Budgeting season starts for Elgin after council assesses tax shift
By Mike Danahey firstname.lastname@example.org October 14, 2012 8:48PM
Northern Illinois University professor Jerry Gabris from NIU’s Center for Governmental Studies helps guide Elgin council and staff members during their strategic planning session in February 2012 in Elgin. | File~Sun-Times Media
Updated: November 16, 2012 6:07AM
ELGIN — The city council is set to begin its budget meeting season at a time and day and in a hall where people frequently are out having fun, not crunching numbers.
The first gathering is set for 6:30 p.m. Friday in the Heritage Ballroom at The Centre.
Staff said the unusual time for the meeting is due to difficulty in arranging schedules of council members.
Elgin Chief Financial Officer Colleen Lavery is slated to give an overview of the current year’s revenues and any adjustments that might have to be made. Lavery normally provides such information earlier in the year, but said it was delayed so the report could show the impact of measures that went into effect over the course of the year, including alcohol and utility taxes.
Council members also will offer direction for funding projects.
The proposed budget will be distributed to the city council on Nov. 2 and will be available in its entirety sometime that day on the budget section of the city’s website. City manager Sean Stegall said the document will reflect the city’s updated 5-year strategic plan.
The strategic plan process is being overseen by professor Jerry Gabris of the Northern Illinois University Center for Governmental Studies, who has been working for most of the year with council members and residents on the project.
The council will meet at 5 p.m. Nov. 7 when Stegall will present a summary of the financial plan, then segue into a discussion of the proposed general fund.
On Nov. 14, the council will meet at 5 p.m. again, this time to discuss proposed Grand Victoria Casino funding, the casino lease, and Central Area tax increment funds. On Nov. 28, the council will meet at 5 p.m. to talk about proposed user fees along with utility, parks and recreation and non-major funds.
The state-required truth in taxation public hearing is scheduled to be part of the regular council meeting at 7 p.m. Dec. 5, and the public hearing and budget adoption are scheduled for the regular meeting at 7 p.m. Dec. 19.
The process this year is not expected to involve as many moves and meetings as last year.
In 2011, the city set up a budget task force made up of residents and community leaders that met over the course of two months to provide input into what turned out to be a $268.5 million budget plan.
The adopted budget shifted the city’s reliance on property tax as a funding source from 43 percent to 25.5 percent of all collected revenue and included the aforementioned new utility and alcohol taxes.
Starting in July, the retail sales tax charged by the city rose from .75 to 1.25 percent. This move was intended to provide approximately $1.7 million per year for street improvements.
Garbage collection, which was not charged out separately to residents previously, turned into a $13.30 per month fee per household in 2012, in order to save the city more than $4.5 million — or what the initial estimate of the annual structural deficit had been.
Those living in neighborhoods where the city collects leaves now pay $24 a year for the service.
And the senior property tax rebate program using casino money ended in 2012.
The budget cut about $4.8 million from the prior year, including workforce reductions that will total about $1.7 million in salaries. It eliminated $677,000 in subsidies to the Recreation Fund and reduced Elgin Area Chamber of Commerce funding by $125,000, to $275,000 for its role overseeing the city’s economic development work.
The 2012 plan also featured a $250,000 city-administered grant program using Grand Victoria Casino money to fund social service and non-profit agencies. Another $50,000 was set aside for cultural arts groups.
The budget stabilized the property tax levy at $47.25 million, a $3 million reduction from the $50.1 million peak year levy in 2010. That move was accomplished by transferring $3.7 million from the casino fund to the general fund — a $2 million increase in transfer from the prior year.