Highland Park City Council Approves 2019 Budget
City Recognized for Excellence in Financial Reporting by the Government Finance Officers Association
Highland Park, Illinois – The Highland Park City Council adopted its Fiscal Year 2019 Budget of approximately $79.7 million at the regular meeting of the City Council on November 26, 2018. The 2019 budget has a balanced operating budget with operating revenues exceeding operating expenditures. The budget supports the City’s mission to provide fiscally responsible, high-quality services through effective, transparent and collaborative governance. The priorities guiding the City for the year are fiscal stability, public safety, infrastructure investment and community vibrancy. The budget is the principal policy document guiding the City’s activities and financial plans for the upcoming year.
“The City’s budget is its most important policy statement and guides the City’s immediate and long-term plans. The 2019 budget reflects the needs of our community and meets our operational and financial obligations,” stated Mayor Nancy Rotering. “This budget allows the City to continue to strategically achieve our goals and focus on our core priorities while being cognizant of potential challenges and opportunities.”
The 2019 budget development process included six neighborhood meetings to obtain feedback about City services and programs, four public budget workshops and a public hearing. Highlighted in the 2019 budget are infrastructure improvements totaling $8.9 million, including $3.6 million for water and sewer infrastructure improvements, $3.3 million for street, bridge, bike-walk, sidewalk, parking, ravine and tree infrastructure improvements, $1.1 million for public safety, public works and technology improvements and $0.9 million for facilities improvements. The City has invested $143 million in capital improvements over the last 10 years and, including the $8.9 million of improvements budgeted for 2019, is planning an additional $103 million of capital improvements over the next 10 years.
The 2019 budget includes a water rate increase of $0.339 per 100 cubic feet of water over the 2018 rate to ensure the financial sustainability of the fund, based on a water rate pricing model. The resulting water rate continues to be one of the lowest water rates and in the bottom quartile in the Chicagoland area. Also included in the proposed budget are Admin Hearing Fee increases from $40 to $50; increases in specific citation minimums and flat fees for specific citations; Liquor License Application Fee increases from $200 to $250, a new renewal application processing fee of $100 to offset processing costs, along with increases to other out-of-date liquor license fees; the establishment of Catering Liquor Licenses with associated fees; and an Overweight Truck Permitting.
The City continues to work diligently to reduce our operating expenses. Staffing levels have decreased over the last ten years. Additionally, the City has advanced shared services agreements with other municipalities and regularly seeks opportunities to reduce expenses while maintaining service levels for the community.
The City’s property tax levy includes individual levies for operations, public safety pension funding, road capital improvements and debt service. The City’s 2018 property tax levy, for collection in 2019, reflects an increase resulting from continued pressure to fund public safety pensions which allocates resources away from City services and capital investment. The change is an impact of $222 per year for an average $500,000 household. The State mandates that public safety pension funds be 90% funded by year 2040. State-mandated contributions must be made annually. The 2019 budget continues the City’s goal of accelerated contributions to help minimize the economic impact to residents over time.
Additionally, the Government Finance Officers Association (GFOA) has awarded the City with the Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting for the 34th consecutive year. The award represents the highest form of recognition in governmental accounting and financial reporting, and its attainment represents a significant accomplishment by a government and its management.
To receive the award, a local government must meet a set of rigorous criteria in the development of its Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR). Producing the CAFR is a legal requirement of the City, but receiving recognition for the CAFR requires that the report serve as an effective policy document, financial plan, operations guide, and communications device. The GFOA is a nonprofit professional association serving approximately 17,500 government finance professionals with offices in Chicago, IL and Washington, D.C.
“Fiscal stability is a core priority of the City which is reflected in the approved 2019 budget and confirmed by GFOA’s recognition of the City’s continued achievements in budgeting and financial reporting,” said City Manager Ghida Neukirch. “The Mayor, City Council and City staff worked collaboratively on the preparation of the 2019 budget, which resulted in an operational plan that will provide outstanding services while maintaining a stable positive financial outlook. City staff will continue the City’s tradition of excellence in providing public service, budgeting, and financial reporting.”
Budget presentations and the final adopted 2019 budget are available at www.cityhpil.com/budget. Questions about the City’s budget may be directed to the Finance Department at 847.432.0800 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.