Elmhurst Aldermen Take Closer Look at DuPage Fees During Budget Discussion
Tourism fee more than doubles—emergency dispatch fees going up, too—but staff says the city has benefited greatly from these services.
The City of Elmhurst will be required to pay more for its continued participation in two county services: the DuPage Convention and Visitor's Bureau and DuPage Public Safety Communications. Aldermen questioned the expenses during their continued review of the city’s 2013 budget Monday.
Fees paid to the DCVB are going up $15,000. Elmhurst Historical Museum Director Brian Bergheger explained that in the past the city had a partial membership with the Bureau, but this option is no longer available. The increase from $10,000 to $25,000 reflects the cost of full membership.
The DCVB fee is based on one-quarter of 1 percent of a city’s hotel-motel tax. For Elmhurst, the 4 percent tax generates about $400,000 per year.
Third Ward Alderman Dannee Polomsky noted City Centre, Elmhurst Park District, Lizzadro Museum and other Elmhurst groups have memberships with DCVB. She said $25,000 is a lot for the city to pay for an additional membership when existing Elmhurst memberships already serve to bring people to town. She asked staff to look into whether Elmhurst DCVB members could have joint membership with the city to bring costs down.
The new membership structure also means hotels and motels within member cities no longer have to pay dues, Bergheger said.
Polomsky wanted to know if other municipalities were asking hotels within their boundaries to pay a fee to support the city fees. Bergheger said the city already charges the hotel-motel tax, which can go into the general fund because Elmhurst is a home-rule community.
Bergheger said the DCVB was instrumental in funneling business to Elmhurst during last year’s Ryder Cup at Medinah Country Club. About 200 hotel rooms in Elmhurst were booked due to the event, he said.
Aldermen also wondered about fees paid to DuPage Public Safety Communications, or DuComm, the countywide agency that answers 911 calls. DuComm fees are projected to go from $639,000 last year to $642,000 in 2013. But because of the eight-month 2013 budget—necessary as the city shifts to a calendar fiscal year in 2014—fees are pro-rated at about $497,000 for 2013.
Third-Ward Alderman Michael Bram asked why, if DuComm has added members and now serves 38 agencies, Elmhurst’s fees have not decreased.
Police Chief Michael Ruth explained that DuComm’s rates are based on the number of sworn officers in a community.
“We’re kind of at their mercy. We have little say-so in terms of their billing,” he said.
Assistant City Manager Mike Kopp added that the city, which has been a member of DuComm since its founding in 1974, benefits greatly from any technological upgrades the agency makes, and that the additional agency membership has actually held down fee increases over the past few years. DuComm also has added dispatchers, Kopp said.
This is the third week of budget planning for 2013. The City Council plans to finish budget review next week, including a revisit of some “circle-back” items that need extra discussion. April 1 is the target date for aldermen to have a finished budget in hand.