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Article posted: 12/12/2012 1:34 PM

Lombard considering year-round budget review

By Marie Wilson

Lombard trustees just finished reviewing and approving the village's 2013 budget, but they're already considering changes in the way they handle future budget talks.

Village Manager David Hulseberg said staff members are preparing a report about possible changes to the current method of budgeting, which divides expenditures by fund and department.

Acting Village President Peter Breen suggested one possible change last week, saying each village board committee should keep close watch over one department's budget year-round.

The village has six main departments -- community development, human resources, finance, fire, police and public works -- and six major standing committees -- community relations, economic and community development, environmental concerns, finance, public works, and transportation and safety -- each led by one trustee.

"It would make a lot more sense to have each of our six major standing committees oversee one of our six major departments to help with the budgeting and also watch the spending throughout the year," Breen said.

The idea developed while the board embarked on a line-by-line review of the 2013 budget over the past two months, Breen said. While some cuts were made -- including a $541,200 reduction in revenue by eliminating vehicle stickers -- he said other money-saving ideas were too difficult to implement last-minute.

"You don't have time to do the more long-term creative thinking that is going to be necessary to streamline operations," Breen said. "That work really should be done at our committee levels."

Trustee Keith Giagnorio said he wants to hear more from Breen about the proposed budgeting process before making up his mind.

"I'd have to see more detail on how far the committees will go into it, how involved it would be," Giagnorio said.

Trustee Greg Gron, who leads the finance committee, said he opposes year-round committee-level budgeting because he thinks the current approval process is complete.

The process was extended for the 2013 budget because it was the first after Lombard approved a switch to calendar-year budgets instead of fiscal years. But generally, several budget workshops are held, during which trustees hear presentations about each department's spending and ask questions. The finance committee also reviews each department's budget and a public hearing is held before trustees take a vote.

"I don't see a need for continued escalation of vetting," Gron said.

Breen, however, said the board should have as much involvement in budgeting as possible because its purpose is to allocate resources.

"Someone who thinks it is wrong for a board to be actively and heavily engaged in the budgeting process doesn't understand what a board does, how it should operate," Breen said. "It's the job of the board to allocate the resources. That is the board's job, period. It's not micromanaging."

The staff report on possible changes to the village's method of budgeting is expected to be complete in May, Hulseberg said. By then, a new village president elected in April will be in office and new faces also could join the board from trustee elections in Districts 1, 3 and 6.

Trustee Bill Ware, who will take the acting village president role from Breen on Jan. 17, said May is the appropriate time to address possible changes in budgeting procedures. He said he understands where Breen's idea comes from, but trustees will have to evaluate whether every committee has "the experience to look at the budget."

"We will take a look at that as we evolve through our tenures and when we get a new president in May," Ware said. "I think that all will be determined when we get a new board."

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