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updated: 11/7/2012 10:23 PM

Elgin council discusses 2013 budget, reflects on 2012

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Elgin began its 2013 budget discussion Wednesday with a look back at 2012.

The city expects to take in $2 million more in taxes than it originally projected, thanks to a rebounding economy and higher income, sales and telecommunications taxes, primarily.

City staffers, by continuing to control costs, will come in $344,000 under budget -- provided no major blizzards hit in December. And golf operations had a banner year with city-owned golf courses performing "exceptionally well," according to City Manager Sean Stegall. The golf fund will not need a subsidy from taxpayers in 2012 and is expected to finish the year with about $6,500 to spare.

The proposed budget for 2013 includes no new taxes, but next year will be the first 12-month period with taxes on electricity, natural gas and alcoholic beverages. Council members also discussed a tax on stormwater they will have to decide whether to implement in 2014.

Councilwoman Anna Moeller pointed out the city council will have to think about whether that tax revenue will be used to offset lower property taxes -- as discussed in the 2012-17 financial plan -- or be directed toward infrastructure projects only.

Mayor David Kaptain said the city still has more than $40 million in project costs to separate combined sewers.

"We need to start looking at this," Kaptain said. "It's not only a legal obligation that we have to fulfill, it's a social responsibility."

That decision will be discussed more fully next summer.

The proposed 2013 budget includes a recommendation for one new full-time employee to conduct building maintenance. Those services are contracted out, and Stegall said it is costing the city more money than it would to employ someone in-house.

Council members also spent time Wednesday discussing the city's working cash carry-over -- $6.93 million targeted by some Elgin residents as surplus the city should return to taxpayers. Stegall said that money is necessary as an internal line of credit to help the city make it month to month when costs are higher than revenues, such as when Kane or Cook county is behind in sending property taxes.

The working cash carry-over is listed in the budget as a revenue source, one that would have to be replaced by higher taxes elsewhere if eliminated, Stegall said.

An amount taxpayers will see back -- in the form of lower property taxes -- is the extra $2 million raised from income, sales and telecommunications taxes. If council members approve the budget as proposed, property taxes would make up 31 percent of the city's overall revenue, an ahead-of-schedule shift away from property taxes -- a council goal -- and a significant change from 2011, when they made up 47 percent of the city's revenue.

The next budget meeting is scheduled for 5 p.m. Nov. 14 in City Hall to discuss the Riverboat and Central Area Tax Increment funds.

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