Tag Archives: Erin Willrett

Cheaper electric rates coming to Elburn

Elburn—Elburn Village Administrator Erin Willrett is reviewing bids for an electric power provider as the village gets ready to purchase electricity at a reduced bulk rate and will make a recommendation to the board next week.

“The bottom line is the residents of the village of Elburn will save money,” Village President Dave Anderson, said. “It’s a win-win situation.”

Voters approved a referendum on April 15 allowing the village to join neighboring municipalities, such as Sugar Grove, in offering residents a choice other than ComEd. Under the program, all ComEd customers in Elburn, both residential and small commercial retail, will automatically be included in the plan unless they opt-out, which they may do at any time.

ComEd will continue to maintain the system and they are the ones to call if power goes out, regardless which plan residents choose.

“The bills will still come from ComEd, your maintenance will still be from ComEd,” Willrett said. “I plan to announce the winning proposal next Monday at the earliest.”

ComEd is also bidding, but Willrett said it doesn’t appear they will be the lowest bidder. Once a provider is chosen, village residents will receive a letter explaining the program and be given a chance to opt-out of participating.

Board OK’s pursuit of playground grant

by Sandy Kaczmarski
Elburn—There may be some new playground equipment next year at Community Center Park if the village is awarded an $85,000 grant through the Open Space Lands Acquisition and Development Program.

The Village Board on Monday gave the go-ahead to the Public Works Department to apply for the grant. The project would cost the village $42,500 after a 50 percent reimbursement when the project is finished. The project is slated to begin next year if the grant is received.

Village Administrator Erin Willrett said competition for grant money is extremely high, and the village was denied a previous grant it submitted.

Jenna Cook, a Public Works employee who has been spearheading the project, said all of the playground equipment would be replaced and the sand would be removed.

“We would replace everything,” she told board members. “The sand is a bees’ nest haven. Kids have a lot of issues (with bees) in the summertime.”

Cook said the equipment is outdated and much of it can’t be replaced. The equipment also is not compliant with the Americans With Disabilities Act.

“The equipment is 25 years old, and it’s met its useful life,” Cook said. “Most parks (equipment) last between 12 and 15 years.”

Cook received bids ranging from $65,000 for equipment that would reduce the size of the playground by half, and $85,000 that would reduce the size by one-fourth.

The grant would cover the purchase of two pieces of playground equipment with more ground activities for the 2- to 5-year-old range and activities that are strength-oriented for kids 5- to 12-years-old.

A swing set would include two tot swings and two belted swings for older kids. All of the equipment is ADA compliant and includes a wood mulch to replace the bee-ridden sand.

The bids include complete installation by the vendor, but some board members questioned whether there were some things the village could do to reduce costs, such as removing the sand and grading the playground.

Board members said they would like to consider looking for a local excavator to help with the project and make the new playground more of a community project.

Ardent about trees: Arbor Day celebration Saturday

by Lynn Meredith
ELBURN—Elburn will celebrate trees and all they bring to the health and wellbeing of a community at an Arbor Day event at 10 a.m. on Saturday, April 30, at the Elburn Community Center in the park at Willow and First streets.

Elburn has been a Tree City USA for 12 years, a designation by the Arbor Day Foundation for municipalities that meet their standards for nurturing trees.

And, since over the past several years the town has seen an outbreak of Emerald Ash Borers that have devastated local trees, this event can only feel good. The highlight of the day will be the planting of two trees. With the economy not so good these days, nurseries who used to donate trees are offering bushes. But that’s when citizens step up.

“It’s a real feel-good event,” Village Administrator Erin Willrett said. “We will plant two trees. Numerous Tree Board members have chipped in (to buy a tree), and Jenna Cook (Tree Conservater for the village) and her husband donated a tree.”

At the event, Village President Dave Anderson will read a proclamation, a representative from the Tree Board will read an explanation of Arbor Day, and the Boy Scouts will read a tree poem and display a flag ceremony.

Arbor Day was started in 1872 by a Nebraskan journalist, Sterling Norton, who believed that a day ought to be set aside for the planting of trees. The first observance ended in the planting of one million trees. This year is the 139th anniversary of its observance.

It’s budget time at Village Hall

by Lynn Meredith
Elburn—Now is the time of year when village officials are putting the finishing touches on the budget for the next fiscal year. Now is also the time for citizens to learn what is being proposed and the reasons for it. Elburn residents will have that opportunity at a public hearing on Monday, April 18, at 7 p.m. at Village Hall.

At the public hearing, residents will have a chance to provide feedback to the board before it votes on the budget on April 25. The budget ordinance will be published and available for public viewing prior to the vote.

As currently proposed, the budget is showing an increase in its balance of $70,000 from last year. With a beginning balance of $4,584,520, income estimated at $4,492,451, and expenditures estimated at $4,423,419, the budget shows the village coming out ahead.

“I am duly impressed with the hard work of Steve Smith in the Police Department, John Nevenhoven in Public Works, Erin (Willrett, village administrator), Katy, Mike Greenen and everybody,” Village President Dave Anderson said.

The village has also received the tentative levy numbers that indicate what property taxes will be for the coming year.

“The rate went up by .03 cents,” Anderson said. “On looking at my own rates, I see that it’s almost identical to what it was a year ago.”

The village got an increase but not the full amount they requested, something that is quite usual with tax levies.

Fund accounting 101

by Lynn Meredith
Elburn—The village of Elburn is switching its accounting system for this year’s budget to fund accounting.

Essentially, fund accounting means that municipalities bring in revenue and expend money on a fund-by-fund basis. Money that is collected as part of the water and sewer billing processes, for example, can only be used to maintain water and sewer operations, administration and other operating costs. That money cannot be used to pay police salaries or purchase squad cars.

“Funds can be thought of as a way of categorizing the source of revenue and expenditures relating to certain business functions of the village,” Village Administrator Erin Willrett wrote in an overview of fund accounting to the village trustees. “One advantage to fund accounting is that one can easily get an overall view of each fund’s net income, cash flow and financial standing to evaluate the need to enhance revenues or control spending.”

Funds may be restricted or unrestricted, and one project may be funded by several sources of revenue if appropriate. The only unrestricted funds are those in the General Operating and General Capital funds.

The General Operating fund receives its revenue from property tax collections, its share of retail taxes, along with fees for liquor licenses, court fines, building permit fees and others. The taxes on residents’ phone, gas and electric also go into this fund. The monies collected go to costs of administration, police and streets departments, as well as salaries for elected officials.

The General Capital fund receives its revenue from Road and Bridge property taxes assessed by Elburn’s two townships. The village gets 50 percent of the taxes collected from properties inside Elburn, and that money is returned to the village in this fund. The monies go to any capital expenses in the administration, Police and Streets departments.

Other funds included Water and Sewer Operating, and Capital funds (two separate funds), Park Dedication, Recreation, Transportation, Metra Parking, Escrow and others.

