Streamwood looking at tightening its belt

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Streamwood may make it through 2011 without cutting services or dipping into its reserves, but beyond that, the village may have to.

That's the hard truth trustees and village staff heard last week during a budget workshop meeting.

Consultants from the nonprofit Executive Service Corps encouraged trustees to get together a "game plan" to address the village's growing deficit. They suggested the village look at all revenue and service cut opportunities.

Streamwood could have a $2 million budget deficit in 2012, as pension plan costs continue to increase dramatically and revenues remain flat, said Jim Young, an ESC consultant.

The village's revenue is now 15 percent less than three years ago, said Dave Richardson, the village's finance director. Streamwood has to consider such "new norms" of revenues in dealing with the current budget, he said.

Village Manager Gary O'Rourke tried to put it in perspective: "When you see Schaumburg implementing a property tax and Naperville laying people off," he said, "you know it's bad."

But village officials agree Streamwood is in better financial shape than other villages, many of which have taken out loans and used up cash reserves.

Still, Richardson warned the state and county might not fulfill their financial obligations to Streamwood, true of other communities as well.

Young said the village might have to consider dipping into the reserve fund to deal with stagnant revenues.

Through interviews with village trustees, Young said several told him, "The rainy day is here" meaning they may have no choice but to tap their reserves.

But publicly, not all agreed.

"You want to avoid dipping into the rainy day fund," Trustee William Carlson said.

For now, the general consensus among trustees is that the village can find ways to get through current financial difficulties by constraining costs and without raising revenues, Young said.

Most have little appetite for raising taxes or fees, he said.

Trustee Bill Harper mentioned that "regionalizing" fire departments has been discussed in the past. Some suburban towns provide fire protection to parts of other towns beyond their city limits.

Overall, most trustees admit that cost-cutting may be very limited without affecting basic services, Young said.

What services might be affected wasn't discussed.

Streamwood is on a calendar year budget cycle, and formal budget adoption is expected by the end of the year.

A second budget workshop meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Thursday at Village Hall.