HUNTLEY – Grafton officials point to shrinking debt and a delicate stash of reserves in their latest financial plan as proof that a near bankrupt township a year ago is on a path to recovery.
The balanced, $1.38 million Town Fund budget the Grafton Board unanimously approved earlier this week features items seldom seen in past plans.
It also includes $64,000 in cash reserves officials use for unforeseen expenses and to maintain the township between property tax payments.
Although a “dangerous level,” the reserves are in better shape than a year ago when the board inherited a township that had almost zero money, said Supervisor Jim Kearns.
Entering a new budget year, the township will continue its strict spending habits in hopes to have more than $300,000 in cash reserves.
“Our intention with this year’s budget is to build our cash reserves,” Kearns said. “In our second year in office, our goal is to have the township back to fiscal stability.”
The latest financial plan by the revamped board includes about $60,000 more in expenses and revenue from the budget they crafted days after taking office last year.
In it, they plan to spend $25,000 on the only legal bill that remains from the infamous lawsuits that created Grafton’s financial woes. The new budget also details less debt than what board members inherited.
Officials have roughly $180,000 left on a loan used to buy back the current Town Hall in Huntley from the Road District. This time last year, officials were looking at nearly $520,000 in debt with money owed to the Road District, numerous attorneys and vendors.
The added expenses in the new budget primarily covers reserve funds officials can use for vehicle repairs and building maintenance. Grafton, for years, didn’t have those dedicated funds in the budget, Kearns said.
“I’m extremely impressed with what the board and employees of the township have done this year,” he said. “Our board has been very unified in fixing the problems that were left for us.”
Added property tax dollars from new growth and leftover grant money from the county make up the revenue increases in the new budget.
The township still isn’t “flushed with cash,” but the new budget represents how far officials have come from last year, said Trustee Dan Ziller Jr. Going forward, the board will look to spend only when needed, he said.
“We don’t have much in reserves, and that’s what we are trying to build. ... Where we can conserve money, that’s what we will do,” Ziller said. “We are all in that mindset together.”