Round two for village budget

Editor note: Trustee Bill Grabarek’s name was left off a quote attributed to him, which made it look like Elburn Police Chief Steve Smith said the quote. Further, the Elburn Police are in the process of acquiring the AR-15 weapons, and did not have them as of press time. The Herald regrets these errors.

by Susan O’Neill
ELBURN—During a budget discussion at Monday’s Committee of the Whole meeting, Village President Dave Anderson said he does not support hiring a full-time police officer at this point in time. According to Police Chief Steve Smith, the department has been filling the shifts of a full-time vacancy with part-time officers for more than two years.

Smith said that a state statute states that a full-time vacancy may not be permanently filled with part-time officers. In addition, he said more full-time officers give the department more consistency in scheduling.

Hiring part-time officers is less expensive—the hourly rate is lower, and the village does not have to pay for benefits, vacation time, etc. However, trustee Dave Gualdoni said his concern is that if an officer is injured while on the job, the village is responsible for paying worker’s compensation for his full-time position elsewhere, as well as for his part-time position with the village.

The police department has also budgeted $7,500 for ammunition for the year, up from the projected cost of $1,371 in 2012-13, to accommodate training on new weapons. The Elburn Police Department received 10 AR-15’s from the St. Charles Police Department at no cost to the village. St. Charles obtained the weapons from a federal program dispersing excess military stock, and is currently transitioning to new weapons.

The Elburn police officers will exchange their shotguns for the AR-15’s, a military grade weapon that is more accurate, has a longer range and accommodates a 20-round magazine. The other advantage, according to Smith, is that if the bullet misses its target and hits a car window or wall, it will break apart instead of ricocheting off of it, possibly hurting an innocent bystander.

Elburn, as of press time, did not yet have the weapons.

Smith said the AR-15, known in the military as an M-16, will give the Elburn police officers more firepower, putting them on a more even playing field with what people on the street might have.

“Sometimes police find themselves out-gunned,” he said. “You don’t want to wait until that happens.”

While the frangible nature of the ammunition used in these weapons prevents innocent bystanders from being hurt, it also shatters soft tissue once it hits its target.

“I’ve never been in a gunfight or a war, but those are pretty vicious weapons. Unfortunately, there are bad guys out there, and you do want a weapon that’s effective. But how destructive do we want the weapons to be? At close range, it can blow a guy apart,” said trustee Bill Grabarek.

All sworn officers will train and become certified on the new weapons, Smith said.

Village President Anderson would like to hire a village financial director in the next fiscal year, freeing up Village Administrator Erin Willrett to concentrate on her area of expertise: economic development.

Anderson said that Willrett has spent the last four years keeping an eye on the village’s finances with the assistance of a financial consultant, but he thinks it’s time to hire a person full-time with a background in finance.

The 2013-14 village budget shows a modest increase in the village revenues, including property, sales and income taxes. What that also means, interim Village Administrator Doug Elder said, is modest increases on the expense side. The budget calls for an average 3 percent increase for village employees, as well as an increase in the cost of their medical benefits.

Anderson said he is “cautiously optimistic” that the state will decide not to revert its Local Government Distributive Fund back to 2012 levels, something it threatened to do several weeks ago.

Elder said that the board will need to decide if it is time to conduct a formal analysis of the water and sewer rates, to make sure that the village is allowing for the cost of daily operation and ongoing maintenance of the water and sewer systems.

Several board members said they wanted to bring back the village’s National Night Out, an event sponsored by the Police Department that was cancelled last year.

The bottom line on the village budget is $267,000 to the good.

The Village Board will hold a public hearing on the appropriation ordinance at its April 1 meeting. The proposed appropriation ordinance shows the maximum amount approved by the board that may be spent on specific items, while the operating budget is the day-to-day guide for how the village will spend its money.

The appropriation ordinance will be available for public inspection in Elburn Village Hall from March 28 through April 15. The Village Board will vote on the appropriation ordinance and the budget at its April 15 meeting. The fiscal year will begin on May 1.