2006.10.24: October 24, 2006: Headlines: Figures: COS - Solomon Islands: City Government: Aurora Beacon News: Weisner unveils 2007 city budget for Aurora

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Solomon Islands: Special Report: Mayor and Solomon Islands RPCV Tom Weisner: 2006.10.24: October 24, 2006: Headlines: Figures: COS - Solomon Islands: City Government: Aurora Beacon News: Weisner unveils 2007 city budget for Aurora

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Weisner unveils 2007 city budget for Aurora

Weisner unveils 2007 city budget for Aurora

Last week, the mayor's office released the proposed 2007 budget to city staffers and aldermen. Speaking about it on Monday, Weisner called the $397 million plan "a budget of execution." "Last year, we told people where we wanted to go," he said. "2007 will be characterized by us digging in and accomplishing what we put forward last year." "We are setting the course for the next 100 years," he said. Tom Weisner, elected mayor of Aurora, IL in 2005, served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in the Solomon Islands.

Weisner unveils 2007 city budget for Aurora

Time to dig in

Weisner unveils 2007 city budget

October 24, 2006

By ANDRE SALLES Staff Writer

A year ago, Weisner unveiled his first budget, an ambitious plan that centered on three major projects: a new police headquarters, a complete overhaul of the downtown water and sewer systems, and a technology package that includes a city-wide fiber optic network and free wireless Internet for everyone.Last week, the mayor's office released the proposed 2007 budget to city staffers and aldermen. Speaking about it on Monday, Weisner called the $397 million plan "a budget of execution."

"Last year, we told people where we wanted to go," he said. "2007 will be characterized by us digging in and accomplishing what we put forward last year."

With the exception of the technology package, Weisner's 2006 initiatives are long-term, which means that complete results will not be seen in 2007. However, he said the past year had seen many successes, and that the next year would be about making "significant progress" on these projects.

In March, the City Council approved the site for the new police campus, on a 25-acre parcel on Indian Trail near Farnsworth Avenue. The new facility will replace the existing police station on River Street, and will also include a new branch court and 911 call center.

Preliminary estimates put the cost at $65 million, though a final estimate has not been calculated. However, Weisner noted that construction and materials costs continue to rise.

"The fact is that this should have been done years ago," he said.

Weisner said the planning phase for the complex would continue through 2007, with Arizona-based architects McLaren, Wilson and Lawrie heading the design process. McLaren will work with a construction manager, to be selected by the end of the year.

2006 saw the renovation of sewer systems along River Street to accommodate new development, including developer Joe Vantreese's River Street Plaza project. The 2007 budget outlines plans to complete the replacement of older water lines on River, Broadway, Gale Street and North Avenue, at an additional cost of $2 million.

The separation of storm and sanitary sewers in the downtown, begun in 2006, will continue through 2009, with $10 million earmarked for that project in 2007. Additionally, the sanitary sewer system downtown will be expanded in 2007, at a cost of $10.7 million, to be shared equally with the Fox Metro Water Reclamation District.

As for the technology package, the council is expected to approve tonight the selection of Wisconsin-based Michels Corporation to build the municipal fiber network. The network, essentially 40 miles of high-speed cable, will be laid underground and connect all of the city's buildings.

Michels Corporation bid the job at roughly $5 million, less than the budgeted $7.7 million, and representatives from that company said they could have it finished and operational by late fall of 2007.

The planned Wi-Fi network, installed and maintained by California-based MetroFi, should be entirely operational by this time next year, at no cost to the taxpayers, Weisner said. The network will consist of between 600 and 900 small antennas, attached to light poles throughout the city. Portions of the downtown are already hooked up to the network.

Other projects budgeted include the long-planned Eola Road interchange, a riverfront park and a new initiative to beautify the gateways into the community.

Last year, Weisner introduced the city's first property tax increase in more than a decade, raising the rate 7 percent to pay for the police campus. The 2007 tax rate will stay the same -- $1.92 per $100 of assessed valuation.

The overall budget is up 2.1 percent over last year's, a figure that Weisner is proud of, especially given the number and scope of the capital projects set to be funded.

"If you look at construction materials, they've risen much more than just a couple percent," he said.

Some of that increase is down to a new method of accounting for and funding retiree health insurance. The city is now putting aside money for retiree benefits, instead of paying as the bills come up, in accordance with a new proclamation from the state's government accounting authority.

The city has been asked merely to account for the future expense, but Aurora has decided to take the proactive step of funding it in advance. The 2007 budget earmarks $6.1 million for that expense.

"We made a promise to the retirees," said Weisner's chief of staff, Bob Vaughan. "We need to put our money where our promise is."

With no new major projects included, the 2007 budget is focused on implementation, and staying the course. Weisner believes that his initiatives are important to the future of Aurora, and to the continued economic growth of the city.

"We are setting the course for the next 100 years," he said.

When this story was posted in November 2006, this was on the front page of PCOL:

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