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Council discusses potential uses for "leftover" money in FY12 Budget

Council members discuss whether or not tax dollars should be used for special interests.

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. 

Tony Cesare October 19, 2011 at 02:49 PM
One word-TOGA!
William Vollrath October 19, 2011 at 02:55 PM
Does it really matter whether it's called "leftover money" or "budget surplus?!" Come on!!!! The real issue is, and always has been, how does the Village best spend its resources to meet citizens' needs without overly burdening taxpayers. And, as everyone seems to continue to ignore, the downtown TIF debt (a special interest item) is a ticking timebomb that will soon need to be addressed.
Steve G. October 19, 2011 at 02:59 PM
I like it. Though "monorail" also has a nice ring to it....
joann adamski October 19, 2011 at 03:19 PM
How about using the some of the surplus to sweep the streets more often in the autumn or to pick up leaves for free.When we were able to burn leaves or had a pick-up the sewers were never blocked because we all cleaned in front of our homes, Alan Adamski
Kent Frederick October 19, 2011 at 05:35 PM
Considering the predictions of a winter that will be colder than normal, with more than average precipitation, perhaps it would be a good idea to hold onto the money for snow removal and spring street patching/resurfacing.
Dan F. October 19, 2011 at 06:01 PM
"Big Boss Bob looked at the election calendar, and his heart grew one size that day..." from Dr. Ron's Big Book of Campaign BS for Kiddies.
John McCormack October 19, 2011 at 10:48 PM
I’m not exactly sure what to do with the “leftover” money at this moment. What I do know is that there are only seven people in this town who can indeed decide how to spend my hard-earned municipal tax dollars. I don’t like hearing any of them say that every dollar must be spent, so let’s throw it at my pet project, then we’ll look for more. These are the things I remember come election time.
PAUL C. October 20, 2011 at 10:55 AM
William is correct when he says the TIF (a special interest item) is a debt that everyone seems to ignore. Mr. Barnett is being slightly political in his give it back to us (property taxpayers) idea. The truth is that the $937,000 should be deposited in a interest bearing account because the TIF debt issue will not go away and will rear it's ugly head in the near future in the form of higher property taxes again. It would be nice to at least have a portion of that TIF in an account for the future if this is a legal option. My guess is refunding the $937,000 when distributed among all of the DG property owners propably would not amount to much. Maybe, Mr. Barnett could enlighten us how this money would be refunded. I am also guessing that it would be refunded in accordance to the amount of property taxes paid by the homeowner.
Dan F. October 20, 2011 at 03:00 PM
Did the council say they would fund something if there was the money? Is there now the money? Why doesn't this story have that part of the story!?! IF they did, and IF there is, then that's a done deal. God forbid that readers (voters) would have a complete picture.
Martin Tully October 21, 2011 at 04:59 AM
Folks, I hate to say it, but the premise of this thread is wrong, due to the inaccurate characterization in the story headline (which stemmed from an equally erroneous quote) that there is some big pot of "leftover" money. That just isn't so. Official details setting things straight will be provided soon. With all due respect to the talented Ms. Marchmont, you simply cannot possibly get a complete and accurate understanding of the details of a $131 million budget from a 500-word media article.
Jeffrey Crane October 21, 2011 at 11:18 AM
Thanks Martin for the clarification. So the discussion at the last meeting was a waste of time. Then obviously your council members do not understand a budget either. Scary! For us simpletons can we just start with an answer to a simple question? Is there a surplus? After that is answered, then the solution becomes easy.
William Vollrath October 21, 2011 at 07:14 PM
Am I missing something or is our Village's fiscal management now completely dysfunctional? Either there is or isn't a budget surplus, and if there isn't one, why in the world are Council members discussing possible ways to spend the money or whether to "return it to taxpayers??!!"
Martin Tully October 21, 2011 at 08:19 PM
Here now are the further details I mentioned above: http://bit.ly/qeoDAM
William Vollrath October 21, 2011 at 08:29 PM
So what is the bottom line?
Martin Tully October 21, 2011 at 08:36 PM
Bill: Whoa, hold on a second. No one on Village staff ever said anything about a "budget surplus" or "leftover money." Instead, Village staff presented for the Council’s consideration a balanced FY 2012 budget that features a modest, one-time reduction in the property tax levy and no reduction in existing services. No dysfunction there whatsoever. The only thing dysfunctional is the bizarre game of blog-telephone that appears to be unfolding here whereby random comments made at a council meeting that appear out of context are then interpreted by unknowing commentators who draw conclusions from a 500-word snapshot of what has thus far been hours-and-hours of public meetings poring over the proposed FY 2012 budget. As explained in the link I provided above, the “budget surplus” and “leftover money” characterizations are less than accurate.
Tony Cesare October 21, 2011 at 08:40 PM
Nonetheless Mayor Tully, my suggestion stands. TOGA..
BigCubsFan October 21, 2011 at 10:22 PM
The Whittier Al Adamski?
Martin Tully October 21, 2011 at 10:33 PM
