Audit & Finance Meeting Recap – March 7, 2013

Hello Everyone,

Budget season is in full gear, and this 5+ hour meeting was certainly proof of that.  This meeting featured the budget presentation from Public Works Director Bob Cole.  He spent hours outlining all of the previous year’s achievements, goals for the upcoming year as well as the new budget requests which ran the spectrum from personnel and playground equipment to new sludge presses for the wastewater treatment facility.

I single out those two items among the dozens that were discussed for good reason.  One is to highlight the need for creative solutions to ease the current stress on our budget.  The line item for new playground equipment is $150,000 – which unfortunately doesn’t buy nearly as much equipment as you would think.  I suggested the possibility of proactively pursuing corporate sponsorship for this expense.  $150,000 for new sewer mains is a tough sell to the McDonalds, Woodmans and Ottos of the village – however $150,000 for playground equipment is fortunately much easier.  I believe we could get this at least partially funded with corporate donations as long as we make it clear that participating businesses will be highlighted prominently in the village newsletter as well as the website.  This could lead to the donations becoming a cost-neutral or even positive as appreciative residents thank these businesses with their wallets.  This is the kind of approach to creative solutions we need in order to overcome the challenges of an extremely tight budget.

As expected, discussion on the proposed sludge presses was as lively as they should be when entertaining the thought of purchasing $2,000,000 worth of new equipment.  This would be a huge expense for residents and I, for one, do not take it lightly.  My main concern is that we won’t hit every metric and goal that the new sludge presses are supposed to deliver (more compact storage, 20 year life cycle, etc.).  Every step away from these metrics gives residents a lower and lower return on investment.  I suggested that we contact surrounding municipalities that have installed these new centrifuge sludge presses and poll them on how actual performance as been vs. projected performance.

I’ll put all my cards on the table here, I am hesitant about this purchase.  Some of the budget estimates for the alternatives (rehabbing existing sludge presses) seemed exaggerated in some places, and being an auditor – that immediately raised flags for me.  I am not a fan of the increased water rates and do not want the village buying big ticket items like this when they don’t have to just because they can.  Had I been a village trustee back when the new Public Works building had been built, I would have voted for a scaled-back version that could have made it easier to justify capital improvements such as this.

That said, Bob Cole did an amazing job presenting for the many departments under his direction.  He was on his feet answering questions and going into detail on dozens of expenses for over 4 hours.  I certainly appreciate the time and effort.

Pictured below is a 21 year old dump/salt truck that Public Works hopes to replace.  As you can see, village staff has been rather creative in their ability to hide the rusting frame.

Image

Have a great weekend, everyone.

Kevin

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