Keeping Wheaton on Track
The City of Wheaton is financially healthy, provides excellent services to residents, and is simply a wonderful place to live. We have been able to maintain a high level of services and keep up with ever-increasing infrastructure and personnel costs while holding City of Wheaton taxes almost flat for the average property owner for a number of years. Much of the credit goes to the City staff led by our City Manager, but the City Council has made the policy decisions necessary to make this possible. As a three-term member of the City Council, I am very proud of these results.
I am honored to have received endorsements for election as Mayor by former Wheaton Mayors Gwen Henry and Jim Carr, current and former Wheaton City Council members Todd Scalzo, John Rutledge, Liz Corry, Howard Levine, Alan Bolds, and Thor Saline, District 200 Board President Brad Paulsen, Board members Jim Vroman, Ginna Ericksen, Jim Gambaiani, Jim Mathieson, and Chris Crabtree, and Park District Board members Ray Morrill, Jane Hodgkinson, and Terry Mee. I am very grateful for the assistance and encouragement of these Wheaton leaders. Their records of integrity, ethical leadership, and good governance are examples of what is great about Wheaton, and I aspire to uphold these values if elected Mayor.
My sole ambition politically is to lead this City. I am very proud of my record as a City Council member; you can see how I have voted on many issues, and what I have said in explaining my votes. Achieving my goals of financial strength through fiscal responsibility, high quality services (including police and fire protection), and infrastructure improvement, while keeping taxes as low as possible, is possible only through a unified effort by the Council, led by the Mayor. I believe that my ability to work well with other Council members, and my genuine respect for their opinions (which have helped to shape my own), is a major reason why so many current and former community leaders have endorsed me in this election. They know how local government should work and have observed me in action over many years; they have decided that I am the best candidate for this position. This alone is not a reason to vote for me, but I hope it sheds bright light on an important attribute for a Mayor; one that you take into serious consideration in casting your vote on April 2.
I ask for your support in this election, and am happy to answer any questions you may have. See below to request a sign placement.
Endorsed by the Daily Herald
327 East Madison Avenue Wheaton, Illinois 60187
Major City Issues
I am very proud of the City’s financial strength – it is the basis for everything we do. Soon after I joined the City Council in 2007, the recession hit us very hard. We eliminated more than 30 City jobs and took every reasonable action possible to cut expenses while maintaining essential services. These were difficult decisions, but they paid off. We have a financial position that is the envy of local governments in Illinois.
My first priority as Mayor would be to continue our fiscally responsible practices and maintain this strength. By fiscally responsible practices, I mean planning ahead, spending money wisely, ensuring a revenue stream that keeps up with inflationary increases in costs, and maintaining appropriate reserves that act as a cushion against unforeseen costs and liabilities; all while keeping property taxes as low as possible.
The City has consistently held increases in operating expenses to a growth rate of 2% or less. With respect to our revenues, we want to have dependable and consistent sources of revenue, and to be as independent of the State as possible. We have been able to work toward this while the City’s property tax levy (13% of the typical tax bill for a property owner) has been almost flat for the average property owner for several years. The City’s property tax levy for 2019 increased only 0.7%. The impact of this on the average property owner is no change in City property taxes because the 0.7% increase was limited to the capture of economic growth in the City.
The major issue for the City during the next few years will be the convergence of the cost of operating expenses with the amount of revenue received. The City’s revenue has remained almost flat for several years while operating expenses have risen due to personnel and other cost increases (inflation). The difference between revenue and operating expenses is the primary source of funding for capital projects, including the annual road program. The gap between revenue and operating expenses is expected to disappear within the next two years, while the City has $13 million of capital projects (maintenance or improvement of City infrastructure) already identified for the next five years. The question for the City will be how to fund these costs while maintaining the high level of services expected by residents.
Infrastructure / Capital Projects
Maintenance and improvement of the City’s infrastructure is wholly dependent upon the state of the City’s finances. We currently fund a portion of our infrastructure spending using dedicated funding sources such as Motor Fuel tax revenues (streets), water revenues (water system), and storm sewer revenues (storm sewers). We use the City’s General Fund, which is funded primarily by the City’s share of property taxes, sales taxes, and income taxes, to fund all capital project costs not funded using the dedicated funding sources. For example, General Fund revenue is used to supplement Motor Fuel taxes in order to permit the City to fully fund the annual road program. We seek to resurface and/or rebuild streets on a schedule which results in the average street quality rating to meet resident expectations. We also use General Fund revenue to fund sidewalk construction and replacement, the ash tree replacement program, and myriad other expenditures.
Currently, the City funds capital expenditures (other than those described above) using General Fund revenue which remains after payment of the City’s General Fund operating expenses. Historically, the gap between revenue and operating expenses has been sufficient to adequately fund these needs. The City’s operating expenses have been growing at a rate less than 2% each year, but revenue has been nearly flat. Therefore, the gap is closing quickly. We expect that within two years, there will be no General Fund moneys available for capital projects (other than the dedicated funding sources described above).
While the City will gain a bit of breathing room in 2023 when the bonds issued to fund the Library improvements are paid in full, we clearly have a structural budget issue. I believe that the best way to address future capital project funding is to make funding of capital expenses an affirmative funding line item in the City’s budget, rather than an amorphous “left-over” amount. The City staff needs more certainty regarding funding for capital projects in order to plan wisely and utilize staff time appropriately. This is something which must be addressed by the next Mayor and City Council.
My basic views regarding the environment stem from the following principles: we are responsible for the world in which we live and must do all we can to live in harmony with the environment; we must leave it in the best state possible as our legacy to those who follow. With these principles in mind, the goal of the City of Wheaton should be to work towards a sustainable community.
I am proud to report that Wheaton has taken consequential steps toward more sustainable practices, beginning with a commitment to green policies as part of our prioritizing of issues in June 2007, soon after I was elected to my first term on the City Council. Among other actions, we have: moved to a refuse disposal system which encourages more recycling using the big blue containers and reduces garbage truck fuel use; replaced vehicles in the City fleet with hybrid vehicles and have downsized where possible to more fuel-efficient trucks and cars; replaced sodium vapor lighting with LED lighting wherever possible; and have consistently strived to effect environmentally positive change through our bidding practices.
I have voted consistently for environmentally-conscious measures, even when there has been an additional upfront cost, because I believe that, in the long run, these measures are not only the responsible course to take, but will also prove to be cost-effective.
It is up to us to set an example for future generations, and I believe that the City of Wheaton should be at the forefront. These are the principles upon which I have based my decisions affecting the environment during my three terms on the City Council; if elected Mayor, I would be in a position to be an even more forceful and effective advocate for the environment.
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