Elgin eyes less property tax, more user fees
By Mike Danahey firstname.lastname@example.org November 5, 2012 9:12PM
A Waste Management worker removes trash in Elgin. Homeowners would pay a bit more in trash collection fees in the city’s proposed budgetary plans. | Sun-Times Media file
Updated: December 7, 2012 6:14AM
ELGIN — The city’s proposed 2013 budget and its 2013-2017 financial report are up for discussion Wednesday evening by the city council, minus one member who is out East and involved with hurricane relief efforts.
According to documents posted online at il-elginbudget.civicplus.com, the city’s total budget for next year is projected to be $277.8 million, up from $270.8 million for 2012.
Discussion Wednesday will include an overview from City Manager Sean Stegall and focus on the biggest piece of that money pie, the general fund. The fund includes revenue collected from property, income, sales, and other taxes, permits, licenses and fines and garbage collection fees. The 2013 budget will be the first to account for a full year of the alcoholic beverage, electricity, natural gas taxes and refuse fees put in place across 2012.
Mayor Dave Kaptain said Monday that the 2013 plan follows up on a policy shift for the council, with the new taxes and fees representing a “pay as you use” approach that lessens reliance on property tax to fund the operations of the city.
For 2013, staff is proposing about $98.1 million in expenditures, which is a 2.5 percent rise over a year-end estimate of $95.7 million for 2012. About $108 million is expected to be collected in revenues, up from $102.6 million expected to be brought in this year.
With new revenue streams in place — including electricity and natural gas taxes that the city started collecting in July — bringing in about $2 million more than anticipated, the proposed property tax levy for 2013 is $26.5 million, down from $31.8 million in 2012.
As proposed, Elgin single-family homeowners would pay $13.45 per month in 2013 for garbage collection, which would gradually rise to $15.14 per month in 2017. For condo and townhomes, that fee would be $9.77 in 2013 and rise to $11 per month in 2017.
An average Elgin household would be doling out about $33.50 a year to cover the electricity tax, which might be offset by participation in the electric aggregation initiative that voters approved in spring. For a typical Elgin household, the municipal gas tax equates to another $29.50 per year, according to the online documents.
The biggest single 2013 general fund expense is $73.4 million in staff pay and benefits, up from $70.4 million in 2012.
General fund money also is expected to cover a new digital radio system for public safety communications and $2 million in vehicle replacements. The communications system is 17 years old, and the city expects it to cost $12.5 million to replace it.
Last month, the council agreed to commission a $288,150 study about putting a stormwater utility fee or tax in place in 2014 and beyond. Kaptain noted the study’s cost covers extensive work that includes comparing Elgin water-related rates to other municipalities, identifying stormwater-related infrastructure needs for city, engineering survey work, and GPS views of all properties in Elgin.
If a stormwater fee of any sort is implemented, Kaptain said, the money collected could be used to fund resolving long-standing infrastructure problems in town, including flood prevention and ongoing sewer separation projects.
Councilman Rich Dunne won’t be at the Wednesday session. Dunne resigned from his post as an Elgin fire lieutenant in September and started a job with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) as a fire grant specialist. Dunne works out of the Region 5 in downtown Chicago, which covers Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin. In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, this past weekend Dunne and most of the Chicago office were sent out to the East Coast to help with recovery efforts.