Elgin council one step closer to a finished budget

 
 
Updated 12/1/2011 3:00 PM

Elgin City Council members gave preliminary approval Wednesday to six major parts of the 2012 budget, wrapping up the bulk of discussions that started almost three weeks ago.

If nothing changes before final approval Dec. 21, all residents will be charged a refuse fee to cover the costs of solid waste removal, and those in the rake out areas of the city's leaf collection program will see a $2 charge added to their water bills. Sales tax will go up .5 percentage points to fund combined sewer projects and street resurfacing. An electric utility tax and natural gas tax will go into effect July 1, 2012. And an alcoholic beverage tax of 3 percent will be implemented.

 

City Manager Sean Stegall said the recommended budget is confusing after the month of discussion because it has been a changing document, taking into account community input.

"That's one of the hallmarks of this version," Stegall said.

The list of taxes seems long, but it represents a lower tax burden on the typical Elgin resident than Stegall's first recommendation, which lacked the utility fees and the alcoholic beverage tax.

The typical resident is expected to pay $58.68 more in 2013, the first full year of the new fees, with the proposal council members approved Wednesday. That does not take into account savings predicted because of lower water rates -- thanks to actual costs being $5 million less than those estimated for Airlite Water Treatment plant upgrades -- or potential savings if residents vote to allow the city to bulk purchase all residents' electricity.

Stegall's first proposal would have cost the typical homeowner $216 more in 2013.

Councilman John Prigge was the only council member to vote against the tax and fee ordinances.

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Though council members did not vote on the use of riverboat funds to support outside agencies, they unofficially decided to allocate $250,000 to human service agencies and $50,000 to cultural arts organizations. The arts funding would augment $70,000 already budgeted for the cultural arts commission.

The council discussed this funding level Monday and largely concluded the Pace Ride in Kane program would go unfunded in the new arrangement.

Council members Anna Moeller and Robert Gilliam and Mayor David Kaptain particularly defended funding the program as a necessity for elderly and disabled residents who don't have other options.

Councilman Prigge cautioned against making cases for individual groups because it opens the door for every organization in town to make an emotional case about its own value.

But Kaptain and Councilman Richard Dunne offered numbers for what each household contributes to fund all of the outside agencies previously covered by the riverboat fund.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"To fund the bus service is two cents," Kaptain said. "It's nothing."

Kaptain later added he wasn't worried about a "tidal wave" of people coming to the city for more money.

The Ride in Kane Program, though not guaranteed funding, will be able to apply with other agencies for the $250,000 funding pool and council members indicated a broad preference to keep the program alive.

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