City is in ‘strongest financial position’ in more than a decade, city administrator says
Video gaming in McHenry added $940,000 to the city’s coffers in the last year, doubling its contribution to city since 2016-17, City Administrator Derik Morefield said.
With higher-than-expected revenue from that and other areas – including income tax and state and local sales taxes – the last year brought in $4.5 million more than the city had initially planned for, Morefield said.
Overall, Morefield said, the city is in its “strongest financial position that it has been in the last 12 years, and probably the last 25.”
The proposed 2023-24 budget sits at about $29.3 million in expenditures and $29.5 million in revenue, according to city documents. Set for final board approval on April 17, Morefield included a conservative $3 million in new revenues, about 11.5% more than the previous budget calls for.
Those additional revenues do not include any increase in the city’s property tax levy, as approved by the board late last year.
Morefield gave the McHenry City Council a review of the current budget and an outline for the 2023-24 budget at the March 20 meeting.
Morefield said city staff used figures provided by the Illinois Municipal League to estimate what its 2022-23 revenue would be. The increase comes, in part, as the result of higher consumer spending and wages, he said.
There was “no way could have guessed we would be here today, with what could have happened and what did happen during (COVID-19),” Morefield said of the revenue.
McHenry now has a fully funded reserve balance of $9.7 million that could keep the city running for 120 days, in addition to money set aside for the Route 31 widening project, upgrades to its emergency dispatch center, and other capital projects.
“We don’t simply add overage to our coffers. We first ensure that we meet our 120-day reserve policy and then reinvest the rest to needed capital projects,” Morefield said.
Morefield expects having $637,070 in unallocated revenues for use at the council’s discretion for capital projects in the upcoming budget year.
He suggested using those unallocated funds for funding the sea wall in phase 4 of the McHenry Riverwalk. Phase 4 extends the pedestrian pathway from the Pearl Street bridge to the Route 120 bridge and is the “last link in the Riverwalk,” Morefield said.
Bids are currently being solicited to move power lines and a transformer box behind businesses for that stretch of the project, Parks and Recreation Director Bill Hobson said.
Another option proposed by Morefield would be to pay to resurface and then rent a portion of a parking lot owned by the Riverside Residences at 3516 Waukegan Road. The privately owned senior housing complex has 61 excess parking spots which could be used by Riverwalk visitors, he said.
Both options were attractive, Ward 7 Alderwoman Sue Miller said. “We will have parking problem. There is not a lot of parking for Miller Point” but added the Riverwalk was also a priority.
The council could also allocate more funds into the account set up to fund its portion of a planned Route 31 widening project. Once the Illinois Department of Transportation begins that project, McHenry’s portion is estimated to cost $8 million.
McHenry currently has $3.6 million reserved for that, Morefield said.
DeKalb City Hall along Lincoln Highway (route 38) in DeKalb, IL on Thursday, May 13, 2021. (Mark Black for Shaw Local/)
DeKALB – After deliberating for months, DeKalb city leaders voted this week to impose restrictions on video gambling in town.
Under an ordinance amended by the DeKalb City Council in a pair of 5-0 votes, restrictions will prohibit video gambling establishments in current and future restaurants, in gas stations, food and fuel establishments and liquor stores but not video gambling terminals in businesses holding a bar liquor license in town.
The City Council’s decision comes on the heels of delays in state license issuance to CJ’s Gaming Bar and years-long deferrals of Blue Ridge, LLC and its request for a license, which officials say complicates the city’s efforts to cap video gambling establishments at 10.
DeKalb Mayor Cohen Barnes said he believes the amended video gambling ordinance is a win-win for the city and the restriction deliberations weren’t rushed.
“This is a great compromise for, I think, everyone concerned that we are still allowing this to move forward,” Barnes said. “We’re just restricting a certain number of it. Future councils can always change it, absolutely. This is just what we’re deciding right now is what we believe is best for the city of DeKalb.”
