Elgin's proposed 2022 budget includes no property tax hike or fee increases
No property tax hike or proposed fee increases, and the lifting of staffing reductions at a fire station, highlighted the first of five meetings on Elgin's proposed 2022 budget and three-year financial plan.
The Elgin City Council started its review of the budget proposal during a Wednesday committee-of-the-whole meeting.
"The proposed budget that was presented to the city council this evening once again demonstrates the city's commitment to solid fiscal policymaking," City Manager Rick Kozal said. "It keeps the best economic interests of its residents and businesses at the forefront while providing the services and policy initiatives that are always desired by this greater community."
Kozal said actions city leaders took during the pandemic, including wage, benefit and other reductions, are paying dividends during this year's budgeting process.
"Unlike many other municipalities in Illinois and around the country, Elgin did not end 2020 with a budget deficit," he said.
Kozal said that despite "significant" revenue losses during 2020, the cuts allowed them to enter 2021 without a deficit, which will enable the city to hold the line on fees and the city's combined property tax levy for the fifth straight year.
The general levy, which funds all city operations, is expected to remain at the same level, according to the proposed budget.
In addition, the spending plan would restore some lost staffing to Fire Station 6. Earlier this year, the city council voted to reduce fire department expenses by replacing a fire engine at the station, 707 W. Chicago St., with an ambulance once staffing reaches overtime levels, which is about 77% of the time.
With 2021 budget estimates now complete, Kozal said there's no need to wait until next year to restore the staffing. The city has authorized Fire Chief Robb Cagann to implement the changes as soon as possible.
The 2022 budget provides for surpluses from both general fund and riverboat revenues, Kozal said. The projected surpluses come to about $2.8 million that can be used for capital projects and nonrecurring initiatives.
Despite the surpluses, Kozal was careful not to paint too rosy a picture.
"Don't want to create the impression that (the surpluses) should be construed as an indication of smooth sailing for the duration of 2022 through '24 financial plans," Kozal told the council.
General fund operating deficits in the out years are projected at $11.2 and $17 million, based on the cost of maintaining current services and projected revenues. Increased operating costs in the parks and recreation department, the end of revenue from a motor fuel tax fund and statewide consolidation of police and fire pension funds help account for projected future shortfalls.
The city will hold four more special budget discussions before voting on adoption on Dec. 15. The next meeting is at 5 p.m. Wednesday. The remaining three meetings will occur on the regularly scheduled committee of the whole dates: Nov. 17, Dec. 1 and Dec. 15.
"Now begins the time for the city council and the community to begin its reasoned deliberations on the city's desired path and adopt a budget that reflects the values and priorities of this awesome community," Kozal said.