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posted: 4/3/2012 3:40 PM

Gurnee approves $59 million budget, but questions arise on how it's spent

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  • Kristina Kovarik

      Kristina Kovarik

  • Kirk Morris

      Kirk Morris

 
 

Gurnee will have a $59 million spending plan for the next year that'll include technology to create an online building permit process, new police sport-utility vehicle purchases and local road repairs.

Village board trustees voted 4-2 in favor of the 2012-13 fiscal year budget that begins May 1. Trustees Kirk Morris and Greg Garner were the dissenters for Monday evening's vote.

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Mayor Kristina Kovarik said while there are encouraging economic signs, such as a new Macy's department store opening at Gurnee Mills in spring 2013, the village will continue spending carefully.

"We're in good shape," Kovarik said Tuesday. "We're being conservative. We're not getting excited or exuberant."

Running from May 1 through April 30, 2013, the next balanced budget has $59 million in spending that includes an $8 million reimbursement to Gurnee Mills' parent company, Indianapolis-based Simon Property Group, for preparation work on the Macy's. The $8 million comes from a loan received through a bond sale.

Morris said he voted against the budget because he believes rather the giving millions to Simon Property Group, the village should have directed more cash toward road repairs and other infrastructure. He also questioned spending $140,000 on four SUVs for use as new police department squad units.

"We should also be looking at flatlining (salaries of) all employees," Morris added.

Nearly $14 million on capital improvements in the budget include Cemetery Road reconstruction, new software that'll allow building permits to be obtained online, the four police SUVs and exhaust upgrades at both fire stations.

In addition, officials agreed to provide up to $375,000 from the village's $22 million cash reserve for a local road project.

Village Engineer Scott Drabicki said during a recent budget presentation that little in the way of road repairs can be covered with $375,000, but that should be enough for a minor job to preserve a section of pavement.

Gurnee is heavily dependent on sales tax for its annual revenue, which is why Kovarik said the village must be cautious in tapping its cash reserve.

"You get nervous, because if people stop shopping, then are you going to fund public services?" she said.

On the revenue side, Gurnee's budget team projects sales tax receipts at $16.1 million for the new fiscal year, which would be up by $400,000, or 2.5 percent, from the 2011-12 forecast. Gurnee became dependent on local and state sales tax revenue after the village dropped its property tax in 2000.

Village research shows Gurnee is one of five Illinois communities not levying a property tax.

Amusement tax for the next year is projected to have "an uptick" from the $1.91 million forecast in the 2011-12 budget. Six Flags Great America generates most of the sales tax revenue.

Red-light camera revenue is projected to fall to roughly $500,000 this year and during all of 2013. Gurnee received about $564,000 from photo enforcement fines in the 2011 calendar year after expenses.

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