Elgin approves 2019 budget with flat property tax levy, Chicago Street work
The Elgin City Council unanimously approved Wednesday night a $267 million city budget for next year that keeps the property tax levy flat and funds the starts of the reconstruction of East Chicago Street and improvements at the Dundee Avenue and Summit Street intersection.
The city council started public budget deliberations in early November, when City Manager Rick Kozal presented the proposed budget. The city's fiscal year starts Jan. 1.
The final document includes one change at the direction of the city council: $200,000 for a phase I engineering study regarding improvements to Dundee Avenue from Summit Street to Page Avenue, Elgin CFO Debra Nawrocki said. The expense will come from the Central Area Tax Increment Financing District fund, where property tax money has been set aside, she said.
Because of growth throughout the city, the average homeowner is expected to get "a slight reduction" on the property tax bill, Councilman Toby Shaw said.
"This next year's city budget is the best budget of the 10 that I have worked on previously," Councilman Terry Gavin said.
The $121.4 million general fund -- which pays for day-to-day operations for 2019 -- represents an increase of less than 2 percent over this year's budget. The city plans to use $954,000 from reserves to balance the general fund and estimates it will have $49 million in reserves, or enough to cover 41 percent of operational expenditures, by the end of 2019.
Water and sewer rates will rise by 6 percent and 5 percent, respectively.
The city plans to add a handful of positions next year, 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.
Full-time employees, union and nonunion, will be getting 2.5 percent raises next year, as has been customary for several years. City officials said staffing expenses currently are 6 percent lower than they were 10 years ago.
The city and the fire department union are negotiating a new contract after the last one expired Dec. 31, 2017, so union firefighters won't get raises until a new contract is approved.
The city plans to start replacing replace all streetlights with LEDs next year, which officials said will lead to long-term savings in labor costs.
Terry Gabel, president of the volunteer organization Friends of Lords Park Zoo, thanked the city for allocating $160,000 in proceeds from Grand Victoria Casino to install a double fence to protect deer and elk that will be in compliance with federal standards.
The 2019 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.
Last year the city implemented budget cuts -- mainly to fire department overtime -- and revenue increases, including a local sales tax increase and a new gasoline tax, which council members credited with paving the way for this year's "status quo" budget.