Elburn board avoids water rate increase

Scaling back project list preserves rates at least through end of year
by Sandy Kaczmarski
Elburn—It looks as if residents won’t have to face a water/sewer increase—for a while, at least.

Superintendent of Public Works John Nevenhoven told the Elburn Village Board Monday that to complete all the projects on his wish list, water rates would have to increase from $5 to $15 a month.

“Realizing that is not going to be practical, I’ve identified two of the five (projects) that would absolutely, positively have to be done this coming year,” Nevenhoven said.

The two projects he recommends completing this year will cost $126,000, something he says can be done within his current budget.

One of the projects is to rebuild and service well No. 3 at a cost of $65,000. The well was last serviced in 2002, and recommendations are that it be serviced every six or seven years.

“With something like a well, we’d much rather do it on our terms than on the well’s terms,” he said, meaning to repair it now before it breaks down.

The other project is interior service on the North Tower, coming in at $61,000, which was last serviced in 1996. The tower doesn’t need to be serviced as frequently as the well, but Nevenhoven said it’s at a point where repairs need to be done.

As the board discussed expected balances at the beginning of the fiscal year May 1, Village Administrator Erin Willrett pointed out an ordinance that requires the budget to be reviewed every year, but that the board is not tied to a fiscal year.

“We could start the review of water/sewer capital and look at the list of projects throughout the year, and make that recommendation effective as of January 1,” she said.

Trustee Jerry Schmidt said that with the current budget, it appears that three projects could be approved right now and without having to consider raising rates.

Village President David Anderson said the board could go ahead with the two projects suggested, and wait until January to decide to do another project if funds are available.

“I kind of like that,” he said. “I think this gives us a better perspective.”

Anderson said the board has a “fiduciary responsibility to maintain and operate the water and sewer systems.”

Trustee William Grabarek agreed, and said by deciding next January, the board would have eight more months for more careful planning.

“It would give us a better ability to look at our budget come January on these capital projects and make a decision at that time,” he said.

Nevenhoven is moving ahead on the two projects already budgeted for, and Willrett said she will reintroduce these budget concerns next fall so the board can better assign priorities and take a look at the rate structure.

Priorities, numbers needed to make a decision about water rate hike

by Lynn Meredith
Elburn—Discussion at Monday’s Committee of the Whole meeting centered on the need to have capital projects prioritized and numbers clarified in order to make a decision whether water and sewer rates should be increased.

The proposed increase would increase a current bill of $46.60 to $47.14, or 1.4 percent. The water rate per 100 cubic feet would go from $3.50 to $3.55, and the sewer from $2.60 to $2.64.

Public Works Superintendent John Nevenhoven said that the estimated revenues from the rate increase in 2010 were less than anticipated.

“The total shortfall is just over $54,000 of what we estimated revenues to be. We didn’t get as much money as we thought we were going to get, but we looked at the other side (expenditures) and found ways to reduce spending,” Nevenhoven said. “We stopped the bleeding we’d been experiencing the last couple of years.”

Last year’s large rate increase came at a time when the village was losing over $20,000 each month. Prior to that increase, water rates hadn’t been raised since the 1980s and sewer rates since the 1990s.

Usage fell following the rate hike with the system pumping 4 million gallons less than prior to the increase.

“With the increased rate, people think about it when they turn on their faucets. That’s why revenues are short,” Village Administrator Erin Willrett said.

The board discussed raising the base rate, which is currently $5 for both sewer and water. This money is used for capital improvements such as painting the water tower and replacing blowers. Additionally, a portion of the sewer revenue, approximately $1.10, is dedicated to repaying a $240,000 bond from Kane County. It will take 10 years to pay back the bond.

Trustee Jeff Walter emphasized that operational costs may not remain stable if people turn off their water to cut costs and that increasing the base charge makes sense. Bill Grabarek agreed.

“I’m hesitant to ask for a 1.4 percent increase in water bills,” he said. “I’d rather mess with the capital, not the operating money. I’d prefer to look at what it would be with the base charge (increase).”

In order to know how much money is actually needed, the board needs to know what projects have priority and what criteria is used. Also, village officials need to be able to inform the public that a rate hike is on the horizon. So, for the increase to be in effect by May 1, notification would need to be in the April 1 water bills.

“On Monday (at the village board meeting, March 21), you will see a project list and the staff-pick projects and recommendations,” Willrett said.

Village approves Elburn Station concept plan

by Lynn Meredith
Elburn—Elburn Village Board on Tuesday evening voted 5-1 to approve the Elburn station development’s concept plan. Jeff Walter was the sole vote opposing the plan.

Village Hall was filled with concerned citizens during the meeting in anticipation of the vote on whether to approve the concept plan for Elburn Station.

Sho-deen, Inc. of Geneva has been in talks with the village since 2005 about developing the land around the Metra station, north to Route 38 and south to Keslinger Road along an extended Anderson Road. The plan was originally approved in 2008, but when Sho-deen revised the plan to remove the commercial portion on Route 38 in October 2010, the Planning Commission voted not to recommend approval, and the resolution was tabled.

Citizens voiced concerns ranging from the impact on already devalued housing prices, to how the infrastructure can sustain the influx of new residents, to the intangibles that make a community unique.

“I purchased because of what Elburn is,” said resident Rocky Ruck. “If I wanted Naperville, I would have done that.”

Kane County Association of Realtors President-elect Christopher Tenggren said that housing inventory in Elburn is in the years, not the months, and that the community is still reeling from the Blackberry Creek project developed by B&B.

Others voiced concerns about rentals attracting more transient people to the community and burdening on already over-taxed school system.

“I’m concerned about the number of rentals and the impact on the schools,” said Bonnie White. “They are a financial burden that won’t be bringing in tax dollars.”

On the minds of Kane County and the village is $18 million in federal and state funds that are slated to be used to complete the Anderson Road overpass. Those funds could disappear, according to Catherine Hurlbut, chairman of the Kane County Division of Transportation, if progress is not shown in developing this area around Metra.

Approving the concept plan is step one. The next steps are to approve a preliminary plan and to annex the land surrounding the project. Currently, four property owners, including Sho-deen, would need to be annexed to the village before work on the bridge could continue.

“This concept plan is the bird’s eye view,” said Village Administrator Erin Willrett.

Dave Patzelt, Vice President of Development at Sho-deen, Inc., presented the changes that have been implemented in the plan since October.

“Even though the Planning Commission rejected a version, we took their comments as constructive criticism and made changes,” Patzelt said.

The changes to the original plan include lowering the density by reducing the number of multi-family houses originally proposed, adding additional green space, implementing a lift station, moving the fire station north, mirroring the townhomes on the west of Anderson south of Route 38 with townhomes to the east, changing multi-family houses to mixed-use spaces and providing vehicular access from Metra to downtown.

The number of housing units north of Metra has been reduced from 585 to 416. South of the tracks, the number has changed from 1,920 to 1,865. The increase in commercial space since October is now 70,000 square feet. Both village officials and Patzelt emphasized that the plan will change over the 20 years it will be in development.

