In his final days as village president of Glen Ellyn, Mark Pfefferman says he won't be signing on to the village's $48.1 million budget because the village should have "higher standards" for the document.
Pfefferman's gesture is largely symbolic, but he pointed to common errors made by village employees in putting together the 2013-14 spending plan and his inability to explain it to average residents.
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The budget was approved Monday on a 4-1 vote of the village board. Trustee Pete Ladesic was the lone vote in opposition; Pfefferman was absent at the time of the vote, though the village president votes only in the case of a tie.
On Tuesday, he sent an email to village board members, Village Manager Mark Franz and Village Finance Director Kevin Wachtel to say he would not be signing the budget ordinance. The ordinance will still take effect without his signature, because state law requires the ordinance be adopted only by the board before the start of the new fiscal year on May 1.
"The continuous progress we have made in improving budgets for the last three years has reversed direction," Pfefferman said in the email. "Errors, from levy amount to footnotes, were common. Our balanced budget and reserve policies, so clear last fall, have become too complicated for me to explain to interested customers without support materials.
"There are other examples," he added. "As a result, putting Glen Ellyn first, I will not be signing the budget ordinance."
He also said the budget doesn't position the village for future financial success, tie back to the village's goals and policy, and is not "effective or better in terms of communication, ease of understanding, accuracy, transparency, and accountability than last fiscal year's budget."
In an email to the Daily Herald, Pfefferman said the previous three budgets approved during his tenure as village president fell in the category of "best ever."
"The proposed 2013-14 budget is fine, but does not reach the same level," Pfefferman said. "Since the village president does not get to vote, I used this tool to hopefully influence higher expectations for Glen Ellyn's budget in the future."
In a letter to the editor submitted Thursday to the Daily Herald, Trustee Peter Cooper wrote that the budget was as "clear and forthcoming" as previous budgets, and does not reflect any change in the village's balanced budget or reserve policies.
Cooper said that during the budget preparation process, trustees "probed and questioned" the village management's "projections, priorities and assumptions," and management then updated the budget as new information became available, corrected math and typographical errors in the draft, and refined budget documents.
"The village president and trustees had a number of questions and concerns over the course of the five workshops and hearings that we conducted on the budget, but I do not recall that any material question went unanswered or that any significant concern went unaddressed," Cooper said.
The budget, covering 14 village funds, has a deficit of $1.6 million that is being balanced with reserve funds. Franz and Wachtel said it is a planned shortfall due to capital projects that are now taking place, such as renovations to the Village Links golf course, reconstruction of Hawthorne Boulevard, construction of a village parking lot and a salt storage structure.
"We're not in deficit spending, but in planned capital spending," Franz said.
Ladesic said it is a "deficit budget," and believes some capital projects could be deferred, while some things that have been delayed should move up on the village's priority list.
Cooper said the village saved money to pay for capital projects and isn't borrowing to pay for them.
Pfefferman said Village President-Elect Alex Demos and new board members who will be seated May 13 have "indicated desire to improve the budget and build on the positive foundation of the past three years."
Pfefferman decided not to seek re-election after serving a single 4-year term. Some residents encouraged him to buck the village's trend of elected officials serving a single term, but Pfefferman decided against it.
Sign: Mayor says three previous budgets were among the 'best ever'