Matteson police officers and other village employees listen to officials discuss a proposed 2014-15 budget on Tuesday. | Nick Swedberg/For Sun-Times Media
Updated: May 10, 2014 6:45AM
Matteson might be forced to lay off firefighters and police officers to address about a $9 million debt in the village’s main operating fund that has accumulated in recent years.
Sales tax shortfalls continue to hit the village hard and have contributed to it running a budget deficit for several years, officials said Tuesday during a workshop session on the 2014-15 budget.
Trustees now have the task of slashing millions from the yearly operating budget, including possibly cutting 14 employees from the police and fire departments.
“We’ve looked at doing things differently to try and not come down to this possibility (of layoffs),” village administrator Brian Mitchell said.
Matteson borrowed from other village funds to bolster its general fund for several years, which officials publicly acknowledged on Tuesday wasn’t the best accounting practice. The fund’s debt is expected to grow to more than $9 million by April 30, 2015, the end of the 2014-15 fiscal year.
For 2015, Matteson anticipates more than $17.2 million in revenue and a general fund that will run just shy of $16.4 million. However, officials believe that a balanced budget for next year won’t completely address paying back what’s owed to other funds.
The proposed budget is about $1.4 million less than the village’s current general fund budget, officials said. Most of the proposed reduction would come from cuts to emergency services personnel as well as the equivalent of 5.5 full-time and three part-time village employees.
Members of the village board’s finance committee on Tuesday examined overtime expenses in both fire and police departments, probing how payroll cuts could affect their services.
Matteson’s fire department is one short of a full staff, Fire Chief Edward Leeson said. Overtime expenses ran high this year due largely to having less than a full staff, he said, but the department expects to reduce overtime costs by 2015 from more than $300,000 to about $100,000.
The police department has 37 full-time officers, down from 41, Deputy Chief Michael Jones said.
“Unlike the fire department, we’re not at our bare minimum,” Jones said. “We’re under.”
Jones studied police departments in neighboring towns comparable in size to Matteson and found that the village is handling more calls per officer.
“With our breakdown, we’re running shorthanded every day,” he said.
Matteson officials expect to have a new budget in place by May 1.