“This is a concept plan. That’s all it is. It’s (the plan’s build-out is) 20 years, and it will change,” Anderson said. “We’ve talked to the (Elburn and Countryside) Fire District, the (Kaneland) School District, the (Town and Country Public) Library District, the Kane County Department of Transportation, the Kane County Development Department. Everybody, as of two weeks ago, has signed on.”

Elburn approves revised IGA

Move extends agreement with Kaneland for 1 year
by Lynn Meredith
Elburn—In October 2010, Elburn signed a three-year intergovernmental agreement (IGA) between local municipalities and the Kaneland School District that provided for land and cash dedications and school impact payments.

When Sugar Grove balked at signing the agreement, it was subsequently revised. On Tuesday, the Elburn Village Board voted to approve the revised, one-year agreement.

Sugar Grove negotiated with the district, arguing that the percentages developers would have to pay were based on tables that were outdated. Instead of the requested 60 percent in both land/cash and school impact fees, Sugar Grove called for 50 percent in land/cash and 0 percent in school impact fees.

Discussions ended when the district agreed to complete a new impact study headed by Roger Dahlstrom within one year and to change the length of the IGA to one year instead of three. Developers would be required to pay 60 percent in both land/cash and the school impact fees.

“The fees would be for buildings constructed this year only,” Village Administrator Erin Willrett said.

Elburn Village Board members agreed that the tables used to determine fees are outdated.

“One number used is $80,000 an acre. That’s dropped considerately. From that, everything else falls in place,” Village President Dave Anderson said. “The tables need to be updated, pure and simple. I think it’s a wise move (to sign this agreement).”

Public works budget laid out for review

by Lynn Meredith
Elburn—Public Works, like the other village of Elburn departments, presented to the board on Monday its proposals for spending in the coming year.

“We’re not voting. We’re just discussing at this point,” Village Administrator Erin Willrett said. “These are John (Nevenhoven)’s plans. We need to know if we’re on track or not, so we can find creative solutions.”

Many items were up for discussion as parts of $312,500 requested for water treatment upgrades. According to Nevenhoven, the most important project is to repair a well in the water system.

“Number one on my list to do for next year is for Well 3 to be pulled out, inspected and repaired,” Nevenhoven said. “It should be pulled out every six to seven years. It’s been nine years.”

The well is losing capacity where the water has worn it down, and sand and stone has clogged it. The cost for the project would run $65,000.

Also, the north water tower needs to be cleaned inside the stem and bulb at a cost of $121,500. The north tower and the First Street tower need to be repainted at a cost of $126,000.

“This is not a cheap item to do, but it’s part of the maintenance of the tower,” Nevenhoven said. “Does it need to be done this year? No, but it needs to stay on the radar. Otherwise, we’ve got a beautiful water tower that doesn’t function.”

Chipping away at challenges

by Lynn Meredith
Elburn—The village of Elburn worked to meet the challenges of budget belt-tightening in ways large and small, and in the process completed ongoing projects during 2010.

Most obvious for residents who had been living with train whistles blaring at all times of the day and night, Elburn succeeded in getting two train horns installed at both the Route 47 crossing and the First Street crossing in August.

The board had decided in January 2008 to install the horns, which direct sound only toward the immediate area of pedestrian and vehicular traffic. Elburn agreed to pay the Federal Railroad Administration $124,125 for horns rather than install center barriers at a cost of $400,000.

Village President Dave Anderson said that by putting the installation work out to bid, the board saved $70,000.

The quieter atmosphere of train horns also extended to public comments to the board on its decision.

“You know you’ve done your job when nobody says anything,” Anderson said.

The Village Board found another savings opportunity by investigating a different type of secondary power source for the wastewater treatment plant. Law requires that the system have a second source of power if the first one should go down.

Original estimates for a diesel generator ran $550,000, but by talking with Com Ed, Village Administrator Erin Willrett discovered that the power company would install an underground source for $128,000.

“That’s a savings of $300,000 to the taxpayer,” Anderson said.

To Anderson, this past year saw the Village Boarding working effectively to get things done.

“The best thing about the past year is the cooperation and input and involvement of the board of trustees,” Anderson said. “I feel grateful for their participation. They are elected like all of us, but we’re a family, so to speak.”

In 2010, the board took steps to cap its deficit in water and sewer services by raising rates. It raised the water rates in Elburn from $2 per 100 cubic feet to a $5 base plus $2.60 per cf for sewer, and from $2.69 for water to a $5 base plus $3.50. The effect was to double the bills of many residents but bring the village back from the red.

“We were losing $20,000 every month. Now we’re at the break-even point,” Anderson said.

Personnel cuts were also a part of dealing with 2010’s budget dilemmas. The board closed its Building Department, reducing an outlay of $2,600 in monthly rent and reducing its staff from three building inspectors and a secretary to one full-time and one half-time inspector and no secretary.

When Assistant Village Administrator and Director of Community Development David Morrison resigned, that position was not refilled.

Anderson said that he has been impressed with the board’s ability to find ways to cut costs as it faces budget restraints.

“There have been a lot of ideas coming out of the board; ways we can do things,” Anderson said. “The neat thing is that we’re all taxpayers ourselves, and we’re trying to do things that are most economical and effective for the community.”

The process begins

Elburn Village Board begins difficult budget process
by Lynn Meredith
ELBURN—The Elburn Village Board took a first look at what will be a series of reviews of its 2012 budget at the Committee of the Whole meeting on Monday. The process of reviewing line items and weighing cuts will continue until April.

Trustees were asked by village administrators to go through the recommended budget line by line, ask questions and make suggestions. They will see the budget for each department at least two times before making decisions.

“This is the first time you will see this budget. It won’t be the last,” Village Administrator Erin Willrett said. “There is time to make changes through April. We will go through each department two rounds. You will see the entire village budget as a whole four times.”

With concerns of lowered revenues at the top of their minds, board members expressed concern that the budget stay in line with what money is coming into the village. The state income tax payments are currently four months behind and down 13 percent from this time last year.

“My concern is that the state will decide it’s too far behind and will start from scratch, and we’ll lose the four months’ payments,” Village President Dave Anderson said. “We should have $91.08 per person returned back to us from the income tax. The actual return is $79.78 per person.”

Trustee Ken Anderson said that it was vital that the budget start from where the 2011 revenues are and not simply create a wish list.

“Are we saying to our department heads that that’s where we start and that this is what we have? If it can’t be run with that amount of money, then we know we have a problem,” Anderson said. “We’re not going to keep going in debt to make ends meet.”

Willrett described the process as one of coming to consensus about which projects get priority.

“We need everyone to buy in on what projects we’re dealing with. If we have five projects, we’re not leaving the table until you all agree. We have more projects than we do money. You have some tough decisions,” she said. “In the second round, I will be proposing cuts. They may not be popular, but there will be cuts. We need to get down to the bare bones.”

