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Elgin begins discussion on budget

 Sean Stegall city manager

Sean Stegall, city manager

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Updated: December 9, 2012 7:32PM

Discussion of the proposed Elgin 2013 budget and 2013-2017 financial report got under way Wednesday evening.

In his opening comments, City Manager Sean Stegall mentioned the city has a top, AAA Bond rating; that Elgin’s property tax levy is set to be go down again next year; that cost control measures from staff will save more than $344,000 this year; and that $2 million more than expected in anticipated revenues coming in all lead up to what he is calling “a maintenance budget.”

About 94 percent of the city’s budget covers expenses related to public safety (police, fire and public works), Stegall reminded the council, using two proportionally doled-out jars of pennies to illustrate his point.

And the plan for the $2 million extra is to use it to offset part of the aforementioned reduction in property tax, Stegall said.

According to the online version of the budget (, the proposed property tax levy for 2013 is $40.55 million, down from $45.97 million this year — with $26.5 million going to the general fund, down from $31.8 million in 2012. The rest of the take each year is allocated to the city’s debt service and pension obligations.

Looming for the council is its October decision to commission a $288,150 study concerning putting a stormwater utility fee or tax in place in 2014 and beyond. 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, Mayor David Kaptain said, the money collected could be used to resolve long-standing infrastructure problems in town, including flood prevention and ongoing sewer separation projects. There are legal and social obligations behind getting such work done, Kaptain said Wednesday.

According to the online document, the city’s total budget for next year is projected to be $277.8 million, up from $270.8 million for 2012. 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.

The 2013 budget will be the first to account for a full year of the alcoholic beverage, electricity, natural gas taxes and refuse fees the city put in place across 2012 to diversify its revenue streams.

The biggest 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 $2 million in vehicle replacements and buying a $12.5 million public safety communications system to replace the current version, which is 17 years old.

Stegall also discussed the year-long effort to put together a strategic plan, which now is available online, too, and which is set to be adopted in January 2013.

The plan’s mission statement is “To provide responsive, high-quality and efficient municipal services in order to preserve and enhance the community’s quality of life.

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