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Finance

Sewer rate increase OK'd in Elburn

ELBURN – Water and sewer rates will rise, starting with the May bills, in Elburn, something Village President Dave Anderson called a "not fun" but necessary decision.

Residents can expect to pay $7 to $8 more a month for sewer bills as the village begins the process of modernizing its wastewater treatment facility. The decision to raise the rates was approved unanimously at Monday's Elburn Village Board meeting.

Previously, John Nevenhoven, the village's director of public works, said the sewer rate will have to increase by at least $1 per 100 cubic feet of water each year for the next four years.

Officials for months have talked about the need for upgrades at the facility, citing safety and efficiency issues that they say must be addressed. The cost of the upgrades is estimated at $7.65 million, and the village has $1.5 million available. The fee increase will be in effect to help pay back the loans. The plan is for the sewer rate to grow by the same amount each year through 2017.

Anderson said it was something that had to be done, as "we must, from a fiduciary standpoint, meet our obligations." Trustee Bill Grabarek moved the motion, saying "we need water, and we need to be able to pay for it."

Also, in the committee of the whole meeting that followed the Village Board meeting, board members got a look at the first draft of the village's budget for 2014-15. In previous meetings, there has been discussion about some of the budget items, but Monday's presentation provided the first look at the entire picture.

"This is the whole mouthful, instead of the smaller bites we have had in the past," said Doug Elder, the village's finance director.

There was some debate over some of the figures. For instance, in the village's recreation fund, the expenses for maintenance supplies and grounds were at $46,988. In 2013-14, that line was at $7,790. Trustee Jeff Walter questioned why that was so high.

"That's a $40,000 increase, and we don't have very many parks," he said. "What's that for?"

Erin Willrett, the village administrator, said extensive maintenance would be needed at the park near the Elburn and Countryside Community Center. The village doesn't own the park, but it is responsible for the equipment. Also, she said the village now owns more open space in the Blackberry Creek community, and that area must be maintained as well. She said the Village Board would face decisions about such things.

Walter said the village should be looking at an income source if expenses would be increased. Grabarek suggested that the village consider using funds it receives from its share of the video gaming machines that are in operation at Schmidt's Towne Tap and Knuckleheads Tavern. Grabarek's idea had support, and officials said they would consider such a move.

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