By Helu Wang
The Village of Baxter Estates has lowered its operating budget for the fourth straight year but by less of a margin than in previous years.
The village approved a $21,000 decrease in spending from last year’s budget during the Board of Trustees meeting last Thursday, approving a $781,112 budget for the 2019-20 fiscal year.
Village Trustee Chris Ficalora said the main reason for the drop in expenses was the decrease in employee insurance costs and debt coming off the books.
Most homes will see a modest tax increase under the budget proposal, while a significant portion will see a more sizable reduction, depending on home appraisals.
Despite the drop in the overall budget, the village found room to reinstate a leaf-removal program, increase funding for several services and overhaul how the village handles data.
Ficalora said switching to a new insurance policy, which he said provides better service at a lower cost, reduced expenses by $3,200. In addition, the village paid off a $90,000 bond last year.
The total amount of property taxes collected will increase by $13,611 but stay within the state cap on property tax increases. The main cause of the increase is a $6,100 cut in state aid.
Based on assessed value, 93 households in the village will see their taxes decline by $90, while 132 households can expect an increase of $58.
The cost savings enabled the village to invest in and expand several other services.
The village prioritized replacing the current manual records management system with what Ficalora called an impressive digital administration system. He said the $8,100 system will store data for everything within the village, including sewage system, street signs, lane blocks and building permits. Previous information will also be archived into the database.
“It will make it easy if you go out into the community,” Ficalora said. “You can look at all the village records from a laptop.”
While the village temporarily ended leaf removal in 2018, it came back to the proposed budget this year. In response to the requests from residents, the village resumed the $33,000 leaf removal.
There were slight increases in personnel and contractual expenses covering storm sewers, street sweeping, and tree planting.
Residents who want a tree planted in front of their property could file an application and the village would consider paying for the installation.
“Each year we look for different and better way to do things,” Ficalora said. “My focus is to decrease our overall expenses.”
Mayor Nora Haagenson, Deputy Mayor Charles Comer and Ficalora were also sworn in at the meeting after being re-elected last month in uncontested races.