While the COVID-19 pandemic remains present, the Village of Wilmette reviewed a portion of its effect on the community on Tuesday, July 13.
During the regular Wilmette Village Board meeting, trustees were presented with the findings from an independent audit of the village’s 2020 financial report and the outcomes from the Village’s COVID-19 response.
The audit received a “clean, unmodified” opinion from Lauterbach & Amen LLP, a public accounting, financial and tax services firm, which is the highest possible result, according to the village.
Even though “2020 was obviously a challenging year because of the pandemic,” according to Village Finance Director Melinda Molloy, “revenues performed better or not as bad as we thought.”
The Village projected a $3.3 million operating loss in 2020 but only wound up $861,000 below budget, a difference of $2.44 million, according to the general fund income statement within the audit report.
The operating loss was offset by a transfer from the Water Fund, which allowed a net increase of $159,000 to the ending fund balance.
The details of the transfer were unclear by press time.
There has also been a “significant decline in net pension liability,” Lauterbach & Amen, LLP, auditor Brad Porter said during the Village Board meeting.
The pandemic caused the public safety sector — which includes police, fire and emergency services — to spend about $5 million more than expected. Of the $21.67 million spent on public safety, 45 percent, or $9.8 million, went toward emergency fire and medical services, according to village documents.
Only $45,450 was spent on public health; however, Village officials pointed to a number of programs added in 2020 to assist residents’ physical, financial and emotional wellbeing during the pandemic.
Some of the highlights were: halting water shutoffs for four months; enabling outdoor events for schools, places of worship and businesses; purchasing of a disinfectant-making machine in case of shortages; making available a social worker for telephone counseling; conducting more than 50 birthday drive-bys from police and fire personnel; providing almost $400,000 in grants to small businesses; and offering utility-bill assistance to residents.
The Village’s Community Caretaker program also assisted a number of “vulnerable” locals and reportedly checked in on 1,500 residents, while the village and Woman’s Club of Wilmette partnered to secure vaccines for dozens of locals.
Village President Senta Plunkett expressed gratitude toward all Village sectors and community members for their roles in fighting COVID-19.
“It makes me feel really fortunate to live here and to know that as much can be handled in a situation where we have so little control,” Plunkett said. “It’s quite remarkable, and thank you to all of the staff and residents who all chipped in and did what they could.”
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Alayne Trinko is an editorial intern who assists the editor-in-chief in reporting hyperlocal news, developing engaging multimedia, and building community trust. Alayne was a staff writer and Focus section editor for The DePaulia, DePaul University’s student-run newspaper. Alayne will be a junior studying journalism this fall and hopes to study abroad to conduct social justice reporting on women’s reproductive health issues in Africa or India in summer 2022. Follow her on Twitter @AlayneTrinko.