June 16, 2012

Council awaits Gilliam’s return to review finance report

By Ted Schnell • BocaJump | Saturday, June 16, 2012

City officials will wait until June 27 to review the comprehensive annual financial report on Elgin’s 2011 finances, a report City Hall believes will dispel critics’ claims about the city’s budget, which saw the addition of new taxes and fees and an increase in the city’s sale tax.

The City Council’s long-anticipated review of the report was scheduled for June 13, but the council tabled it until June 27 as the request of Councilman Robert Gilliam, who could not attend the June 13 meeting.

Gilliam predicted at the start of the year that he would miss a number of City Council meetings as his family works through a health crisis. City officials have said that Gilliam checks in regularly to keep up to date on what has been going on in Elgin.

During budget deliberations last summer and fall, the city administration laid out its case for restructuring or diversifying the city’s revenue base, including the addition of new fees — mainly a monthly trash-hauling fee for residents — to generate the income to ward off a $4.5 million structural deficit. By fall, however, the deficit projection increased two times as new figures came in from county assessors showing property taxes would drop sharply this year, as well as word from the state on declines in state revenues. By October, the worst-case deficit projection for 2012 stood at as much as $13 million.

In January, the City Council adopted a budget and five-year financial plan that includes new fees and taxes, and a sales tax increase, totaling $10 million in 2012, partly offset this year by a $1 million reduction in Elgin’s share of property tax revenues.

But the three new taxes — on electricity, natural gas and alcoholic beverages — and an increase in the sales tax won’t be implemented until July 1, meaning they will generate only half the revenue in 2012 than they will in 2013 and onward.

So the total revenues from those new taxes and fees will grow to a projected $14.6 million next year. However, the city’s financial plan increases the cuts to Elgin’s share of property taxes by 2014, offsetting all but $4.6 million of the new revenues.

Critics have faulted the revenue plan for increasing taxes and have criticized the city for its handling of the budget and budget crisis. City officials have held off replying to the most recent criticisms pending the release of the report, which they say refutes the points raised by the group Elgin OCTAVE and other critics.

The report is available in PDF format on the city’s website at:
  1. Table of contents and intro
  2. Financial section Part 1
  3. Financial section Part 2
  4. Statistical

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