Oak Park's initial 2020 budget outlook bleak

Holding the line on tax increase could be 'daunting' task

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By Timothy Inklebarger

Staff Reporter

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.

tim@oakpark.com

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Reader Comments

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Corey Gimbel from Oak Park  

Posted: September 3rd, 2019 2:39 PM

I'm curious how much of the Housing Center's limited budget is being spent on the "interim" director since their search efforts for full-time one failed? Why did that employment search effort fail btw? Maybe the amateurs running the OPHC board haven't got a clue on how a professional search is conducted? I wonder if they have a job description from when Rob left? Corey D Gimbel

Tom MacMillan from Oak Park  

Posted: August 29th, 2019 10:25 AM

In the 1970's the Housing Center was a cool idea. As soon as the internet, Craigs List, and free on-line access to classified ads began it was horribly outdated and unneeded. It cannot exist without being handed money, which means no one is willing to actually pay for the service, but somehow we are forced to do so, and that is dumb in a time when dollars are tight. Stop funding it and the budget stops looking so bleak as the money can be used to solve other actual problems. How many times does anyone even get helped by the Housing Center and what is the amazing high cost per time that anyone gets any sort of help out of that place?

Deborah Wess  

Posted: August 27th, 2019 7:30 PM

I don't see how the Housing Center is dumb nor outdated, given the real concerns over OP socio-economic segregation, too often correlated with race. Seems to have turned out stupendously!

Kevin Peppard  

Posted: August 27th, 2019 3:50 PM

The reason these tentative increases look so large is that the Village uses a flaky accounting system, which has allowed it to sweep those pension costs under the rug for decades. Publicly traded companies must use accrual accounting, where even if the costs are not paid, are nonetheless recognized as unpaid expenses (liabilities). We've been living beyond our means for a long time, with blinders on. The bill is coming due.

Richard Lane from Oak Park  

Posted: August 27th, 2019 2:00 PM

I agree Tom. Since almost all those "dumb" ideas never turn out very well.

Tom MacMillan from Oak Park  

Posted: August 27th, 2019 1:26 PM

In a world where $1.3 million is a big number, how much are we spending on outdated ideas like the housing center. A half million? And how much on Madison street? Seems like there are all sorts of dumb ideas being funded that could have been used to keep the levy increase at 3%. If only.

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