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Homewood’s 2023-24 budget still in black despite Walmart closing

Homewood’s village budget outlook for the coming year remains moderately positive, despite the closing of the Walmart store on Halsted Street.  Even with the potential tax loss from the closing, the fiscal year 2023-24 budget is projected to have $22,790 to fund balance.

Revenue chart

At the village board meeting on Tuesday, April 11, Finance Director Dennis Bubenik covered the plan for the $38.8 million budget. He said the anticipated budget will be sufficient enough to cover expenses for various projects, although not all of them.

Bubenik mentioned the presentation of this budget will be his last as finance director; he plans to retire in May.

“I’ve said it 24 times, I’d say it the next 24 years if I was staying, the most important planning document we prepare to discuss each year is the budget,” Bubenik said.

Expense chart

Bubenik said the property tax revenue represents only 12% of the revenues being used to provide general municipal services. It’s the  sales tax at 29%,  that is the village’s largest revenue source funding government services.

In the budget expenses,  police, fire, and public works account for 66% of the yearly budget, Bubenik said.

Sales tax revenue plus gasoline tax revenues are expected to see a substantial reduction in this budget due to the Walmart closing.  Bubenik said both taxes in next year’s budget were initially much higher until the store’s closing was announced in February. The store officially closed March  10.

“Back to the drawing board.  Although (Walmart closing) did change the budget substantially, these things happen. Somewhere down the line there will be somebody that replaces Walmart,” Bubenik said.

Homewood is continually in search of opportunities to increase sales tax revenue through other retailers both on the Halsted Corridor and downtown Homewood, he said, noting In the past year Homewood has added new sales tax generating retailers such as Bath & Body Works, Burlington, DTLR and various small businesses.

The village will see a $254,000 significant increase to the Risk Management Insurance
(IRMA) line item. The village has seen an increase in worker’s compensation claims over the last three years. Discussions are in the works to implement a plan to help reduce these costs.

“This has been a bad trend now for about three years, and it is something that we need to improve on.  I have some ideas on how we can hopefully turn that around,” Bubenik said.

State-shared income tax revenue is distributed to local governments through the Local Government Distributive Fund. The revenue helps local governments fund essential services and programs such as public safety, public health and basic infrastructure construction and repair.  The projection for next year’s budget is an estimated $3,024,500.

“State shared income has certainly helped us these last few years. This is a very important source that allows us to run a fire department and a police department,” Bubenik said.

Homewood received a total of approximately $2.5 million in federal American Rescue Plan Act funding provided as pandemic relief money.  ARPA dollars will help purchase a new ambulances to replace the current 2015 ambulance; additional sidewalk replacement and grinding; vehicle purchases; and a new small business incentive program. The village has until 2024 to obligate the ARPA dollars and 2026 to complete the projects/programs.

The part-time firefighter/paramedic program has been dissolved, and the budget dollars for the program are being reallocated to the department’s overtime line item.  

“They hung on as long as possible, but it’s not really 1963 anymore.  People are very busy at home and are less likely to volunteer,” Bubenik said.  Overall the fire department budget is up 3% and the police department is up 1%. 

“The biggest challenge across the country for police departments is to recruit and retain officers,” he said.

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