Elgin mayor: We could opt out of Cook County's minimum-wage increase

Editor's note: This story was updated to clarify Mayor David Kaptain's statement that the city has the option to opt out of the Cook County minimum wage increase.

The city of Elgin could opt out of a minimum-wage increase in Cook County while continuing to look for ways to consolidate and maximize efficiency in services next year, Elgin Mayor Dave Kaptain said.

Kaptain gave his state of the city address Thursday at the Elgin Area Chamber of Commerce breakfast.

Cook County approved increasing the hourly minimum wage from $8.25 to $10 effective July 1, 2017, and to $13 by 2020. Home rule communities can opt out.

Keeping things consistent across the city, which is about 30 percent in Cook County and 70 percent in Kane County, is best for employers, Kaptain told the gathering at Elgin Community College. The minimum wage is an issue that should be addressed by the state, not by individual counties or municipalities, he said.

The city continues to hold a AAA bond rating and is considering a 2017 budget with no cuts in services and a median tax increase of about $51, mostly to fund mandated police and fire pension contributions.

"Elgin provides stable government, efficient government among a sea of instability," he said, referring to the state's fiscal woes.

City officials are focusing on promoting intergovernmental cooperation, especially among social service agencies, which leads to more efficiency across the board, he said.

Two new top leaders - City Manager Rick Kozal and Fire Chief Dave Schmidt - took the helm this year. Kaptain said he believes in rewarding longtime employees "for doing a good job."

The redevelopment of the downtown Tower Building into apartments is on schedule to open next year. That will help revitalize downtown, Kaptain said.

Almost 400 apartments are expected to be built across town in response to market demand, he said. "This city did not build an apartment complex for almost 40 years," he pointed out.

Kaptain highlighted accomplishments by ECC, which won a national award for its efforts in college and career readiness, and Elgin Area School District U-46, which started all-day kindergarten, resulting in parents having more freedom for employment.

He also pointed to Pace improvements in the region, with the completion of the transportation center in downtown Elgin and ongoing expansion of service along Interstate 90.

Miriam Lytle, a staff member of Gail Borden Public Library, asked what Elgin plans regarding the deportation of immigrants living in the U.S. illegally advocated by President-elect Donald Trump.

That's a federal issue that needs to play out before any decisions are made at the local level, Kaptain said.

Elgin has welcomed newcomers for 150 years, starting with the arrival in 1862 of 110 black refugees from the Civil War and later welcoming the arrival of Lao immigrants after the Vietnam War in the 1970s, Kaptain said.

"I think we are a poster child for how people meld together and make a great city," he said.

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