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Alderman: City Spending Trends are ‘Not Sustainable’

Within three years, the city's capital projects fund balance is expected to drop to roughly $268,000, a level some city officials say is too low for comfort.

If the city continues spending the way it plans to during fiscal year 2013, by 2015 it could be left with a capital projects fund balance of about $268,000. 

That’s a balance Ward 7 Alderman Halil Avci said he finds worrisome. 

“The issue is (the spending) is not sustainable,” Avci said during Tuesday’s Administrative/Finance Committee of the Whole budget meeting.

The question before the committee became whether the city spends now at the detriment of a robust capital projects fund balance or potentially sacrifices later through an inconsistently maintained infrastructure.

The draft fiscal year 2013 budget includes capital projects expenditures of about $3.2 million, with revenues of $4.2 million. The ending fund balance is projected to be about $2.8 million.

But Avci said a closer look shows that $1.8 million of those revenues come from the of city-owned land to — a one-time influx of cash. The 2013 revenues also include the transfer of $2.2 million from the city's general fund. In fiscal year 2012, the city moved $3 million from the general fund to the capital projects fund, which supports core maintenance projects.

Within three years, the city will be spending about $1.4 million more on capital projects than that fund takes in, leaving it with an end balance of about $268,000.

To stave off the fund’s depletion, Avci suggested saving rather than spending the $1.8 million expected from Chase and re-evaluating the projects slated for 2013, including ditch repairs.

Treasurer Michael Coren said the city would have to hope every year for unpredictable windfalls, such as the Chase deal, to maintain its current spending practices.

Altering the city’s habits, however, could result in delays to needed infrastructure updates, said Ward 1 Alderman Ted Schauer.

“If we don’t take care of it now, it’s going to cost us more eventually,” said Schauer, urging the committee to look decades ahead.

Mayor Kathleen Weaver echoed his sentiments, stating a well-maintained infrastructure is the greatest service the city of Darien offers its residents. Saving $1.8 million now, she said, won’t solve the city’s long-term financial situation.

“Eventually we’re going to get to the point where we have to find additional funding somewhere,” she said.

The committee asked Director Gombac to prepare three alternate capital projects budgets that, respectively, cut expenditures by $500,000, $750,000 and $1 million.

Items the committee asked Gombac to specifically review include the ditches scheduled for repair during fiscal year 2013, renovations on the Public Works Department’s parking lot and new welcome signs for the city. 

The next budget meeting is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at .

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