By the way, my comments should not be construed to imply that Patch reporter Sarah Marchmont misquoted or misreported anything that was stated (by someone) at the Village Council meeting that is the subject of this article. It is the accuracy of the underlying statement (repeated in the main headline), not the quotation thereof, that is challenged.
William Vollrath October 22, 2011 at 03:23 AM
Mayor Tully, I am just trying to make sense of reports I read here on a meeting I didn't attend, and quite honestly, if the proposed budget is balanced, and not one with a slight surplus, than I suggest the Council discussion by Waldak, Barnett, etc., as reported here, just makes no sense! I don't believe a budget surplus is something that exists in a state somewhere between accurate and inaccurate (eg. "Less than accurate.") Apparently, either another communication problem or someone prefers word games to plain English. As best I can determine from this thread, a slight budget surplus is projected for fiscal 2012, but not beyond. If that isn't the case, please educate me and others as to what the reality is!
William Vollrath October 22, 2011 at 10:33 AM
Did or did not the staff budget presentation at Council say there would be a $900,000 projected excess revenue amount as reported here? Can there realistically be a tax cut without a projected revenue excess? If so, How??
Jeffrey Crane October 22, 2011 at 11:55 AM
Why do I have a feeling that the money is already spent? We went from surplus to balanced budget overnight. Interesting! Apparently it is bad political practice to return money to the taxpayer when it can always be spent on something that might be or occur in the future.
William Vollrath October 22, 2011 at 02:03 PM
Indeed Jeff. My take on all this is that it is fairly easy to create a projected budget with extra cash for a timely and mostly meaningless one time tax cut in an important election year if the right people are so inclined to do so. However, those same people will not be receptive to the suggestion that such "leftover money" could, in fact, be spent in other ways...
William Vollrath October 22, 2011 at 02:33 PM
Also, I think citizens deserve more information on plans for the projected $8.1 million surplus for "all funds." Seems the piggy bank maybe has been already getting funded for a while with a new city hall and police station in mind...
Mark Thoman October 22, 2011 at 02:51 PM
http://www.downers.us/public/docs/vlg_budget/LRFP/LRPF_Responses_5-24-11_meeting.pdf In the May Long Range Financial Plan (LRFP) meeting notes staff supports a General Fund Reserve of 40%; 25% reserved for catastrophic events and 15% reserved for unexpected changes in revenues and expenses due to economic conditions. that's also in the added information in Mayor Tully's link. You'll also see current Village Policy 4596 that calls for a General Fund Cash Reserve Policy of 2-4 months (~17-34%). Under policy most or all of the $935K is fair game for discussion. If they want it at 40% that's where it is $80k or so. Mayor Tully can jump in with any corrections. I listened to the meeting and it sounded like everyone forgot to include the May info. Under current policy most or all of the $935K is fair game for discussion. If they want it at 40% then it's about $80K that's in play. Mayor Tully can jump in with any corrections, but I think last week was akin to that season of 'Dallas' where it didn't really happen. Council sets policy, and if GFCR is still a policy level decision, staff needs to draft a new GFCR policy for Council to workshop and approve. That's a pretty simple matter if council is agreed.
Mark Thoman October 22, 2011 at 03:01 PM
Just my opinion, but the CBD TIF District is fiscally imploding. $500K in released grant money fed it this year, but General Funds may have to feed it starting next year. That needs a better solution than being another expense burden on the General Fund. Staff is aware of the magnitude of the problem. You can see a presentation here: http://www.downers.us/public/docs/vlg_budget/LRFP/110524Presentation.pdf starting about 3/4 of the way through.
PAUL C. October 22, 2011 at 03:01 PM
Thanks Mark for making this a little clearer or making at least an attempt to.
William Vollrath October 22, 2011 at 10:16 PM
If the "reality" of a projected budget surplus is dependent on what amount is designated for the Reserve fund, that should simply be clearly stated. I assume the Village has thoughtful guidelines for the size of the Reserve Fund and the amount contributed to it each year. Maybe that needs to be revisited.
William Vollrath October 23, 2011 at 01:15 AM
I'll answer my own question. Based on info in this thread, it seems the "bottom line" is that, assuming a contribution to the Reserve Fund that maintains a reasonable level of about 40% of the current operating budget, there appears, in fact, to be a significant projected surplus that could be designated for desired programs. For Mr. Barnett or the Mayor to say otherwise is "less than accurate." More bewildering and troubling is how Mr. Barnett can one minute proclaim there are no surplus funds, and the next, talk about doing a tax cut with the available money!?
Don Jankowski October 23, 2011 at 03:15 AM
William - You seem well-qualified to answer your own question, as always...
Kent Frederick November 15, 2011 at 09:54 PM
Woulnd't burying power lines be the responsibility of Com Ed? On top of that, burying power lines isn't the solution that everyone thinks it is. The power lines in my neighborhood are all buried, yet the power goes out, not during ice storm, blizzards, or severe thunderstorms, but rather when the skies are clear and the winds are light.

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