Some Final Thoughts on the 2007 – 2008 Village Budget | May 30, 2007

By David du Pont

While we appreciate the Board of Trustee’s efforts to keep property taxes down, it is important to examine the assumptions, reasoning and decisions that have gone into the budget process this year.

Let’s start by looking at the Water Fund budget. The Village water treatment plant presents any group of Trustees with the fact that given the cost of retiring the debt associated with the water piping repairs and plant reconstruction [about $193,000 a year], we have only two viable choices to fund the yearly revenue shortfall, and neither is terribly attractive. First, we can raise the already very high water rates to even higher levels, or second, we can fund the annual shortfall in revenues [about $70,000 to $90,000 depending upon weather mostly] out of the general Village budget. Historically, recent administrations have chosen this last course of action on the theory that the current water rates are as high as is politically acceptable.

Having said this, the current Administration has estimated revenues at $551,000 verses a more realistic number of $450,000. For the current fiscal year, the Mayor agreed at the May monthly meeting that there would be a $60,000 shortfall in Water Fund revenues that would have to come out of the general budget. For the projected budget, I believe the shortfall will be on the order of $80,000.

It is interesting to note that Mayor McFadden and Budget Officer Chris Hansen criticized previous administrations for funding the water fund deficit with general budget revenues. In public hearings, they proposed and enacted a 20% increase in water rates, on the theory that the Village as a whole should not subsidize residents who are excessive in watering lawns and filling pools or the Hamlet residents who don’t pay Village taxes. It now seems political reality in an election year necessitates a slim increase in village taxes and no increase in water rates, rather than preparing for the water bill deficit.

In regards to the Village budget, there are several items worth noting. First and most important is the staffing levels of the Village Police Department and the Department of Public Works or DPW. If we go back three years in time, the Police Department had five full time officers. Today we have only two. The DPW is also down net two people in this time frame. Any administration can produce a zero property tax rate increase if it lays off permanent staff. The key question when you lay off permanent police officers is: Are we as a Village being better served by temporary officers who come and go, and do not know our Village or its residents well? Security is one of the key reasons all of our residents moved to the Park in the first place, and we should not compromise our security by eliminating full time police officer positions.

I believe our older residents suffer the most, because they depend on the Police Department for all sorts of help that fall outside of normal police duties, particularly during storms when the police call to check on them and help them when necessary. For the first time in years now, we are experiencing an increase in certain acts of juvenile property destruction. I do not believe it is in the Village’s best interests to be dependent upon significant numbers of part time police officers, and to run the DPW with a short handed staff. Sooner or later, this chicken will come home to roost. Security will be compromised and our infrastructure and general DPW repairs will not be maintained as necessary. Just take a look at the eroding road beds and drainage issues around the Park.

Legal fees have gone from$12,400 in 2004 to a forecasted $115,000 in the new budget. (Actual legal expenses for this current year will be over $135,000.) Why is the Village involved in so much litigation under the current Mayor? This will also negatively impact the premium costs associated with Trustee liability indemnification and insurance costs.

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