Joliet officials approve $274.3 million city budget
By Bob Okon email@example.com December 4, 2012 9:38PM
Newly remodeled Joliet City Council chambers at Joliet City Hall in Joliet, Illinois, Tuesday, December 4, 2012. | Joseph P. Meier~Sun Times Media
JOLIET BUDGET BREAKDOWN
Total 2013 Budget: $274.3 million
Major Spending Areas
Operations: $194.5 million
Capital Spending: $29.8 million
Special Funds and Grants: $50 million
Spending going up
Payroll: $66 million, up 3 percent
Insurance: $23.5 million, up 3 percent
Police pensions: $12.8 million, up 9 percent
Fire pensions: $11.3 million, up 7 percent
Municipal waste: $11.4 million, up 4 percent
Professional services: $1.9 million
Spending going down
Overtime: $3.9 million, down 11 percent
Community support: $1.6 million, down 23 percent
IT maintenance: $1.4 million, down 5 percent
Chemicals and road salt: $867,000, down 6 percent
Top Revenue Sources
Water and sewer charges: $40 million
Sales taxes: 40 million
Property taxes: $33 million
Other taxes: $33 million
Service charges: $23 million
Gambling taxes: $21 million
Licenses, permits and fees: $6 million
Updated: January 6, 2013 10:10AM
JOLIET — Mayor Thomas Giarrante used the 2013 balanced budget Tuesday to justify tax hikes approved more than a year ago.
The city council voted unanimously for the $274.3 million budget that is balanced due in large part to tax increases that went into effect this year.
Giarrante emphasized the tax increases before casting his vote, calling upon the city finance director to give a prepared report showing that the city has $6.7 million in additional revenue because of the tax and fee hikes.
“I maintain that because of the position taken by the council last year, we had $6.7 million,” Giarrante said.
Actually, it was a divided position by the council, which voted 5-4 in September 2012 for the tax increases.
One of the tax-hike opponents, Councilman Larry Hug, said after the meeting that the mayor’s comments were “political” and that Giarrante gave the wrong impression “that we desperately needed these taxes.” Hug said Joliet could have balanced its budget with fewer tax hikes, union pay concessions, and deeper cuts in funding for the Rialto Square Theatre and other recipients of city funds.
Giarrante after the meeting acknowledged that he was trying to make a point for himself and four council members who voted for the tax hikes.
“Some of us stuck our necks out and voted for that,” he said. “Without that, we would have a $6 million hole right now.”
The episode was a rare rocky moment in what has been a relatively smooth budget process.
Unlike a year ago, the council was not faced with unpopular choices. The budget is balanced without deep cuts in services and provides money to hire 10 police officers, which will be enough to bring back the neighborhood police team. The city suspended the neighborhood police unit because of a manpower shortage, but told community groups that wanted it back that they would take care of the program in the 2013 budget.
The budget also may have been made easier because it does not contain any long-term projections on city finances.
“This is a one-year budget that gets us through the year,” City Manager Thomas Thanas told the council at a budget review session on Monday. “We really do need to start looking at a five-year plan.”
The budget document itself calls for city officials to begin meeting early in 2013 to make long-term plans for taxes, salaries, and other big items likely to affect future budgets.
Council members, including Hug, said Tuesday before the meeting ended that they believe the city needs to begin work on the five-year plan soon.
Councilman Robert O’Dekirk alluded to the tax hikes while supporting action on a five-year plan.
“Obviously, we know by raising taxes we can raise more revenue,” O’Dekirk said. “But I think we need to widen our scope to see how we can bring Joliet back to financial health.”