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posted: 11/15/2013 12:10 AM

Elgin's 2014 budget includes 3-percent staff raises

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Employee raises of 3 percent and a small property tax decrease are projected within Elgin's general fund budget for 2014.

General fund expenses -- which account for the city's day-to-day operations -- are projected at $105.3 million next year, or about 2.6 percent more than this year, Elgin CFO Collen Lavery told the city council during a special budget meeting on Wednesday.

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The overall 2014 budget is projected at $279.6 million. Elgin's fiscal year starts Jan. 1.

Wages and benefits account for the greatest expense, projected to increase by 6.6 percent next year. That's primarily due to raises and costs associated with the new federal health care act, officials said. Employee raises were 2 percent in 2012, and 2.5 percent this year, Lavery said.

Total general fund revenues are estimated at $116.2 million, or a 2.2 percent increase over 2013.

That includes $26.37 million in property taxes, a small decrease over this year's $26.5 million. However, that's a $1 million decrease from what had been budgeted for 2014 in the city's five-year strategic plan, Lavery said.

Councilwoman Anna Moeller asked staff members to calculate the average homeowner's savings.

Councilman Toby Shaw expressed concern about how diversification of revenues -- a goal implemented by Elgin two years ago -- affects nonprofit agencies.

"That's why they are not taxed (in property taxes), because they provide a return to the community," he said.

Capital expenses are down from $2 million in 2013 to $1 million in 2014, mostly for public works equipment, Lavery said.

Riverboat revenues are budgeted at $13.1 million in 2014, a 57-percent decrease since 2008, officials said.

The city gets a percentage of gambling revenues plus $1 per patron admission, along with lease payments from Grand Victoria Casino, Assistant City Manager Rick Kozal said.

Riverboat money is slated to fund 63 projects, including $1.6 million in city building repairs, more than $4 million in street work, and $1 million to replace a fire ladder truck.

It also funds economic development services contracted with the Elgin Area Chamber of Commerce. Shaw asked for estimates, including wages and pension costs, to transfer those services in-house.

Councilman Terry Gavin objected to budgeting more than $1 million to create bike lanes in the southwest quadrant of town.

Moeller pressed the issue of creating "quiet zones" along rail lines to prevent trains from sounding their horns in the middle of the night. The city would have to spend money for improvements to the crossings, but grant money might also be available, she said.

City council members will meet for a public budget hearing and to discuss the Central Area Tax Increment Financing District from 9 a.m. to noon Saturday in the Heritage Ballroom of The Centre of Elgin, 100 Symphony Way.

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