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Article updated: 11/6/2013 11:50 PM

Elgin won't levy new stormwater fee for 2014

By Elena Ferrarin

Elgin residents won't be charged any new stormwater utility fee in 2014, city council members unanimously agreed Wednesday.

The council has yet to hear the results of a stormwater management study commissioned about a year ago at a cost not to exceed $193,000. The study will be presented at the Nov. 20 meeting.

Still, the committee of the whole's consensus was not to include the fee in next year's $279.6 million budget as drafted by city staff members. Elgin's fiscal year begins Jan. 1.

City Manager Sean Stegall said the city has achieved its goal of diversifying revenue sources in order to rely less on property taxes, so no new fee is needed as part of next year's revenues.

The last election in April made it clear there is little community support for a stormwater utility fee, Councilwoman Anna Moeller said.

The fiscally conservative group Elgin Octave mounted a campaign against the fee, which also was dubbed a "rain tax."

The city council still will need to have an extensive discussion about Elgin's stormwater management needs, including how to finance any future work, based on the study's results, council members said.

"I think that we as a council -- we as a city -- unfortunately did a very poor job explaining to the public what stormwater management is, why it's important (and) the unfunded mandates we face as a community in terms of stormwater management," Councilwoman Tish Powell said.

Councilman Terry Gavin said the city is already spending millions on ongoing stormwater sewer separation work. "There's no crisis," he said.

But the issues go beyond that, Councilman John Steffen said.

"As I understand it, the problem is stream bank erosion, detention pond failure, stormwater system overload in general -- it's not just combined sewers," he said.

Also, council members approved 5-4 a motion made by Gavin to remove all references about the stormwater utility fee from the city's 5-year strategic plan.

The actions sends residents "an appeasing message," said Councilman John Prigge, who voted in favor.

Council members Steffen, Rich Dunne and Carol Rauschenberger, as well as Mayor David Kaptain, all voted against it.

"If people want to take potshots they can, but I have a real problem redoing the record," Steffen said.

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