JOLIET – The city may eliminate much if not most of a projected $8.7 million budget deficit for fiscal 2018 without cutting a thing.
But it will cut out “very conservative” budgeting practices that city officials said contribute to a history of projected deficits that don’t materialize.
The council met Wednesday for its first review of the proposed fiscal 2018 budget that was released last week.
New City Manager David Hales suggested that the city switch from “very conservative” budgeting to “moderately conservative” budgeting when asked to look for ways to reduce the deficit .
“I think you send a better, more positive image to the public,” Hales told the council. “We could still accomplish everything but look at a way to be more realistic on that operating deficit.”
The $8.7 million deficit is in the $183.3 million general fund, which covers most city operations.
Joliet typically budgets deficits that shrink by millions or even turn into surpluses by year’s end.
In fiscal 2017, the city budgeted a $7.7 million deficit. Finance Director James Ghedotte said the city now expects that deficit to be $1.6 million.
Ghedotte said the biggest factor in the deficit is that the budget assumes every job in the city payroll will be filled year-round.
“That’s not going to happen,” he told the council.
The city has a $44 million reserve fund that is used to cover what deficits do occur.
Unused vacation time
The city expects to spend $643,000 in payouts to nonunion employees on unused vacation, sick and compensation time in December 2018, Ghedotte said.
Joliet is requiring nonunion employees to use up time they have been allowed beyond normal caps by December in order to limit the impact of such payouts on pension costs when cashed in at retirement.
The city still is budgeting $1 million in fiscal 2018 for increased pension costs created when employees cash in unused time before retirement.
The city expects to get nearly 3.4 percent more revenue from property taxes in fiscal 2018 without an increase in the tax rate, Ghedotte said. The increase is mostly due to new construction as well as an increase in property assessments.
“This is good news,” Ghedotte told the council. “Our property has turned the corner, and we’re finally starting to see some increases.”
Joliet expects to get nearly $35.6 million in property taxes next year.
The council plans to vote on the budget at its Dec. 19 meeting. A public hearing on the budget will be held at the Dec. 18 pre-council meeting. Another special meeting for budget review will be held at
5:30 p.m. Dec. 13.