With the hazy summer heat, it may feel difficult to imagine January, but the village of Oak Park has already begun planning for the new year’s budget, which will likely be passed in December. The village board held a preliminary budget discussion during its July 27 meeting. There was a brief appearance by a special guest who stole the show, adding excitement to the otherwise formal meeting.
“Basically, this evening, what we want to be able to do is provide some basic information about requirements under the municipal code and state statute related to the budget preparation,” said Village Manager Cara Pavlicek.
Village code establishes the fiscal year as Jan. 1 to Dec. 31, with the requirement that the village board adopt the budget prior to the beginning of the new year. It is preferable to adopt the fiscal year budget in early December due to a number of filing requirements with which the village’s finance department must comply under state law, according to Pavlicek.
The code also requires the village manager to submit a budget proposal on or before the village board’s first meeting in November, which is scheduled for Nov. 1 this year. The proposal must contain estimates of revenues, as well as recommended expenditures and the associated funds, in accordance with good fiscal management practice. Copies of that recommended budget are made available to the public 10 days in advance of the meeting. The board is required to hold at least one budget public hearing.
State law requires the village to employ fund accounting for revenues and expenditures; fund accounting is among the basic principles of generally accepted accounting principles in government.
Pavlicek gave an outline of the village’s several funds of various classifications. The village’s primary operations are covered in its general fund. The village also has three enterprise funds, which account for business-like activities, such as environmental services. The village also has capital funds, internal services funds, grant funds and special revenue funds.
The village manager then handed the reins to Chief Financial Officer Steve Drazner, who walked the board through basic financial information, including a summary of expenses per fund for this fiscal year.
“In total, for the current year, our total expenditures equal about $151 million and of that $151 million, approximately $61 million is for the general fund,” said Drazner.
A combination of personnel services and benefits make up the vast majority of general fund expenditures, according to the numbers provided in Drazner’s presentation. Those expenditures include pension contributions, salaries, health insurance and anything related to the cost of having employees, according to the CFO.
During Drazner’s review of historical property tax and sales tax data, he said the tax year is always in arrears, meaning one year behind the fiscal year As such fiscal year 2021 equates to tax year 2020. The village of Oak Park’s total property tax levy for the fiscal year 2021 falls at just under $35 million, with $17.6 going to the general fund and $4.2 million going to the debt service fund. The remaining money is being allocated between police and fire pension funds.
“In addition to that, the county automatically adds either three or five percent,” said Drazner. “That’s to cover any properties that do not pay their property taxes.”
Typically, the village collects anywhere from 98 to 100 percent of its property tax levy, according to Drazner.
At the end of this fiscal year, the village will have a total outstanding debt of about $94.4 million, If the village does not issue any new debt, the village will end fiscal year 2022 with about $88.2 million in debt. The debt figures do not include pensions.
“I wish it did,” the CFO conceded.
During the core services section of the budget meeting, where directors of each department gave basic outlines of their operations, Village Clerk Christina Waters, who has been out on maternity leave, not only shared the responsibilities of her department but the new addition to her family.
“Are you going to let us see Vivienne?” Village President Vicki Scaman asked the clerk.
The infant’s face was nestled into the shoulder of her mother, who gamely turned her around for everyone to see and baby Vivienne instantly became the star of the meeting, eliciting coos from staff and board members alike.
“She’s beautiful, Christina! Congratulations,” Trustee Arti Walker-Peddakotla said.
Waters continued her presentation, explaining the clerk’s role as public information officer and keeper of village board proceedings, while holding her small daughter. Upon Waters’ departure from the virtual meeting, attention was still on Vivienne. Scaman called her presence “a special treat,” while Pavlicek thought the baby was a tough act to follow.
“No one can compete with Vivienne,” the village manager said.
Come September, the village board will begin discussing the section of the budget related to capital improvement projects. Following its adoption tentatively scheduled for October, the board will begin discussing the recommended budget in full, hosting two public meetings in November with the goal of adopting the plan in December.