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Questions Galore as Budget Process Begins

Finance Director Jeff Zoephel asked Montgomery trustees for direction on 10 separate items last week, as he starts drafting the Fiscal Year 2013 budget.

It may be hard to believe, but it’s budget time again in the village of .

Fiscal Year 2012 ends on April 30, and the Village Board needs to approve a new spending plan to take effect before May 1 of next year. That means Finance Director Jeff Zoephel is already working on the 2013 budget, and last week, he asked trustees to provide him with some direction.

Last month, Zoephel asked board members to send him ideas for the upcoming budget, priorities they would like to see implemented. At Wednesday’s Committee of the Whole meeting, Zoephel said he received enough of them that, were he to implement them all, “the general fund would take a $500,000 hit.”

So Zoephel asked the five trustees present (Trustee Stan Bond was absent) for consensus on 10 items. Here’s how it broke down:

Question: Should the village budget $11,500 to put up and replace banners in the downtown and Douglas Road areas?

That total breaks down to $2,000 for new banners, $2,000 for replacement banners, and $7,500 for installation. Trustee Pete Heinz suggested taking Aurora Township Highway Commissioner John Shoemaker up on his offer to use a township truck for banner installation, which may reduce or eliminate that $7,500 cost. But, as Trustee Matt Brolley pointed out, the question is, what does the village offer in return for use of the truck?

Question: Should the village mow the natural grasses near the outer rim of the detention basins?

This item was submitted by Trustee Andy Kaczmarek, who wants to see the grass mown shorter for safety reasons. However, costs would go up significantly, Zoephel said, so the other four trustees supported leaving the grass the way it is.

Question: Should the village change the amount it pays to the each year?

The village currently pays $55,000 a year to the MEDC, but could pay up to $12,000 more through a revolving loan fund, Zoephel said. While Kaczmarek and Heinz said no to increasing the amount, the other three trustees and Village President Marilyn Michelini agreed to it. “We have a huge stake in that organization, in regard to what they do,” Brolley said.

Question: Should the village eliminate or increase its mosquito abatement program?

The current program costs $35,500 for FY 2012. This item was also suggested by Kaczmarek, who said the spraying has not lowered the number of mosquitos. Heinz suggested sending a public works employee to make sure the contracted company is spraying around the village. Trustees, save for Kaczmarek, agreed to keep the mosquito program as it is.

Question: Should the village change its preventative maintenance program for its fleet of vehicles?

Trustees said the current maintenance program is working fine, and shouldn’t be changed.

Question: Should the road and bridge tax money be removed from the general fund and placed into a separate account just for street repair?

Bond has raised this question several times—he believes all the road and bridge tax money should go to repairing and resurfacing streets. Currently, some of it is used for other road improvements, like striping and signs, all acceptable under the law. Removing that revenue stream from the general fund would mean a loss of about $130,000, with no dedicated funds to pay for non-repair-related road improvements. While Kaczmarek agreed with moving it, Trustees Brolley, Denny Lee and Bill Keck said they did not see the point.

Question: How will the village pay back a loan taken from the general fund to pay for capital projects?

Several years ago, the village loaned itself money from the general fund, putting that into the capital improvement fund. The remaining balance is $691,000, and while this may not seem like a big deal, since it is money the village owes itself, Zoephel said some progress must be made on that loan, or auditors will simply take it from the general fund all at once. While several suggestions were made, no firm plan was agreed upon.

Question: Should road salt purchases be moved from the motor fuel tax fund into the general fund?

This is another of Bond’s issues—he believes all of the motor fuel tax funds should go to street repair. The village currently spends about $145,000 a year on salt, an allowable purchase with motor fuel tax funds. Moving salt purchase out would require staff to find $145,000 of general fund money to pay for it. Kaczmarek supported making the move, but the other trustees said no.

Question: Should the village budget to buy new vehicles in 2013?

Trustees said they would trust the judgment of Chief Daniel Meyers and Director Mike Pubentz. Pubentz said he would still submit requests based on mileage and wear and tear on the fleet, but the village would only buy new vehicles if “desperately needed.”

Question: Should the village move ahead with plans to fix water problems on Case, Jefferson and First streets?

Engineer Pete Wallers explained that residents on Case Street have complained of rusty water. The fix is a hydrant and water system flushing program, a permanent year-round flushing device, Wallers said. He also said public works employees have discovered an inadequate two-inch water main on Jefferson and First streets that should be replaced. Trustees agreed to buy the flushing system in 2013, and budget to replace the water mains in Fiscal Year 2014.

Trustees will continue discussing the budget in the coming months. A draft of the 2103 budget is expected in February.

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