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posted: 10/20/2012 8:00 AM

Des Plaines aldermen begin 2013 budget review

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Des Plaines aldermen this week began reviewing the city's proposed $127 million budget for expenditures in 2013 -- a $14.5 million increase over the 2012 budget.

Operating expenses for 2013 amount to $58 million -- a $2.3 million increase over the 2012 budget -- while revenues are estimated at $58.4 million.

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The city is projected to have more than $20 million in reserves -- up from roughly $1 million in 2008, Finance Committee Chairman Matt Bogusz said at the hearing's onset Wednesday.

"In 2005, the city of Des Plaines had $102 million in bond debt," Bogusz said. "We are now down close to about $60 million. And in 2005, our council raised taxes 5 percent."

The budget also represents the third year the city has adopted a 0 percent increase to the property tax levy extension from last year, Bogusz added.

A big chunk of the proposed increase in the total budget is due to infrastructure projects, including a $3.7 million increase in spending for capital projects, a $2 million increase in water/sewer expenses, and a $1.5 million increase in additional equipment and vehicle purchases.

Aldermen discussed at length whether to subsidize the Des Plaines History Center for $35,000 in 2013, the same amount granted this year. Though the consensus was to approve the request, aldermen tabled the decision to a future meeting to further study the center's business plan.

The city's subsidy has diminished considerably over the years. In 2010, the center was awarded a $40,000 grant, which dropped to $30,000 in 2011, officials said.

The center's expenditures on salaries and benefits, and payroll taxes amounted to $115,000 in 2012, a significant drop from $340,000 in 2009 when it was staffed with four full-time employees and up to three part-time workers, and its facilities were open to the public six days a week.

Presently, the center is open four days a week with one full-time and two part-time staff members, said Executive Director Shari Caine.

Historical Society leadership also is trying to be creative with its fundraising efforts, despite raising only $10,000 this year, as opposed to $59,000 in 2010 when the center marked its 175th anniversary, Caine said.

"We have really ramped up our sponsorship activity," Caine said. "We are in the process of getting sponsorships for a fundraising concert in November and in December we are hosting a house walk and will be aggressively seeking sponsorships for that as well."

Aldermen tabled discussion on spending $395,000 for upgrading the City Council chambers, which includes replacing ceiling speakers, carpeting, seating, video and audio equipment, remodeling and upgrading the lighting system.

The proposed budget includes a $200,000 allocation for removing parkway trees infested with the emerald ash borer, doubling the amount the city spent in 2012 on tree trimming and stump removal.

Fifth Ward Alderman Jim Brookman said he hopes the city will use its own public works staff as much as possible to remove the trees instead of spending so much on hiring contractors. "It's an awful lot of money," he said.

City Manager Mike Bartholomew said public works employees can't handle the size and sheer number of trees that have to be removed along with their regular duties of snow removal and streets upkeep.

The city is looking at spending $200,000 a year from 2013 to 2015 to combat the emerald ash borer.

A final budget review will be held at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 30, at City Hall, 1420 Miner St. The budget will be adopted in November. To view a copy of the 2013 proposed budget, visit desplaines.org.

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