KANKAKEE — A move to adopt and approve the $27.2 million Kankakee municipal budget was put on hold one week ago.
Now Ald. Mike O’Brien, D-2, the Budget Committee chairman, who led the effort on July 20 to slow the approval process, laid out a timeline at Monday’s special Budget Committee meeting to push back the budget vote until Sept. 8 for its first vote and Sept. 21 for its final vote.
“This would allow us to finish our work” regarding a review of the 54-page document, O’Brien said, along with a deeper look into how past budgets have fared in terms of budgeted versus final numbers.
In addition, O’Brien noted the budget cannot be voted on at the next Kankakee City Council meeting on Aug. 3 even if the council would want to. He said the document has not been put up for public inspection for the state-required 10-day viewing period.
He also noted that when the council sought to adopt the document at its most recent meeting, the council did not hold the mandated public hearing prior to the regular council meeting.
Therefore, O’Brien reasoned, the earliest city lawmakers could cast a vote on the budget would be Aug. 17.
At the special Budget Committe, the five council members in attendance — O’Brien; Tyler Tall, D-5; Jim Faford, R-4; Chris Curtis, R-6, (who attended via telephone); and Dave Crawford, R-3 — all favored holding off the vote until September so better financial numbers could be gained.
No one from the city administration other than Fire Chief Damon Schuldt was at the budget meeting.
The council members said the greater the review time, the better understanding they will have as to how the COVID-19 virus is impacting city sales taxes and how well city property owners are paying their second installment of property taxes due in September.
The concern is both funding sources could be lower than anticipated and if so, the city would have time to incorporate more realistic numbers, O’Brien noted.
Due to the pandemic declaration by Gov. J.B. Pritzker, municipalities are not required to adopt a budget until 60 days after the declaration has been lifted.
The budget, as presented last week, had a small surplus for $20,668.
Curtis, who has announced a mayoral run, said a reserve that small is simply not enough. He said as long as there is extra time, the council should seek to bring the surplus to the $100,000 to $200,000 range.
The aldermen at the meeting stated if cases of COVID-19 rise as they have in other states, there could be a second shutdown and that would make the proposed budget obsolete.
Curtis said the city should be looking to cut costs within the planning and legal departments, and he even suggested council members take a pay cut to save money.
Other members said the city could also look to temporarily eliminate the $60,000 city lobbyist position.
Aldermen at the meeting also took aim at the proposed $10.2 million bond issue for capital projects which the administration also had sought approval on last week.
While the five aldermen had a few issues with some of the items such as leasing short-term items such as police and fire radios with long-term debt, their chief focus was paying salaries with bond funds.
The city is seeking to fund three years of fees for planning, engineering and network consultants — just more than $1 million — through the bond issue.
“Salaries should never be paid through bonds,” Crawford said.
Rather, he said, those monies should come through the general fund.
“We’re doing things backwards in my opinion,” he said.
Faford added: “Putting salaries in a bond issue is ridiculous. ... You pay for salaries as you go.”