Last week, Facebook was lighting up with the possibility of Elgin-sponsored fireworks. As proposed, Elgin might partner with Hoffman Estates (and possibly Hanover Park) to put on an Independence Day display at the Sears Center.
We lost our city-sponsored pyrotechnics in 2008, when projections warned of looming budget trouble. At that time, I remember the discussion being framed in terms of necessities vs. nice-to-haves. City officials mused about what citizens would prefer: fireworks or trash pickup. Of course, most rationally chose trash pickup, a “core service.”
I love fireworks. They’re magical, and they inspire awe and wonder.
But we’re broke. Elgin has been refreshingly transparent about just how broke we actually are. We went through a very open, very painful budget process in December that even affected core services. Effective January 1, we’re paying for trash pickup, with $13.25 added to our water bills every month. Older neighborhoods like mine now pay for leaf removal, too. And yet now, barely three months later, we’re looking at spending money on a nice-to-have?
More frustrating is that the news of new spending comes on the heels of January layoffs that eliminated 22 full-time and seven part-time positions. While some of the posts were already vacant, 19 people lost their job to help save $1.8 million.
Granted, partnering with other communities is a step in the right direction. Rather than competing with our neighboring towns, pooling resources can benefit both sides. We just partnered with Hoffman Estates to spend $53,865 on a dog park. (While the dog park will be nice to have, it won’t actually be in Elgin. The money will be spent in Hoffman Estates, instead of in some of our own dilapidated parks.)
There is another way. The Elgin Jaycees are spearheading an effort to fund a fireworks festival privately, through donations, sponsorships and community donations.
Let’s give the Jaycees a shot. If they have the organization and gumption to run this, let them. Rather than spending tax dollars, let’s see if some of our local businesses – say, perhaps the ones getting incentives from the city – might be willing to chip in a bit.
What do you think? How should we pay for fireworks? Or are fireworks even worth paying for? Take the poll below.
The Council will consider the fireworks question at the March 21 Committee of the Whole meeting. I’m eager to hear the discussion.
UPDATE 3/22: At the March 21 meeting, the Council unanimously approved committing $15,000 towards “enhancing” Hoffman Estates’ fireworks display and cooperating on their festival. No cost estimates were given for staff time or potential police time.