First, my compliments on the trustees' current budget restraint and capital deferrals, this is a good start.
However, this level of restraint is not quite enough considering prevailing circumstances. A village tax increase of any amount is unhealthy in the current financial crisis with our residents' job losses and significant, widespread wealth and income reductions. We need people wanting to locate to our fine village and prudent tax management is a unique attribute. Having no increase now would be a welcome selling point for our local realtors and businesses and could be the foundation of a long-term local recovery.
The trustees have to develop a tougher attitude toward expense and cash outlays, an attitude reflective of a deep and prolonged recession or, unfortunately, possibly national depression.
Naturally, every village department will have project requests, but business as usual must change in the next 12-18 months or until we return to some form of economic normalcy. What was normal is not reasonable now.
For example, the recent publicized Recreation Department's request for artificial turf costing $340,000, then partial reduction to $125,000 is irresponsible in today's environment. Plant grass for less than $4,000 or play on bare ground for a couple of years - I did. And, who needs a consultant for $20,000 on this project?
Freeze all hiring and halt filling any vacant positions. All means, all: police, teachers, administrators, judges, public works, etc.
Freeze all wages. Inflation is at best 1-2 percent and we are now trending to a period of deflation. These levels should be reflected in all wage decisions. The recent 8 percent increase for the police was outrageous - reverse that decision.
Department budgets need to be rejected and returned with strict guidelines for zero dollar growth, if not reduction. If village department budgets are not zero dollar growth, mandate austerity budgets. Exert your authority of reason; this is why you were selected.
Halt all use of consultants. We have enough capable residents who would be happy to serve the village on a voluntary basis. I would be willing to develop a list of capable resident volunteers for specific assignments.
Our mayor and trustees need to take firm control of the village's expenditures and capital outlays. These hard times require tough, no-nonsense leadership. We all expect that there will be a recovery at some point and that these tough measures will be temporary.
I am sure that our residents will rally around a short-term zero rate increase tax plan and be most appreciative of your efforts. The board has been torn apart by the St. Paul's decision; however all trustees and residents can now come together in agreement on the single issue of avoiding any tax increase in 2009 and 2010.
If I can be of any assistance in reviewing the detailed budgets, I would be happy to augment your efforts.
Richard P. Bankosky