No new fees eyed in next Elgin budget
By Janelle Walker For The Courier-News October 20, 2012 8:46PM
Updated: November 22, 2012 6:51AM
ELGIN — When the city council gets the full, proposed 2013 budget on Nov. 2, it will be a different document than what the board had last year, said City Manager Sean Stegall.
“You will receive a proposed budget ... that does lower property taxes. It will not include any additional taxes or fees for your consideration,” Stegall told the city council at a 6:30 p.m. budget session Friday.
The proposed budget will also “mark the third consecutive year that we have reduced our portion of the property tax bill,” Stegall said.
Much of those reductions have come by way of new fees, said Mayor David Kaptain. “This year, we will apply the revenues from electrical and gas taxes to reduce property taxes. That is part of a four-year program … to create greater stability in Elgin’s financial picture.”
“Through the changes in the city budget last year, we will create greater equity for our residents” by targeting fees and usage instead of property taxes, Kaptain said.
The additional fees and revenue have brought an additional $900,000 to Elgin’s budget, Stegall said. However, budget expenditures for the 2012 fiscal year will not be available until the Nov. 2 meeting, he added.
The council did consider, and approve, a contract with Unisys Inc., Salesforce.com and Stern Consulting to move forward with a proposed citywide 311 non-emergency phone system. The council also approved a contract to study its water and sewer rates that will also look at stormwater utility fees.
The stormwater utility fee is not a “done deal,” officials said, but is something the city needs to consider.
“I am prepared to hire the company to conduct the study. But yea or nay? I know I am not ready” for that decision, said Council member Anna Moeller. “We have major infrastructure challenges, we have flooding. We owe it to the residents to find out what are options are to remedy that situation.”
Even in this time of belt-tightening, the city needs to consider infrastructure projects that required funding, Kaptain said.
“We need to deal with our aging infrastructure and repairs to items that were built decades ago,” Kaptain said.
He also commended city staff for saving money by returning unused funds to the general fund instead of finding ways to spend those funds within their departments.
Still, said Assistant City Manager Rick Kozal, some of the new revenue streams did not take effect until July 1, including the new electric and gas utility taxes and a new alcohol sales tax.
The electric tax went over estimates by about $225,000, but the gas tax was $400,000 less that anticipated. The alcohol sales tax raised $60,000 more than projected, said Colleen Lavery, Elgin’s chief financial officer.
Of the liquor 110 licensees in the city, three have not submitted their fees back to the city on time, Kozal said. Licensees that do submit on time are given a 1 percent discount, and liquor license fees were reduced to help defray costs implementing the fees, he added.
Property taxes have also come in under budget; Cook County levied too little for the year, Lavery said.
The city is also assuming the new Sam’s Club on Randall Road will bring in an additional $800,000 in sales taxes to the city each year.
While the natural gas tax revenue was lower than anticipated, the city needs to see how the third month of that income shakes out, Stegall said.
None of the additional revenue will be earmarked for new programs, but for continued reductions in property taxes, he added. “You will not see those monies used for any service level enhancements,” Stegall said. “This will be a status quo budget.”