Crystal Lake approves $91 million budget

Plan includes $12.5M in reserves to cover capital improvements

CRYSTAL LAKE – The Crystal Lake City Council approved a $91 million budget Tuesday that closely resembles last year's annual spending plan.

The budget is $2 million more than last year's $89.3 million budget with revenues conservatively expected to come in at $78.7 million. It remains a balanced budget because of $12.5 million in reserve spending to cover capital projects.

The reserve fund balance is still expected to be at 43.3 percent of annual operating expenses after the transfer, good for a AA+ and "very strong" rating from Standard & Poor's credit rating.

Mayor Aaron Shepley said the term "reserve" should not be misinterpreted, as it is a savings account designed to be used for major capital upgrades such as the water treatment facility projects this coming fiscal year.

He compared it to buying groceries and making home improvements, saying a savings account would not be used for a trip to the store but instead is used for home upgrades, which is what the city does.

"[We] have plenty to be proud of with respect to this budget," Shepley said of city staff, council members and residents. "I don't want members of the public to be alarmed. This is exactly what these reserve funds are designed to do."

No members of the public commented during the open hearing and the budget passed without any further discussion from City Council members.

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.

The city will save money on staffing costs, going from 254.25 full-time equivalent positions to 250.50 after eliminating positions in the administration, water operations and community development departments.

Public safety costs will increase slightly from $25.6 million last year to $26.8 million.

The budget also included the results of a citizen survey to gauge residents' feelings on the city. Results were identical to feedback in 2009 when numbers were last recorded.

Residents rating overall quality of life as excellent or good came in at 89 percent while 88 percent of residents said they planned on staying in the city for the next five years. More than 85 percent of residents were happy with city services and believed Crystal Lake had an excellent or good image and reputation.

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