Tensions were evident Tuesday night at the meeting as commissioners and the mayor discussed the proposed 2012 budget.
A large portion of the conversation focused on the Meals on Wheels program, funding special interests, and what to do with the surplus money in the budget.
Commissioner William Waldack talked about the resistance he’s been met with from the council when he has tried to increase funding for Meals on Wheels, saying there’s always a “show me the money” request.
This year, according to staff projections, there will be over $900,000 left in the budget at the end of the year. The money will roll over into next year’s general fund and Waldack wants to use a portion of it for Meals on Wheels and a portion of it to restore a transportation subsidy.
To stress his point, Waldack recounted stories of needy seniors in the village.
“We say we don’t want to raise taxes on people because they’re hurting,” he said, adding he felt some people are willing to turn a blind eye to those who may be hurting the most, a statement perceived to be aimed at his fellow council members.
Mayor Martin Tully forthrightly said he didn’t appreciate Waldack’s attack on council members’ character, or questioning a person’s “moral fiber” because they weren’t in support of Waldack’s proposal.
Tully said it wasn’t as much about the dollar amount as the philosophy behind it. He said he understood the philosophy about seeking to avoid anything that is a subsidy or a channeling of tax dollars to special interests.
Tully also asked about the return on investment which he said has to be more quantifiable in terms of the whole community.
He also said he was trying to figure out if there was a way to address the “valid concerns” about tax dollars used for special interests and subsidies while also being compassionate and helping towards those in the community.
It’s an issue that Tully believes will come back every year, and he doesn’t have a position one way or the other, he said.
Commissioner Sean Durkin suggested that a percentage of the surplus money at the end of the year would be dedicated to these programs.
Commissioner Bob Barnett made the point that the $900,000 is not “leftover” money, but rather, the result of an increase of property taxes which “undoubtedly has had a negative effect on people,” he said.
“I’m wondering if folks would prefer if we gave it back to them,” rather than deciding which segment of the population gets it, he said.
The village’s total budget includes approximately $135.8 million in revenue and $127.7 million in expenses.
The general fund, the primary operating fund that includes most village services, has a proposed balanced budget of $41.35 million for FY2012.
In the past few years the village has reduced general fund expenses by about $5 million. These cuts include eliminated jobs, festivals and events, counseling and other services.