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updated: 11/21/2011 5:59 PM

Financial outlook improves in Libertyville

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After one of the worst economic periods in memory, Libertyville officials say village finances show signs of improvement to the point that slight raises and a tax cut are being considered.

Uncertainties such how best to pay for road repairs linger, but budget discussions haven't been as dire as in recent years.

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"We were almost out of money. The board took a lot of steps they didn't want to take," Finance Director Pat Wesolowski said during a recent discussion of the upcoming tax levy and five-year financial plan. "The picture is much better this year."

Revenue is higher than expected and expenses less, leading to an expected surplus of about $2.3 million by the end of the budget year on April 30.

Two items to be discussed Tuesday by the village board illustrate the slow thaw in cost cutting.

The first involves authorization of a 1 percent pay raise for all full-time nonunion and year-round part-time employees, which account for just over half the village workforce of about 172 full-timers.

If approved, the raise is effective Nov. 1 at a total cost of about $38,000. Police officers and sergeants, who both are in unions, received 1 percent increases May 1 and Nov. 1.

The three utility taxes approved by the village board about two years ago to offset a decline in sales tax revenue also are up for review during the village board meeting at 8 p.m. in the village hall, 118 West Cook Ave.

At the time, the board authorized an increase in the telecommunications tax from 3.5 percent to 6 percent; 5 percent tax on natural gas; and a, per kilowatt electric use tax. For the current budget year, the taxes generated about $3 million.

The taxes were scheduled to expire Dec. 31, 2010 but were extended to April 30, 2012.

Trustee Rich Moras, who chairs the village board's finance committee, said he will ask that the natural gas tax be dropped to 4 percent. The taxes were authorized as temporary measures, he said.

"The reason we did them was because we had to -- we had no other choice," Moras said. "I wish we could do more sooner."

While the budget news was promising, there could be a price to pay in 2014-15, when payments on the debt on the Libertyville Sports Complex jump by $700,000.

Two of the three components of the 10-year-old complex have been for sale for commercial development but there have been no takers.

"We've still got a ways to go to get where we need to be three or four years from now," Moras said. "We have breathing room."

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