Proposed village budget has new IT expense

Mosquito abatement expenditure debated
by Martha Quetsch
ELBURN—The village of Elburn’s proposed budget includes a new line item for 2011-12—an expenditure of $10,000 for information technology (IT) services formerly provided by a village employee.

The village no longer has a staffer to provide IT services, since David Morrison resigned last summer. Morrison had handled the village’s IT services as assistant village administrator and previously while he was village administrator.

Those services include tasks such as switching out office computers, installing software and maintaining server back-ups, Village Administrator Erin Willrett said.

Since Morrison resigned in June, the village has employed Baxter & Woodman Control Systems Integration to provide these and other general IT tasks at Village Hall, an unbudgeted expense.

The new IT expenditure was on a list of proposed administration budget items for the next fiscal year that Willrett presented Monday during the Development Committee meeting. The village’s other two departments, public works and police, recently presented their lists of proposed expenditures. The presentations are the first step in the village’s budgetary planning process, which will conclude in May when the Village Board approves a final fiscal-year budget.

“This was a first glance, a first go at it,” Willrett said.

Development Committee members did not object to the proposed new IT expenditure. However, they did question another proposed administrative expense that the village has budgeted for many years—mosquito abatement. Willrett included the $19,000 expenditure on her list.

Committee member Ken Anderson and Jeff Walter suggested that the village remove that item from the proposed administrative budget.

“We all know it (spraying for mosquitoes) is not effective,” Walter said.

The Village Board will begin reviewing Willrett’s and the other department heads’ budget proposals in November.

Recycling programs vary among villages

by Keith Beebe
SG/MP/ELB/KNVL—The concept of recycling rarely comes across as complex. After all, what’s so difficult about placing plastics and paper in a separate bin when you are putting the garbage out? Well, some people might be interested to find out that although Elburn, Sugar Grove, Maple Park and Kaneville all embrace recycling programs, the overall approach to “going green” varies a bit from one village to another.

Take Elburn, for example, where residents pay a yearly recycling fee regardless of whether or not they use the service provided by Waste Management. In addition to the recycling bin provided by Waste Management, residents are able to use any container as an extra recycle bin, as long as it has “recycle only” written on it. The village also offers “recycle only” stickers free of charge. All materials, with the exception of items including hazardous waste (batteries, anti-freeze, pool chemicals, etc.), are acceptable for recycle pick-up.

“Since all Elburn residents pay for recycling, it makes sense for them to use the service and get the most out of their money,” Village Administrator Erin Willrett said. “There is no separate rate (for recycling). It’s all bundled into one (cost covering trash pick-up).”

Sugar Grove also has a contract with Waste Management, but provides each of its residents with one, 64-gallon container for recycling use. Common materials such as plastics, glass and cardboard are accepted, but used household batteries must be put in a sandwich bag and placed next to the recycling container.

“I don’t think we’ve ever had a resident ask for a second container, since the one we provide them with is quite large,” Sugar Grove Village Clerk Cynthia Galbreath said.

Maple Park, like Elburn and Sugar Grove, has a recycle pick-up contract with Waste Management, but the village’s approach to recycling containers is a bit more traditional. Waste Management provides all the bins, and any resident who wants a bigger container must pay extra for it.

And then there is Kaneville, where recycling is certainly encouraged but also greeted with a more freewheeling approach.

“We’ve typically let residents choose their own recycle pick-up service in the past,” Village Clerk Sandra Weiss said.

Kaneville’s guidelines regarding recycling will become more traditional on Jan. 1, 2011, when the village will enter into a recycle pick-up contract with Waste Management.

One “green” item not allowed in any of these village’s recycle bins is a compacted fluorescent light bulb (CFL), which uses less energy and lasts considerably longer than incandescent light bulbs. The reason residents may not place these energy-saving light bulbs in their everyday recycle bin is because the bulbs contain very small amounts of mercury. However, residents can recycle CFL bulbs at any location that collects hazardous waste recyclables.

Proposed levy intended to capture new growth

Board will vote on final proposal Nov. 15
by Martha Quetsch
ELBURN—Village Administrator Erin Willrett on Tuesday presented the village’s tentative 2010 property tax levy of $939,718.

The tentative levy is the amount that village officials are considering asking Kane County to approve as the total 2010 property taxes for the village next year (the property tax extension).

The property tax levy is 47 percent more than the actual property tax extension in 2009, Willrett told the Finance Committee. The village, like many taxing bodies, sets its annual levy request on the high side, although it may not receive county approval of the entire amount.

“It is important to recognize that last year, $742,321 was requested from the village to be levied and $637,404 was extended from the county,” Willrett said.

Under the state’s Property Tax Extension Limitation Law, if the village did not propose a levy high enough to capture all new property growth that occurred during the year, that growth would never be added to the tax rolls.

Municipalities present their property tax levies to the county by the end of each year. The county, in the spring, determines the actual amount each municipality will receive, as well as the property tax rate. The county bases those figures on the municipality’s total equalized assessed valuation (EAV) and property growth in the town the previous year.

The village had little new growth in 2010, so it expects to capture it all on the tax rolls through the higher levy request, Finance Committee member Bill Grabarek said.

“There is not a whole lot going on in terms of bricks and mortar. I think we have issued only two residential building permits in the last year,” Grabarek said.

Total EAV in Elburn in 2009 was $199 million, compared to an estimated $189 million in 2010, Willrett said.

The Finance Committee in a consensus vote recommended the tentative levy to the Village Board, which will vote on it Monday, Oct. 18. Then, the proposed levy will be available for public inspection from that date through Monday, Nov. 15, when the board will hold a public hearing and approve the final levy to submit to Kane County by Dec. 28.

New cable ordinance tougher on violations

[quote]More programming, wider service area ensured
by Martha Quetsch
ELBURN—The Elburn Village Board on Monday approved a new cable ordinance that steps up the village’s requirements for its cable TV provider.

The cable ordinance requires any company holding the Elburn cable franchise to provide quality and timely customer service or face fines of up to $750 per day. Under the village’s previous cable ordinance, the maximum fine the village could charge its cable provider for violations was $100 per day. The ordinance also includes procedures the village may follow to enforce cable provider violations, including issuing tickets and conducting reviews and hearings on contested tickets.

In addition, future village cable providers must offer a wider range of programming than the previous ordinance required, including community and educational access stations.

The new ordinance also will ensure that more areas of the village have cable service. The village’s current cable franchise holder, Mediacom, does not extend service to some parts of the village, including Blackberry Creek. Under the new ordinance, any company having the village cable franchise in the future must provide cable service to all subdivisions in Elburn.

“They (cable providers) have to follow a timeline to provide all subdivisions with cable,” said Stu Chapman, the village’s cable consultant.“They can’t ignore the subdivisions anymore … they can’t wait forever to get (cable service) in.”

