Highland Park City Council vows to balance budget without reserves
Take Our Poll
What line item in your personal budget would you like to cut back?
Next budget meeting: During committee-of-the whole Aug. 27 to discuss the library’s property tax and budget requests.
Next budget workshop: Sept. 10 covering organizational objectives, revenue estimates, five-year capital improvement planning and water rates.
Official budget presentation: Oct. 15
Budget public hearing: Nov. 12
Budget approval: Nov. 26
Updated: September 17, 2012 11:59AM
HIGHLAND PARK -- The City Council is now two meetings deep into shaping its 2013 spending and revenue plan.
While no specific numbers — staffing, expenditures, fees or property taxes — have been presented for next year, members set the budget-setting stage July 16 and Aug. 6 during its first two budget workshop meetings of the year.
Nikki Winikates, the city’s interim finance director, explained that the only council decisions made so far have been policy-related, including pension-funding strategies and how to use reserves.
Members agreed to take a conservative approach to its pension obligations, Winikates reported, increasing city contributions in 2013 to offset lagging investment returns in order to reduce the city’s pension liability.
The council also discussed its balanced budget and reserves policies, opting to keep previous guidelines in place. Members pledged to keep the city’s reserves fund at or higher than 35 percent of annual operating costs and has committed to balancing the budget without tapping reserves to cover any potential shortfalls.
“We’ve provided a big overview and have had some policy discussions that will direct the rest of the budget process,” Winikates said.
Winikates also provided council members Aug. 6 with a mid-year financial report.
Sales taxes through April were trending 4.3 percent over last year, Winikates said. Real estate transfer taxes are tracking 33.84 percent ahead of last year and building permits are on pace to come in 6.98 percent higher in 2012.
Nearly all spending areas are less than 50 percent of budgeted for 2012, Winikates added, signaling that end-of-year expenditures are on pace to come in below the current budget. The result would be a reserve fund just above 50 percent of annual operational spending, far exceeding the city’s fund balance target of 35 percent.
Other news during the council’s recent budget sessions included a report that revenue from the city’s red light cameras is trending short of its typical pace because the Illinois Department of Transportation required the city to suspend the program intermittently as a result of construction near the intersection of Park Avenue West and Route 41. There also was a technical error in January.
The council also reached a consensus that it will no longer contract with Kemper Management to operate the Highland Park Theatre. The action earlier this month provided Kemper with 60 days notice.
A budget discussion related to The Art Center - Highland Park’s 2013 funding needs was on Monday’s City Council agenda.