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updated: 3/11/2014 5:50 PM

South Elgin looking at new land, special needs playground

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Buying land near a proposed extension of Bowes Road from McLean Boulevard to Route 31 and building an all-inclusive playground are among the projects budgeted for the new fiscal year in South Elgin.

The proposed budget accounts for $32 million in revenues and $33.9 million in expenses. The fiscal year starts May 1.

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South Elgin has a practice of adopting deficit budgets by underestimating revenues and overestimating expenses, and usually ends up in the black by the end of the fiscal year, Deputy Village Administrator Steve Super said. In the last nine years of projected deficits, a year-end deficit happened only once, he said.

The village projects to have $8.6 million in reserves by April 30, 2015, or more than 60 percent of its yearly operating expenses. Village policy is to not go below 50 percent.

"The important number is cash on hand," Super said.

Village Administrator Larry Jones called it "an exciting budget."

"The village has had a very good financial picture. We weathered the storm that started in 2008," he said.

The general fund, which accounts for day-to-day operations, is estimated at almost $14.8 million -- almost $2 million more than the current fiscal year's projection -- with about $13.9 million in revenues.

Expenses include approximately $800,000 to buy property for a new public works facility along Bowes Road, Jones said.

The project to extend Bowes Road by three-quarters of a mile along what is now a private asphalt and gravel road will be paid for by a $4.1 million state grant, Jones said.

Also, the village wants to transfer $800,000 from the general fund to the parks improvements fund to build a playground at Seba Park for kids with special needs.

That money is expected to be reimbursed, half by the nonprofit FUNdation of South Elgin, and half by a state grant, Parks and Recreation Director Jim Reuter said. Construction might start in late summer or early fall, he said.

"We haven't come up with a plan if the grant doesn't go through," Reuter said. "Let's just keep our fingers crossed."

All employees, including union employees whose contracts expire April 30, are expected to get a 2-percent raise. Employees didn't get any raises in three of the last five years, Super said.

Overall salaries are projected to decrease by $45,000 compared to the current fiscal year because the community development director position -- currently held by Super -- and one of two deputy police chiefs positions will not be filled, Finance Director Arthur Skibley said.

Super is expected to take over as village administrator when Jones retires in the spring.

There is also a projected 12-percent increase in health insurance due to the federal health care act, Skibley said.

The village plans to install LED streetlights, starting with 150 and eventually doing the whole village, Public Works Director Richard Gallas said.

The village also plans to develop a communications strategy that includes social media, Super said.

"We're going to look at how we communicate with our residents (and) can we do things better?" he said.

Not part of the proposed budget is a $325,000 for the New World Systems records management system, already in use by most nearby municipalities, Police Chief Chris Merritt said.

The village is negotiating with nearby departments to see if it can piggyback off their systems.

"We may have to ask for a (budget) amendment midyear if negotiations fail with other agencies," Jones said.

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