Arlington Heights began what officials predicted will be a straightforward budget approval process Wednesday night with the first of four public meetings.
"I think this is the most important thing that we do as elected officials," said Mayor Thomas Hayes, "to really determine where the people's money is going to go and how it's going to be spent for the betterment of this community."
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The proposed village budget, which starts May 1, totals at $154.55 million, which represents a 3.4 percent decrease from the current year.
"The proposed budget is a plan, not a promise to spend," said Village Manager Bill Dixon, who said there are no major new programs or changes with this year's budget.
Budgets for the board of trustees, village manager's office, human resources department, legal department, finance department and IT were all approved without incident Monday night.
One of the changes discussed was an additional $75,000 to revamp the village website, which was last updated in 2009.
"We believe this project is a significant step forward in meeting the village's ongoing goal of improving communications," said Diana Mikula, assistant to the village manager.
The new site will be easier to navigate, be usable on all devices and include online forms and calendars, Mikula said.
The current website receives more than 25,000 visits per month, said Community Relations Coordinator Nancy Kluz.
During the human resources review, department director Mary Rath mentioned a new internship and mentoring program with Northwest Suburban High School District 214. The village will hire a student to work with the engineering department and provide exposure to the work world, Rath said.
When discussing the legal department, assistant village attorney Robin Ward noted the added expense that has come with increased Freedom of Information Act requests. The village processed 898 FOIA requests in calendar year 2011, but that number was up to 1,139 in 2013, Ward said.
"It is very time consuming," she said.
Ward also noted the good news that foreclosures in the village were down from 364 in 2011 to 207 in 2013.
The remaining budget meetings are scheduled for 7:30 p.m. on the third floor of village hall, 33 S. Arlington Heights Road.
A meeting on Monday, March 10, will discuss the budgets for the Arlington Heights Memorial Library, the Building and Health Services Department and the Metropolis Theater -- a topic that has been contentious among the board and the community in the past.
The Thursday, March 13, meeting will discuss budgets for the engineering, public works, water and sewer, parking operations and fleet services departments.
The final budget meeting on Wednesday, March 19, will discuss budgets for all of the village's boards and commissions, fire, police and the planning & community development departments, as well as any carry-over items from prior meetings.
The proposed budget can be viewed online at http://www.vah.com.