Capital improvements outlined in town budget

Ann Gill

The village of Coal City is projecting over $12.3 million in expenditures in the coming year, and 35.2 percent of the proposed budget is earmarked for capital improvements.
    After weeks of discussion among the Village Board and department leaders, trustees have placed on a file a tentative fiscal year 2018 budget. The document takes into consideration annual and planned expenses, as well as long- and short-term debt.
    In his notes to the board, village administrator Matt Fritz spoke about the impact the June 2015 tornado continues to have on village finances.
    “While the long-term cost is known to be $6.3 million, the effects of the capital expenditure are becoming apparent as the Village Board considered its annual tax levy in December. To date, the levy has increased from approximately $185,000 upwards to about $300,000 in the current fiscal year. This amount shall climb to approximately $800,000 within two years’ time. This long-term expense, planned to be paid off by the 2029 levy year, is squeezing available capital and causing short-term debt to increase. In order to afford the operational expenditures to fund the repayment of this debt, current payments are increasing as more replacement infrastructure is necessary,” Fritz said.
    In addition to the village’s outstanding debt, it must also find the funds to meet annual personnel and operational expense that include infrastructure and facility maintenance and improvement.
    As noted 35.2 percent of the budget is earmarked for capital improvements, including moving forward with plans to reconstruct South Broadway from Division Street south to the Burlington Northern Santa Fe railroad crossing.
    The village expects to receive $4.25 million in federal Surface Transportation Project funds in the event it can come up with the required match of $850,000.
    Town officials are also planning for street and road improvements including a large scale project to upgrade South Broadway from the BNSF crossing south to Spring Road.
    The budget under consideration also takes into account the town’s plan to purchase a new vactor truck at a cost of approximately $450,000. Additionally, the hiring of a full-time employee for the public works department has been included in the budget. This staff member will be assigned to the operation of the new equipment that the village anticipates being used in communities with which it has partnerships.
    Fritz reported the truck will be funded with five annual payments in addition to dollars that have been saved to date.
    The village has also included a new backhoe in the budget. The cost will be covered in two annual payments and split between two departments.
    Board members have budgeted for the hiring of an additional police patrol officer, however the hiring will only take place if the village is awarded a Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) grant.
    “To meet the staffing needs of the community and continue to transition the department to younger officers, receiving 75 percent of an additional officer over a three-year period would augment the transfer of knowledge from the existing senior officers,” Fritz said.
    The police department’s $2.27 million budget also includes costs associated with dispatching services, records management, new communications equipment for the officers, technology upgrades to provide additional video storage space and the hiring of  part-time administrative assistance to cover when the full-time assistant is out of the office.
    Within the administrative department, the budget includes dollars for continued improvements to village hall, an increase in salary for a full-time employee who has reportedly taken on additional duties within the organization and funds to cover strategic planning efforts.
    “This exercise would consist of meeting on multiple occasions with different participants and agreeing upon common goals that each of the boards would support as each program extends its annual resources,” Fritz said.
    Budgeted park improvements include a new pavilion in North Park, replacement of water fountains in all of the village parks and restoration of the former mine site on Hunters Run.
    According to Fritz, the Illinois Department of Natural Resources and the Illinois Park and Recreation Association are interested in a joint project to restore the site to a usable park space.
    “This portion of land which was added to the village’s holdings has received a phase one analysis which necessitated some means of restoration of the surface in order to allow public use of the grounds. Contemplated within the last analysis, additional fill and grading is necessary to place a cap over the restored area and have it mitigate its past uses,” Fritz said.
    Additionally, the administrator indicated the village has been approached by an investor interested in partnering on restoration of the property to prepare the area as a trail head for the adjacent bike path under the ComEd transmission lines.
    The town’s economic development fund includes an $86,405 debt payment on the Union Pacific rail spur that was put in to service the proposed Inland Logistics Port.  The payment will extend the total village cost for the project to $423,875.
    Per the terms of the development agreement governing the project the owners of the park are to begin paying when the amount  exceeds $350,000.
    “If the current share of debt contribution continues, the funding ceiling is expected to be surpassed in 2017, which allows the village to pass on the cost for funding future debt payments via a SSA (special service area) on the land that shall be collected in the summer of 2018,” Fritz said.
    At the request of the board, the proposed budget also includes $100,000 to continue the town’s facade improvement program, an incentive for local businesses to invest in their properties.
    To date, five building owners having utilized the no-interest loan program to make improvements and two have fully paid back the funds.
    On the expense side of the budget town officials have earmarked $6.3 million in operational expenses, $5.16 million in capital projects that include street improvements, economic development and infrastructure  expansion, $88,823 in discretionary spending that includes the tax increment financing fund and pass through payments of school site fees, and $817,985 for obligations including bond payments.
    On the revenue side, the village has projected income at $11,531,746.
    In addition to the dollars generated through property taxes, the village received funding from a variety of sources including state payments, utility payments, municipal fees and grants.
    In the coming year, the village expects to receive $86,000 in building fees associated with residential and industrial construction projected in the coming months.
    Town officials have further projected an increase in utility revenue as they are considering a recommendation from the Water and Sewer Committee to increase the rates by 4.85 percent. If approved, the increase would generate an additional $49,000 that would be used to support the repair and replacement of equipment. The board anticipates utility revenues at $1.6 million.    
    The administrator noted the budget reflects savings achieved by the retirement of some higher paid staff and a reduction in the contracted price the village pays for its electric service.
    The board is expected to approve the final budget when it meets on April 12. The new fiscal year begins May 1.