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updated: 11/5/2013 11:21 PM

Property taxes down, no new fees in proposed Elgin budget

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The city of Elgin's proposed 2014 budget includes a decrease in property taxes, no business license fees and no new stormwater management fee.

The city council, however, will examine the results of a recent stormwater management study in a two-part presentation Wednesday and Nov. 20, and could decide to make budget changes based on that.

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The $279.6 million budget represents a 0.7 percent increase over last year's. "That's the lowest year-to-year increase in quite some time," City Manager Sean Stegall said Tuesday, adding most of the increase is due to rising health care costs.

City council members indicated they want to do away with business license fees, although not the license itself.

The 2014 property tax levy is estimated at $26.3 million, down for the third-straight year. City officials said they'll calculate the average property tax savings in the coming weeks.

The budget includes no new sources of revenues and no increases to water and sewer rates, but garbage costs will go up about 3.5 percent, Chief Financial Officer Colleen Lavery said. The city passes all Waste Management costs directly to residents.

The only new position in the budget is an assistant fire chief for emergency management, at about $208,000 in salary and benefits. Police department staff currently is in charge of emergency management.

"For quite some time I've seen this (position) as a need," Stegall said, adding that grants from the Department of Homeland Security or the Federal Emergency Management Agency could offset part of the cost.

The budget also includes $130,000 for communications and marketing. The city council will decide whether to hire staff or outsource those services.

The city is postponing a planned streetscape project on Route 31 because TIF revenues are down, Stegall said.

The $105.4 million general fund will loan $5 million to the Central Area Tax Increment Financing District fund for economic development incentives for the Elgin Tower Building. Wisconsin-based Gorman & Co. is considering buying and rehabbing the iconic building.

"Conversations with the developer are progressing along," Stegall said.

Other expenses include $100,000 for the "security through surveillance" program, which allows police to work collaboratively with residents and business owners who have surveillance cameras, $450,000 in street sewer purchases, $35,000 in carpet replacement at The Centre of Elgin, and $100,000 in visual systems updates to the council chambers.

The budget includes $13.1 million in Riverboat proceeds, a 57 percent decrease since 2008. Any video gaming proceeds in 2014 could fund police vehicle purchases.

Stegall said he will recommend to the city council a switch from the current 5-year planning model, established in 1994, to a 3-year rolling forecast model, which will require the council to examine the city's revenues and expenses -- and update its financial plan -- on a quarterly basis.

"The economy is just too delicate to talk about once a year," he said.

The city has $42 million in reserves, Lavery pointed out.

"It's something we feel very good about," Stegall said, calling the notion of spending down revenues to offset expenses "reckless and irresponsible."

The proposed 2014 budget is available at cityofelgin.org/budget. Stegall will give a presentation to the city council's special committee at 5 tonight at city hall, 150 Dexter Court.

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