Marengo City Administrator Joshua Blakemore said municipal governments don’t have the luxury of taking steps to reduce their property taxes, partly because of overbearing pension costs.
Marengo’s general fund budget is about $4 million, $450,000 of which had to go to police pension contributions this fiscal year, Blakemore said. These obligations were partly responsible for the city’s request for a levy increase.
“That type of system is not sustainable, and the only source of revenue that we have to routinely pay for that is property taxes,” he said.
Although tough financial times persist, Blakemore said during a State of the Community breakfast Thursday that positive steps are being taken to improve the city’s infrastructure in 2019, particularly the Interstate 90 and Route 23 interchange project, which is expected to break ground some time in the spring.
The Illinois Tollway board of directors in October approved an intergovernmental agreement with Marengo, McHenry County and the Illinois Department of Transportation authorizing the financing and construction of the interchange.
The project, which is expected to bolster industrial development within the city, had been estimated at about $24.7 million, but Blakemore said the low bid came in at about $20 million. He added that Illinois Tollway officials believe construction can be completed by October.
The interchange will be the first direct interstate connection to I-90 in McHenry County.
McHenry County Board Chairman Jack Franks said during the event that he is excited about the project.
In 2018, Blakemore said the city worked with a lobbyist in anticipation of a potential capital bill to improve infrastructure across the state. Some of the other projects the city would be looking to receive funding for include added infrastructure in the city's tollway area and wastewater treatment plant upgrades.
Blakemore also highlighted a development agreement for a solar farm approved Monday that would see Atlanta-based SolAmerica make a $200,000 contribution to the city. Blakemore said he expects the money to go toward infrastructure.
Economic development highlights over the past year included ground breaking on a new Dunkin’ Donuts location, two approved solar farms and a new shooting range.