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3 to know: Council considers budget, health plans, building codes

Published: Friday, April 18, 2014 5:30 a.m. CST

WHEATON – The Wheaton City Council has discussed several major items during the last several weeks, two of which will likely be slated for Monday’s agenda. Here are three topics to watch out for.

1. City budget

The City Council held its final public comment meeting on the city’s proposed $88.8 million budget Monday. The process has been relatively tame, with no members of the public coming to comment at the most recent meeting.

The balanced budget is $400,000 in excess revenue that keeps property taxes flat for the fourth straight year. Spending highlights include $2 million more in capital projects compared to the previous year, spending to combat the emerald ash borer tree infestation around the city and extensive road work.

While the city won’t be raising property taxes, the overall tax burden will still be 4.9 percent higher for the average resident because of increases in sales, income and incremental taxes.

The council is expected to pass the budget at Monday’s meeting.

2. Health care changes

The city is considering updating its health care plans for city employees to keep pace with rising health insurance costs and requirements in the Affordable Care Act.

All changed costs would rise – particularly the employee deductibles for the preferred provider plan. A single payer would rise to $425 from $250, and families would pay $850 instead of $500. It also would raise the out-of-packet maximum by $150 and $300, respectively, and add co-pay fees for office and ER visits.

All changes would be effective July 1 except for members of the International Association of Fire Fighters union, which has a bargaining agreement that does not allow for changes to be made.

Human Resources Director John Duguay told the council Monday the changes were on par with other municipalities and will save the city $400,000 next year, saying they would have “the most bang for the buck.” He said the majority of employees would not be greatly impacted by the change.

Council member John Prendiville called the changes “very reasonable, especially compared to the private employer health care marketplace.”

3. Updated building codes

After several months of consideration, the council appears ready to update its building codes to align with the 2012 International Code Council guidelines with at least one large exception.

After consulting with Wheaton Fire Chief Bill Schultz at a Feb. 26 meeting, the council has shied away from the requirement that new homes include fire sprinkler systems. The members of the council and city staff said that it could put an undue financial burden on homeowners for minimal safety returns.

The city now requires them for multifamily residences and commercial businesses.

The council also discussed April 7 about adding a requirement of heat detectors in attached garages. City staff found that the impact would be relatively low.

The council is expected to formally vote on the updated codes at its upcoming meeting.

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