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Local News

Proposed Joliet city budget comes out Monday

JOLIET – Ready or not, a 2016 budget will be presented to the Joliet City Council on Monday.

City Manager Jim Hock said two weeks ago he was putting the budget proposal on hold while hoping to get some clarification on how the state budget crisis will affect city revenues.

Hock acknowledged then he may not know much more in two weeks, and he doesn’t.

For the sake of the proposed budget, Hock said he will assume that at some point in 2016 the city will again get the casino, video gaming and fuel taxes that the state has not sent since the budget impasse started in July.

But the city won’t spend any of that money until it comes through, he said.

“There are a whole lot of capital needs in the city, and I will be preparing the budget as if things remain the same,” Hock said.

So far, the city is missing $9.5 million in tax revenues being held by the state on the basis it cannot send the money without a budget in place.

Mayor Bob O’Dekirk talks about a “doomsday scenario” that would develop if state officials figure out a way to hold onto the local share of tax dollars to resolve their own budget problems.

“If the state takes away money and doesn’t give it back, what’s the city going to do?” O’Dekirk asked.

Two new positions the mayor wants to see in the budget are an economic development director, who would work on bringing new business to Joliet, and an inspector general, who would have oversight over all city departments.

But the mayor said it’s “the city manager’s budget,” and he will wait to see it Monday along with the City Council.

“We’re going to take a good look at where the money is going to be spent,” O’Dekirk said.

The council is scheduled to meet at 5:30 p.m. Monday in the council chambers at a special meeting devoted solely to the budget.

Hock declined to give any budget details, saying the City Council should hear them first.

O’Dekirk said he does not yet know many details, although he previously said Hock was looking at some “drastic measures.”

The city borrowed from reserves to balance the budget this year. It dug deeper into reserves in August to pay $15 million for the Evergreen Terrace housing complex, the result of a 10-year condemnation effort.

Labor unions for police, fire and public works employees are negotiating new contracts, which are scheduled to expire at the end of 2015, although it does not appear that talks will be completed by then.

A potential hike in water and sewer rates, proposed earlier this year, won’t be in the budget proposal, Hock said. The proposal has been put on hold until the city does an operational efficiency study of the water and sewer department, which the City Council wanted.

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