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Budget control highlights 2012 in Sycamore

SYCAMORE – For Sycamore’s elected officials, 2012 was about keeping the streak alive.

The city held its property tax levy at $2.6 million for a third year in a row despite declining revenues and plummeting property values, which fell from $410 million to $371 million citywide. The loss in revenue has produced $160,000 less for city operations the past three years, but services have remained strong, Mayor Ken Mundy said.

It is a point of pride for all staff members.

“Department heads and workers are willing to make things last and be frugal and economical,” Mundy said. “We’ve stretched the use of our materials, and that’s been a plus for the bottom line.”

He said industrial growth in 2012 also could lead to bolstered tax revenues in 2013. Mundy pointed to the addition of the DeKalb Sycamore Chevrolet Cadillac GMC dealership on Mercantile Drive as a major asset for the city.

The former Mike Mooney dealership moved from DeKalb and added 21 positions while increasing its space to hold 500 vehicles. Mundy also praised the expansion of multiple businesses in the Sycamore Prairie Business Park as a sign of economic growth.

“Logistically, we’re in a great place in being able to attract interest from businesses and industry,” he said.

Third Ward Alderman Steve Braser agreed with Mundy and said the city’s financial frugality and ability to maintain its top bond rating were highlights in 2012. Budget concerns again top the list of worries in 2013, especially when it comes to receiving state revenue, Braser said.

He said the council will need to be creative to freeze the property tax levy for a fourth consecutive year.

“You can’t sit still,” he said. “If you don’t want things to say the same, you have to think of new ideas and new ways to grow.”

Aside from the financial accomplishments, 1st Ward Alderman Alan Bauer said there were positive additions to the city. He said it was great to see the previously abandoned historical train depot converted into the new home for the DeKalb County Community Foundation.

He also praised the completion of the DeKalb County Courthouse expansion.

“I know it was controversial, but in the end I think it was very well done,” Bauer said.

Some changes were not as positive, such as the loss of the DeKalb County Liners. Bauer also voiced displeasure when the city voted to allow video gambling at bars.

But the biggest issue moving into 2013 is the budget, he said.

“The national economy can affect us, too, and you keep hearing about that ‘fiscal cliff,’” Bauer said. “If people are taxed heavily they will spend less. ... The hard part is projecting revenues so we have to keep controlling spending.”

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