Closing the Gap

The Naperville City Council is struggling to plug a $5-7 million hole in the 2012 budget proposal.

By the end of a recent five hour budget workshop meeting, council members found $3 million in cuts they could make to the city’s financial proposal.

“This thing called government is difficult, because we have nine different people up there with nine different ideas,” said city councilman Richard Furstenau. “You have to come together, and you have to make collective decisions sometimes everybody doesn’t like, but it’s the best things for it.”

The longest discussion of the night surrounded the city’s leaf pickup program, which costs Naperville just over a million dollars a year. City council members considered chopping that budget by as much as a third. But Naperville Public Works Director Dave Van Vooren claimed there’s no way to continue the program at that price without service cuts.

“It’s a challenge for us to meet their expectations of a program that they asked the city to do,” said Van Vooren. “We’ve been kind of empowered to complete that, and it’s managing those expectations that’s become more and more difficult.”

Some other possibilities for raising revenue, the city may raise parking ticket fees from the current $15 amount. Council members also reached a consensus to combine the Zoning Board of Appeals and the Plan Commission, lengthen both commercial and residential inspection times, and cancel the city wide survey.

Three departments escaped further budget cuts: the police department, which recently lost 6 positions, the fire department, and the city legal department.

“With nearly 70% of our total call volume needing ambulances, it’s important for us to preserve those vehicles as much as possible,” said Naperville Fire Chief Mark Pukaitis. “So, I’m glad the decision was to keep those ambulances out on the street.”

Even with these reductions, the proposed budget still suffers from a gap, adding up to as much as $4 million.

“The discussion was worthwhile,” said Furstenau. “We left with additional items that we had called the city manager to take an additional look at, which will bring us some additional savings as we go down in the future here.“

City staff will consider council’s feedback, re-evaluate and present their suggestions at the next budget meeting on December 13th.

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