From a Batavia watchdog:
I attended the City Council Meeting Monday Night, December 5, 2011. Before the meeting I went over the budget (which I printed all 160+ pages) with a fine tooth comb so I was ready. Home Rule has allowed our City Fathers to become more like Chicago Politicians in my opinion. I’ll let you decide how you want to frame your opinions based on the bottom line.
1. St. Charles Fire District dropped out of Tri-City Ambulance so the city claims that we need to make up $435,000 to cover our part of those costs via a 4.4% tax on the city residents. I explained that ambulance costs are generally covered by people’s insurance and billed to them separately so that ambulance costs should be self-sustaining. What doesn’t compute is that on page xv of the budget explanation is the expense is only $115,000. How does that justify a 4.4% tax/$100 EAV that relates to approximately $30 on home assessed at $225,000 in real estate taxes per taxable property (depending upon the assessed value, it could even be more). I am not satisfied with the explanation that I got from Peggy Colby. When this money goes into the General Fund, it is not ear-marked and is actually a tax that can be used for just about anything.
2. The tax levy is $6.7 million. The owner of a home valued at $322,000 would pay an additional $43.00 in taxes. The City tries to justify these increases by going back to 1955 and by saying they haven’t actually had a tax increase and by saying that Batavia’s tax rate is one of the lowest. However, If you all will take time to look at the budget, you will see that despite the reduced/slagging economy Batavia’s Property Tax Extension (page xi) shows that there was an increase in every year except 2004 and a level tax in 2008 and 2009. Couple that with the increases in population and increases in new construction (even though there are many foreclosed homes and less new construction) and Batavia has enjoyed an increase in taxes every year. That means that they have spent more even though they have “cut back”. Meanwhile, homeowners have suffered substantially with higher foreclosure rates, higher taxes, higher costs and lower salaries, or no salaries, and no salary increases. The city claims that it “provides a very good value for the services provided”. Well, my argument to that is that nearly every “service” provided except keeping the streets plowed has an extra cost attached to it now. For example, the $3.00 per month leaf pick-up that really has deteriorated since it was contracted out. Also, the branch pick up doesn’t occur on the schedule provided and we get notices for having branches on the parkway. It took over 20 years for the City to fix a 2″in drop in a block of the sidewalk in front of my house, even though they were made aware of it in pictures numerous times over the years. The city claims to own the trees on the parkway but I paid to have the willow tree trimmed because there were some dangerous branches hanging over the street. I would bet that there are others who have complaints as well. AND WHILE I’m Complaining, I do want to acknowledge that the CITY WORKERS work hard. They generally do a good job and are responsive to the citizens. The problem lies with ADMINISTRATION and the COUNCIL and their priorities.
3. Brace yourself….Water rates are going up 3% and Sewer Rates are going up 8%. Since the utilities are owned by the City and the costs and incomes and municipal and utility taxes are cloaked under the Enterprise funds in the budget, the increases are not considered tax increases. There is no third party regulation to prevent the city from raising rates as high as they want. If you look at your water and sewer bill, you will note that this year fixed costs were added to the water and sewer rates — (Monthly Service Charge before you use any power, water or sewer at all) $6.60 for water and $7.89 for sewer and 3.59 for electric. The City contracted out the billing and now, we see substantial increases. The amounts above are charges BEFORE THE INCREASES. I don’t see how the City can justify these increases and I’m thinking we need to look into who is profiting from our expense.
4. Electric Rates are to go up. We have a dual rate system wherein we pay higher rates in summer and lower rates in winter. Generally the reasoning is that we use more electricity in the summer and less in winter and this “complements” our gas use which is higher in the winter and lower in the summer, thus allowing us some relief. Well, that’s about to end. The fixed monthly charge is going up to $10 per month and the rate is going to increase. They are going to try to placate us by “averaging” the summer and winter rates and making it one rate. This is another cloaked increase because we will be paying higher rates across the board. I urge all of you to look into NIMPA and the Pairie Coal Mining Project which, I believe, assures us that we will be paying extraordinarily higher rates through the PPAF (Purchased Power Adjustment Factor)and the requirement that we pay for the bonds through electric rates. There are a number of people who are extremely upset about this Pairie Power Plant and the lack of protections for the people of Batavia. I urge you all to check out the budget. You all know how to balance your checkbooks and the majority of us can’t have 6-9 months of reserves to protect us from a down economy. Yet the city has substantial reserves and will increase many of these things to ensure that they build reserves. That means that the funds are not necessarily needed but they want reserves! Review Ordinance 11-33 Amending Title 8 of the Batavia Municipal Code Relating to Electric Service Regulations and Rates.
5. There was a man at the council meeting who is building on a lot — Todd Buss. He has submitted plans to the planning commission and stated that he had approval (of course approval can’t be given by the planning commission but by the Council.) Apparently, the city sees fit to delay and cause him to pay over $2100 because the city made mistakes and his project has been delayed due to sidewalks in an older section of town. As I see it, because the city doesn’t have a sidewalk policy, doesn’t mean that a homeowner should be punished for city’s failures and the city’s lack of insight. Meanwhile, if you are a business that has contracts with the city, and that business (RUBICON) wants to expand, it’s damn the torpedoes full speed ahead. The torpedoes being the property owners around the Fox Valley Business Park who are concerned with their property values and their views. The Business Park got a special service area which will no doubt result in a tax and I don’t doubt that they will get money from the TIF or other city funds to increase their business. My question is why are taxpayers always the ones that have to subsidize these businesses?
The tax levy will be voted on by the City Council on December 19th. All of you should know by now that without public input the city is free to do whatever it wants, charge whatever it wants, transfer funds however it wants (see the INTERFUND TRANSFERS IN THE BUDGET), spend however it wants and giveaway our tax dollars to whoever it wants. I didn’t even mention the extremely high costs of this new STREETSCAPE PROJECT that is going to cost us big time. Remember, that anytime there is a reconstruction in a business area, those business lose revenue due to lack of access and inconvience to the people who would frequent the businesses. It takes years to recoup the losses and it drives the customers to other businesses and other locations that are more convenient and maybe even more cost effective. Don’t believe me? Amstadt’s lost a tremendous amount of business during the bridge reconstruction. He finally sold out to Berkley Foods. Limesone Cafe is closing even though they were just starting to recover from the bridge construction. There are other businesses that have gone under as well. It’s OUR TOWN and it will only be as good as WE THE PEOPLE, are willing to make it. If we refuse to be involved and we are not communicating with our aldermen/women on a weekly basis, our town will continue to have big problems and our taxes and utility costs and freedoms will continue to be compromised.