The Wellington Village Council approved budgets and assessments for key parts of its 2024 spending plan on Tuesday, Aug. 8, including the first assessment increase for the Acme Improvement District since 2015 and an increase in the cost for solid waste collection to reflect rising costs from the vendor.
Deputy Village Manager Tanya Quickel led the presentation, noting that four parts of the overall budget were up for approval that night: the Acme Improvement District, which handles drainage issues for the village; the solid waste budget, which also includes recycling services; and budgets for the Lake Wellington Professional Centre and the Saddle Trail Park Neighborhood Improvement District.
“The four resolutions presented tonight cover important services and responsibilities,” Quickel said. “First, the Acme Improvement District provides for surface water infrastructure maintenance and improvements, conservation of preserve areas and equestrian trail upkeep.”
While Wellington is not changing its tax rate of 2.47 mills, other budget items do have slated increases. The Acme assessment is going up $25 from $230 per unit to $255 per unit. The Acme assessment has been at $230 since 2015.
Solid waste service fees, meanwhile, will be $290 for curbside service (up $70) and $225 for containerized service (up $55). There is also a 10 percent increase in water rates. According to Quickel, the changes reflect the rising costs facing the village over the past several years.
The other two items do not reflect costs for most residents. The Saddle Trail budget funds the resident-requested improvements approved in 2016. This is the eighth year of a fixed 15-year project. The Lake Wellington budget covers operations of that facility through Dec. 31, 2023, which is when the village will close the facility, as voted on earlier this year.
Wellington’s total budget for the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1 is $137.7 million, which is $9 million more than the current year budget of $128.5 million, Quickel said. This is up from the previous budget estimate but does not change the proposed tax and assessment rates.
While the general government and capital projects budgets will not be approved until September, the four items on the Aug. 8 agenda represent $14 million in annual spending.
That includes $6.7 million for Acme, which is up 2.3 percent. The solid waste budget is $7.0 million, up $460,000. This increase is based on a five percent increase from the village’s trash vendor.
Unlike previous years, the village is not using its fund balance to subsidize the solid waste budget.
“This is the first year in quite some time that the revenues fully cover the solid waste contract costs,” Quickel said.
Wellington taxes and assessment represent 18 percent of resident tax bills, with the rest from other county taxing authorities.
Mayor Anne Gerwig was not happy with the Acme assessment increase of $25. She recalled 10 years ago when the council raised the rate from $200 to $230 to fund a series of drainage improvements.
“I was told at the end of 10 years, we would go back to $200,” she said. “Now, instead, we are going up to $255.”
Councilman John McGovern said that 10 years ago, there was not the same inflationary pressures that there are today.
Councilman Michael Drahos wanted to know what in the budget Gerwig would like to change to offset the assessment increase.
“If everyone on this council took that same position, it would be catastrophic,” he said. “It seems politically convenient for you to do that and force us to do the responsible thing, which is to pass an increase because it is necessary.”
McGovern asked how much of a shortfall there would be if the Acme assessment was left at $230. Quickel replied that the shortfall would be approximately $250,000.
He asked Gerwig what cuts she would like to make to the Acme budget.
“I’m pretty sure they could manage that,” Gerwig said, referring to the village staff. “The plans proposed did not sound significant.”
Quickel said the Acme projects next year include work at two major pump stations, which she would consider significant work.
Vice Mayor Michael Napoleone said that staff has been saying for quite some time that an Acme increase is necessary.
“I would like to pay what I paid 10 years ago for almost everything I have, but I can’t do that now, and I can’t make promises to people that I’m never going to keep my prices up to inflation because then we would go bankrupt,” he said.
Quickel said that the Acme assessment increase funds critical needs. “There is always necessary renewal and replacement,” she said. “Those are the critical projects that protect and sustain our infrastructure.”
Gerwig said that she understands that things cost more, but the $30 increase in 2015 was already an increase, and Wellington shouldn’t add to the other costs that are already going up.
McGovern said that Acme plays a critical role in drainage and life safety.
“I understand the desire to make political points, but I think it is critically important that life safety comes first,” he said.
In the end, the Acme budget was approved 4-1 with Gerwig dissenting. The other three items were approved unanimously.