Des Plaines city officials on Thursday highlighted the infrastructure projects the city will undertake in the coming year and efforts to draw more businesses into town during the annual Des Plaines Chamber of Commerce & Industry breakfast at Manzo's Banquets.
The city plans on spending roughly $13.2 million on infrastructure improvements this year, considerably more than the $7.6 million spent in 2012. A big chunk of the cost involves the next phase of the city's Stormwater Master Plan to reduce flooding ($4.4 million), streetscape work ($2.8 million), water system improvements ($1.7 million), sidewalk repairs ($850,000), and renovation of the downtown Metra train station ($500,000).
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Officials touted the reduction of the city's outstanding debt, which dropped from $78.5 million in 2010 to an anticipated $58 million in 2013.
"We are investing more in infrastructure, and we are paying down debt," City Manager Mike Bartholomew said. "We are making a big investment in our stormwater management plan."
Some of those infrastructure improvements and the paying down of debt are being funded through nearly $3.6 million in gambling tax revenues, he added.
Bartholomew said the city's general fund reserve, though lower than the roughly $24 million balance at the end of 2012, is still healthy at nearly $19 million.
The reserve balance may go further down in coming years to fund anticipated capital expenditures, he added.
Bartholomew said the city still faces challenges such as finding alternative sources of revenue to fund roughly $10 million in necessary improvements of its aging water system and roughly $4 million for new water meters.
Bartholomew said later this year the city council will begin talking about the city's water and sewer fund, which is running in deficit at about $2 million yearly, and discuss a water study evaluating different options to fund future improvements.
He added the city has to maintain healthy fund balances to pay for increasing pension liabilities and pay off debt incurred from the creation of special taxing districts that are struggling.
However, Bartholomew's key message to the business community was that the city is headed in the right direction.
"We are not only maintaining a strong fund balance, which is important, we are keeping taxes flat," he said.
The city's $125.8 million budget for 2013 represents a $13.8 million.
Operating expenses amount to $57.6 million -- a $1.9 million increase -- while revenues are estimated at $58.4 million. The budget represents the third year the city has adopted a 0 percent increase to the property tax levy extension.
Officials also spread the word about various downtown business assistance programs and about incentives for rehabbing vacant industrial sites.
"We are putting about $40,000 on the table for a new business wanting to relocate in the downtown area, if they took advantage of all three of the programs that are available," Bartholomew said.
"It's about the attitude. We are here to help business. All they have to do is call us."