Budgeting: Anticipating Challenges, Adapting Practices
While it’s the time of year where our community gathers and celebrates the holiday season, it’s also another season here at Village Hall – budget season! Glencoe’s fiscal year begins on March 1, and in light of that, we have been working for a number of months to draft the Village’s annual budget. The Village Board had its first review of the document in November, and we plan to have at least two additional budget discussions before it is approved early next year.
Although budget development is an annual process, it can vary significantly from year to year. Changing community priorities, operational needs, new unfunded mandates from the State and the dynamic political environment in Illinois, among other issues, all impact the Village’s projected revenues and expenditures. We do our best to get in front of these issues by asking the tough question of how to manage our rising costs and decreasing revenues, while also adapting our organization to ensure we continue to provide critical, primary life safety services (police, fire, EMS, water, sewer, garbage collection), while also preserving our community’s distinct sense of place, encouraging resident engagement and promoting inclusivity as much as possible. These aims are often split between more traditional and more adaptive government roles, leading to the challenging tasks of prioritization, strategy and staffing. Sometimes we succeed, and sometimes we come up short in these efforts. The “whys” of both success and failure also weigh in on our budget development conversations.
We have and continue to face these challenges head-on by making every concerted effort to inform our strategy through study and analysis so that our decisions can be based on the best available data. In some cases, data doesn’t exist, so we have begun new initiatives to collect it. We are also looking more closely at our business processes and programs to ensure that our practices are best practices and that opportunities for improvement are explored wherever possible.
In recent years, these efforts have led to some major studies and initiatives including the Water Distribution System Plan, the Water Supply Planning Report, the 2015 Community Survey (which we plan to repeat in 2019), the State-mandated Dispatch Consolidation Feasibility Study, the Downtown Plan, the Garbage Collection Analysis, the State of the Village Report, our recently updated Strategic Plan, an internal IT needs assessment, our participation in the GIS Consortium, last year’s efforts to test inflow and infiltration in our sanitary sewer system and to collect more data on our sidewalk system, the Village’s first Active Transportation Plan, a slurry of process mapping sessions and more.
In turn, these studies and initiatives have led to some significant operational changes, generally in an effort to maintain first-rate services while working to reduce costs. Likewise, these studies have resulted in recommendations that have helped us gain a better understanding of prioritization of vital community investments. Recently, we made major updates to the 10-Year Community Improvement Program (CIP) to reflect the results of the Water Distribution System Plan which anticipates over $20 million in water main and other distribution system improvements in the coming few decades. Along with the Village Board, we developed a new debt financing plan as a step to provide a roadmap on how to fund those projects and other major investments detailed in the CIP. We have also made strides toward implementing recommendations of the Downtown Plan, including a supplemental study of place-making options for Tudor Court, which will be presented to the Village Board later this month. Last year, we outsourced garbage collection, recognizing that service levels could be maintained while deferring the future capital costs and reallocating manpower to pressing infrastructure needs without increasing staff levels. This effort saved the Village over $1.1 million in capital/rolling stock purchases alone, along with providing new opportunities for Public Works staff to be reallocated into other areas.
This year we also made major strides toward implementing recommendations of the Strategic Plan, and as such we are now focusing heavily on the Village’s largest investment, our staff—developing a cohesive, well-trained team that is able to meet the challenges of the new normal in local government. That team is changing too, by the way. Since 2013 over 50% of the Public Safety Department has turned over due to retirements. In the coming five years, we expect a similar level of turnover in Public Works. We are planning for and working to implement policies and organizational structures that will see continuity of service despite so many new faces.
With so much going on in the Village, I plan to focus an upcoming series of blogs on these changes that I’ve just highlighted, as well as their impacts to the organization and community. I hope that the series inspires you to continue to learn more about the Village’s operations, and especially to bring forward your thoughts for how our local government might continue to adapt and operate into the future.
In this light, I also encourage you to review the Fiscal Year 2020 Draft Budget and to keep an eye out for the recommended budget, which will be posted early next week. The document is a reflection of our organization’s priorities and is a great resource to learn about some of the initiatives I plan to detail in the blog series.
I look forward to your feedback!