Chicago Heights Mayor made City's Finances, Image a Priority in 2011
Posted on 2012-01-05 09:48:03 CST
Shortly after taking office in May, Mayor David Gonzalez saw to it that the number of liquor licenses available in the city was reduced and that no more pawnbrokers or precious gem brokers could open up businesses in the city.
After polishing the city's image, he set out to fix its money issues.
"My big goal in 2011 was to take care of the finance problems that we were facing with a deficit budget that we were working under," Gonzalez said.
He said a $46 million bond refinance completed in December enabled the city to raise the property tax levy by only 1.5 percent, significantly lower than the 9 percent increase he said Chicago Heights officials had approved the previous year.
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Gonzalez said the city is also working on revenue enhancements to improve its financial outlook.
"We entered into an intergovernmental agreement with Olympia Fields to start providing fire protection and ambulance service with them, starting in 2012," Gonzalez said.
That agreement is expected to earn Chicago Heights a base rate of $250,000 annually, with increases added each year of the five-year agreement.
Gonzalez said police presence in Chicago Heights was increased in 2011, in part due to a foot patrol that requires police to walk their beat.
"We've installed two additional cameras on major thoroughfares so we can monitor the streets better," Gonzalez said. "In 2012 we're going to do a third one -- that's in Ward 7. It's going to be on Ashland and, I believe, 15th Street."
Gonzalez said renegotiating the city's water contact with the city of Hammond that expires late in 2012 is a major issue facing Chicago Heights.
He also said residents will see an electric aggregation referendum on the March ballot that, if approved, will allow the city to shop around to buy electricity in bulk for its residents, an act that could result in savings for both residents and small businesses, he said.
Gonzalez thinks the first budget his administration approves can be a balanced one.
"We're going to be working on a budget that's balanced and that doesn't require us to be transferring monies from different funds to plug the deficit that we've had in the general fund," Gonzalez said.
Chicago Heights will begin developing a new city website this month that will allow residents to pay bills online.
The city ended 2011 on a somber note with the Dec. 19 death of Alderman Willie White, who had represented the city's 1st Ward since 1999.
"The state statute says that I have 60 days to make an appointment (to fill the vacancy) with the consent of the council," Gonzalez said.
He said that since there were more than 24 months left in White's term, a special election must be held in April 2013 to choose White's replacement.
Article by By Paul Czapkowicz, NWI Times Correspondent
Monday, January 2, 2012 8:15 pm; Updated: 9:56 pm.
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