Lake Bluff proposes cautious 2014 budget
The Lake Bluff Village Board is slated to approved an $11.9 million budget for fiscal year 2014, anticipating an 11 percent drop in sales-tax revenue, including from downtown businesses. | Michael Schmidt~Sun-Times Media
Updated: March 15, 2013 8:14AM
LAKE BLUFF — Despite reports the economic downturn has slowed, Lake Bluff officials aren’t taking any chances.
The Village Board Monday night unanimously approved first-reading of a conservative budget for fiscal year 2014, anticipating an 11 percent drop in sales-tax revenue and 74 percent decline in grants.
The $11.9 million budget marks a nearly eight-percent decrease from the current budget, due mainly to a 33 percent reduction in capital expenditures.
“The capital budget declined mostly due to a lack of grant funds,” Finance Director Susan Griffin said.
Despite the lower grant revenue, the village will invest $2.5 million in capital, which represents 20 percent of the total budget. Last year, capital improvements comprised 26 percent of the budget.
Major capital improvement projects include:
• Streets & roads: $560,000
• Ravine restoration: $420,000
• Vehicles, equipment and technology replacements: $333,900
The village also will spend $220,000 on phase one of a two-phase radio water-meter-reading system.
The village will dip into its excess reserves to fund the capital projects, Griffin said.
“The finance committee and Village Board have committed to keep ahead of our roadways, our sewers, our water lines. We want to make sure we’re not kicking the can down the road by deferring improvements, repairs and upgrades,” finance committee Chairman and Trustee Brian Rener said.
The bulk of the operating budget — personnel, contracts, commodities and pension costs for the village and library — is $9.6 million, or 37 percent of total village and library expenses, a 2.6 percent increase from last year.
Police sergeants and patrol officers received salary increases of 2.5 percent following union negotiation. Non-union employees will receive the same 2.5 percent merit-based salary increase. Medical and dental insurance premiums are expected to increase 10 percent.
On the revenue side, just more than 30 percent of the village’s income will come directly from residents’ property taxes, anticipated at $3.9 million, a nearly four percent increase over fiscal year 2013.
Sales tax revenue continues to slip, with projections estimated at $2.4 million — nearly 21 percent of the village’s income — an almost 11 percent decline over last year’s budget estimate.
“We’re really cautious,” Griffin said about the village’s predicted revenues. “I think it will continue to be a protracted and inconsistent (economic) recovery.”
Village taxes comprise nine percent of residents’ property tax bills, while Lake Bluff Public Library represents two percent.
Just before the vote on the proposed budget, Rener said the Board feels an increasing need to bring new special events and businesses to town “so we don’t get too close to our minimum reserve targets.
“The village is cutting expenditures but spending wisely where we need to,” Rener said.
The Village Board will consider second and final reading of the budget at its meeting on March 25.