Northfield trustees got an early look Tuesday, March 21, at the Village’s 2024 budget.
The financial forecast was the subject of a presentation given at the Village Board’s monthly committee of the whole meeting, where most of the time was dedicated to reviewing the budget’s expenditures line by line.
Village Manager Stacy Sigman told trustees that the budget is balanced, with an estimated revenue of $13.64 million and expenditures coming in around $13.52 million.
This would mean, she added, the Village would have an approximate surplus of $125,000 at the end of the next fiscal year, which for Northfield ends on April 30, 2024.
Revenue is expected to increase 13.5 percent year over year, with an estimated $300,000 boost from BLOC Cannabis Dispensary, which is expected to open later this year at 161 Waukegan Road.
The building, which previously housed a bank, is currently under construction.
In January 2021, the Village Board OK’d cannabis dispensaries within town limits along with a 3 percent sales tax on all cannabis sold. A little over a year later, the board approved BLOC to renovate and occupy 161 Waukegan Road.
“At this point, we’re hoping they’ll open roughly in September,” Sigman said, which will give Village staff about four months of data to help the 2024 projections.
The only budget item that led to a question from the public was the water and sewer funds.
Sigman said the Village water and sewer rates are set to increase 2.5 percent on May 1. She attributed the hike to a 5.46 percent increase in cost of water from Winnetka, which provides the water for Northfield.
She said that increase is “the largest single line item outside of capital that the water fund has.”
In response to a resident’s concerns about the increase, Sigman explained that Northfield currently has a 30-year contract with Winnetka for water service, which they entered into in 2003.
The water rate increases with the consumer-price index “… and with inflation being as high as it was this past year, that’s the rate increase,” Sigman explained.
Trustees also spent some time discussing other line items they’ve been considering funding.
They agreed to allocate $20,000 toward planning for the Village’s centennial celebration, which will be in 2026.
Trustee Tracey Mendrek said she thought it would be best to bring on a consultant to help them plan.
“It makes sense to have someone with (a) marketing, planning background to take a look at this, and so we’re asking for no more than $20,000 to be able to hire someone to give us some direction over the next year,” she said.
Sigman noted that there is not a current Village staff member who has that type of background.
Trustee Barnaby Dinges agreed.
“This could be a really good thing for our town, and I think we want to be smart, we want to be strategic about it, and get ideas going and work with professionals,” he said.
Trustees decided to hold off on allocating money for an additional police officer, which was suggested by Trustee Charles Orth as a way of saving on overtime costs.
Police Chief Bill Lustig told Orth that while he appreciated his suggestion, he’s had challenges filling vacancies on the department and would rather wait to see if another officer is necessary.
“I would like to be at full staffing, see how we’re handling our calls for service, and then at the end of the year, take a look at this and see if another officer can be added to the department,” Lustig said.
Following the committee of the whole meeting, trustees unanimously approved the draft budget at their regular Village Board meeting.
The budget will be up for final approval at the board’s next meeting on April 18.
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Peter Kaspari is a blogger and a freelance reporter. A 10-year veteran of journalism, he has written for newspapers in both Iowa and Illinois, including spending multiple years covering crime and courts. Most recently, he served as the editor for The Lake Forest Leader. Peter is also a longtime resident of Wilmette and New Trier High School alumnus.