Burr Ridge Village Board members this week continued their string of unanimous votes supporting the municipality’s annual budget.
Two weeks ago, that eight-year string looked as though it would not reach nine as board members split on the budget 3-3, with dissenters feeling enough was not being done to target future-year deficits. Mayor Mickey Straub voted against the budget to generate more discussion, stating that a mayor should not be the deciding vote on the village’s spending plan.
Several changes generated through an April 23 budget workshop got board members in harmony and the fiscal plan passed by a 6-0 vote Monday.
“Since 2006, we have had unanimous approval of the budget,” Straub said during a break in Monday’s meeting. “It was great to see us work together to find common ground.”
During a public hearing on the budget, resident Alice Krampits suggested that with budget deficits looming in 2016-17 and beyond, the village consider not replacing officer Eric Koslowski, who will be going to work for the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
“It would make little difference (in public safety) and could avert other tough decisions,” Krampits said.
She noted Burr Ridge is at 2.73 police officers per 1,000 residents, which is above the national average of 2.4 officers per 1,000 residents. Krampits said Hinsdale is at 1.6 officers per 1,000 residents, La Grange at 1.73, and Willowbrook at 2.4.
Barrington, she noted, which has the same size population as Burr Ridge, averages 2.3 officers per 1,000 residents.
“The position is open. You can simply chose not to refill it,” Krampits said. “You are not getting rid of someone, affecting their livelihood. You are not affecting families with that decision.”
Between salary and benefits, it costs the village about $100,000 to add a new police officer to the staff.
Village Administrator Steve Stricker said more has to go into the equation for figuring out the number of officers to have than just population. He said other resources, such as the amount of business in a community, also have to be weighed.
He noted that the village dropped its number of full-time officers from 29 to 27 a few years ago when it had financial issues.
“The board has taken tough moves,” Stricker said.
Longtime Trustee Al Paveza questioned whether there was support for such action.
“In all the years I have been on the board, the police are the closest to being a sacred cow that there is,” Paveza said. “Residents do not want cuts made in the Police Department. Burr Ridge residents have a presumption about police presence.
Paveza said it takes months to get a new officer hired and on the street so the village does see a cost-savings in the time the position sits vacant.
Diane Bolos, one of the trustees to vote against the budget two weeks ago, said she was proud of the extra steps that were taken now to try to target ways to address future deficits.
“I want to let residents know of the constructive progress we have made,” Bolos said. “We turned an $83,000 deficit in 2015-16 into a $25,000 surplus. We got an $877,000 deficit in 2016-17 down to $500,000.”
She said the board and administration will continue to look at ways to tackle looming deficits.