Montgomery Board urged to look long-term : News : Oswego Ledger-Sentinel : Hometown Newspaper for Oswego and Montgomery, Illinois
|Montgomery Board urged to look long-term |
|Montgomery Board urged to look long-term |
|by John Etheredge|
Montgomery Village Board members have done a good job over the years in annually approving balanced budgets, but they now need to start looking longer-term.
That was the message that Jeff Zoephel, acting village administrator, and Jamie Ludovic, assistant village administrator, recently presented to the board.
"In the past I think we kind of focused short-term: balance the budget year-to-year," Zoephel said, adding, "We really need to get some long-term focus. We need to think about how we're replacing vehicles, adding staff and keeping the roads maintained; all of that."
Ludovic said, "What we're trying to do is to focus on planning in terms of do we have a plan to sustain (municipal) services, the people and the staffing? And do we have a replacement plan for equipment and a plan for funding the infrastructure?"
She added, "Some of the things we have to start thinking about and being proactive about so we are set for the future."
In a PowerPoint presentation to the board called "A Road to Sustainability," Ludovic noted that out of a $9.1 million annual operating budget, the village has approximately 13 percent or $1.1 million in funds available for discretionary spending. The remaining funds are committed to other expenditures, including employee wages and benefits, solid waste services and contractual obligations for insurance, consultants and other expenses.
Concerning the village's staffing levels, Ludovic noted the board must consider the level of services they wish to provide for village residents and whether existing staffing levels are adequate to provide those services.
"We need our services and people to match," she said.
Ludovic noted the village's cost for employee salaries continues to increase under terms of previously approved union contracts.
Two groups of village employees are represented by unions: police officers and public works technicians.
The village will pay out an additional $70,000 next year in wage increase to its union employees under the existing contracts, but raises have not yet been approved for non-union employees, according to Ludovic.
"Over the next five years if you hire nobody and you don't give your non-union personnel wage increases it will still cost you $350,000 to maintain our union wages," Ludovic said.
She added, "You are going to see that our police department and public works department need staff to meet current service demands. This is an issue that is going to come up. We have needs in our departments and something is going to have to give somewhere."
Ludovic said both the public works and police department need staff to meet current service demands.
In addition, future wage and benefit increases need to be sustainable, while staffing levels and services provided "need to balance," she said.
Concerning the village's equipment needs, Ludovic compared the village's situation to that of a car owner.
"I don't need a new car right now, but I may need one in five years. Should I start saving for it?" she asked.
She said currently the village owns 44 vehicles, including 18 police patrol vehicles. Of those 18 police vehicles, five currently have more than 100,000 miles on them.
"Would you rather have an extra police officer or a new squad car? Would you rather have the people or the equipment," Ludovic asked, adding, "You get to the point where you have to have the equipment. It will get to the point where our current officers need a squad car.
"How are we going to fund equipment going forward and if we are going to come to some sort of sustainable solution for people, we need to think about having a sustainable solution for equipment," she said.
'elephant in the room'
Meanwhile, Ludovic noted the village is facing a host of expenses relating to local infrastructure. She described the looming infrastructure expenses as "the elephant in the room."
The looming infrastructure expenses include roads and sidewalks repairs, stormwater improvements, building repairs, warning sirens, a new public works building, traffic signal improvements, economic development projects and large technology purchases.
Ludovic noted the current estimate to maintain the village's streets alone is $2.2 million.
"After operating costs, people and equipment needs there is little money for infrastructure. Until we identify funding there won't be much in the budget," she said.
Ludovic noted that the board is "best suited" to determine where and how the village will spend its revenues.
Referring to village staff, she said, "What we're really trying to do is focus on planning in terms of do we have a plan to sustain the services, people and staffing. Do we have a replacement plan for our equipment and do we have plan for funding the infrastructure?"
Zoephel told board members that village department heads are now preparing their operating budgets for the next fiscal year that will start May 1.
He said the board would receive copies of the department's budget requests after the Christmas holidays.
"Then we're going to ask you guys for some answers to help us out," Zoephel told the board.
Village President Marilyn Michelini thanked Zoephel and Ludovic for their work on the presentation.
"This is the 'big picture' and we have to think about it as we prepare for the future," Michelini said.