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Aurora Council OKs budget

Updated: January 13, 2013 11:15AM

AURORA — Without much discussion, aldermen voted to approve the 2013 budget in a nearly-unanimous vote Tuesday night.

As he did the last few years, Alderman Rick Lawrence, 4th Ward, voted against the budget. Under the $369 million budget, spending increased 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.

A few aldermanic hopefuls shared their opinions on the budget with current aldermen.

Kevin Mathews, 4th Ward aldermanic candidate, said that when it comes to tackling rapidly rising pension costs, the city should send a message to Springfield by hiring more contractors and adding fewer city staffers.

“It’s clear that the city has the upper hand and the control,” Mathews said. “This has to stop at some point.”

Mayor Tom Weisner said the city has moved to hire more contractors under his administration for legal, engineering and maintenance work. He said the city has eliminated 188 full-time employees in recent years.

“We will work very hard for reform of pensions,” Weisner said.

Edward Bugg, 9th ward aldermanic candidate, said that aldermen should work with library board members to ensure that the they are collecting revenue where they can in times when taxpayers to pay more for a new library. He said that he uses the Naperville library, and their reciprocal agreements are not equal to Aurora’s library.

Mavis Bates, 4th Ward aldermanic candidate, said that although building the new downtown library was a major chunk of the 2013 budget, it’s a needed expense in order to be a thriving community that attracts families.

After the meeting, Lawrence said the city’s business model is “unsustainable.” He said taxpayers are paying more taxes on homes that are worth less.

“We’re taking more from less wealth,” he said.

Alderman Bob O’Connor, At-large, said the 2013 budget is “fair, responsible and responsive.”

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

City Finance Director Brian 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. Aldermen will vote on the levy next week.

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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