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Elgin City Council approves $277M budget

The city has not needed use much its budget this winter for snow removal so far. Overall says Sean Stegall

The city has not needed to use much of its budget this winter for snow removal so far. Overall, says Sean Stegall, city manager, the 2013 budget is a “maintenance budget” that maintains city buildings, its vehicle fleet, sidewalks and streets. | Sun-Time

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Updated: January 17, 2013 6:31AM

ELGIN — The 2013 budget approved by city council during a special Friday night meeting is the third in a row that reduces the city’s reliance on property taxes, officials said.

The total, $277,800,080-expenditure budget covers seven fund types and 34 different funds for the city, said Colleen Lavery, chief financial officer for the city.

The appropriation approved in conjunction with the budget asks for $40,547,000 in property tax from Elgin residents, Lavery added. “As percentage of total (income) property taxes are 31 percent,” of all city income, Lavery said. “Two years ago it was 47 percent of the total.”

City officials have touted its ability to find new revenue sources rather than continuing to rely heavily on property taxes. Elgin was able to bring in an additional $2 million over estimates in 2012, Lavery noted.

“With revenue diversification, we are ahead of schedule,” on capturing new income sources, Lavery said.

The additional $2 million — which will be reflected in a lower city portion on a property tax bills — was used to continue lowering property taxes.

The goal of reducing the property tax levy has been met,” Lavery said, adding that the 2013 budget decreases the property tax levy by $5.43 million.

The surplus funds were the result of more income tax collected by the state and shared with Elgin, more sales tax collected than previous estimates, and a higher telecom tax, Lavery said.

In the 2012 budget, Elgin also added new liquor taxes, a half-cent sales tax increase, refuse collection fees, and new utility fees on electricity and natural gas.

Those new fees, which kicked in on July 1, cost the average resident an additional $58, council member John Prigge said.

Prigge was the lone vote against the 2013 budget, which he insisted did not fairly take into account the needs of taxpayers, charge costs directly back to users, or refund the $2 million budget surplus by way of direct refunds.

“There are good reasons to tax, like to keep the public safe, and there are bad reasons to tax. I will not support an unfair budget,” Prigge said.

Council member Anna Moeller countered Prigge’s argument, noting the city does provide services not everyone will use.

“We talk about using services and paying for the services that we use. That is not always how it works. I have never had to use the fire department,” but doesn’t mind paying for those services, she said.

“I don’t use senior services yet, but I will pay for them to be here. I want to live in a community that provides services for all kinds of people, not just people like me,” Moeller said.

Overall, said Sean Stegall, city manager, the 2013 budget is a “maintenance budget” that maintains city buildings, its vehicle fleet, sidewalks and streets.

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