The village of Oak Park’s budget for fiscal year 2023 received unanimous village board approval Dec.5, but the extent to which each village board member approved of the massive financial document varied in regard to planned expenditures.
While each board member praised the budget for being supportive of the village board’s goals through planned investments and for freezing the village’s property tax levy, spending proved to be a point of some mild contention.
The 2023 budget calls for a 2.7% increase in expenditures in of the village’s general fund, which has the means to support such growth. That increase, about $3.8 million, disappointed Trustees Jim Taglia and Ravi Parakkat, both of whom believe it could lead to larger property tax levies in the future.
“While I support the result of this year’s budget, I want to express my long-term concern for the board’s lack of appetite to even discuss various areas where we could have found savings to underwrite these investments,” Taglia said.
Parakkat agreed, stating that the village “could have dug deeper” to find opportunities for savings. He previously expressed his budgetary reservations in a Wednesday Journal opinion piece, published Dec. 6, where he wrote that he was “cautiously optimistic” about the budget’s future impact.
Next year’s budget details approximately $183.9 million in total expenditures, compared to the $160.2 million in expenditures projected in the 2022 fiscal year budget. Of that $183.9 million figure, general fund expenditures account for 32%, or $71.8 million.
General fund revenues in the 2023 budget total roughly $72.1 million – an increase of 10% compared to the 2022 budget.
This, in small part, can be attributed to the transference of $9.3 million of the village’s American Rescue Plan Act money into the fund to replace revenue lost as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Oak Park Chief Financial Officer Steve Drazner primarily attributes the increase in general fund revenue to sales tax, natural gas tax, state income tax and personal property replacement tax. The increase in sales tax revenue, he attributes to the state of Illinois changing the method by which sales tax is assessed and allocated among municipalities.
Other sources of general fund revenue are property taxes and the hotel/motel tax, the latter of which was amended in 2016 to include Airbnb. Airbnb rentals generate approximately $120,000 in revenue per year for the village.
Money in the general fund is primarily spent on Oak Park’s police and fire departments, including statutory pension contributions.
Taglia and Parakkat’s spending concerns were not shared by their peers on the village board. Trustee Lucia Robinson believes that increased general fund expenditures will “even out” to create a “more efficient” system for delivering services to the community.
“It’s also about service and responding to the needs of attaining those goals that we’ve set out,” said Village President Vicki Scaman.