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Article posted: 4/20/2013 8:00 AM

Lake Zurich budget approved amid concerns on debt, public safety

By Bob Susnjara

Lake Zurich officials have approved a $46 million budget for the next year, but not without some concerns about debt and public safety.

Village trustees voted 4-1 this week in favor of the budget that begins May 1 and runs through April 30, 2014. Village Manager Jason Slowinski said the budget will be balanced with the transfer of $272,000 from a reserve fund.

Compared to previous village budgets, Trustee Rich Sustich said, this year's financial plan appears solid.

"The numbers didn't shift like quicksand like they did in prior years," said Sustich, who didn't seek re-election this month and will soon depart the village board.

Trustee Terry Mastandrea voiced concern about the reduction of two fire inspectors to save money, contending it'll hurt public safety because fewer village buildings will be examined annually. Mastandrea retired as Lake Zurich's fire chief in 2011 and was appointed to fill the last two years of a village trustee seat, but he did not seek election April 9.

Lake Zurich's debt burden is noted in the $46 million budget for 2013-14. Of about $40 million in outstanding debt, $28 million is associated with the long-stalled downtown development that's included the village's purchases of properties, according to the budget. "During the next several years, the village will pay between $2.5 million and $3 million annually in debt principal payments alone," says a section of the budget. "The village can expect that these payments will put a tremendous burden on our ability to fund our operations."

Sustich said the debt load will add to the new village board's challenge when it seeks to cut expenses.

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