The Village Approved its Budget! (and Why You Should Care)
By Village Manager Phil Kiraly
What a year it’s been. On every level, 2020 has turned out to be very little of what we expected and a whole lot of what we did not. Even though we close the books on the Village’s current transitional 10-month fiscal year, Stub Year 2020, and open new ones for the Village’s first calendar year-based fiscal year in 2021, the realities of the COVID-19 pandemic will still be very present.
In a number of my blog posts this year, I have shared the efforts the Village Board and staff have taken in response to the pandemic, both in terms of fiscal policy and operational changes. Early pandemic projections indicated that the Village’s Stub Year 2020 (March 1 – December 31, 2020) revenues might be reduced by over $2 million. I’m pleased to report that the conservative steps taken early in the pandemic have kept Glencoe’s hallmark high quality services intact, while limiting spending wherever possible. Although current revenue loss projections point to a figure much smaller at approximately $260,000, we still cut spending significantly in 2020 by about $2.1 million. This was achieved by holding open vacant staff positions, deferring capital investments (mostly equipment) and other operational efficiencies. For a year that has offered up a hearty dose of the unexpected, the Village’s prudent and effective management and planning has brought us to a solid position as we step into the new fiscal year on January 1.
To that end, at their meeting on Thursday, December 17, the Village Board approved the Village’s Calendar Year 2021 Budget that will guide Village spending through the next 12 months, beginning January 1 and ending December 31, 2021. General budget specifics are outlined in this press release, but I encourage you to review the full budget document on the Village’s website. Budgets can be complicated documents to read and are often thought of just as a collection of spreadsheets; however, the Village’s budget is much more than a financial report.
As I explain in the transmittal message to the Village President and Board of Trustees, a budget is both a financial- and policy-based collection of information that details what’s important to the Glencoe community, how the Village will allocate its resources and where the Village ideally will be at the end of next year. Each year, our budget is developed using data from numerous inputs (such as policy documents, stakeholder feedback and strategic initiatives and other planning tools), then presented in detail by staff and thoroughly discussed by the Village Board. We are acutely aware from the Village President and Board of Trustees on down through the staff that we have a responsibility to our constituents to utilize the Village’s resources as efficiently and effectively as possible.
I sometimes talk to people around town who say that the Village’s budget doesn’t really matter to them, though many have comments about property taxes (just a note - the Village receives less than 15% of your property tax bill payments) or about fees or charges for service that the Village provides. That is a big part of the budget, no doubt, but those are just some of the inputs. There’s much more to it. Here are a few reasons why I think the Village’s budget is particularly interesting:
Local government services are important. The services the Village provides its residents and businesses are some of the most important government services you utilize, and you use them daily Water, sewers, sidewalks, streets, trees, building codes, inspections, snow plowing…the list goes on. The Village’s budget provides resources and sets forth plans to ensure that we are investing in these critical services, in the infrastructure that makes them work and the staff that provide them.
Planning is critical. The Village has a long history of planning effectively for the future. In our budget, you will find a five-year financial forecast; a Community Investment Program (CIP) and funding plan that prepares for over $51 million in infrastructure investment during the next decade; and a four-year strategic plan that runs through the end of 2021. Within these plans are further plans that advise them, like the Active Transportation Plan which helps to prioritize sidewalk installations in our community or the Water System Master Plan which helps guide us through over $20 million in necessary investments in our water infrastructure. Likewise, we develop staff work plans that facilitate Strategic Plan initiatives and day to day operations. These tools, and many others, combine to help us develop a budget with clearly defined priorities.
Community building is important. Whether it’s actual building in our community in the form of new infrastructure, or work to build our “community” – like the efforts of our Community Relations Forum on diversity, equity and inclusion and the Sustainability Task Force’s work to make Glencoe a more sustainable place – the budget includes investments in these and many other efforts. Investing in staff training or providing programming and events that bring important services (like our community-wide recycling event) to our residents are also important ways that the Village enhances quality of life in Glencoe. Also, our partnerships with other governments like District 35, the Glencoe Park district and Glencoe Library build better services for our residents.
Efficiency is critical, but so is effectiveness. We are always working to build a better, more efficient Village government. This has never been more important than during the pandemic. We invest in better technology (like new water meters) to make it easier to do the work our staff needs to do. We right-size our workforce (we removed another full-time employee from the CY2021 budget) and change the way certain services are provided so that we can keep doing what is needed, even if resources are scarcer. We introduce pilot programs, like the Sidewalk Snow Removal Pilot Program, that help us gain valuable insights into how to provide services more effectively and more efficiently. Also, we utilize our community survey results (the most recent are from 2019) to offer insights into the priorities, projects and programs that might need some attention.
Buying local makes a difference. Whenever you can, please shop or dine in Glencoe. Not only does this help ensure that Glencoe’s one-of-a-kind small businesses can survive the pandemic and grow stronger and better, but sales tax helps keep the Village able to fund the services we provide. More than 10% of the Village’s annual revenues come from sales tax, and loss of sales tax accounted for a significant portion of the Village’s reduced revenue during the pandemic. Keeping our business district vibrant is why the Village continues to invest in our downtown (like the streetscape improvements we completed on Tudor Court earlier this year) and why our team works closely with our business community to find creative ways to meet their operational needs.
All the above points highlight just a few of the many aspects of the Village's budget. But don't take my word for it - I hope you'll take time to read it and ask questions if you have them.
As this is my last blog of 2020, I also want to take a moment to thank our residents and businesses for the support you’ve offered this year. When the COVID-19 pandemic struck in March, I committed to you that the Village would be there for our community, and I think we’ve been true to that promise. I want to thank you as well for being there for the Village through these most difficult and troubling times. It has not always been easy, and we’re not through it yet, but our community has bound together to support our businesses, our neighborhoods, our Village staff and one another through this unexpectedly unusual year. I cannot thank you enough.
The Village is a complex organization, and each day, the magnitude of our mission is visible when I see our team out in the community providing services for you. But none of that would be possible without your continued willingness to support the Village’s operations by choosing to live or work here, paying taxes and fees and finally, remaining engaged. Our team is grateful to serve you and grateful for the trust you place in us each day.
I wish you all a happy - and especially – a healthy new year!