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Slight increase in Aurora budget, tax levy in 2013

An artist rendering new AurorPublic Library planned for River Bentstreets.

An artist rendering of the new Aurora Public Library planned for River and Benton streets.

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Updated: January 12, 2013 6:13AM

AURORA — Aldermen are scheduled to vote Tuesday on the proposed 2013 city budget.

Under the proposed $369 million budget, spending would increase by 2 percent over the 2012 budget. Most of the increase in spending can be attributed to capital costs associated with the building of a new main library branch.

Despite the “modestly” improving economic climate, the city is still focusing on the basics, said City Chief of Staff Carie Anne Ergo.

The city plans to hire a grant writer as well as a forensic examiner at the Police Department to improve efficiency, Ergo said, but the number of full-time workers the city employees will stay the same in 2013.

City revenue is expected to remain on par with 2012 numbers, Ergo said.

“Generally speaking, revenues are modestly improving,” said Brian Caputo, city finance director. But property taxes, the city’s biggest share of revenue, continue to decline.

Police and Fire

The Police Department will aim to spend $260,000 on a four-dog canine unit and costs associated with the unit.

Ergo said the city previously had a canine unit, but didn’t replace the dogs immediately when they died during tough budget times. In the meantime, Aurora police officers have called on canine units from Kane County, Joliet or Naperville, putting stress on those neighboring departments. The ongoing cost of the canine program will be $8,000 a year.

Police are expected to hire a forensic examiner at a salary of $66,900.

Ergo said the forensic examiner will save police time by doing digital technology work.

“Almost every crime committed in Aurora today has an electronic component to it,” she said. “Whether the (criminal) used a cell phone, a video, there’s lot of time that’s spent tracking those things down.”

Caputo also said 20 new squad cars would be purchased in 2013.

Firefighters will replace two vehicles — an ambulance and a fire engine – at a cost of $665,000.

Ergo said the department replaced two engines, a platform truck and one ambulance last year.

“Where we can, we’re prioritizing public safety spending again,” Ergo said.

Other spending

The city has also budgeted:

About $20 million to be spent on the library project in 2013

$1.6 million for land acquisition for non-specific economic development projects.

$1.6 million on the Station Boulevard project to link Liberty Street to Meridian Parkway

Operating costs associated with RiverEdge Park; the city has an 18-month agreement with the Aurora Civic Center Authority to pay $250,000 toward programming and will reimburse for estimated $350,000 in maintenance

$200,000 for museum operating grants and $175,000 to replace the SciTech Museum roof at the city-owned building

$150,000 for an economic development initiative to market the city as a cohesive brand, part of a four-year project

$131,000 for a mounted license plate scanner under the city’s new parking program

$100,000 on trees in 2013, $40,000 more than in 2012

$56,700 to hire a grant writer, tasks previously absorbed by staff — “We weren’t really all that well organized at identifying grant (opportunities),” Caputo said.

A first-year $50,000 grant for the Quad County African American Chamber of Commerce, mirroring a grant previously given to the Aurora Hispanic Chamber of Commerce

$39,000 to install an ATM-style bill payment kiosk outside of City Hall

Tax levy

Residents can expect their city tax bill to be close to last year’s bill.

Caputo said he expects the total city tax levy (including the library tax levy) to increase by 2.3 percent. The slight increase can be attributed to a higher levy by the library to pay for the building of a new main library downtown and rising pension costs, he said.

“The general fund levy is the same as it was in 2005,” said Ergo. “(But) we cannot control state mandated pensions. We cannot control the benefit levels that are passed by state representatives.”

The city’s $362 million budget in 2012 was on par with the 2011 budget. The 2012 budget also factored in an $18 million surplus from 2011.

In 2010, the City Council approved a $340 million budget that attempted to eliminate an $18 million deficit by cutting city spending by $7 million and delaying planned projects.

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