By Bob Balgemann
BELVIDERE – With the start of the 2016-2017 fiscal year right around the corner, city council members have been given a preview of their new budget.
Budget Officer Becky Tobin presented an overview during a recent committee of the whole meeting that showed estimated revenue at $18.023 million, with expenditures at $17.969 million.
She said those numbers are higher than in the last two fiscal years because some reserve will be used for reconstruction of Columbia Avenue and Aspen Court. That project will take $1.427 million, with $1.5 having been budgeted.
“We still have reserves in excess of the required amount,” Mayor Mike Chamberlain said.
“The fund balance will be just fine,” Tobin inserted.
Most sources of revenue won’t be increasing very much, she reported.
One of those sources, the municipal sales tax, is still recovering from the Great Recession of 2008. It generated $3.6 million back then and Torbin said, “We’re nowhere close to that; we’re still recovering from the recession.”
In looking at the current budget, among the interesting points raised was the local use of tax increasing significantly in fiscal year 2015-2016, which will end April 30. That was because of Internet sales, with Amazon starting to charge sales tax.
“It shows a lot of internet sales (locally), especially from Amazon,” she said.
Income from the rental car tax went up more than expected because of the hail storm, which caused quite a few people to rent cars while their vehicles were being repaired.
Lions share expenses
Salaries will be 78 percent of the budgeted expense next year and they generated the most discussion.
All non-union employees, except four, will receive two percent raises in the yew year. The four exceptions are:
* Public works director, who will receive two percent plus $7,510, which Tobin said would bring him in line with other department heads and deputy chiefs.
* Street, water and sewer superintendent, two percent plus $5,000, which brings him in line with other similar positions.
“We have one employee (Danny Anderson) who is doing three jobs in this situation,” she said.
* Zoning and code enforcement officer, two percent plus $2,600 for additional work he’s undertaken.
* Fire administrative assistance, two percent and will be paid $13.13 an hour.
It was the superintendent’s adjustment that brought the most discussion.
Public Works Director Brent Anderson said a few years ago there were five supervisors in the public works department: director, assistant director and three superintendents. Retirements reduced that number to two and now Danny Anderson, who was hired in December 2010, runs the street, water and sewer operations.
“This year will be a good test for us,” Brent Anderson said. “There are quite a few projects on line.”
How much in savings?
Alderman Ron Brooks wondered how much money the city was saving through the current administrative setup. About $250,000 a year, Brent Anderson estimated.
“Not including benefits,” Tobin interjected, “so we’re saving more than $300,000 a year.”
Mayor Chamberlain joined the discussion at that point, saying salary increases are based on two things: responsibilities and years of service.
“We have all done more than was expected of us years ago,” he said.
“As responsibilities increase, you can give raises in excess of the two percent. Brent went without a raise forever; he wanted more done for his people. We’re trying to be fair and above board, and listen to what the department heads have added. I think he deserves his raise. He is in fact superintendent over three departments.”
Brooks said he felt bad for people at the lower end of the pay scale.
“I wish there was something we could do about it,” he said.
To raise salaries the way many would like would take a 15 to 20 percent increase in taxes, which Mayor Chamberlain termed “nonsensical. We’re still down eight to nine people from where we were in 2008.”

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