Oak Park village hall

Budget season has arrived in Oak Park and Monday night was the first look at the 322-page, staff-recommended budget for fiscal year 2022. Members of the Oak Park village board’s Finance Committee reviewed a large portion of the document during its two-and-a-half-hour meeting, Oct. 11.

Staff puts together the recommended budget after facilitating several internal discussions with individual department directors, the village clerk and representatives from the village’s seven nonprofit partners looking to renew government grants in 2022.

An overview of the budget was laid out in the staff’s introduction letter included in the budget draft.

In recent years, the village board has maintained an increase of only 3% in the property tax levy. The recommended 2022 budget, per the direction of the village board, has called for that practice to continue in the next fiscal year. 

“The board’s direction to limit the overall property tax levy increase to 3%, which equates to approximately $1.1 million, only provides additional general operating revenue of $284,000 while approximately $800,000 of this amount is required in order to fund the public safety pensions according to the actuarial recommendation,” the introduction letter reads.

The fiscal year begins Jan. 1 and ends Dec. 31. Upon entering fiscal year 2021, the village’s general fund, which accounts for the majority of operational expenditures, had reserves over the maximum 20 percent target, according to the introduction. The village got into that fiscal position due to COVID-19 necessitating several budget reductions in 2020.

But anticipated revenue shortfalls due to the pandemic were far less severe than the village anticipated, leaving the general fund with an annual surplus of about $2.6 million and accumulated reserves of $16.5 million with the culmination of fiscal year 2020.

While the Oct. 12 meeting of the Finance Committee was an initial review of the recommended 2022 fiscal year budget, a portion of it — the Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) — is expected to be adopted at the village board’s Oct. 18 meeting. The village recommends approving the CIP to allow the Public Works Department to begin bidding out projects.

At the Oct. 11 first review of the recommended budget document, there were more questions asked than discussions had. Steve Drazner, chief financial officer for the village, gave a general overview of budget requirements, historical property and state tax data, and fund accounting, which Oak Park is required to use under state law. Individual department directors, including Public Works Director John Wielebnicki and Tammie Grossman, Development Customer Services director, hopped in on the meeting to discuss the financial status and necessities of their respective departments. Interim Village Manager Lisa Shelley also provided a brief schedule for budget adoption, which includes a second meeting with the Finance Committee Oct. 21 at 6:30 p.m. The entire budget itself is likely to be adopted by the end of November or early December.

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