Village President Dave Anderson said the cable ordinance is separate from the new cable contract that the village is negotiating with Mediacom, which has held the Elburn franchise for more than 10 years.

“This ordinance is laying the groundwork (for any future cable contracts).” Anderson said.

The new cable ordinance does not establish the length of village cable contracts.

“The franchise term is negotiable,” Chapman said.

The new ordinance updates the cable ordinance the village approved in 1999, and it reflects new cable laws.

“This is a good opportunity to update the ordinance, in addition to the franchise agreement,” Chapman said.

Village officials expect to finalize a new cable contract with Mediacom in the near future. The contract term likely will be more than five years, Village Administrator Erin Willrett said. If the Village Board approves a new contract with Mediacom, the company must comply with all of the provisions in the village’s new cable ordinance.

Although many residents in a village survey expressed dissatisfaction with Mediacom’s services, the company is the only cable provider that currently wants to provide services in Elburn, village officials said.

Chapman said he realized Mediacom sometimes is slow to respond to customer complaints, but added that the new cable ordinance will improve the situation.

“This ordinance doesn’t allow them (the village cable provider) to play duck and cover anymore,” Chapman said. “It allows the village to take a more proactive approach in addressing violations.”

Trustee Gordon Dierschow voted against the ordinance.

Healthy Coffee Bus proposed for Metra station

Vendor would sell coffee with mushroom supplement
by Martha Quetsch
Elburn—Commuters may soon be able to purchase coffee at the Metra station again, but it won’t be an ordinary cup of Joe.

During the Elburn Development Committee on Monday, Fred Scritsmier, an independent distributor for Holistic Java, proposed opening a Healthy Coffee Bus at the train station.

The Elburn Metra station had a coffee vendor for three months starting in May. However, the company did not renew its monthly mobile vendor license with the village in August because the business was not profitable, Village Administrator Erin Willrett said.

Scritsmier, of Elburn, said he believes people will buy his coffee because of its health benefits.

“The reason it is a healthier coffee is because there is an herb that goes along with it,” Scritsmier said.

He referred to a substance made from ganoderma, a mushroom he said can lower cholesterol, reduce dementia, and provide many other health benefits.

“It helps just one thing after another,” Scritsmier said. “It’s not just coffee.”

Scritsmier would park his coffee bus daily at a location in the station lot that the Village Board would determine. The coffee bus would have a small seating area and a coffee bar inside. Customers would have to enter the bus to buy coffee. The bus will sell only the ganoderma coffee.

“All the coffee would have the mushroom in it,” Scritsmier said. “That’s kind of the purpose … the healthy coffee buzz.”

Scritsmier said he would charge from $3 to $5 per cup and hope to sell approximately 100 cups per day.

Development Committee members asked him whether the ganoderma coffee could pose health risks for some people. Scritsmier replied that no one ever has had an issue with the coffee, other than allergies.

That possible side effect concerned committee member Jeff Metcalf.

“We don’t want an unsuspecting person to break out in hives,” Metcalf said.

The Development Committee directed village staff to research the product and its safety before making a recommendation to the Village Board about Scritsmeir’s mobile vendor application.

Committee member Patricia Romke suggested that staff call a pharmacy to find out about the supplement.

“It is a bit unusual,” Romke said.

Protecting volunteer protectors

Elburn officials struggle with insurance and liability issues for police volunteers
by Ryan Wells
Elburn—As part of the effort to appoint voluntary auxiliary officers in the village, Elburn officials faced the question of insurance and liability during Monday’s Village Board meeting.

The volunteer officer program, known as the Community Emergency Response Team (CERT), is supported by federal grant money and has been providing training since this spring. The program trains volunteers to provide traffic control assistance during community events, as well as an increased village emergency and disaster response.

Village administrator Erin Willrett said the program has received positive feedback, with approximately 12 individuals taking part in the training so far, and one or two working at an event at a time.

The questions of insurance and liability create an uncertainty that could threaten the program.

“The issue is, do we want to turn away volunteers because we’re not sure how they are covered?” Willrett said.

The issue of liability is fairly straightforward, Village President Dave Anderson said. Issues of liability govern the volunteers’ actions while representing the village, and in those cases, the village would be liable. This circumstance would be covered under the village’s liability insurance.

The issue that remains unresolved is one of worker’s compensation insurance and coverage.

“If there was a surgeon who volunteered, and God forbid something happened and he or she could no longer perform surgery, who’s liable (for the lost wages)?” Anderson asked.

Willrett said she contacted the Illinois Municipal League Risk Management Association (IMLRMA) for clarification on this issue and the response did not provide a definitive answer.

The e-mailed response from Jason Neiman, IMLRMA claims and litigation manager, stated that a municipality’s workman’s compensation insurance generally is not intended to cover volunteers. However, the final decision on each case is left up to a worker’s compensation commission or an arbitrator.

“The general leaning of the commission seems to be in favor of compensation,” Neiman wrote in his e-mail.

Elburn officials expressed unease with the lack of a clear, definitive answer.

“I’m uncomfortable with this level of murkiness,” Trustee Bill Grabarek said.

Police Chief Steve Smith said the CERT volunteers have become an important part of the department.

“One problem is that the KCOEM (Kane County Office of Emergency Management) have been used so much, they’ve pulled in their horns as to what they do and where they go,” Smith said. “If it’s an incorporated area, they’re not going to come unless they have to.”

He explained that the federal Department of Homeland Security will have requirements come into effect for municipalities in general, as well as those specific to communities that contain mass transit, like Elburn’s rail line.

“There are things we are not going to be able to do with the size of our department, and we have to rely on volunteers,” Smith said.

Besides the regulatory pressures, Smith said the ability to have more people available more quickly in the event of a disaster is important.

“If something serious happens, we need a stop-gap,” he said.

Through the Illinois Law Enforcement Alarm System, officers from neighboring departments could be called for assistance during an emergency in Elburn.

“But it takes time to get people here,” Smith said. “CERT helps in the short-term.”

In a disaster scenario, CERT volunteer officers would be used to help evacuate areas, shut down streets, and set up and maintain temporary shelters, among other activities.

“We have a wonderful group of people volunteering, and we want to protect them and the village,” Anderson said.

Willrett will explore pricing on private insurance that could provide the coverage needed. In addition, Willrett will re-explore the village’s current insurance and investigate a suggestion that the village pay volunteers a nominal, fixed amount in order to consider them a paid employee, she said.

Police, fire chiefs agree on burn permit changes

ELBURN—The Elburn Police Department currently issues burning permits for outdoor fires. However, Police Chief Steve Smith suggested during the July 12 Public Safety Committee meeting that the Elburn & Countryside Fire Department should do the inspections for burn permits.

“We are inserting the Police Department and the village administration into something we don’t know as much about,” Smith said.

Fire Chief Kelly Callaghan agreed and said the Police Department still would enforce burning code violations.

Village Administrator Erin Willrett said village staff will bring the issue to the Village Board for a possible change in the municipal code allowing for the Fire Department to conduct burning permit inspections.

