978,185, down from $13,002,085. Contractual services expenditures are estimated at $3,286,373, up from $3,270,092 and commodities expenses are estimated at $327,062, down from $373,079.

“Despite the economic and operational impact of the pandemic, the village’s financial policies and sound fiscal decisions over the past several years have positioned the village to ‘weather the storm’ without reducing core services,” Scheiner said to the village board. “This is due, in large part, to the village’s ability to absorb a reduction in some revenues by relying on fund reserves that have been built up over time. In addition, village staff worked hard to manage departmental budgets and defer purchases to future years.”

Scheiner also noted that the village had received $112,942 for COVID-response related expenses from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and through the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act.

“As a result of sound financial management, in an effort to assist residents, the village was able to forgo the Consumer Price Index increase of 2.3 percent as well as any additional property taxes associated with assessed valuations tied to new construction projects,” she added.

Noting the police and fire pensions “continue to be a concern,” Scheiner said the police pension contribution is up by $43,568, a 2.38-percent increase, and the fire pension contribution is up $73,599, a 4.35-percent increase. 

However, she indicated the village could see a higher return on pension fund investments following passage of legislation that will allow municipalities and other government entities to pool their investments.

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