Infrastructure and capital improvements are priorities in Des Plaines for 2013.
Alderman unanimously supported $850,000 in funding for sidewalk repairs throughout Des Plaines to catch up with a three-year backlog of work orders at last night’s third hearing on the proposed 2013 budget.
Sidewalk repair was a subject aldermen kept coming back to — $350,000 was initially in the 2013 proposed budget. An additional $500,000 in funding will come from the gaming tax fund and motor fuel tax fund to finance projects that have been on hold.
“There is a fine balance between what staff can do and what we spend,” said City Manager Mike Bartholomew.
The city has a backlog of about $1 million dollars in repairs but will do half the repairs in 2013 and the other half in 2014, said Finance Director Dorothy Wisniewski. Staff capabilities were a consideration as other infrastructure improvements are set to dramatically increase next year.
Overall, the city will spend $12.6 million in capital improvements in 2013, up from $7.6 million in 2012. Almost $3 million will go toward street improvements and $4.4 million will go toward drainage system improvements.
The city has increased its unassigned fund balance to more than $18 million this year. In 2008, the unassigned balance was $1.2 million, which forced the city to take out loans to pay for debt service and face less favorable interest rates.
This larger fund balance could come in handy in 2013 as city officials consider finding alternative water supply sources as Chicago’s rates increase and Des Plaines considers implementing a water meter replacement program.
Wisniewski said that in 2012, there were 13 cases in Des Plaines where residents’ water meters were not functioning correctly. When the equipment was repaired, those residents, many of whom were seniors, were hit with huge water bills.
The city put those families on payment plans, although many aldermen and the mayor thought an amnesty program would be a better option.
“Residents shouldn’t be penalized because equipment isn’t working,” said Mayor Marty Moylan.
Preliminary estimates show that a water meter replacement program could cost about $4 million over the course of three to four years.
The 2013 budget will be finalized on at a city council meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 13th. The 2013 budget document can also be found on the city’s website.