Also under the amended ordinance, there are five businesses – Keg and Kernel by Tangled Roots Brewing Company, La Calle Bar and Music Venue, Lord Stanley’s and the Annex, Tapa La Luna and The Grove Tavern – that would become eligible for a video gambling license.
DeKalb resident Duane Brown urged the Council to make the city more business-friendly.
“We don’t need unnecessary and restrictive regulations regarding the number of video gaming establishments in the city,” Brown said. “This is already a highly regulated industry by the state. Don’t put a cap on the number of establishments. This has cost and will cost prospective businesses to seek permits in other cities. Quite frankly, the free market does a much better job of determining a proper number than the City Council does.”
Discussion on this topic previously arose at the council’s meeting held earlier this month. During that meeting, the City Council extended a request made by Jeff Dobie of Blue Ridge LLC for a liquor and video gambling license in order to operate a proposed 6,090 square-foot building, across from Fatty’s Pub and Grill. Action taken by city leaders at the time provides that there will be 11 video gambling establishments allowed in town.
At a maximum, a licensed establishment is allowed to have up to six video gambling terminals for patrons to use, according to city documents.
In 2022, the city took in $391,000 in tax revenue from the terminals, the highest annual revenue to date, according to city records. License fees brought in $96,000 for the terminals in 2022.
Sixth Ward Alderman Mike Verbic questioned where all the money generated from the city’s video gambling would go.
“Will this be a part of a budget discussion then, or we will direct you to carve out a specific amount of future proceeds from gaming?” Verbic asked.
City Manager Bill Nicklas replied, saying revenue generated from area video gambling goes to city’s general fund. He expressed some hesitancy about setting aside funding to area social service agencies to address the issues with gambling.
“We don’t know yet about quality, what they’re bringing and if they’re successful and all that,” Nicklas said.
Verbic, who said he’s opposed to video gambling, said he supports the council’s decision but believes more action is needed for people susceptible to gambling addictions.
“I feel like we should be dedicating a portion of whether it’s monies we’ve already collected or future monies to address that issue specifically,” Verbic said. “We don’t provide counseling from the city of DeKalb but how can we be a better partner to help people that are taken by this gambling.”
Utica could get four to six new video gaming terminals, increasing the village total to 50 or more.
Thursday, the Utica Planning Commission unanimously recommended a special use be granted to Dale Senica to operate a bar with video gaming. His bar, Alley Cat’s, would be in the rear of 142 Mill St. — between Mill Street Market and Canal Port — accessible through the alley.
“I just want to bring back a neighborhood bar where a guy can come through the back alley and have a beer,” Senica said, adding later, “It’s going to look great when I get done.”
Thursday’s vote was only a recommendation; Senica needs the approval of the Utica Village Board, which meets Thursday, July 14. If approved, gaming terminals in Utica would climb by 10%.
The Illinois Department of Revenue reported Utica had 10 establishments with 46 gaming terminals, as of May 2022. Last year, the village collected a revenue share of more than $70,000.
Separately, the Planning Commission continues to tweak the sign ordinance and advanced two proposals.
One is intended to limit flashing or illuminated signs. The commission proposes that any sign with a “changing message” — an LED sign, for example — requires a special use before it can be raised anywhere in the village.
The commission also modified the rules governing murals or wall signs. The ordinance now governs any wall facing a public street or alley.
Video gaming income for Washington County businesses, municipalities, and state recovered in 2021 to above pre-Pandemic levels, according to the Illinois Gaming Board annual report. Income was up sharply in 2021 from 2020, when it was shut down about five months.
The share of income for the Village of Okawville increased from $26,762 in 2020 to $55,127 in 2021. That surpassed the $47,603 in 2019.
Mayor Dave Jasper said that the money will likely be used to replace one of the police cars that has high mileage. Another use will be replacing a sign in front of the Village Hall with a message center.
