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Community outreach, stronger Septemberfest acts among Schaumburg budget goals

by Eric Peterson, Daily Herald

Schaumburg trustees plan to approve a balanced $255 million budget April 23 that prioritizes stronger community outreach, road repairs, and economic development on and near the former Motorola Solutions campus.

Among other goals for the fiscal year starting May 1 are raising the level of shows and musical acts at the Al Larson Prairie Center for the Arts and Septemberfest, and reviewing the village's parking requirements for new developments.

During Tuesday's review of the proposals, Mayor-elect Tom Dailly also spoke of some different approaches he wants to introduce during the year, including increasing road repair funds more than the imminent budget does, taking a more aggressive stance in limiting water rate increases, and strengthening ties with the small-business community.

While the village recently has put half its excess reserves toward future capital projects in general and the other half toward savings for a potential performing arts center in particular, Dailly said he would like to see an additional $2 million of reserves spent on road repairs for the next few years. He said he's aware of how hard hit the village's streets and roads were by this winter.

Though the village isn't due for a review of its water rate until next year, Dailly wants officials to start thinking about ways of limiting increases. Water is an essential, and not every household is equally able to absorb a 6 percent increase in its cost, he said.

While large businesses have always been a part of what's made Schaumburg distinct in the region, Dailly said that's why small businesses need to be further acknowledged for all the reasons they're essential to a village where people live and are looking for work.

Village Manager Brian Townsend explained that the recommended budget was a product of both the direction of the village board and the recent results of a National Citizen Survey.

The survey results, in particular, identified a need for greater community outreach -- resulting in a proposal for a new communications and outreach department of one part-time and two full-time employees that will be considered this year.

While 88 percent of survey respondents identified the village's website as a significant source of information, 62 percent said the same of social media.

Communications Manager Allison Albrecht, who would lead the new department, said social media is one of the quickest and cost-effective ways of reaching out to the community. Stepping up efforts in that area, as well as developing an active community outreach program, would be among the first goals.

Cultural Services Director Jack Netter said his plans to attract a higher level of shows at both the Prairie Center and Septemberfest are intended to increase their regional appeal in conjunction with stronger marketing campaigns.

Townsend said Schaumburg is generating $3.2 billion in retail sales annually and employing 85,735 workers with an annual payroll of $4.7 billion. The total market value of property in Schaumburg is $34.1 billion.

The state of Illinois' relatively recent collection of a 1.5 percent fee on home rule sales taxes is the only reason the village's share of them has not yet returned to pre-recession levels, Townsend said.

While much debate of Schaumburg's debt level occurred during the recent election season, the village's AAA bond rating should attest to its sound finances, he added.

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