Here's a Glimpse at Some of the Ways Aldermen Are Planning to Spend Your Money
And, in discussing the 2013 budget, aldermen discovered a new twist in the Prairie Path underpass project.
Elmhurst City Council members took their first swipe at the fiscal year 2013 budget Monday, an eight-month fiscal year that ends on Dec. 31.
Aldermen decided last year to move to a calendar fiscal year, which is the reason for the May-December budget cycle. Aldermen will go through the budgeting process again at the end of 2013, in parallel with determination of the 2014 tax levy, as the city transitions to the 2014 fiscal-year beginning Jan. 1.
Aldermen discussed projections for fire protection and public works funds, as well as some of smaller funds, such as wireless radio, motor fuel tax and the parking system.
By the Numbers
Expenses in the general fund total just less than $39.6 million, and revenues are just less than $41.3 million, which will result in about $1.6 million going into the fund balance, City Manager Jim Grabowski said.
"For the first time in several years, we reached the fund balance goal of 25 to 33 percent of operating expenses," Grabowski said.
The budget shows no increase in spending over 2012.
"We're not comfortable expanding services at this time," he said. "If revenues increase next year, we can talk about bringing back services cut in the past."
One of the most notable differences between this budget and the current budget is staff reduction. The city went from 265 full-time employees to 259. No one was laid off, but as positions opened, some were not filled.
"We talked at great length about where and when it is appropriate (to not fill a position)," Grabowski said.
- one customer service employee, replaced by an agency employee
- one public works inspector, replaced with two part-time employees
- one police records clerk, replace with a part-time staff member
- one administrative secretary, replaced with a part-time staff member
- two forestry positions, replaced by a contract service
"With the changes, we're saving $200,000 a year in wages and benefits," Grabowski said.
Sales tax revenues are projected to increase at a rate 2 percent greater than the current fiscal year due, in part, to projections for Mariano's Fresh Market. Sales tax remains the greatest source of revenue in the general fund, Grabowski said.
Staff also budgeted for small revenue increases in other funds, including motor fuel tax (used for stormwater improvements) and utility tax. Estimates are dependant on market conditions, new home permits and actions by the state government, Grabowski said.
Property tax revenue from the city's tax increment financing districts is expected to decrease in TIF 1 due to the transfer of the Hahn Street project into TIF 4. No new growth is anticipated for the Lake and Walnut TIF (2) and a slight decrease is anticipated for TIF 3, at St. Charles and Route 83, due to decreasing property values, he said.
Fire Protection Services
Fire Chief Jeff Bacidore said the Fire Department needs more money in some areas to continue "its core mission of protecting life and property."
Fire staff wants to increase officer training and conference attendance, and expand its training facility, items removed from previous budgets. Vehicle replacement also had been delayed, and equipment like rescue saws, gas monitors and breathing apparatus need to be replaced, he said.
DuComm member agencies are discussing a second DuComm facility because 11 new agencies have joined the dispatch service, Bacidore said. The cost is spread over all of the agencies. For fire departments, cost is based on a community's property values. For police, cost is based on the number of officers. The facility has not been approved by member agencies, and if it is not approved, the line item will go away, he said.
"We have been involved with this every step of the way because Elmhurst has a seat on the DuComm board," Bacidore said. "We will continue to monitor this."
Also in the budget is $175,000 for the purchase of an ambulance—the cost would be offset by not having to lease—and a new pickup with snow plow for $32,000.
Prairie Path Underpass Gets How Much?
The Illinois Prairie Path underpass at York Road is not in the 2013 budget cycle, but $150,000 for Phase I work on the project is in the 2014 budget.
Several aldermen were quick to say they have serious reservations about the project. The money in the 2014 budget is more of a placeholder, Public Works Director Mike Hughes said
"If you don't put the $150,000 in, it can't proceed," he said.
In an unexpected twist, Elmhurst has been approved for a significantly larger grant for the underpass than the $350,000 originally presented. Elmhurst has now been approved for $1.6 million through the state's Surface Transportation Program. The money is awarded by the DuPage Mayors and Managers Association, which gave the project a very high rating.
"DuPage Mayors and Managers received a significant bump in funding and our project was determined to be the first in line to fund," Grabowski said. "So now we have $1.6 million awaiting our decision. It's quite a twist."
Grabowski said the money can sit with the DMMA for a few years until the city decides what to do.
"They understand we're not going to apply this time around," he said. "They will wait for us to make our determination."
If the underpass project did move forward, construction would be in 2017.
Roads, Trees and Such
Replacing forestry workers with contract labor should not affect service, and the two part-time staff members replacing the city inspector "seem to be working out very well," Hughes said.
But alderman were concerned there might not be enough staff to plow the streets or take care of storm damage.
"We did lose 700 trees last year, so it is a concern," Hughes said. But, while not everyone can operate a chain saw, "we do have other bodies that can drag brush and load chippers."
He said the department will explore emergency response service through vendors. "If we don't need it, we don't pay for it," he said.
Public Works also is planning on increasing street sweepings from five times a year to seven to help with stormwater drainage.
Just $25,000 is budgeted for snow removal in 2013, but it only has be applied to any December snow events. The bulk of winter will fall in 2014.
Some larger roadway projects for 2013, including $1.75 million for street resurfacing, will be greatly reduced in the 2014 budget. New sidewalks are slated for Howard Avenue; traffic signals on North, Lake, and at Crestview and York will get upgrades; and streetlights also are going to get more efficient luminaries.
On the agenda next month for the Committee of the Whole will be the capital projects budget.