“I think it’s a great idea to work together,” Willrett said.

Morrison resigns from village administration

updated June 16, 2010 @ 7:24 p.m.
Morrison led village staff during period
of extensive growth, development

by Martha Quetsch
ELBURN—David Morrison, a longtime top administrator for the village of Elburn, has resigned.

Morrison, who was village administrator for more than a decade and assistant village administrator for the past year, submitted his resignation in writing on June 10 to Village Administrator Erin Willrett.

Village President Dave Anderson on the following day said that he did not request Morrison’s resignation.

Asked whether he was surprised at Morrison’s announcement, Anderson said, “Yes and no. I thought that he might be looking.”

Anderson said Morrison did not inform the village of his future career plans. The Elburn Herald has attempted unsuccessfully to reach Morrison to inquire about his plans and reason for resigning. Morrison left Village Hall the day of his resignation, Anderson said.

During Morrison’s tenure as village administrator until last May, the village experienced a doubling of its population, and significant residential and commercial development including the Jewel-Osco and Walgreen’s corners and the Blackberry Creek Subdivision.

When Anderson took office in May 2009, he demoted Morrison to the position of assistant village administrator.

Willrett was community development director for 16 months, reporting to Morrison, before Anderson named her village administrator.

Anderson said Wednesday that the village currently does not plan to hire another assistant village administrator.

Trustee believes village staff is top-heavy

by Martha Quetsch
ELBURN—The village of Elburn had three top staffers—an administrator, a police chief and a public works superintendent until 2008, when it created another position—community development director, a job that later was renamed assistant village administrator.

Two years ago, village trustee Gordon Dierschow was hesitant to create the position, but he decided the village should give it a try. He voted with other trustees in favor of it because of the many development proposals the village had at that time.

On Wednesday, he said that if the economic downturn and slowed housing market that happened since then continues, the village should consider reductions in higher-paid administrative staff, whether in hours, wages or positions.

“We’re a little heavy on the administration side,” he said. “I think we are overstaffed at this time.”

The Village Board on Monday renewed the annual appointments of Village Administrator Erin Willrett, Public Works Superintendent John Nevenhoven and Police Chief Steve Smith. Village President Dave Anderson made the appointments with the consent of the Village Board.

Assistant Village Administrator Dave Morrison’s position does not require an annual appointment. After taking office in May 2009, Anderson named Morrison community development director, and two weeks later changed his title to assistant village administrator. Anderson said the title more accurately reflected the position, which included administrative and committee duties as well as economic development.

Also in May 2009, Anderson named Willrett village administrator. She had been community development director for 16 months before landing the village’s top job, which Morrison had held for more than a decade.

When Anderson reversed the roles of Willrett and Morrison in 2009, he raised Willrett’s salary by nearly $20,000 and lowered Morrison’s salary by about the same amount. However, as assistant administrator, Morrison’s new salary was $93,343 compared to Willrett’s former salary of $79,000.

“We felt that because of the experience he had, he merited a higher salary,” Anderson said Wednesday. “We would not offer a starting (administrative position) salary that high.”

2010-11 top staff salaries
Village Administrator $97,788.58
Asst. Village Administrator $93,343.64
Public Works Superintendent $78,500
Police Chief $80,817

Special-use permits issued for new tavern

ELBURN—Kevin Schmidt, owner of Schmidt’s Towne Tap, was granted three special uses he applied for recently for the bar and restaurant he opened last December at 107 N. Main St., Elburn.

The special uses, approved by the Village Board on Monday, will allow Schmidt to operate the tavern, to serve alcoholic beverages in conjunction with a restaurant and to offer live entertainment.

Village officials did not require Schmidt to apply for the first two special uses before they allowed him to open in December, although the village code required it under the B-1 zoning ordinance. Village Administrator Erin Willrett said it was an oversight on the part of village staff and the Village Board.

Former planned development site on Rt. 38 in Elburn sold

Buyer has no plans yet for former Kirk Homes property
by Martha Quetsch
ELBURN—A trustee handling the Kirk Homes liquidation recently sold a 150-acre parcel on the village’s northwest side that would have been the site of a residential and commercial development if the company had not gone bankrupt. The site’s new owner, Joseph Valente, has no plans yet for the property.

“At this point, with the economy, it’s just up in the air,” said Valente’s attorney, Marvin Glick. “For the time being, it will remain farm land.”

Valente is not a builder or developer, but a private investor, Glick said.

The trustee handling the Kirk Homes Chapter liquidation, Richard Fogel, sold the property last month to Valente, he said.

The village several years ago approved Kirk Homes’ concept plan for the 950-unit residential and commercial project at the site, on Route 38 west of Route 47. But the Streamwood, Ill.,-based company put the project on hold after filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization in May 2009.

At that time, former Kirk Homes Chief Executive Officer John Carroll said that it could take a few months or longer before the company pursued the next step in the project, depending upon when the housing market improved. However, last fall, a U.S. Bankruptcy Court ordered a Chapter 7 liquidation of all of Kirk Homes’ assets.

Elburn officials had been holding $30,000 in escrow funds that Kirk Homes previously submitted for the development. The village returned the funds this month as required under the company’s Chapter 7 liquidation.

“We had a court order to return their escrow,” Village Administrator Erin Willrett said.

Officials ponder employee-related budget cuts

by Martha Quetsch
ELBURN—Elburn officials are looking at employee-related expenses to see where cuts possibly can be made to reduce an expected $760,000 shortfall in the village’s next fiscal-year budget, which they plan to finalize during the next few weeks.

Salaries and employee benefits comprise approximately one third of the village’s 2010-11 tentative budget of $5.3 million.

Village officials recently cut one secretarial position that paid nearly $42,000 annually plus benefits. The position was one of two secretaries in the Public Works Department. In addition, last year, the village eliminated a part-time Police Department secretary salary and reduced an administrative assistant’s hours.

Village administrator Erin Willrett said if the village made any more staff cuts, a reduction in resident services would result.

Other options for reducing employee-related expenses were discussed during the March 22 meeting of the Committee of the Whole, which is composed of all Village Board members.

The committee talked about reducing support-staff hours permanently or during the summer months, and eliminating the life insurance premiums the village pays for employees. The latter cut would save $14,000 annually; however, several committee members opposed cutting that benefit, which provides employees with a $25,000 life insurance policy.

Another savings of $18,200 could come from eliminating the take-home vehicles the village provides for some employees. Currently, three department heads have that benefit. The village owns the three SUVs, and pays for all gasoline, insurance and maintenance for them.

Trustee Jeff Walter said only one department head should have a take-home vehicle.

“I think this (benefit) is something that should be eliminated, except for the chief of police,” Walter said. “We could talk about a vehicle stipend per month (for the other department heads).”

