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posted: 12/20/2013 12:01 AM

Prigge, Shaw and Gavin vote against 2014 budget

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The Elgin City Council approved the 2014 budget over the objections of three council members who said they wanted residents to pay less in taxes and fees.

Other council members, however, said any revenue decrease should be offset by commensurate cuts in expenses to balance the budget not just in 2014, but in future years as well.

The budget goes into effect Jan. 1. Councilmen Terry Gavin, Toby Shaw and John Prigge cast the "no" votes.

The budget accounts for about $280 million in expenses and $306 million in revenues for 33 individual funds that include everything from public safety to park improvements, water tower repairs and nonprofit grants.

The $26 million difference includes $10 million reserved for pension funding, Elgin CFO Collen Lavery said. The rest will be used as working cash carry-over to fund projects in the next five years, she said.

For example, $3 million in incentives for possible new car dealerships at the auto mall on Randall Road, $2 million in technology improvements, and $3.5 million for renovations of the Elgin Tower Building, Lavery said.

Gavin said his vote "is not a rejection of city staff's work. It is a rejection of the majority of this council's disregard for the citizens' money."

"We have more money than we need," Prigge said.

Councilman John Steffen disagreed.

"If you really want to be taken seriously by me and some of the other council members ... I suggest you start on the expense side," Steffen said.

The only last-minute addition to the budget was $203,000 for repairs to the pool at Wing Park Family Aquatic Center, which will be offset by revenues from the pool's operations, Lavery said.

Staff members initially proposed closing the pool for part or all of next summer to perform the repairs, but city council members didn't like the idea. The work will be done in the spring, weather permitting.

Working on the budget is all about compromise, Councilwoman Anna Moeller said.

"I don't think any budget, any document of this size, of this complexity, is perfect. It is a reflection of compromise and work," she said.

"None of us up here are exempt from paying property taxes. We all face the same challenges that you face," Councilwoman Tish Powell added.

The budget includes $26.37 million coming from property taxes, a slight decrease over this year's $26.5 million, and $1 million less than what city officials projected in the five-year plan.

Lavery said she will be able to calculate savings for the average resident once she gets equalized assessed values from Kane and Cook counties in March.

Gavin, Prigge and Shaw unsuccessfully tried to get residential garbage fees back on to property tax bills, which would allow residents to deduct them from their income tax returns. They also tried to reduce residents' garbage fees, which will go up slightly next year as a result of the city's contract with Waste Management.

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