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updated: 12/14/2012 10:26 PM

Elgin approves 2013 budget, property tax decrease

It includes a property tax decrease for the third year in a row

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The Elgin City Council approved the 2013 budget -- despite one council member's assertion that the budget unfairly supports the interests of a few groups at the expense of the majority of residents.

Councilman John Prigge was the only dissenting vote Friday night, and the council approved the budget in a 6-1 vote.

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Prigge objected to expenses such as $900,000 in city costs to rehab and upgrade the Eastside Recreation Center, $100,000 to help fund the Boys & Girls Club of Elgin, and a $54,000 contribution for the creation of a dog park in Hoffman Estates.

He also criticized to the city's decision to tack on the refuse fee to residents' water bills, which he said prevents people from being able to claim it as a tax deduction.

The 2013 budgets accounts for a property tax decrease for the third year in a row.

Despite that, the typical Elgin household paid about $58 more in 2012 than in 2011 due to taxes on natural gas, alcoholic beverage and electricity that took effect July 1, plus the refuse fee, according to figures provided by city officials.

"I object to making it more expensive for Elgin residents to live in their homes," Prigge said.

The 2013 budget keeps all core and public safety services intact, councilman Robert Gilliam said.

Councilman Richard Dunne pointed out those who don't live in Elgin but visit also pay a portion of those taxes.

"Whether it costs you as an individual $58 or $100 more ... we can't lose sight of the long-term goal, which is to reduce our reliance on property taxes, which will ultimately benefit the entire community," councilwoman Tish Powell said.

Former council member Terry Gavin, who is running for election in April, also spoke against the approval of the budget.

"We have a spending problem," Gavin said.

Elgin's total budget across funds grew from $203 million in 2011 to $270 million in 2012.

Councilman John Steffen pointed out the overall 2013 budget includes one-time expenses, such as a nearly $12 million expenditure for a new police and fire radio system.

Some projects are funded by other sources of revenues such as developers' fees and Riverboat fund money, councilwoman Anna Moeller said.

"I think that we've done a god job using the resources we have and leveraging those resources to provide a good quality of life here in Elgin," Moeller said.

General fund expenditures, which account for day-to-day operations, are estimated at about $98 million, or about $2 million more than in 2012, while total revenues are estimated at $108 million -- $7.25 million more than in 2012.

The difference is used as "working cash carry-over" to pay bills before tax payments are remitted to the city, officials said.

Mayor David Kaptain announced that, because the city is back on stable financial footing, he will start taking his city salary after a two-year hiatus that began when he was a council member.

The mayor's salary is $15,000 per year, while council members' salaries are $10,000 per year, he said.

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