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Aurora promises a balanced budget despite shortfall
By Justin Kmitch | Daily Herald Staff
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Published: 8/26/2009 12:01 AM

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Less than two months before presenting aldermen with a 2010 budget, city finance officials are predicting even lower than expected revenues in 2009 - and an even worse 2010.

Finance Director Brian Caputo updated the city council Thursday on the midyear financial status and projected a $5.6 million general fund shortfall this year. All but $1.6 million of that will be covered by approximately $4 million in fund balances left over from last year.

"For 2009, it's not a positive situation - we still have a shortfall, and we still need to constrain as much as we can to cover it," Caputo said. "But I am concerned about 2010 because we have some underperforming revenues. We need to make adjustments and the administration is working diligently to find ways we can do more with less to make 2010 work. But if we were to do nothing, there would likely be a shortfall of $19 million in 2010."

According to Caputo, Aurora has seen significant declines in most revenue sources. He said year-to-date state-shared sales tax revenues are down almost 10.2 percent and home-rule sales tax revenues are down 11 percent from last year.

In addition, real estate transfer tax revenues are down from $5 million in 2006 to about $1.2 million this year, and gaming tax revenues have fallen from a high of $16.3 million in 2002 to about $12 million in 2009.

"The recession situation that has already hit the private sector, the public sector typically follows chronologically. While the private sector may have seen the worse of what befell them, we are just entering into the worst of it," Mayor Tom Weisner said. "And 2010 will be an exceedingly hard year. Nonetheless it will be our commitment to reign expenditures in line so that we balance the budget."

Last year, the city enacted a hiring freeze for all nonessential personnel, eliminated most travel and conferences and cut non-personnel-related expenses in nearly every department.

Earlier this summer, the city also agreed to voluntary separation packages for 37 employees, saving more than $3 million. Officials already know more personnel will need to be let go to balance the 2010 budget.

Last month, the city's roughly 200 nonunion employees were required to take five mandatory furlough days during the remainder of this year and told they will have 10 mandatory furlough days next year. That move was expected to save a total of about $760,000.

Weisner also will not take a raise through April 2011 and will be requesting no pay increases for the 200 nonunion employees in the 2010 budget.

"We've got a challenge," Caputo said. "I think we're up to it, but it's not going to be easy and it's going to require the cooperation of all of the departments and elected officials to close the gap."

Budget: More furlough days next year