Orion finances healthy

by Mindy Carls correspondent

With a general fund balance of almost $1 million, the Village of Orion can afford to spend some of it on infrastructure projects, auditor Tom Engelmann told the village board on Monday, Dec. 7.

Village President Jim Cooper said Orion has street and water projects coming up, which could be financed with motor fuel taxes, loan proceeds and general fund money.

“Do you see any risk to the village if we drew a couple hundred thousand from the general fund, as opposed to borrowing it?” Cooper asked Engelmann.

“It’s perfectly okay to use fund balances, but only so far,” the auditor said. “Using debt is responsible because of where interest rates are now, and you’re making permanent improvements that will be around for some time to come.”

Cooper asked if Orion would still have enough money to cover 90 days of expenses if it spent a couple of hundred thousand dollars from the general fund, and Engelmann said yes.

One positive sign is that Orion is receiving more motor fuel tax funds this year, the auditor said.

“Hopefully, that will tie into street plans for the future,” he said.

“As elected officials, you always have to be good stewards of public funds, as you always have been,” Engelmann told the board.

Water project

Trustee Mel Drucker received permission to spend $18,000 to have Klinger & Associates do an engineering study of replacing the water main along 11th Avenue from 10th to 13th streets.

Several breaks have occurred along the line, he said. Replacing it will cost about $375,000, with about a third of that amount reserved for resurfacing the street.

Trustee Ryan Hancock floated an idea for financing the project in an e-mail to fellow board members, but not everyone had read the message.

Orion also needs to get an Illinois Environmental Protection Agency permit, which will be valid for a year with the option of renewing it, Drucker said.

Telcom tax?

Cooper proposed the village adopt a telecommunications tax. He told the board that Coal Valley receives $5,475 a month from its tax. Half that amount would produce a substantial amount of money.

Revenues from Orion’s utility tax have been going down as appliances become more energy efficient and wind and solar power more prevalent, Cooper said.

Cooper suggested a tax of $2.50 on a $50 bill.

Drucker said it was a bad time to impose new taxes. He asked what would be taxed.

The proposal will be on the agenda for the next board meeting.

In other business

• A tax levy hearing will be held at 6:30 p.m. Monday, Dec. 21, before the regular meeting at 7 p.m. The tax levy will be the same amount as last year.

• The Fifth Street drainage project should be completed this week, Trustee Neal Nelson said.

• Residents need to report immediately any vandalism, theft, car and garage break-ins by phoning (309) 526-3403, Village Clerk Lori Sampson said. Do not wait.

• Former Orion deputy Joe Femali has retired from the Henry County Sheriff’s Department, Cooper said. The village will send him a $50 Main Street Orion gift card.