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Matteson aiming to avoid layoffs in its new budget

Updated: May 19, 2014 2:12PM



Matteson trustees have backed away from a plan to have a balanced budget for the 2014-15 fiscal year, apparently deciding to approve a deficit budget to avoid layoffs.

At a workshop session Wednesday night, the village board and Mayor André Ashmore discussed a revised budget from the one presented April 8 to the board. That earlier proposal called for laying off 22 employees, including an undisclosed number of police officers.

Jenny Booth, a consultant with Theobald Associates, of Joliet who helped prepare the budget in the absence of a village finance director, said continuing shortages in the general fund, the village’s main operating fund, since 2006 have left the fund in “very poor financial health” with an approximate $9 million deficit.

“Either revenues need to be increased or expenditures need to be decreased,” Booth said.

The village board is expected to vote April 28 on the 2014-15 budget, which takes effect May 1 with the start of the new fiscal year.

Trustee Sheila Chalmers-Currin said she’s “extremely concerned” about the state of the village’s finances.

“To continue to have a budget that isn’t balanced puts this village in a serious situation,” Chalmers-Currin said. “If, in fact, you continue to spend money you do not have, you put the village in jeopardy for several years down the line.”

Trustee Kevin Little said Matteson is trying to maintain village services with less revenue rather than spending more money as in past years. He said if the village became a home-rule community via referendum, it could adopt a village sales tax that would likely affect non-resident shoppers more than Matteson residents.

“We don’t have a spending problem,” Little said. “We have a revenue problem.”

Trustee Sam Brown said home rule was a “piece of the puzzle, but it’s not the whole puzzle.” He said the village needs to find a way to bring in businesses “that pay high wages” and to find entertainment venues that “nobody else has.”

“We can do way better than just to raise taxes,” Brown said.

Trustees Veloid Cotton and Bridget Dancy questioned the overtime costs in the police department. Dancy said police overtime had been $600,000 per year and was cut to $500,000.

Acting Police Chief Michael Jones said he’s confident the police department “can cut overtime by two thirds, if not three fourths,” with union cooperation. He said officers have been “switching schedules for the last two or three weeks” to help reduce overtime.

“Everybody understands the situation that we’re in,” Jones said.

Ashmore said laying off police would not help the overtime issue, would put “citizens at peril” and would “still not balance the budget.”

“For the larger good, I would encourage the board to … pass the deficit budget … and avoid at this time this massive reduction in force,” he said.



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