Committee members did not come to a consensus on any of the proposed cuts in employee-related expenses. They did decide that the village should retain one employee benefit, the annual staff party at a restaurant at a cost of approximately $2,700. About 62 village employees and public officials are invited to the holiday event.

Trustee Patricia Romke said that since the village is not giving raises, the party was the “one thing that (it was) able to do for employees.”

Village President Dave Anderson agreed.

“It’s a nice thank you from the Village Board to the employees,” Anderson said.

When asked later whether the village might choose to budget for an in-house village staff party that would be less costly in 2010, Anderson said, “I just never thought of it. That might be something we might want to consider.”

Stimulus funds sought for aging stormwater system upgrades

Villages apply for $3.4M for flood reduction projects
by Martha Quetsch
MP, ELBURN—Maple Park and Elburn officials hope that economic stimulus funds will make sorely needed stormwater system improvements possible in their villages.

The two villages, along with Cortland, applied this week for $3.4 million in federal funds for stormwater drainage repairs and improvements to reduce residential flooding.

In Maple Park, sections of the village’s existing storm water sewers are “archaic” and are not effectively mitigating water during heavy rains or when snow melts, Maple Park Village President Kathy Curtis said.

A village engineering study in 2008 recommended stormwater system improvements with an estimated cost of $1.8 million. However, the village does not have the funds to undertake such a project, Curtis said.

By applying collectively, the villages could have a better chance of securing some or all of the much-needed funding, Maple Park trustee Suzanne Fahnestock said.

In the combined funding application, Elburn Public Works Superintendent John Nevenhoven stated that the northwest side of the village experiences frequent flooding, standing water and sewer back-ups due to an “inadequate and antiquated storm sewer system.”

Elburn applied for stimulus funding to install new storm sewers in that area, a project with an estimated cost of $192,000. The project would reduce street flooding and standing water in residential yards that plague that part of town by replacing existing storm sewer lines that were installed during the 1920s and 1930s, Nevenhoven said.

Those aging lines “are woefully undersized to meet demand, have completely clogged or clog easily during a rain event,” Nevenhoven said.

If Elburn does not obtain the stimulus funds, it could use money from the water and sewer capital fund, Village Administrator Erin Willrett said; the fund currently totals just $53,000, but village officials are considering boosting the balance through higher water and sewer charges.

Another option for Elburn, if it does not receive the stimulus funds, would be to pay for the new storm sewers through the village’s fund designated for expanding the wastewater treatment plant in the future, Willrett said. The fund currently has a balance of $1.5 million.

Village officials: Projects would create 100 jobs
In their combined application for American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (federal economic stimulus program) funding for stormwater system improvements, officials from Maple Park, Elburn and Cortland estimated that the projects would create more than 100 jobs.

On Feb. 13, 2009, the U.S. Congress passed the $787 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. According to the federal government’s recovery.gov website, the act’s goals are to create new jobs and save existing ones, and to spur economic activity and invest in long-term growth.

Village goal: Pare down projected $2 mill. deficit

Official expects ‘tough decisions’ on expenses
by Martha Quetsch
ELBURN—Budget planning continued during Monday’s Village Board meeting, a process that started early this year so the village officials can find ways to pare down an expected deficit of nearly $2 million.

Village Administrator Erin Willrett said the first draft of the 2010-11 budget shows projected revenue to be $4.1 million, compared to expenses totaling $5.9 million.

Even if the village limits expenses to those absolutely required—providing water and sewer services, police protection and street and sidewalk maintenance—the budget still will have a shortfall, Village President Dave Anderson said.

“The bottom line is, there is very little budge in this budget,” Anderson said.

The village has about $5 million in reserve funds, but village officials do not want to deplete those monies by continuing to use them to cover budget deficits.

The village already dipped into its reserves to cover a nearly $2 million shortfall in the 2009-10 budget. A deficit in the water and sewer fund was a significant part of the deficit in the village’s total $7 million budget.

Elburn officials are considering raising residents’ sewer and water charges to reduce this year’s expected budget deficit, which will include a shortfall of more than $500,000 in the water and sewer fund (see related story).

Department heads submitted budget request forms for expenses they determine are absolutely necessary, and the Village Board is reviewing them. From among the requests, the board will decide during the coming weeks what proposed expenses to include in the budget this June.

“We need to determine what is important to residents,” Willrett said.

Officials also will be looking at different staff salary options to reduce expenses.

“There are some tough decisions that are going to have to be made in the next few weeks,” Willrett said.

The next budget will not include raises for village employees, whose salaries comprise one third of the budget.

Village officials: New employee handbook a must

by Martha Quetsch
ELBURN—The first draft of a new employee manual, a priority project for the village, is nearly finished. The manual will reflect workplace legislation and village policies that were established since the current handbook was created 17 years ago, Village Administrator Erin Willrett said.

Trustee Jeff Walter said he pushed for the re-write of the employee manual since coming into office in April.

“I want to make sure our manual is up to date and in sync with current human resource trends and regulations,” Walter said. “I also want to ensure that we correctly define which employees are exempt (from certain wage and hour laws, i.e. overtime pay) and that the manual outlines appropriate policies for those considered exempt (management).”

Some of the other sections of the handbook that need updating relate to safety rules, computer and Internet policies, harassment policies, military leave information and jury duty, Willrett said.

The manual will encompass all village departments including police. The village has approximately 23 full-time employees and 16 part-time employees, all of whom must abide by the manual, Willrett said.

The employee handbook will be entirely new.

“We’re not just blacklining the old employee manual,” Village President Dave Anderson said.

The village is paying a consultant, Aurora-based Sikich, $6,000 to create the new employee handbook.

Sikich also will train village department supervisors about how to use the manual properly and how to proceed when an employee has a workplace concern.

During last year’s 2009-10 budget discussions, Village officials indicated that they wanted the manual to be a priority, Willrett said.

Budget talks begin in Elburn

Department heads must justify proposed expenses
by Martha Quetsch
ELBURN—Elburn village officials already have begun budget planning for the next fiscal year, with the goal of minimizing an expected revenue shortfall.

“We’re still looking at a deficit budget (for 2010-11),” Village Administrator Erin Willrett said during Monday’s Finance Committee meeting.

The first step in budget planning for the fiscal year, which begins in June, will be for village departments—administration, public works and police—to fill out detailed request forms for any new expenditures. They will be required to thoroughly explain each proposed project or purchase.

Willrett explained the forms Monday and said they will be useful to “get the conversation going” about the budget. She added that the budget requests will be only for expenditures that are absolutely necessary.

“We asked department heads not to submit wish lists this year—items we can live without,” Willrett said.

At trustee Bill Grabarek’s request, discussion about the budget proposals will not be limited to the Finance Committee; the requests also will be reviewed by the Committee of the Whole, which includes all trustees and the village president.

“I’d rather have all the trustees up here,” said Grabarek, a Finance Committee member.

The Village Board will vote on a final budget on May 3.

Last summer, the Village Board approved the current budget for 2009-10 with expenses up to $7.1 million, and expected revenues at $4.6 million. The village had to dip into its reserves to cover the shortfall.

