Updated: January 20, 2014 7:58AM
AURORA — Without much discussion, aldermen unanimously approved the city’s slimmed down 2014 budget at a meeting Tuesday night.
Under the $362 million budget, spending decreases by about 1.8 percent from the 2013 budget, according to city Finance Director Brian Caputo. The city spent about $369 million in 2013, according to budget figures.
Finance Chairman Bob O’Connor, Alderman At-large, said the 2014 budget “is a very good budget coming off of some very difficult years.”
“We all understand the effect of the economy, the effect of diminishing revenue and changes… the added pressures due to health care costs and pension problems,” O’Connor said.
Mayor Tom Weisner thanked city staff for their hard work on the budget. Since the housing bubble burst in 2007 and 2008, the city has been very serious about cost-cutting measures, he said.
“This year was really no exception. There’s sometimes a general perception that the economy is improving so everything is hunky-dory,” Weisner said. “That has not been the case for us. We’ve seen some revenue streams increase somewhat, we’ve seen some go down, but there has not been a significant increase in our overall revenues.”
The 2014 budget increases the number of full-time workers by one over 2013 levels. Staff raises will generally be capped at 1 to 2 percent in 2014, according to Caputo.
In an effort to cut spending despite rising pension costs, the 2014 budget looks to invest in new technology practices that enable city departments to run more efficiently.
Those technology upgrades include police adding a new $37,500 mobile traffic reporting program, a $76,000 automated evidence management system and a $52,800 license plate reader system. City ambulances will add 11 mobile computer tablets at a cost of $39,000.
Also in 2014, the city will begin a multi-year process to replace the city’s enterprise resource platform, allowing the city’s public safety and public administration departments to share data. The total cost of replacing the system, split over the next few years, will be $6.7 million, Caputo said.
Aurora’s City Council also unanimously approved the city’s tax levy at the meeting.
The city’s total tax levy increases by about 0.5 percent, according to Caputo. The slight increase can be attributed to rising pension costs.
While the city’s general fund levy — the city’s operational dollars — decreases by about $1.1 million under the budget, the city’s pension costs increase by $1.5 million, according to Caputo. That’s a 9.5 percent increase over last year’s pension costs, he said.
City Chief of Staff Carie Anne Ergo said the pension legislation reform that recently passed in the state legislature didn’t touch police and fire pensions.
Weisner said he and other local leaders must call on state legislators to deal with police and fire pensions next year.
“If they do not, the tax on the local taxpayers will continue to increase at a rate that none of us want to see,” Weisner said. “While we respect our public safety people and know that they deserve a decent pension, it has to be an affordable one.”
In 2013, the city’s total city tax levy, which included the library tax levy, increased by 2.3 percent. The slight increase was attributed to a higher levy by the library to pay for the building of a new main library downtown and rising pension costs.
Aurora’s 2014 budget is available online at www.aurora-il.org/finance/budget.