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Local News

Joliet council begins to examine 2017 budget

JOLIET – The city of Joliet's proposed $281 million budget for 2017 got a relatively quick review this week after a lengthy debate over whether to spend $500,000 for the Rialto Square Theatre.

The City Council plans to discuss the budget again at its Monday workshop meeting, which starts at 5:30 p.m. at City Hall.

City Manager Jim Hock gave a presentation at the first budget meeting Thursday after the Rialto debate, which lasted an hour and a half.

Money for the Rialto is not in the budget now, but lots of other things are.

Hock noted a potential $7 million deficit and 3.5 percent increase in garbage fees in his presentation.

The total property tax levy for the city would increase 1 percent and the separate property tax levy for the Joliet Public Library would go up 2 percent.

The budget includes money for 25 new squad cars but not for additional police. It also funds the purchase of an additional truck for snowplowing.

Hock told the council that the city will use up $7 million in reserves to balance the budget.

However, the city in recent years has typically budgeted for multimillion-dollar deficits and ended the year with multimillion-dollar surpluses instead.

If there is a deficit next year, it will be the first since 2012.

The city would end 2017 with more than $31 million in reserves in its general fund if the projected deficit proves true.

The budget shows the city expecting to end 2016 with a $3.8 million surplus.

Hock told the council that the 2017 increase in garbage fees will total $333,450.

A 1 percent increase in the city property tax levy will amount to $333,000 in additional revenue. The proposed property tax levy increase for the library would generate an additional $118,000.

The library is run by a separate board, but its budget, which is compiled separately from the city budget, needs to be approved by the City Council. Property tax revenue makes up 97 percent of the $7 million library budget.

For the city, property taxes are projected to generate $33.7 million next year, the second largest source of revenue for the general fund.

"Our sales tax is really our No. 1 revenue source, and that's why economic development is very important," Hock told the council.

Sales taxes are expected to generate $46.7 million in 2017.

Gaming taxes would total $18.5 million next year.

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