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Homewood capital projects to move ahead with surplus fund transfer

The Village of Homewood officially became debt free after paying off a $1.8 million bond on Nov. 14. The bond was issued in 2020.

A budget surplus generated by a healthy economy means the village will not have to issue a new bond in order to complete its planned capital projects in the coming year.

Mayor Rich Hofeld lauded the board and staff when the 2020 bond was paid off.

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“We are celebrating an exceptional accomplishment. I believe very few communities can say they have zero debt,” he said. “I am very proud of our hardworking staff and the village board.”

The village typically issues a bond every three years to pay for capital projects, but at the Dec. 12 board meeting, trustees approved a transfer of $2 million from the general fund to cover capital projects for the coming year.

Finance Director Amy Zukowski explained that revenues exceeded expectations, and that allowed the village to forgo issuing a new bond.

“When we received our 2023 audit results, we had a significant increase in the village’s fund balance,” she said.

Staff responded by sending to the board an updated fund balance policy that increased the minimum balance. The previous policy required the village to have enough money saved to account for four months of expenditures. The new policy bumps that up to five months of expenditures.

The board approved the new policy on Sept. 26.

The new policy also sets priorities for how to spend any surplus over the minimum balance.

The number one priority is capital projects, Zukowski said.

She also cited the current interest rate situation as another reason to avoid issuing a new bond.

Interest rates are higher now than they have been in years as the Federal Reserve Board continues to maintain high rates as a means of fighting inflation.

Skipping the new bond also allowed the village to reduce its tax levy by $500,000, she said.

“The decision was made to delay this next bond issuance to the fall of ‘24. We can see where things are at that time,” she said. “If we were to issue, that would give us an additional $2 million to fund even more capital projects.”

Trustees thanked Zukowski and her staff for managing the village’s financial resources well.

“I think that is so cool and so smart. I’m really glad we’re thinking ahead of the curve,” Trustee Anne Colton said.

The capital projects planned for 2024 include:

Department of Public Works

  • $728,000 for storm sewer at Loomis Avenue and Ridge Road.
  • $275,000 for ADA improvements at the Homewood Science Center.
  • $169,000 to replace the radio system.
  • $150,000 to replace and improve village-wide camera system.
  • $132,000 for Phase 1 of the 183rd Street Project.
  • $52,000 for auditorium HVAC rooftop unit.
  • $50,000 for tuckpointing at various buildings.
  • $47,500 for design work on the Ridge Road Storm Sewer project from Ashland Avenue to Center Avenue.
  • $47,500 for stabilizing and landscaping the Dixie Highway viaduct retaining wall.
  • $45,000 for roof and gutter improvements at the Brian Carey Training Center.
  • $31,000 for resurfacing the Homewood Science Center parking lot.
  • $28,600 for replacing the fence at the Municipal Service Center.

Fire Department

  • $25,000 to replace the second floor carpet.
  • $12,500 for extrication tool.
  • $10,000 to paint Brian Carey Training Center Building C.

Village Manager’s Office

  • $20,000 to upgrade switches for security camera system.

Total: $1,823,100

The board also approved the 2023 real estate tax levy at the Dec. 12 meeting. The total levy for municipal operations, pension obligations and debt service was $6,791,915, which is a decrease of 1.71% from the prior year’s extended tax levy, according to Zukowski in a memo to the board.

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