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Public hearing set for Crystal Lake’s $91.3 million budget

CRYSTAL LAKE – The Crystal Lake City Council will hold a public hearing Tuesday on its proposed $91.3 million budget for capital and operational expenses in 2014-15.

The proposed budget is $2 million more than last year's $89.3 million budget and includes $12.5 million in capital spending from reserve funds. Revenues are conservatively expected to come in at $78.7 million.

The public hearing will take place during the council's meeting at 100 W. Woodstock St. The meeting is scheduled to start at 7:30 p.m.

George Koczwara, finance director for the city, said Crystal Lake has spent reserve funds for capital expenses in previous years. The major capital projects proposed this year include upgrades and additions in water and sewer infrastructure and improvements to roadway infrastructure.

The reserve fund balance will be 43.3 percent of annual operating expenses after the $12.5 million spend down.

The budget includes 16 projects in the water and sewer division ranging from the construction on a new well to the expansion of a treatment plant. An 11.4 percent increase in water and sewer rates that would see the bill of an average monthly user increase from $44 to $49 would cover some of the additional costs of the projects.

The increase in water rates also includes an increase in discounts for seniors, as the 15 percent discount would grow to a 20 percent break on the first 4,000 gallons used in a month.

General fund spending would decrease by $1.7 million in the proposal because of the completion of projects such as the Railroad Street parking expansion and repairs to the Raue Center for the Arts. Unfilled city positions and the conclusion of the centennial celebration also aided the spending cuts.

While economic growth is still slow, officials project growth in some revenue sources, including a $253,059 increase in income tax and a $268,180 jump in home rule sales tax.

Officials previously approved a property tax levy hike that would increase that revenue from $14.7 million to about $16 million to cover pensions, firefighter salaries and benefits, library services and crossing guard services. Unlike many municipalities, no property tax revenue goes toward the general fund in Crystal Lake.

Even with the increase, the city's property tax rate is among the lowest in McHenry County.

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