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Local

Batavia hearing set on 2018 budget's proposals, tax and rate hikes

City’s $137 million spending proposal tackles stormwater work

The Batavia Government Center has 96 windows slated to be replaced. The project also includes tuck-pointing of the limestone masonry, and replacement of about half the limestone windowsills, along with new window blinds and related work. The building was constructed in 1901, as the Appleton Manufacturing Company, maker of windmills.
The Batavia Government Center has 96 windows slated to be replaced. The project also includes tuck-pointing of the limestone masonry, and replacement of about half the limestone windowsills, along with new window blinds and related work. The building was constructed in 1901, as the Appleton Manufacturing Company, maker of windmills.

BATAVIA – Tax and rate hikes in Batavia are part of a proposed $137 million city budget designed to maintain service levels while tackling major stormwater engineering projects.

Motorists filling up at the gasoline pump in Batavia will likely pay an additional 1 cent per gallon starting in 2018, bringing the city’s total gas tax to 4 cents per gallon.

Water utility customers will see a rate hike of 3 percent, under the proposed budget, resulting in a projected $1-per-month increase for a typical family of four. At the same time, sewer bills will rise 6 percent, producing an estimated $2.50-per-month jump for that same Batavia household.

For property owners, the city has a modest tax increase in store, tentatively expected to add about $15 to the annual city tax bill on a home valued at $350,000.

“This year we are facing a number of challenges, both internal and external,” City Administrator Laura Newman told aldermen during a budget committee meeting Nov. 9.

One of those external challenges comes from the state of Illinois, which is planning to reduce payments from the Local Government Distributive Fund. Municipalities are allocated state income tax revenues from the fund based on population.

City Finance Director Peggy Colby said the state is expected to cut the allotment by 10 percent, reducing Batavia’s share to about $2.3 million.

“They say it will be temporary, but who knows if it will be temporary or permanent,” Colby told aldermen. “The good news is we have solid revenues in all our funds, so we are in good shape.”

Another piece of good news for Batavia residents and businesses is that there is no electric rate increase included in the 2018 budget.

Public hearing

The Batavia City Council will hold a formal hearing on the budget Nov. 14, during which the public may comment on the plan. The meeting will start at 7 p.m., with the public hearing officially slated to open at 7:30 p.m. Approval of the budget will be in December.

Gas tax funds street work

The city receives $212,000 annually for each penny per gallon it imposes in tax on gasoline purchases, Colby said.

The money is used to fund street resurfacing projects. Despite the increase, the city is not keeping up with needed street work, Public Works Director Gary Holm said. Colby agreed.

“I don’t see an end in sight,” Colby said. “I think we need more money for streets.”

Paying for pipes

The proposed property tax increase will produce an additional $300,000 in revenue for the city, with the money funneled into drainage engineering projects to be covered with a $5 million bond issue.

One of the projects involves work to separate the storm and sanitary sewer systems in an older neighborhood on the near southwest side of the city centered along Blaine Street. Another is designed to increase the stormwater system capacity in the First Ward on the far southeast side of the city.

City Hall rehab gets OK

As part of the budget plan, the city will issue $1 million in bonds to pay for the replacement of the 96 windows at the Batavia Government Center building.

The work also includes masonry tuck-pointing, replacement of about half the limestone window sills, new blinds for all the windows and other improvements and repairs.

A separate line item in the budget calls for spending another $600,000 to cover a major redesign and rehabilitation project for the interior of the 1901 structure.

Mayor Jeff Schielke told aldermen that those improvements can wait and should be cut from the budget. But council members decided to move ahead with the project.

Cutting crosswalk funds

The budget includes $500,000 for improvements to the trio of button-activated, flashing-light pedestrian crosswalks on Route 31, but it now appears the project will not make the cut.

The Route 31 crossings are located at McKee Street, Union Avenue and Morton Street. The work would have involved additional beacons mounted on masts over the roadway and on posts 200 feet ahead of the crosswalks.

Aldermen said that the work will not solve the safety problem, and want to consider other possibilities. The line item is expected to be cut from the budget.

Extra staff, higher tax?

Newman had recommended the staff additions of a police officer and a building inspector, but those positions ultimately were not included in the budget presented to the council.

However, aldermen are having second thoughts, and it looks like they want those posts filled. Salary and benefits would be about $100,000 per employee.

To fund the new hires, the property tax hike would have to be bumped up further.

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