Elgin mayor highlights the city's successes, future challenges
Elgin Mayor David Kaptain's annual State of the City address looked back at the city's successes over the last 10 years and ahead to some challenges it will face in the next decade.
Kaptain delivered the speech Tuesday during a breakfast hosted by the Elgin Area Chamber at Elgin Community College. He used the 2020 census data to highlight changes in the community that is now the sixth-largest city in Illinois.
The 10-year census period coincides with Kaptain's tenure, as he became mayor in 2011.
Kaptain touted Elgin's growth in population, housing units, streets and parks. Meanwhile, the number of city workers, including public works, fire and police employees, stayed roughly the same over the last decade.
During that time, property taxes have been lowered and the city's revenue stream diversified. Now property taxes make up 23% of the city's revenue, compared to 42% 10 years ago.
Kaptain said officials have worked to make the city more friendly to business. That atmosphere has helped Elgin reach its lowest retail vacancy rate in city history.
Industrial leasing activity is at an all-time high, and Elgin ranks sixth in Illinois in building permits issued. He highlighted businesses that are coming to town, including Atlantic Packaging and its planned 455,000-square-foot facility west of Randall Road.
While the pandemic slowed growth around the country, Kaptain said the city completed planned infrastructure projects, including the City Center Plaza and neighborhood street resurfacing.
"We'll continue to do that," Kaptain said. "You have to keep doing business and keep up with things that are important to the community."
Touting the city's police department, Kaptain said that the major-crime rate is lower than it was almost 50 years ago. Crediting advancements in community policing like the ROPE, program, in which officers live in the neighborhood where they patrol, he said that "the Elgin Police Department has been a leader in innovation."
Kaptain said the city still has significant issues, including unfunded mandates to separate combined sewer lines, replace lead service lines, and pension obligations for police and fire.
"So the city of Elgin itself will owe almost $300 million over the next decade that we'll have to try and work our way through," he said.
Kaptain said the federal government may help, but "I don't hold my breath anymore."
"My favorite line is that I don't get excited until I see the little check," he said. "The big check is just a political thing to show. I want to see the little check in the mailbox."