As Niles village trustees went line by line Tuesday through a proposed fiscal 2014 village budget, which they will need to finalize before it goes into effect in May 2013, some good news emerged.
Sales tax revenues for Fiscal Year 2013, which will end on April 30, came in higher than projected, while expenses related to health care insurance for employees were lower than projected, said Scot Neukirch, the village's finance director, at Tuesday's budget workshop.
The village's contributions to employee pensions, an area where it and many other municipalities have lagged, were higher than budgeted for fiscal 2013.
Earlier: Niles Settles On Balanced Budget for 2013-14
"We're having a good year," Neukirch said. However, projections for fiscal 2014 are being made at typical dollar amounts, not dollar amounts that assume the village is having a good year.
Revenues higher, expenses lower
For the general fund, one of the largest funds, in Fiscal 2013, the village budgeted $40,781,116 in revenue, but it is projected to come in higher (by April 30), at $41,413,803.
On the expense side for the general fund, the village budgeted to spend $41,281,117, but spending is projected to come in lower (by April 30), at $38,868,652.
As the finance department prepared the proposed 2014 budget, it held meetings with village department heads, and about $7 million was trimmed from what they originally asked for, Neukirch said.
Suggestion: For next time, plan out where spending needed, set priorities
Steve Vinezeano, the village's interim village manager, said Tuesday he thought it would be beneficial if trustees and key staff did some strategic planning before starting the budgeting process. That would enable department heads to know trustees' key goals and priorities as they did their planning and budgeting.
"A consultant reads our comprehensive plan, then sits down with the board and staff and asks what we want to tackle foe the next three years," he explained.
Trustee Louella Preston, who had attended an earlier professional workshop on strategic planning, agreed, but envisioned the strategic planning as more comprehensive than Vinezeano suggested. She didn't feel that, for a village of Niles' size and complexity, it could be done in a day.
Like corporate retreats, plan when not under pressure, resident suggests
Resident Mike Shields went to the podium to comment that strategic planning could be helpful.
"It seems that every year we reinvent the wheel. It seems the strategic plan would get the board and staff together," he said.
After the meeting, Shields explained that, much as corporations might take their key people on retreats to set goals without day-to-day pressure, the Niles board and staff could do some goal-setting in the quiet of June or July, well before the budgeting process starts in November-December.
They can set priorities for staffing, vehicles and capital spending, he suggested. Trustee Joe LoVerde on Tuesday brought up the subject of whether Niles may need to build a new firehouse or rethink its resources; Shields suggested that kind of planning needs to be done away from the pressures of the budget process.
"They're good people. They care about Niles," Shields said of the trustees, suggesting they probably all saw the value of thinking through priorities for the village.
He also credited Mayor Robert Callero, Neukirch and Vinezeano with coming up with a good budget.