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Final public hearing on Wheaton's $89M budget Monday

Published: Wednesday, April 9, 2014 3:46 p.m. CDT • Updated: Tuesday, July 29, 2014 9:54 p.m. CDT

WHEATON – The public’s final chance to weigh in on Wheaton’s proposed 2015 city budget is approaching, before its expected adoption at the end of the month.

The $88.8 million budget has about $400,000 in excess revenue and will be 1.2 percent less than the budget in 2014, according to city documents. It also will take in 3.7 percent more revenue.

While the budget is similar to previous years, City Manager Don Rose said, it does include a $2 million increase in capital projects.

That rise is because of an increased commitment to road repairs and small initiatives, including traffic light, streetlight and sidewalk replacement or refurbishment, and bridge repairs.

“There are a couple of new initiatives that are maybe more minor in nature, but capital projects that have been kind of put off over the last number of years because of monetary situations,” Rose said.

In fact more spending may be needed to pay for added road repairs after the harsh winter, he said.

The budget includes a number of security improvements to both the city’s electronic presence and various government-owned buildings, such as city hall, public works, the police department and several parking garages.

Additionally, $400,000 more will be spent on emerald ash borer tree treatment and removal than in 2014.

While the overall amount of money collected will grow by 4.9 percent to $18.9 million because of increases in sales tax, local sales tax, income tax and incremental taxes from TIF districts, property tax rates will stay flat for the fourth straight year, the budget said.

The city may actually take in half a percent less in overall property taxes in 2015.

Those funds make up about half the city’s total amount of tax revenue, with the majority of the remainder coming from services such as meter collections, permits and water service, Rose said.

The extra spending and increase in collection has created a deficit of $700,000 in the city’s general fund, which has about $41 million in expenditures. However, Rose said there is sufficient money in the fund balance to cover the shortfall. The city has been adding to its reserve funding steadily in recent years as a response to uncertainty in Springfield, he said.

“We have a mark where we should be most of the time,” he said. “We’ve kind of informally moved that mark up a bit because of our concern about the state and them taking away revenue.”

Rose also said while police and fire pension costs have gone up slightly the last several years, the city is in a good position because it maintained payments. The police lieutenants and sergeants contract expires at the end of the month.

Wheaton Mayor Mike Gresk said 2015’s budget is lean but delivers quality service for the same – or lower – funding levels.

“I always point to the fact that we always appear on these lists regularly – ‘Top 100 Places to Live in the country,’ ‘top 25 safest communities in the country,’ ‘top 10 communities in the state of Illinois,’” Gresk said. “We are bond rated AAA from Moody’s. These are all positive things, and it’s a constant, regular effort on our part to get this done.”

The budget’s final public hearing will be Monday. The council is expected to adopt it April 21. The full budget is viewable online at www.wheaton.il.us.

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Fast facts

• Total budget expenditures are $88.8 million, down 1.2 percent from last year. • Total revenues are estimated at $89.2 million, up 3.7 percent over last year. • Taxes are projected to increase $2.1 million, or 4.9 percent. • Property taxes levied by the city will remain the same, but the revenues are projected to be down about 0.5 percent. • Charges from services are projected to increase by $1.6 million, or 9 percent, due largely to an increase in water rates.

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