Machesney Park’s 5 percent utility tax will expire Dec. 31, 2019
By Bob Balgemann
Second of 2 Parts
The second part of the Feb. 4 budget workshop dealt with a look at tentative expenditures for the 2019-20 fiscal year, which will begin May 1.
Road improvements has been a major project of the village since 2008, when Build Machesney was launched through a sales tax increase approved by voters.
In concert with that came a 5 percent utility tax, which the village board imposed in 2014. Since then the tax has brought in $7.9 million and was spent as follows: existing road improvements, $5.029 million, or 63.57 percent of the total; public safety, $1.490 million, of 18.83 percent; new road improvements, $772,358 or 9.76 percent; paths, $607,375, or 9.76 percent; and rebates to low-income residents, $12,188, or 0.16 percent.
The Feb. 4 budget presentation was made by Village Administrator Tim Savage and Finance and Human Resources Manager Michelle Johannsen. As part of that discussion, Savage said staff would like to know, before the budget is finalized, if the village board was interested in the tax being continued. If so, there would be further discussion of the matter.
Johannsen said there was a requirement in the enabling ordinance that 55 percent of the utility tax proceeds be used for existing roads and infrastructure. “As you can see,” she told trustees, “we have far surpassed that by spending 64 percent” on such improvements. “And, actually, the majority of funds received went towards roads. Eighty-one percent of the funds were spent on roads and paths.”
Road work takes a major share of the village’s income. Another big ticket item is law enforcement services; the current contract with the Winnebago County Sheriff’s Department is for $3.561 million, 2.8 percent more than the previous year.
Other expenses
The village anticipates donating funds for community events and service. Right now, according to unofficial minutes of the workshop, the list includes:
* Harlem Community Center summer parks program, $5,000.
* Carson Boys & Girls after-school program, $2,000.
* Helping Hands Food Pantry, $1,500. The contribution was increased to that amount after Trustee Erick Beck proposed the higher amount at the end of the workshop. Subsequently, there was a consensus among board members for that to happen.
Administrator Savage told the board the village had been directing residents in need of assistance to an organization called One Body. So they might be considered if they need assistance, since the village is heavily utilizing them as a community resource.
Trustees then saw some of the expenditures being proposed by various village departments for a variety of projects.
Mayor Steve Johnson requested funding to beautify welcome signs, create a “statement piece” in the downtown business district, such as clock; extend Illinois Route 251 lighting to the north, as part of the Business District initiative; and beautify the village to improve its image.
He also would like a slide for the Touch-a-Truck/Fall Fest; six movie nights, up from the three held in 2018; and put in picnic tables and shade trees, or a shelter, at Minns Park. There already is $5,000 for park improvements, received from the Rockford-area Realtors organization that initiated development of the park a couple of years ago.
In addition to the $5,000, Mayor Johnson also pointed to the money he saves the village each year by not being reimbursed for cell phone usage, $600; not taking any health or dental insurance, $17,600; and $2,000-$5,000 for not accepting mileage for trips he takes on village business.
The community development department would like $15,000 for building permit and code enforcement software, which would be an annual cost. In addition, $30,000 is being requested. for legal and consultant costs to establish a Business District at Harlem & North Second Street, to improve the “downtown” of Machesney Park.
A total of $70,000 is being sought by the public works department. Of that amount, $10,000 would be used to replace the zero-turn mower, which is five years old and in need of repairs. Also, $44,000 would go for various updates at village hall, such as floors, doors and paint. Finally, $16,000 would be used to begin addressing sidewalks and to make repairs, or replacements, as necessary.
The Winnebago County Sheriff’s Department, which provides law enforcement services through a yearly contract, would like to replace two squad cars due to high mileage.
Pay adjustments
When it came to salaries of employees, it was pointed out the village in recent years used the consumer price index (CPI) from the Midwest Region to calculate and apply a cost of living adjustment (COLA) to all positions. Then, a separate merit pool of $20,000 was established for possible raises based on performance. Based on the CPI table, last year’s COLA was 1.7 percent, with this year’s being proposed at 1.3 percent.
The board consensus was to provide employees with the 1.3 percent adjustment with a $500 holiday bonus to each position, taken from the merit pool. Then the administrator would divided what was left based on performance.

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