Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Budget Time

Last week the Finance Committee of Council met to discuss and make recommendations to Council for the 2013 budget. Thanks to the culture of austerity that pervades the Amberley Village administrative offices, very nearly every single line item of the 2012 budget is coming in significantly under budget for the year. Under the leadership of Village Manager Scot Lahrmer, Chief Rich Wallace, and Public Works Supervisor Steve Rasfeld, village staff has worked hard to reduce expenses in every area of the Village. Even Council is making the move to go completely paperless, for which I am extremely grateful! Our staff is to be commended for the seriousness and creativity with which they have tackled our expenses -- all while their own salaries have been frozen since 2010 and their compensation and benefits are under continual review by Council.

In the proposed budget, 2013 expenses are projected at $4.8 million, with estimated revenues of $5.5 million.  While at first glance this looks like a surplus (called a positive fund balance in municipal finance), the real significance lies in what is NOT appropriated.  Margin notations in the proposed budget showed more than $1 million in equipment purchases and capital improvements that are being deferred.  These unfunded items include police cruisers, fire hoses, upgraded traffic signals and lights at the intersection of Ridge and Section, maintenance vehicles, and repairs to Village Hall. Additionally, the 2013 budget included a contingency of $250,000, which will be reduced to $5,000 to $25,000.

While the budgeted appropriations going into 2013 are less than last year, we still face a deficit of $1.3 million in the General Fund balance. Also, we face significant capital expenses in the future, which the Finance committee will begin planning for in the near future.  Passing the Police Levy in the spring and, most recently, paying off the debt on Amberley Green which we were able to do because of a once-in-a-lifetime estate tax windfall, are positive steps in a process that must continue to move forward toward re-establishing Amberley's sound financial footing. As a Council, we must continue to work with village staff to find ways to sustain a healthy balance sheet in all areas. 

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