Elgin's proposed budget: No property tax levy increase, more city jobs
The city of Elgin's proposed general fund budget for next year calls for no increase to the property tax levy and adding several new positions.
The 2020 budget is projected at $274.3 million, up 2.5% from $267.6 million in this year's budget. The general fund, which pays for day-to-day operations, is proposed at $127.2 million, up 4.8% from $121.4 million in this year's budget. The latter increase stems mostly from salaries and pensions and is partially offset by a 2.1% decrease in health insurance premiums, Chief Financial Officer Debra Nawrocki said Wednesday night during a 4½-hour special budget meeting of the city council. General fund expenses came under budget this year, and the city is using $4 million in reserves to pay for increases to police and fire pension contributions.
"We are adding personnel and employees, we are increasing services without increasing the property tax levy," Councilwoman Terry Gavin said. "Wonderful. Great job."
Resident Chuck Keysor, who regularly attends council meetings, agreed. "I have not hesitated to complain in the past if I think we are wasting money. And I haven't complained, because I think things have been running pretty well."
The added positions would be two code compliance officers, two 911 operators, four part-time auxiliary police officers, an engineering inspector, a GIS information specialist, two part-time forestry workers, and a full-time equivalent position in marketing and communications, officials said. Two utility workers also would be added. That would bring to about 780 the number of full-time equivalent positions in the city, which hit a high of 813.75 in 2008, city data shows.
"The city takes very seriously proposals for adding new employees because we recognize the importance of trying to maintain a lid on the costs within the operations of government," City Manager Rick Kozal said.
Police Chief Ana Lalley said the new auxiliary officers would be mainly in charge of transporting prisoners to bond court, a duty that last year took up 1,307 hours of police officers' time at a cost of about $73,000. The auxiliary officers would cost $70,360 per year and also could help with other duties, she said.
The city has hundreds of code compliance cases in backlog -- meaning open for longer than 30 days -- and adding two code officers to the current seven, along with a part-time grass/weed inspector, will help address that, Neighborhood Services Director Aaron Cosentino said. The plan is to increase efficiency by retooling the code officers' duties and their territories, he said.
Cosentino also proposed doubling landlords' rental license fees to offset the increase in costs. The new fee for up to five rental units would be $149, up from $71, for example. Elgin's current fees, established in 2007, are lower than in comparable communities, he said.
The 2020 budget proposes using $4.5 million from the general fund, an increase from this year's $3 million, to fund the recreation department, whose revenues have decreased and employee expenses will increase under the state's minimum wage law, Nawrocki said.
The council also heard a presentation about the possibility of imposing a special recreation tax to fund parks and recreation improvements required under the Americans with Special Disabilites Act. By law, the tax would amount to no more than 4 cents per $100 of a home's equalized assessed value, or an estimated $25 per year for a home with a market value of $192,000.
The council showed no immediate appetite for the tax. Kozal said the presentation was for informational purposes, as the tax could be a funding avenue in the future.