Elgin projects flat property tax levy for 2019

The city of Elgin plans to keep its property tax levies flat next year, a move made possible by budget cuts and revenue diversification implemented this year, City Manager Rick Kozal said.

The proposed 2019 budget is $267.4 million, a 3 percent increase from this year's budget, with a $121.4 million general fund that pays for day-to-day operations, budget documents show.

The plan is to draw down reserves by $8 million over the next three years, Kozal said Wednesday night, when city council members got hard copies of the 213-page budget document.

"That's $8 million that otherwise doesn't have to come from the pockets of the taxpayers," Kozal said.

There are no budgeted increases in the property tax levies for police and fire pensions and general operations. The latter is projected to stay flat through 2021, or seven consecutive years, Kozal said.

This year the city enacted spending cuts, including to firefighters' overtime costs, and increased revenues with higher nonresident ambulance fees, a new gasoline tax, and higher sales and hotel/motel taxes.

Kozal commended the council and the city's "lean, scrappy organization" for setting Elgin on a "sound financial course." He pointed to cities like Peoria and Evanston, which are grappling with projected multimillion-dollar budget deficits.

City staffing expenses are 6 percent lower than they were 10 years ago, budget documents show.

The 2019 budget includes a few additional staff positions, including a police officer and three part-time social workers who will be part of a new police crisis intervention unit focusing on response to mental health issues, Kozal said.

Two supervisors will be added to the public works department, a cost offset by the elimination of the public services director position, and there will be an additional information technology position.

Revenues from Grand Victoria Casino are projected at $11 million, the same as this year.

Water and sewer rates will rise by 6 percent and 5 percent, respectively, slightly lower increases than initially projected.

Road projects next year include $2.3 million in improvements to the intersection of Summit Street and Dundee Avenue. The council discussed a plan for a roundabout several years ago, but that is off the table, Kozal said.

The city plans to replace all streetlights with LED lights, a two-year project that will cost more than $2 million but will lead to long-term savings in labor costs, Kozal said.

The 2019 proposed budget also includes $1.9 million for environmental cleanup of city-owned properties, including downtown on South Grove Avenue and land north of Gail Borden Public Library.

The city's fiscal year starts Jan. 1. Mayor David Kaptain said he anticipates smooth budget discussions in the next few weeks.

"I don't think there will be any negative surprises for anybody," Kaptain said.

"There might be a positive one," he added, declining to give more specifics.

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