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updated: 4/22/2014 5:44 PM

Trustees say Lake Zurich must do more to cut costs

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  • Jeffrey Halen

      Jeffrey Halen

  • Jonathan Sprawka

      Jonathan Sprawka

 
 

Two Lake Zurich trustees say the village must look at making difficult cuts as officials grapple with debt and escalating costs, including public employee pension contributions.

By a 4-2 vote Monday, the village board approved a $50.2 million budget that begins May 1. The budget is up nearly $2.5 million from the current document that runs through April 30.

Roughly $610,000 in cuts, primarily in capital expenditures, are reflected in the new budget. Topping the list is elimination of a planned purchase of a $115,000 records management system for the police department.

But Trustee Jeffrey Halen said the village should do more to trim costs. Halen and Trustee Jonathan Sprawka were the two village board members who voted against the new budget.

"The one thing we haven't done -- and other towns have been doing for years -- is to really, in my opinion, make the hard decisions regarding personnel. This budget does not include the elimination of any positions," said Halen, whose comments were echoed by Sprawka.

Among the financial concerns cited by Lake Zurich officials are the employee pension payments, growing health insurance expenses and $28 million in outstanding debt linked to a struggling downtown redevelopment effort that began in 2002.

Lake Zurich's annual pension costs have gone from $1 million in 2009 to the current $3.86 million. The village projects paying an extra 20 percent for employee health care premiums in 2014-15.

However, Halen questioned the funding of village workers' medical insurance and noted they don't contribute anything toward individual HMO coverage. He also said the village should review policies on the number of sick days and vacation time that can accrue for employees.

As part of the budget equation, the village board voted 4-2 to restart a local utility tax to help plug a projected $1.6 million general fund hole. Sprawka and Trustee Jim Beaudoin voted against the utility tax.

Beginning May 1, a 2.5 percent village tax will be applied to monthly electricity and natural gas bills for residents and businesses. That tax will double to 5 percent on Nov. 1.

Sprawka said Lake Zurich shouldn't keep enacting new taxes in trying to boost its finances.

"We need to go back and figure out a tough solution," he said. "It's not going to be easy, it's not going to be the popular answer, but times need to change. I agree with Jeff (Halen). We can't continue to kick this down the road."

Mayor Thomas Poynton, who voted for the utility tax, said Lake Zurich had to do something to bring in more money for village operations.

"Nobody wants to (enact) utility taxes," Poynton said. "And yes, it probably will be another (financial) Band-Aid for us."

Twitter: @DHBobSusnjara

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