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Government Local

Sycamore kicks off budget season

City Council gives direction for balanced budget

First Ward Aldermen David Stouffer (left) and Alan Bauer take notes during Tuesday's Sycamore City Council meeting. The council heard recommendations from the city manager for the budget for fiscal 2019.
First Ward Aldermen David Stouffer (left) and Alan Bauer take notes during Tuesday's Sycamore City Council meeting. The council heard recommendations from the city manager for the budget for fiscal 2019.

SYCAMORE – The Sycamore City Council began its budget season Tuesday night by receiving a summary of city staff’s plans: a balanced budget with $16.64 million in planned expenditures and no new taxes or fees.

In December, the council approved the property tax levy for fiscal 2019, which begins May 1. The levy lowered the tax rate, but new construction will lead to an overall increase in the levy. The owner of a $200,000 home can expect to pay $494.15, or 3 cents less than in 2016. The largest source of the city’s revenue does not come from property taxes, however, but from sales and use taxes. City Manager Brian Gregory said that sales tax was probably going to come in on budget, but the home rule sales tax would be a little under budget because of administration fees at the state level for collecting the tax.

“As that money comes in, the state takes 2 percent of it,” Gregory said.

Restaurant and bar taxes will continue to be strong, and the 2 percent tax, instituted in 2002 for debt service and general operations, will equal about 7.25 percent of the city’s revenue.

“As you know, there are additional restaurants coming on board and it seems people are eating out more,” Gregory said.

The local portion of the state income tax, which is budgeted to be about 12 percent of the city’s revenue, will come in about $91,000 less because of another change at the state level. As part of the budget passed in July, the state lowered local municipalities’ share by 10 percent, although, as a trade the state accelerated payments to local municipalities at the same time.

“Has there been a freeze by the state on that 10 percent that they took from us?” 3rd Ward Alderman Steve Braser asked.

“They said it’s a one-time deal,” Gregory answered.

The budget expects an increase in wages of 2.5 percent because of requirements of collective-bargaining agreements. Combined with other expenses related to personnel, such as pensions and health insurance, employee costs total about 73 percent of the total budget.

Gregory noted that the budget is balanced without transfers from reserves for the first time in several years.

Gregory credited the city’s department managers and employees with doing more with less.

“That’s why we’re able to present budgets year in and year out that are balanced without going back and asking for more of this or more of that,” he said.

For the next several City Council meetings through February and March, the council will hear the plans from several of the city’s funds for next years budget, culminating in the public hearing and first reading of the budget at the April 2 council meeting.

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