Special Census to Increase Revenue

Wayne Horne | 1/20/2016, 5:34 p.m.
The Joliet City Council authorized a special census that will be conducted this year and possibly certified by year’s end. ...
Wayne Horne

The Joliet City Council authorized a special census that will be conducted this year and possibly certified by year’s end. The cost of $99,705 was included in the 2016 Budget passed last month. Potentially the estimated population increase will generate between $893,000 and $967,000 over the next four years.

The projection is based on the assumption that when and if, the State of Illinois passes a budget that the income tax revenue currently shared with municipalities will not be reduced. City Manager Jim Hock indicated in a memo to the City Council that the possibility of that happening was “a slight risk.” If that did occur the projected revenue would still exceed the estimated cost of the special census by over $500,000.

The City last conducted a special census in 2008 when the City of Joliet was growing rapidly. The Department of Commerce conducts a nationwide census every 10 years. The next one will be in 2020. The cost of that count is borne by the Federal government.

The projected revenues also assume that the 456 new occupancy permits in the census tracks to be surveyed contain the estimated 3.2 residents per household used by the Census Bureau. In the past, a special census has always generated more revenue than it costs. Why bring up the issue?

Municipalities, like most units of government are always looking for increased revenues. They should be. That’s a good thing but municipalities seem less concerned with the constant increase in expenses. Joliet’s biggest increase in expenses is usually payroll and benefits which account for almost 80 percent of the General Fund expenditures.

Consider the fact that several union contracts are, or will be, negotiated this year. Since the unions are probably looking for an increase in pay and benefits you can assume the projected revenue increases from the census count are already being counted on as available for negotiations. Think that’s a stretch?

Police and firefighter personnel received over $5.4 million in overtime pay in 2015. The 2016 Budget has allocated about $1 million less for overtime for those two groups. That reduces take home pay personnel have gotten used to. The City Council has said it wants overtime reduced. Employees will be looking to replace the lost wages.

How serious is the issue? The Council has indicated that either the Fire Department overtime be reduced or they will have to close a fire station. Based on the current pace of overtime by the Fire Department the amount budgeted for overtime will be expended by April. Will the fire station be closed if that happens?

No indications of actions necessary to reduce police overtime have been brought forth. Unlike the Fire Department police are understaffed by more than 60 personnel, according to city administration officials.

One last thing…a story in the Military Times last November quoted officials from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) that eliminating veteran homelessness is unattainable any time soon. The original 2010 goal of no homeless veterans by the end of 2015 is within sight only if local governments are able help in the goal.

Since 2010 veteran homelessness has been reduced by approximately 27,000 people mostly single persons. The homeless veteran population is currently estimated to be less than 48,000. Currently, there are about 1200 Illinois homeless vets. While the numbers are not as high in Illinois as some states it is still too many. HUD has stated in the November report that the number of homeless will not reach zero in any particular group including veterans. Stay tuned…