Island Lake board slashes spending for new fiscal year
Months late, Island Lake officials have adopted a nearly $7.9 million budget for the 2020 fiscal year -- and it's a much leaner proposal than the previous year's plan.
The plan calls for an estimated 12% drop in spending from the 2019 fiscal year's $8.9 million budget.
The cost-shaving is a response to continued declines in revenue from property taxes and sales taxes, officials said.
Proposed revenue is expected to be about $7.9 million in the new fiscal year, which began May 1. That's down from last year's original $8.9 million projection.
Village officials revealed in March that revenue from taxes, fees and other sources was predicted to be about $2 million below expectations for the 2019 fiscal year.
Trustee Chuck Cermak said the public's use of online retailers like Amazon.com hurt sales at local brick-and-mortar stores, and that's reducing the village's share of tax revenue.
"People aren't buying (locally) like they used to," Cermak said.
To balance the budget, officials proposed reducing spending by delaying or scaling back projects such as a planned expansion of a water treatment plant and water main improvements.
"We're only trying to work with what we have," Cermak said.
According to village Treasurer Ed McGinty, the projects and purchases in the budget include:
• Water tower painting and maintenance, which could cost $120,000.
• Leases for six new police vehicles, at an estimated $73,000 cost.
• A sewer-cleaning truck, which could cost $48,000.
Most towns adopt budgets before the fiscal year starts, but Island Lake's spending plan typically is finalized in the weeks afterward.
This year's budget was more than two months late. McGinty attributed the delay to the election of three new trustees in April.
"(They) needed to be involved in the preparation of how the budget numbers are developed," McGinty said.
Legal bills cost Island Lake hundreds of thousands of dollars in the years preceding Mayor Charles Amrich's election in 2013, much more than in other villages its size. Amrich campaigned on a promise to reduce those fees, which he accomplished.
But the investigation that led to the firing of Island Lake Police Chief Anthony Sciarrone, Sgt. Billy Dickerson and another officer last year has cost taxpayers about $87,150 in legal fees through June, records show.
Sciarrone and Dickerson are two of the plaintiffs in a lawsuit filed this month against the village alleging corruption by Amrich, former Trustee Mark Beeson and former Building Commissioner Wayne Schnell.