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Marengo approves balanced budget

MARENGO – Little has changed in the latest budget for Marengo, as officials continue to build back the city's reserves that had dwindled during the economic recession.

Aldermen earlier this week approved, 7-1, the city's 2015 budget, including a balanced, $3.77 million general fund and roughly $70,000 in new capital projects. Ward 4 Alderman Dennis Hammortree was the lone dissenter on the new financial plan, which takes effect May 1.

The plan includes minor adjustments and features no new hires. But the balanced finances strengthens the city's cash flow to nearly 64 days of reserves, up dramatically from the four days of cash reserves in 2012.

"The things we have done in the last three fiscal years have stabilized our finances," said City Administrator Gary Boden.

Since the recession, Marengo has cut payroll costs – going from 48 full-time employees in 2008 to 32 employees currently – and developed sinking funds to better manage equipment costs and one-time expenses thoughout the budget cycle.

The newest budget features about $134,400 less in revenue from this year, primarily because the state is current on income tax payments to Marengo. The city had been receiving overdue payments, causing revenue to increase slightly, Boden said.

The city's water and sewer fund is also balanced at $2.24 million. It includes the wastewater rate hikes aldermen restored last month to pay back more than $11 million borrowed from the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency for the new wastewater treatment plant.

Residents can expect minor projects this year.

The general fund includes $40,000 for a new, digital community sign at Route 20 and 23, after a storm last fall damaged the existing one. Marengo police also plan to spend $30,000 to upgrade their radio system.

"The general fund really isn't earth shattering," Boden said.

Officials, though, are concerned on how to pay for rapidly increasing police pension contributions that have doubled in the last three years.

The city has set aside an additional $20,000 in the budget for its police retirement contributions, totaling $260,000. But the obligation will only increase in future years, Boden said, as city revenues remain relatively flat.

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