Homewood trustees consider new two-year budget plan on Tuesday

Homewood officials cited a rebounding local economy and years of frugality as factors in a sound village budget for the 2017-18 fiscal year starting May 1.
 
Homewood Finance Director Dennis Bubenik gave village trustees a look at the $35.5 million budget at the March 28 board meeting. The board will hold a public hearing on the budget at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, April 11, in Village Hall, 2020 Chestnut Road.
 
The balanced budget reflects a 3 percent increase in revenue while expenses show a 1 percent increase. 
 
Bubenik stated that there is a high demand in Homewood for increased services, so the budget process involves finding ways to provide the highest level of services possible with available resources.
 
“It's an excellent budget, but with high expectations on public safety and public works, there's more to a budget than just looking good as far as dollars and cents," he said. “You have to feel comfortable that the services we are providing are meeting a reasonable expectation what the community wants.”
 
Village administrators are asked each year to start with a status quo budget that reflects the same personnel levels and programs as the previous year, he said. The positive revenue projection for the coming year means village trustees will have a chance to consider authorizing additional requests from several departments.
 
The status quo budget estimates a $433,095 surplus. Bubenik said additional staffing and services requested by departments could reduce the surplus to $122,588. 
 
Those requests include hiring a building maintenance employee in Public Works; additional funding for sidewalk replacement, tree removal and tree trimming; hiring two additional police officers; hiring two part-time code enforcement officers and increasing hours for support staff; a renewed lease for squad car laptops, and adding tablet computers for the fire department; and moving the full-time contractual employee at the Homewood Science Center to full time.
 
Bubenik said the village plans to sell general obligation bonds this fall to fund capital improvements.
 
Plans for those funds include two major expenses: $650,000 for a fire engine to replace a 25-year old engine; $500,000 to replace 2004 computer software being used in the business and finance departments. 

The village also proposes to replace glass pane and glass block windows in the auditorium on the east end of Village Hall; add money to the street resurfacing program; purchase new radios for the police department; and exterior work and a new roof for the Homewood Science Center building.

One area of uncertainty in the budget is the effect a potential water rate hike could have on the $7.8 million water and sewer fund, which is dominated by the cost of purchasing Lake Michigan water from Chicago.
 
Bubenik said rate increases from Chicago have been in double digits in recent years. There was no rate hike last year, and the village has not received notice of a hike this year, but if Chicago raises rates the village will need to amend the budget to account for the change.

Homewood is unusual in working with a two-year budget plan, Bubenik noted. The budget under consideration will guide operations for the coming fiscal year. Then refinements will be made before the 2018-19 fiscal year begins. A majority of municipalities implement the standard one-year budget. Bubenik explained that the village began using the two-year budget process in 2013. 
 
President Richard Hofeld and Village Manager Jim Marino commended Bubenik, senior accountant Amy Zukowski and the village's department heads for their dedicated work on preparing the proposed budget.
 

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