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updated: 8/15/2012 4:15 PM

Palatine's midyear budget numbers show positive trends

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Though plenty of challenges and uncertainties remain, Palatine officials can confidently say the village is on sounder financial footing now compared to when the economic downturn began.

"I've gone from (where) we were drowning in things to we're more or less treading water right now," Village Manager Reid Ottesen said at a recent council meeting. "Systematic changes have put us on solid financial ground."

According to a midyear budget report examining the first six months of 2012, revenue was 55.5 percent of what was budgeted for the year, while expenditures totaled just 47 percent.

Officials attributed part of that positive news to Mariano's Fresh Market, which opened at the end of January on Hicks Road. While some of the popular grocery chain's sales tax revenue is the result of patrons leaving other Palatine stores, Ottesen estimated that 70 percent of sales are new dollars to the village.

Business at the new Arlington Toyota dealership helped boost overall sales tax receipts, which are at 67 percent of the entire 2012 budgeted total already.

Other highlights from the first six months include the state not falling further behind on the roughly $1.8 million it owes Palatine from the state income tax, as well as Cook County mailing its property tax receipts earlier than expected, giving the village more cash on hand.

There are many areas of concern, however.

For one, the hotel/motel tax continues to lag due to Hotel Indigo's closing. The motor fuel tax also is stagnant, which Ottesen attributed to vehicles becoming more fuel efficient. That's one of the main funding sources for Palatine's road program and, given the aging streets, officials may have to find a new budget model.

Councilmembers also agreed with Ottesen's recommendation that the village needs to start allocating more money for employee training programs.

"If we don't start significantly reinvesting in training, you're going to see a drop-off in the services you're getting in the street," Ottesen said. "Especially in public safety, that starts to get into life and death situations."

Officials again renewed their call for major pension reform, saying it's the most critical move needed for Palatine to remain financially sustainable.

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