The Village of Skokie’s Fiscal Year 2023 (FY23) Budget was recently approved by the Village Board after first being reviewed in detail by Village Board members during three public hearings in April 2022. According to Village Manager John Lockerby, the FY23 Budget maintains the Village’s 32-year property tax freeze and continues the Village’s exemplary service delivery despite the current volatile economic environment. The $63.7 million operating budget funds important financial priorities that were cut or delayed during the pandemic. These include a fire tower ladder, the development of the next Economic Development Strategic Plan and implementing police body worn cameras. Additionally, seven miles of neighborhood streets will be resurfaced, which meets Village resurfacing goals.
The FY23 budget also includes the unfreezing of a number of key staff positions of which include a social worker to fill the vacancy left by dedicating a full-time social worker to the Co-Responder program, two firefighter and two police officer positions, a public health analyst to assist in the development of the Village’s next Illinois Project for Local Assessment of Needs (IPLAN), and a communications position to assist with the Village’s outreach and community engagement. Despite unfreezing a number of positions, 48 remain frozen. Even with these expense increases, the FY23 budget is balanced, restores the Village’s fund balance goal of 25% and maintains Village services to the high-level that the community has come to expect.
Overall revenue projections for FY23 reflect cautious optimism as the local and regional economy have shown resiliency despite the significant shock during the COVID-19 pandemic. This was aided by the sales tax legislative changes enacted in 2021 which have allowed the Village to capture a significant portion of online sales transactions. Barring any serious impacts from inflation and the overall economic instability, there is reason to believe the Village’s revenue environment is now more stable than in years past.
In FY23, the Village will receive the second and last installment of American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds, which helped fund Village services during major revenue declines in the pandemic. A portion of these funds, however, will be distributed back to the community through various grant opportunities. These include grants to local agencies impacted by COVID-19, the Skokie Park District and Skokie Public Library which were excluded from ARPA funding, business support grants for low income and/or minority owned businesses, additional funding to the Village’s Emergency Financial Assistance program for Skokie residents and families and increased funding to the Workforce Development program in partnership with Oakton Community College.
Sustainability remains a top priority in FY23 as the Village and Sustainable Environmental Advisory Commission (SEAC) work on the new Sustainability Plan. The plan will be funded by civic contributions received from the electric aggregation program and will include metrics for tracking progress, input from the community and incorporate the Village’s social equity goals. Additional sustainability initiatives include the purchase of six new electric/hybrid vehicles, two new electric vehicle charging stations at Village Hall increasing the onsite total to four, increased funding for upgrading street light fixtures to lower-watt LEDs, and funding for three green alley projects.
Among other new initiatives being implemented in FY23 is a body camera program for police officers. Following the successful pilot of the program which concluded in FY22, this program encompasses a single-vendor system that will provide each officer with a body worn camera along with in-car video systems, Tazers and investigative video management systems. This one-system solution is vital in minimizing the need for increased staff while efficiently and effectively managing these technologies into the future.
When the $8.75 refuse fee was implemented in FY22 as a result of the significant increase in cost to provide refuse collection and disposal during the COVID-19 pandemic, staff anticipated the need to fully phase-in the monthly refuse cost to $26.25 per unit over a three-year period. With the recent improvements in revenue, it is no longer necessary to pass on such increases to the customers and only an inflationary increase of $0.50 was approved, resulting in a monthly per unit fee of $9.25. Even with this minor increase, the fee is still one of the lowest in the area and only represents one-third of the actual annual refuse collection and disposal service cost.
Additionally, the Village water rate is increasing 52 cents per 100 cubic feet. Despite the increase, water fund revenues are not sufficient to cover operational and capital planned expenditures, requiring approximately $3.3 million in reserve utilization.
“While FY23 demonstrates some cautious optimism with Village finances, Village staff will continue to closely monitor the economic environment to ensure that Skokie’s decades-long record of efficiency and excellent customer service will continue,” said Lockerby. “I appreciate the leadership of the Village Board in addressing the current challenges. I also am grateful for the hard work of all Village staff as they adhere to a high standard of excellence while being mindful of the need to conserve fiscal resources as they serve the community each and every day.”