When Flossmoor staff prepares the annual budget, the process first addresses the known quantities, the annual expenses and revenues, and the predictable, scheduled updates — or the “status quo,” as Village Manager Bridget Wachtel puts it. But sometimes new items come along in the process, and the village reviews those requests separately.
On Monday, March 20, Wachtel addressed five such additional funding requests, from fire and police to records keeping and community celebration, seeking village board input to help inform the final fiscal year 2024 budget. The items were presented for discussion only, and they either will or won’t be included in the final fiscal year 2024 budget when it is up for approval in April.
The fire department requested upgrading its KnoxBox and MedVault systems to a new KeySecure system that would allow for improved tracking of access. A KnoxBox is a lockbox on a building to allow for emergency access, while MedVault secures ambulance narcotics. The new system would implement individualized codes for greater accountability of access, according to Wachtel’s presentation.
The cost would be approximately $12,000, and the request was supported by Wachtel. No trustees presented questions or concerns about the request, so Wachtel said it would be added to the budget.
“We’re not expecting the replacement of this equipment again in the near future unless technology improves,” she added.
The police department requested a records room update, which would include the replacement of furniture, cabinetry and records storage, as well as clean-out of the old phone lines from when the village did dispatch, Wachtel explained. Flooring, which is “falling apart,” would be done at the same time as the village hall flooring project, Wachtel wrote.
“The timing of all of this could work out really well,” Wachtel told the board.
The police-related work is expected to cost up to $25,000. Wachtel also supported that request, and no concerns were raised by trustees about the proposal.
Wachtel also supported Laserfiche for record management. Flossmoor’s existing system consists of paper files, many without digital counterparts, she explained, as well as files on a network installed roughly 20 years ago. But the village needs a system to manage access and security related to those records, Wachtel said.
“This is a system where the village is a little behind the times, compared to our counterparts,” Wachtel said. “Public, private businesses all use some kind of document management system.”
A system such as Laserfiche would also help for records searches, including Freedom of Information Act requests, which are currently laborious when involving physical records, Wachtel said.
The Laserfiche software itself would cost Flossmoor roughly $12,850, plus $4,100 in annual maintenance and storage costs. But Wachtel recommended setting aside approximately $50,000 annually for five years to scan all needed documents, rather than doing it all at once for roughly $260,000. Laserfiche works with a scanning company to digitize and inventory documents, she explained.
“The real cost comes in converting any paper documents to save them electronically,” Wachtel said.
Trustees had some questions but said they see the work as necessary and want to get it done in the upcoming fiscal year. Mayor Michelle Nelson asked if that $50,000 would be locked in over the next five years. Wachtel said the amount could be decided on an annual basis.
“We want to make sure it’s significant enough that we can actually make some headway in getting the project done,” Wachtel said.
Wachtel supported allocating $50,000 in the FY24 budget for Flossmoor’s centennial celebration, for items such as “anniversary swag,” with the occasion landing in calendar year 2024. Planning is still underway, Wachtel noted, but staff has suggested adding anniversary elements to existing events such as Flossmoor Fest, July 4, and Small Business Saturday and the Village Tree Lighting. That would keep the celebration manageable but spirits high, Wachtel said.
“I think it’s a really responsible way to handle it,” Trustee Gary Daggett said.
The one additional expense out of the five reviewed that did not receive unanimous vocal support for FY24 was a shared-cost sidewalk program. The voluntary program would see the village and homeowners share costs to replace some public sidewalks, according to Wachtel’s report.
Flossmoor already has a program in place to address deteriorated or hazardous sidewalks, but funds are limited. A shared-cost program could extend to sidewalks below the existing damage threshold and possibly even requests for cosmetic repairs.
Wachtel noted the village tried a cost-sharing program for tree planting but it was only met with “modest interest” from residents. She further noted some residents would be unlikely to participate in a share-cost sidewalk program for financial reasons, which could create equity issues when it comes to repairs.
“If the board is interested in doing more sidewalk replacement, I would be encouraging us to either lower that standard or allocate additional funds as opposed to shifting to a share-the-cost program,” Wachtel said.
Trustee James Mitros said that he thinks the program is at least worth a try if it may increase production on sidewalk repair work in the village, especially if the village can secure matching funds. Trustee Brian Driscoll similarly said there may be an opportunity there if residents who are not in the first round of needed sidewalk repairs wanted to chip in to get the work done sooner, rather than later.
Mayor Michelle Nelson recommended deferring the program for now until the village has a better index of sidewalk conditions throughout Flossmoor, as well as a better understanding of what it would mean for insurance costs and liability.
“But I have been asked by residents in numerous communities within the village to look into this program,” Nelson said.
She added that she was open to the village sharing the cost of repairs for sidewalk deterioration under the usual threshold but thought it should stop short of handling cosmetic-only issues with tax dollars. Daggett seconded the no-cosmetics opinion, noting the village has enough safety-related work to do, but added he would welcome more information on a shared-cost program.
This marked the third of several planned discussions about the FY24 budget, prior to its approval. The village’s fiscal year runs from May 1, 2023, to April 30, 2024.