By Village Manager Phil Kiraly
In my last several blog posts, I have shared my thoughts about how well our organization and our community have adapted to the COVID-19 reality. We continue to band together as a community, and our team continues to press on in their work in service to this community, despite the difficult circumstances required of us during the Stay at Home order. Now that Governor Pritzker has extended his order for an additional 30 days, our current reality will be with us for a while and likely will change our future reality quite a bit as well.
While so many of our regular routines at the Village have been upended, one thing that has not stopped is our propensity to plan. I’ve written in previous blogs about how well our community plans for the future; it’s in our DNA as a government entity and as a community. Our elected officials and staff see as primary among their many responsibilities the need to be prepared for the unexpected. Considering that, our Village Board has worked hard these last several years to safeguard the Village’s strong financial position by stabilizing our General Fund reserves and asking staff to develop long-range financial planning tools that help us predict our revenues and expenditures several years into the future. We have also reduced our operating expenses, right sized our staffing levels and evaluated and developed alternate revenue streams to help relieve pressure on our residents and local businesses. And while no one could have predicted what we are living through now, I rest somewhat easier knowing that the Village has built up reserves and proactively planned to deal with the very rainiest of days.
Along those lines, the Village Board met virtually last week (in accordance with the eased restrictions to the Open Meetings Act ordered by Governor Pritzker) and discussed at length staff’s preliminary projections regarding the COVID-19 pandemic’s impacts to our Village’s finances. Read Finance Director Nikki Larson’s comprehensive memorandum to the Village Board here.
Like all local governments, we anticipate reductions and delays in receiving many of our important revenues that fund Village operations, such as sales taxes and residential building construction permit fees. In total, very early estimates are that over $1.4 million, or over 6% of our total General and Water Fund revenues, could be lost this year. It could be more than that, but it’s difficult to predict right now. We expect that future years could see our losses grow further. The Village is well-positioned to handle the early impacts of the COVID-19 response. However, the difficulties facing the Village, our Glencoe businesses and many of you in your own companies and organizations focus on the questions regarding the actual impacts of the pandemic: How long will the Stay at Home Order last? What else will change between now and then? What will the new reality look like once we start to reopen our local, regional and national economies? How long will the recovery take? We’ve already been asked to change so much; what else will have to change?
No one knows the answers to these questions, but I assure you the Village is working each day to develop as clear a picture as possible.
So, what steps are we taking now? We are focusing the Village’s financial resources on critical operations while we gather more information. We have slowed, or in some cases stopped, purchasing equipment or supplies that aren’t immediately necessary. In addition, staff is developing for the Village Board’s review a list of potential budget reductions for the current fiscal year (Stub Year 2020), which includes the delay/deferral of planned infrastructure or equipment purchases, changes to operational structures (such as reductions in certain service contracts or supplies), reduced spending on training and staffing modifications (such as temporary hiring freezes). Staff will present this information to the Village Board in May in order to prioritize changes and adapt in response to potential revenue losses. As always, the Village’s priorities will remain focused on maintaining the services our community requires and deserves: public safety, water production and distribution, and responsive and responsible government. All of this will impact us and the way we develop the Village’s budget for the coming several years, as all signs point to a long recovery period that may take many years to return to “normal.”
Planning also requires that certain projects move forward even when things change. First, construction started last week on Tudor Court as part of our Tudor Court Street and Streetscape improvements, a long-awaited streetscape project breathing new life into the Tudor Court corridor. The project is being funded through over $1.5 million in non-referendum bonds issued in 2019 specifically for these critical improvements. The second project is the replacement of Glencoe’s over 3,200 antiquated residential water meters with new smart meter technology, which will create an efficient and highly interactive metering system for one of our most important public infrastructure components. This $2 million project will be paid for from water receipts via revenue-backed bonds. We need to continue the business of government, and these projects highlight that we are doing so responsibly because we have planned for them.
I’ll conclude by saying that although I’m not a social media influencer or a psychic, I think it’s safe to say that we are living through a paradigm shift. When we come out of this, the other side will feel different. I believe it’s our responsibility in government to work to be ready for that other side, and to be responsive to the needs that will exist then that perhaps didn’t exist before. We will need to be willing to rethink what we know and adapt to meet those needs. I’m confident in our team – from our Village President and Trustees on down through the organization – and confident that we will be able to manage through whatever changes come. I appreciate your partnership in this and continue to wish you good health.
And please, remember to wear masks/face coverings when in public, wash your hands, and most importantly, stay home if you do not need to leave your home. We’re in this together. We’re #GlencoeStrong.