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updated: 4/4/2014 9:58 AM

Wheaton's proposed $88.8 million budget covers street light, signal repairs

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The Wheaton City Council is set to vote later this month on a proposed $88.8 million budget for 2014-15.

Despite more spending than last year on capital improvements, the budget is balanced, with about $400,000 in excess revenues in all funds, according to City Manager Don Rose.

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Those capital improvements include the replacement of aging streetlights and traffic signals that are so old, replacement parts are no longer manufactured for them. More money will be spent on the sidewalk replacement program and new traffic signs and markings on the roads. Two pedestrian bridges on the southwest side of the city, on Gone Away Court and Stonebridge Trail, also will be repaired.

Those fixes, Rose said, are "things that have kind of needed to be done, but over the last, certainly, five or six years, where we've really restrained from spending, we haven't done some of these smaller projects."

In addition, the budget includes more training for select employees and funding for security upgrades in the information technology department and at city-owned buildings, including city hall, the public works building, the police station and some downtown garages.

Still, more than 42 percent of the total expenditures are personnel-related costs, including salaries and benefits. Rose said the proposed budget includes one additional full-time position, but the number of employees is still significantly less than before the recession.

"That body is in the water division of the public works department and is being added because we're embarking on a water meter replacement program and we needed another body to assist with that effort," he said.

Taxes make up about 50 percent, or about $44.6 million, of the total revenues, which are increasing by almost 4 percent. The second largest source of revenues is charges for services, which includes water service and sewer service charges, ambulance services, parking permits and meter collections.

While the overall budget is in the black, its largest fund -- the general fund -- shows a deficit of about $700,000, with about $41 million in expenditures. Rose said that amounts to about a 6 percent increase in spending in that fund from last year.

Those additional expenditures are dedicated primarily to capital projects, but also include money to combat the Emerald Ash Borer and continue funding the road program, among other expenses. While the spending will result in the fund balance being brought down, Rose said it continues to be at a level that is above what is recommended.

"We have thought that it is a good practice, for the time being, to make sure we have some wiggle room in case the state decides at some point in time to start reducing those revenues," he said, referring to money brought in by the state-shared income tax, sales tax and personal property replacement tax.

The city is levying around $18.9 million in taxes, about the same amount as last year, Rose said. About 48 percent of that money goes toward general government. The library receives about 19 percent of the levied funds. About 17 percent is used to pay off loans, and the remaining 16 percent goes toward pensions.

A public hearing on the proposed budget -- which is available for viewing on the city's website -- is scheduled for 7 p.m. on Monday, April 14. The city council is then expected to adopt the budget on Monday, April 21.

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