The Wellington Village Council continued to agonize over budget policy at its agenda review meeting Monday, discussing whether capital projects should be partially or fully funded, and whether the village should reduce its reserve fund from 31 percent as it stands now to 29 percent.
Reducing the reserve to 29 percent would free up about $750,000 to add to the village’s capital projects fund, which had an additional $3.2 million freed up from a reduction of millage rate stabilization funds in the general reserve created several years ago and deemed no longer necessary due to an improved economy.
Four council members had returned a spreadsheet, prepared by Vice Mayor John Greene, with their priorities for financing projects that had been recommended by village staff members.
Projects include intersection and drainage improvements, a school crossing, paving of 120th Avenue South and sidewalk improvements.
Councilwoman Anne Gerwig did not return a spreadsheet because she said she had already stated her preferences, questioning the spreadsheet’s listing of funding in percentages rather than in dollar amounts, which is how village staff had submitted the list.
“So you’re just saying do part of the project and not the whole project if you do 44 percent or 50 percent or 33 percent?” Gerwig asked. “You would do 33 percent of the project in this year?”
Councilman John McGovern defended the spreadsheet, saying that some of the projects could take more than a year to complete, and that some projects not scheduled to take place for several years could be financed incrementally.
“What I’m saying is that, yes, it should be begun, portions of it should be done, particularly as to mine,” McGovern said, referring specifically to a pathway project in the Aero Club. “I was told by the manager and staff that that is in the third year of the pathway plan, so I think that’s an important project, and it should be done. I think that if we have a village pathway plan, we should fund a third of it each year and have the money there in the third year.”
Mayor Bob Margolis asked village staff to clarify the source of the $3.2 million they were discussing.
“Would our reserves be affected? Because I keep hearing that the reserves have to be at 29 percent to be able to keep our triple-A rating and nothing changes, so between the 31 percent and the 29 percent, there may be an opportunity to allocate some additional funds toward more projects,” he said.
Director of Operations Jim Barnes said reducing the reserves from 31 percent to 29 percent would amount to about another $750,000.
“That’s conservatively estimating it right now, given that we’re looking at one year in the past and looking a year into the future as far as where we’re budgeting,” Barnes said. “If there’s a desire to do something like that, I think the best way to do it would be to do a budget amendment after we’ve closed the books on this year and have a better handle on exactly how those final numbers come in.”
Margolis favored the lower reserve number.
“I’ve always argued that it should go down to 29 percent, where it should be,” Margolis said. “Having it at 29 percent will have funding available for a couple of projects.”
Margolis also asked whether the council decided not to do some of the drainage projects, such as Big Blue Trace and Barberry Drive and Wiltshire Village Drive, if the intersection improvements adding left-turn lanes could be done, but Village Engineer Bill Riebe said the drainage improvements, which include road raising, are integrally tied together.
McGovern suggested that one of the projects could be fully financed but not the other, but Barnes said the Big Blue/Barberry project is currently not funded at all.
Barnes pointed out that if the council could not agree on how the $3 million should be spent, it is still in the general budget, and the council could do budget amendments individually as members come to decisions on the projects.
The council was expected to approve the final reading of the fiscal year 2016 budget on Thursday evening.