Board cuts expenses, considers increase in water, sewer, refuse rates
by Susan O’Neill
Village officials have taken several actions to make up for a loss of revenue due to the slow-down of the housing market and general economy, as well as a decrease in sales tax projections.
The decrease in the sales tax projections includes a drop in sales tax revenue from current stores and lower gasoline taxes with the recent drop in the price per gallon. In addition, the opening of new stores projected for the second half of 2008 did not take place.
The village let go two full-time employees and one part-time employee earlier this year. According to Sugar Grove Finance Director Justin VanVooren, the elimination of the three positionsâ€”a building inspector, a permits clerk and a part-time office associateâ€”will save the village approximately $150,000 in salaries and benefits.
During three recent budget workshops, the Village Board discussed other cost-saving measures that will reduce expenditures across the board in both the general fund and the water and sewer fund, two of the village’s largest funds.
The additional cost saving measures include items such as eliminating the cost-of-living and market adjustment salary increases for nonunion village employees and delaying the replacement or purchase of vehicles and other equipment for the streets division and police department.
The 3.25 percent adjustment and step increases included in the Police Patrol contract will remain intact.
According to VanVooren, water and sewer use has trended downward over the past two years, due to conservation awareness and education, cooler and wetter summers and the current economy. However, fixed costs, primarily debt for capital projects including wells number 8 and number 9, and the water treatment system to eliminate radium from the water supply, have remained constant.
The village is repaying low-interest loans from the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency for these projects, as well as money borrowed to decommission the old wastewater treatment plant and the necessary infrastructure to hook on with the Fox Metro system in 1998.
Although the village will experience a tightening of its budget, village staff expects that there will be minimal impacts on service levels to residents.
Village Administrator Brent Eichelberger said that after attending meetings with other municipalities, the village of Sugar Grove is in better shape than many others.
Board members discussed increasing water and sewer rates again this year. The village increased its water and sewer rates for the first time in six years in 2008. At that time, VanVooren said additional increases of that size would be necessary this year and next year.
The village’s refuse contract will experience a higher-than-expected annual increase, of 3.8 percent versus the budgeted 3 percent. According to VanVooren, an increase to the residents’ rates from $17.75 to $18.75 is necessary. With the increase, the cost to residents is still less than the village actually pays per household, he said.
These increases and the other items related to the budget will be decided upon when the Village Board approves the next fiscal year’s budget. According to VanVooren, this will take place at one of the two regularly scheduled board meetings in April, either Tuesday, April 7, or Tuesday, April 21. The fiscal year begins on May 1, 2009, and runs to April 30, 2010.