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updated: 3/4/2014 11:37 PM

Sugar Grove looking at increasing budget

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As Sugar Grove officials start making the 2014-15 budget, they are cautiously optimistic that it will be OK to add a little more staff and replace two major public works vehicles.

Tuesday, trustees began reviewing the budget presented by village administrators for the 2014-15 fiscal year, which begins May 1.

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The general fund portion of the budget calls for $4.5 million in spending. That would put it 3.8 percent higher than the projected spending for the current fiscal year.

The budget anticipates the village issuing 41 residential-construction permits, up from 26 projected for this year, but still a far cry from the hundreds per year it handed out during the building boom of the late 1990s and early 2000s.

It calls for increasing the staff by 2.2 percent, from the full-time-equivalent of 37.44 workers to 38.25. Again, it's far from the high of 52.69 workers the village budgeted for in 2006-07, before the recession struck. The staffing figures take into account part-time workers.

The police department accounts for almost half of the proposed spending; the next highest is the streets department at 20 percent.

President Sean Michels and Trustee Kevin Geary sparred over Michels' questioning of an increase in the police department budget. Michels said if other departments had similar increases, the village would have to raise taxes to afford them. The police department has added a part-time administrative officer position, proposes to purchase two automated-external defibrillators for patrol officers, and expects to increase salaries as union contracts are negotiated.

Geary said that he campaigned for president last year on a platform of encouraging growth of the village's commercial property tax base to bring in more money, and that it is doing so. He also suggested the village seek private donors for some wish list items the staff recommended keeping out of the budget, such as a skate park, as well as to replace more parkway trees.

The village has had several stores and banks open, and anticipates an Ace Hardware store this year. Michels said it was the improving economy, not anything Geary did, that had bolstered the commercial district.

"And how many private people to fund some of this have you brought in?" Michels said.

"Is this going to be you and I? You're trying to make it about me," Geary said.

Trustees Mari Johnson and Rick Montalto supported the increased police expenditures. "We're not the Barney Fifes of the world out here anymore," going around with one bullet and praying nothing happens, she said.

The streets department proposes replacing two trucks, 13 and 14 years old, that the village had initially planned to replace five and six years ago. The estimated cost is $210,000 apiece.

Property taxes would account for 32 percent of the general fund income. It projects income of $4.71 million, an increase from the current fiscal year.

The general fund does not include income and spending for the water and sewer department, which are run on user fees. The figures for that department will be discussed at another special committee meeting.

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