Wilmette plans increased stormwater fees, strategic reserve spending to recoup lost COVID-19 revenue
Getting in shape is the easy part. It’s staying in shape that is difficult.
Wilmette staffers presented to village trustees a mostly positive financial report Tuesday, Sept. 14, that included a review of 2021 thus far and a preview of 2022.
But the Village of Wilmette, like most municipalities, took a financial hit related to the COVID-19 pandemic and is finding ways to make up $1.2 million in revenues that it removed from its 2021 budget.
Finance Director Melinda Malloy and Assistant Village Manager Erik Hallgren presented trustees with the financial outlook.
According to the presentation, in 2022 the Village expects about $800,000 in new revenue from the tax levy and $240,000 from a new water account in North Maine Utilities — the Village of Wilmette operates its own water-treatment plant.
Malloy explained the Village plans to continue to increase resident stormwater fees, as well, which offsets costs associated with the Neighborhood Storage Project. Initial estimates show a 31.4 percent rise, which is annually about $55 for an average Wilmette home. Stormwater fees jumped 31.6 percent, or an average of $42, in 2020.
On top of the revenue bumps, Wilmette is planning to spend $5.24 from its reserves over the next four years. About $3 million in reserve spending has already been approved by the village, including $500,000 for pensions and $755,000 for road improvements tacked on to this year.
The strategy is meant to get the Village’s reserve level to 30 percent, a target set by village officials and within the standards of a high-quality financial rating from Moody’s.
The proposed spending includes pension contributions and capital projects, according to village documents.
Officials said if village revenues continue to outpace budget projections, more than $3 million in potential additional reserve spending has been identified.
The village is setting that pace already in 2021, according to Malloy.
After seven months, Wilmette is 4 percent above its revenue budget, documents show. The funds are buoyed by a record-high number of real-estate transactions (459) through seven months, Malloy said, adding that the annual average is 540.
Higher than expected income-tax and permit revenue also play a part in the revenue windfall that could be $3 million over budget by year’s end, she said.
According to Hallgren, expenditures also tell a good story — but not the full one.
While costs are pacing under budget, some deferred capital payments will catch up to the Village, and he is projecting the Village winds up $640,000 — or 1.2 percent — over budget in 2021.
A primary reason for the overspending is the $755,000 in additional roadwork approved by the Village Board in the spring.
The 2022 budget process began on Aug. 30 at the committee level and continues through the fall until a budget and a tax levy go in front of the Village Board in November and December, respectively.
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Joe Coughlin is a co-founder and the editor in chief of The Record. He leads investigative reporting and reports on anything else needed. Joe has been recognized for his investigative reporting and sports reporting, feature writing and photojournalism. Follow Joe on Twitter @joec2319