The Salem City Council on a 3-2 vote has approved a Class A liquor license for the former Pizza Hut building on West Main and Kinney Boulevard.
The action clears the way for the owners and operators of El Rancherito Mexican Restaurant, Rose and Luis Roma, to proceed with trying to lease the building for a high end package liquor facility that would allow video gaming.
Mayor Nic Farley cast the deciding vote in favor of the license.
“As a local business that invest in the community and I wanna be as pro business as I can so I thought if the community wants that they will support it and if they don’t, then they won’t.”
Councilman Jim Koehler made the motion and Craig Morton provided the second as well as the other two favorable votes. Koehler, who had opposed more video gaming in the past, said the local ownership makes a difference and he didn’t want to block a project. He also had fears the building would deteriorate if it sat vacant.
Council persons Amy Troutt and Royce Bringwald cast the two no votes, saying they struggled with justification for more video gaming.
Rose Roma told the city council she understands their concerns.
“I understand you don’t want Salem to turn into a gambling place, but it’s just a thought of a nicer liquor spot. Go pick up a drink, take it home or stay and play a few games. Obviously not a place you want people to just go and get wasted.”
Roma said she did not have a timetable for when the new business could open.
MARYVILLE — Imagine hitting the slots while sipping a cold, frosty adult beverage or trying your luck at a one-arm bandit during a visit to your favorite Maryville establishment. Those possibilities may soon become realities.
Mayor Craig Short said Wednesday the village board of trustees called a special meeting for 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, June 30 to vote on video gaming before the Independence Day holiday weekend.
Short and the trustees also discussed the issue during a caucus meeting on June 9. Remember that caucus meetings, on the second and fourth Wednesdays of each month, are where discussions take place, but no voting happens. The ordinance would repeal the prohibition chapter of video gaming first then adopt a new chapter approving the activity.
There are several places in the village that are currently not applicable, such as a licensed fraternal or veterans’ establishment and truck stops.
Where video gaming occurs will be driven by liquor licenses. Lyle’s Tavern, Bella Vista, Boogie’s, Mariachi’s Mexican Restaurant and now, Plan, Shop, Live Kitchen, all have liquor licenses.
The new act will only apply to bars (Class A); social clubs (Class B); and restaurants (Class D). These license holders must have been in operation and good standing with the village for at least 12 months. At present, the village has two Class A license holders, no Class B license holders and now, three Class D license holders, Short said.
He added that the village’s code on this is less restrictive than O’Fallon’s. That town makes businesses of good standing with liquor licenses wait 24 months before applying for a video gaming license.
WHAT WE KNOW: Two weeks ago, Geneseo’s committee of the whole voted 5-4 to recommend ordinances for video gaming be forwarded to the March 9 meeting with the city’s law firm reviewing signage regulations and the percentage of business sales that must be devoted to food and beverage.
WHAT’S NEW: On Tuesday, Mayor Sean Johnson again cast the tie-breaking vote in favor of permitting video gaming in the city of Geneseo. Aldermen voting in support of video gaming were Paula Simosky, Craig Arnold, Martin Rothschild and Brett Barnhart. Aldermen voting no were Keith Kennett, Doug Crow, Robert Wachtel and Bob James. Nine people spoke against video gaming citing concerns over addiction, mental health issues, financial ruin and the cost to society of individual gambling excesses, losing a special family atmosphere and this form of gaming offering a relatively low revenue stream.
Twelve emails, all opposed to video gaming, were read. Pastor Steve Palm presented a petition signed by 233 people as well as a letter from the Geneseo Ministerial Association.
Five people spoke in favor of the issue, including Bill Smith of Beck Oil and businessmen Mike Bellovics and Chris Leamen. Casting his vote, Johnson said the past two weeks had been difficult for him, and morality as a topic has been a difficult one for ages. He said the aldermen who supported gaming would protect the things that made Geneseo special along the way.
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