At the April 7 meeting, the budget was presented in draft
form and showed that there was a $250,000-plus deficit in the
general fund. The draft had been put together using best-case
scenarios from the various city departments. McLaughlin walked
through some of the details of the budget and told aldermen that she
would be working directly with department heads to see how they
could trim the budget for the coming year.
On Tuesday evening, she presented a final copy that actually brought
the general fund out of the red and into black ink in the amount of
The total budget for the next year is in excess of $29 million, with
approximately $20 million being in restricted funds. The restricted
portions of the budget are those dollars that are required by
law to be used for specific purposes, such as the motor fuel tax,
which can only be used for infrastructure, or the general obligation
bond, which can only be used for qualified expenses such as buildings or equipment.
The largest portion of the general fund budget is used to cover
workers' wages and fringe benefits, along with administrative costs, such as
telephone bills, office supplies and general office expenses.
In discussing the changes made to balance the budget, McLaughlin
said there were a couple of personnel requests that could be
delayed to save the city money. She spoke specifically on
Tuesday night about waiting until later in the year to hire a new
At the earlier meeting, she had also suggested the city wait three
months to hire a new public works director. Muzaffar Lakhani was
hired in November to fill this newly created position
for the city. However, he resigned the position in late January or
early February, and to date has not been replaced.
Much of the discussion regarding the new budget revolved around
compensation for one employee in the city clerk's office. City Clerk
Susan Gehlbach had requested raises for her deputy, Joy Funk, as
well as the sewer billing clerk, Dawn Crowell. In the budget, both
were given their raises. Gehlbach said that in requesting the raise
for Funk, she had contacted other city clerks and inquired about the
annual income for their assistants. She found that Funk's pay was a
great deal less than what other cities paid. The raise Gehlbach requested
for Funk would still be less than what other cities pay, but would bring
the pay closer to being in line with the norm.
Gehlbach had also asked for a significant raise for Crowell. All the
aldermen agreed that Crowell has done a great job for the city and
is more than deserving of the increase. However, the problem arose
when it came out that the increase was more than what is mandated
for this year by the union Crowell is in.
Melody Anderson said she was not going to be able to support that.
She indicated that she believed completely that Crowell deserved the
increase, but that it would "open a whole can of worms" for the city
regarding other union employees.
In the general obligation bond, expenses were moved from the general
fund to the 2010 general obligation bond for the purchase of guns for the police
department, a new computer server, a new audio system for the city
council chambers and for building repairs. The bond had a beginning
balance of $100,871 for the new fiscal year. If all these
expenditures occur, the city will end the year with $872
remaining in that fund.
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The city also has their 2013 general obligation bond, which was moved into the
capital projects fund. That fund is currently running in the red,
with a total shortfall estimated to be $43,294. Included in the
revenues are grant dollars for acquisition of property for work on Fifth Street Road, state dollars for the Lincoln Depot and a grant for
work at the Apex at City Center.
Included in the expenditures in the capital projects fund are
dollars for street repairs and resurfacing projects, which will be
done in the new fiscal year.
There are also dollars for the new street garage. The budget is
calling for a total expenditure of $4.2 million, with an anticipated
reimbursement from Commonwealth Edison and Nicor Gas of $4.1
There is $160,000 in the budget for the Apex. Anderson said she
wanted to stress that none of this is city money. The city received money
for the sale of the parking lot at the former Abraham
Lincoln Memorial Hospital site when they sold it last year to developers.
That came to approximately $40,000. The balance of $120,000 would
come to the city through a Park and Recreational Facility Construction grant from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.
She added that if nothing happens at the Apex this year, then the
$40,000 alone would bring the capital projects fund close to
balancing. McLaughlin added that some of the projects funded by
grants won't be done until the grant is actually awarded. She also
said she wasn't as concerned about this red ink as she would be
about others because there are projects that don't have to be, or may not
be, completed in the new fiscal year.
Included in this list, beyond street repairs that will be done, is
$85,000 for brick road repair, $108,000 for decorative lighting and
$15,000 for other community improvements.
Some of the biggest hurdles in the new budget are the
increases in wages, health insurance, property insurance, vehicle
liability and workers' compensation insurance.
McLaughlin said she does have plans to do a complete review of the
workers' compensation. Premiums for these policies are based upon
job descriptions, with higher costs for jobs having higher risk for injury.
McLaughlin said she would review the policy to assure that
employees were being placed in the correct risk definition.
The budget will be on tonight's voting agenda. The budget may be
tabled if aldermen are not ready to cast their vote. If that should
happen, then the city would have to call a special adjourned voting
meeting on April 29.
[By NILA SMITH]