The main reason for the budget deficit is that the depressed housing market has caused building permit fees and utility connection fees to decline, village officials said.

In addition to new-expense requests, Trustee Jeff Walter wants to see a breakdown of staff salaries and benefits so that the Village Board can decide whether or not to grant employee raises for 2010-11.

Elburn village notes

by Martha Quetsch

Village to repair Blackberry Creek pump
The village of Elburn will repair one of the two Blackberry Creek subdivision sanitary sewer lift station pumps at a cost not to exceed $14,682. The nearly 10-year-old pump failed recently, village officials said. The Village Board on Monday decided to hire Metropolitan Pump Company of Romeoville for the job.

Village to receive state funding for sidewalks
Elburn officials learned on Monday that the state allocated $40,000 in its 2010 budget for the village’s sidewalk improvement program.

Village Administrator Erin Willrett said she does not know yet when the village will receive the funding, but that the state would assign a grant manager to assist the village with the process.

Police union plans Oct. 1 golf fundraiser
The Elburn Police Department employee union is planning a golf outing for Thursday, Oct. 1, at Hughes Creek golf course in Elburn. Proceeds from the event will help the department purchase additional equipment, Police Chief Steve Smith said.

Village President sells building after buyer receives liquor license

Liquor code change allowed for indirect interest in the business
by Martha Quetsch
ELBURN—Elburn Village President Dave Anderson sold his building at 107 N. Main St. on July 23 to Kevin Schmidt, three days after Schmidt obtained a village liquor license for the site, Village Attorney Bob Britz said.

Anderson said it was under contract for the previous two months, and under negotiation since February. Schmidt said he would not buy the building unless the village granted him a Class A liquor license for the site, so that he could open a tavern there.

Schmidt applied for the liquor license on May 13, a few days after Dave Anderson took the oath of office as the new village president.

A May 19 letter drafted by Schmidt’s attorney stated that Dave Anderson and Kevin Schmidt had reached an agreement for the purchase of the property, but that one term of the agreement between the parties was that the sale was contingent upon Schmidt being approved for a local liquor license.

On June 15, village trustees created a new available Class A liquor license but Schmidt was not granted a Class A license until July 20.

The village liquor code stated that a liquor license could not be issued to a business in which the village president or a village trustee had any direct or indirect interest.

Britz told village officials June 15 that removing the word “indirect” from the local liquor code first would need to take place, so that the local code matched the state liquor code, Village Administrator Erin Willrett said Tuesday.

The state, however, did not require the removal of the word “indirect” from Elburn’s liquor code. In addition, the village has approved other liquor licenses without changing its liquor code wording.

Britz, while he has been village attorney for Elburn, also has served as Anderson’s private counsel on legal matters including real estate transactions.

Britz and village staff then drafted an ordinance for the wording change, which trustees unanimously approved July 20. Trustee Bill Grabarek, as Deputy Liquor Commissioner, granted a Class A liquor license to Schmidt directly after the July 20 meeting, Britz said.

“I thought that with the word ‘indirect’ still in, there would have been a potential issue,” Grabarek said Wednesday. “The issue was that because the mayor (Dave Anderson) owned the building, basically we needed to knock out the word ‘indirect,’ to avoid the appearance of impropriety.”

The license Grabarek granted Schmidt was one of two available Class A licenses, another of which the board approved earlier that evening, July 20.

Building department staff cut to combat revenue crunch

Despite other cuts, Elburn budget still in red
by Martha Quetsch
ELBURN—The village of Elburn will have to dip into its reserves to cover spending for its fiscal year 2009-10, even though it has trimmed total staff salaries.

The Village Board on Monday approved an annual budget appropriating spending up to $7.1 million, while revenues are expected to be $4.6 million.

Under the budget appropriation, the village may spend up to $1.7 million on salaries. Village Administrator Erin Willrett said salaries likely would be less than that amount, however, because the village will try to limit part-time and overtime hours.

“We expect the departments to come in below what was requested/appropriated,” Willrett said.

Assistant Village Administrator Dave Morrison said the $7.1 million in expenditures is the appropriated budget amount, which the village could spend but likely won’t.

Staff reductions from the village’s last fiscal year include eliminating the three building department salaries, a $73,000 commissioner job and two building inspector positions that paid $62,000 each. The village will hire a building and zoning code officer for up to $62,000.

“We decided to do away with the Building Department because of economic issues,” Village President Dave Anderson said.

Anderson said with the building decline, the department was overstaffed. The total savings from eliminating the department is approximately $135,000. The village allocated approximately $84,000 for two new public works employees, however.

Another salary reduction is from a lower Police Chief pay. Chief Steve Smith will receive an annual salary of $81,000, compared to former Chief Jim Linane’s salary of $93,000.

As administrator, Willrett will receive a salary of $97,000 compared to the $79,000 she earned last fiscal year in her former position of community development director; Assistant Village Administrator Dave Morrison will receive an annual salary of $93,343 compared to his previous yearly pay of $113,000 as village administrator. The total salary reduction for these top two administrative positions was $2,000.

The village also cut back on Police Department staff, deciding not to fill two recently vacated police positions, the commander’s job formerly held by Smith, and a part-time community service officer position.

Village President Anderson said he regrets that the village could not afford to increase its police staffing this year as Smith requested.

“The money is just not there,” he said.

Village officials attribute the deficit to declining revenue from building fees. To make up the shortage of revenue, the village may have to reduce its reserves from $5 million to approximately $3 million.

Staff pay comprises nearly 25 percent of the budget.

The salaries total this year will include $40,000 the village will remit to former Police Chief Jim Linane, which Morrison said it owes him for compensation time.

Elburn officials expect budget deficit from revenue decline

Public hearing set for Monday
by Martha Quetsch
ELBURN—The Elburn Village Board is considering two different budget proposals prepared by village staff, both with expenses that are greater than revenues.

“The village of Elburn is no different from anyone else in this economy,” Village President Dave Anderson said.

The Elburn Village Board will hold a public hearing at 7 p.m. Monday, July 20, at Village Hall regarding the tentative budget.

Although village revenue has declined because of fewer building permit and utility connection fees, Anderson wants to make sure the village meets its responsibilities: adequate funding to provide clean, potable water, street and wastewater maintenance, and quality police protection, Anderson said.

One budget version has income totaling $4.4 million, with expenses of $6 million. The other version has income totaling $4.6 million, with expenses of $6.8 million.

Village Administrator Erin Willrett said the budget version that has $800,000 more in expenses includes recent requests from department heads for additional personnel and equipment, and money for programs including parkway trees and downtown facade improvement. The budget version with lower expenses does not include all of the requested expenditures, Willrett said.

Both budget versions are works in progress, “not set in stone,” Willrett said.

The village currently has $5,061,830 in its reserves, which will be used to cover the amount of the deficit in the final budget that trustees approve.