Mayor, City Council Begin Work on 2013 Budget
Mayor Nancy Rotering asks residents to join the conversation as she and the City Council begin to prioritize the city's spending.
The City Council and Staff have begun working together to develop the 2013 City Budget and we want you to join the conversation.
First, some quick information: the average household in Highland Park paying $10,000/year in property taxes pays $6,870 to the School Districts, $764 to Lake County, and $565 to the Park District. The City's property tax portion is $645, with additional revenues coming from sales taxes and other fees. Click here to see how your property tax bill is split across 11 government agencies.
Each of us, in our daily life, approaches budgeting as an exercise in prioritization:
- Spend money on basics before indulgences
- Invest in and maintain your home, car, etc. to keep them in working condition
- Create a rainy day fund for unexpected expenses
- Save for anticipated large expenses
The City approaches budgeting in a similar way: City staff forecasts annual revenue from property taxes, fees and other revenue sources and identifies core municipal service needs. Sensible budgeting also anticipates long-term infrastructure needs, pension obligations and other projects that improve our dynamic community.
My budget philosophy is straightforward:
- Focus first on core city responsibilities: public works, fire and police protection, infrastructure
- Fund or plan repairs of and investment in long-term capital assets
- Put community "needs" first and ensure that our "wants" truly add to the quality of community life
- Approach the budget in its entirety. Nothing in the budget should be looked at in isolation from the bigger picture.
- Ensure a balanced operating budget and avoid drawing from reserves for operating expenditures
- Maintain adequate reserves for flexibility in addressing unforeseen needs and demands
- Take a conservative approach to pension accounting to plan for long-term funding requirements
- Seek efficiencies
In recent years, some of our priorities have been neglected. Core City infrastructure was underinvested in and at times spending on non-core activities superseded core items. During the last few months, we have seen the unfortunate results of some of those decisions:
- A public garage and movie theater closed due to lack of fire safety maintenance
- Fire hydrants overdue for maintenance and testing with troublesome results
- A taxed water treatment plant in the face of a drought with significant maintenance issues past due
- Closed or reduced-load bridges needing repair
- A library in need of deferred maintenance
We now face the challenge of bringing our budget back in sync with our priorities.
This Council and Staff are committed to transparency and accountability. All budget workshops are open to the public and available for viewing on our Citywebsite. The next budget workshops will be held at City Hall on August 27 and September 10. The Budget will be presented on October 15 with a public hearing on November 12. Times and details can be found at www.cityhpil.com. We hope you'll join our conversation.
Highland Park Mayor