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posted: 12/4/2012 12:00 PM

Palatine proposes slightly smaller budget, tax levy in 2013

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Palatine is proposing a "hold the line" 2013 budget that neither dips into reserves nor restores programs and services that fell victim to the economic downturn.

The village council expressed no concerns about next year's financial plan during a public hearing this week, applauding the relatively positive fiscal forecast.

"My hat's off to the staff for all the work you've done," Councilman Jim Clegg said. "Considering a lot of communities and villages are struggling to survive, we in Palatine are healthy."

The total budget including operations, capital projects, TIF districts, debt service and pension requirements will decrease slightly, about 0.01 percent, to $105.9 million. The operating budget will increase 1.05 percent to $64.4 million.

The budget marks the village's second consecutive decrease in its property tax levy. After 25 years of increases, the village will have reduced the levy by more than $113,000 over two years.

In his budget message, Village Manager Reid Ottesen said the property tax levy would have decreased more significantly if not for the relocation of both a Lexus dealership and Whole Foods, which represent more than $500,000 in lost revenue. The opening of Mariano's Fresh Market is helping to offset those losses.

The one fee increase Palatine will move forward with is the water rate. It will rise 5 percent to $3.31 per 1,000 gallons, part of a schedule laid out a few years ago to address long-term water infrastructure improvements. Village Manager Reid Ottesen said that despite the hike, Palatine's rate still will rank near the bottom of communities receiving water from Lake Michigan.

Ottesen also pointed out the decrease in staff over the past few years, saying the village was reorganized to operate more efficiently. As of Jan. 1, the village will employ 341 full-time, 37 part-time and nine seasonal employees. In 2009, the village employed 367 full-time, 38 part-time and 15 seasonal employees.

Despite the personnel reduction, Ottesen said village's pension obligations remain a strain and that the current "broken" system is not sustainable.

Palatine's stabilizing finances allowed it to refund bonds related to downtown condo developments in 2004. The refinancing is expected to save nearly $600,000 over the next nine years. The village's financial adviser said the bond rating agencies have positive things to say about Palatine's financial health, which made the bonds attractive on the market.

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