Arlington Heights using budget surplus to replace lead pipes

Amid the Monday deadline for Illinois municipalities to submit inventories of their lead service lines, Arlington Heights village board members agreed to use a $5.75 million budget surplus to help pay to replace the 4,200 known lead pipes in town.

The board’s action Monday night follows similar approvals last year, when $3 million worth of general fund surplus was transferred to the lead service line replacement fund, and $4 million the year before.

Village officials predict it could cost $40 million to replace all of the town’s old lead pipes, which represent nearly a quarter of all service lines on public and private property.

And because it is an established community, Arlington Heights is among the suburbs with the most lead pipes, in a state that has the most lead pipes per capita in the country, according to a 2023 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency report.

Village officials say they’ve been putting the money aside given uncertain future state and federal requirements and timing for the replacements.

Current state law requires Arlington Heights to remove and replace its 4,200 lead service lines — which represent 23% of the 18,538 lines in town — by 2044. A proposed federal EPA rule change could move that deadline up by a decade, while other pending state legislation could extend the timeline.

Arlington Heights’ public works staff and a consultant developed an inventory list and replacement program plan; that report was due to the Illinois EPA Monday.

Besides using budget surplus and doing some work in-house, village officials plan to devote a large portion of a bond issue this year to the lead line replacements. They’ve also applied for 0% loans through the state agency, but so far those funds have been awarded to communities with more pressing financial needs.

The $5.75 million set aside for lead pipe replacements is from a higher-than-expected surplus totaling $7.36 million; the remainder will go to reserves.

The sizable surplus is part of a trend in recent years — $12.4 million in 2022 and $7.6 million in 2021 — thanks to income and sales tax receipts that grew at a faster pace than expenditures. But village officials say those revenues have already slowed and are expected to plateau.

The most recent surplus, in part, came from a $1.7 million credit resulting from termination of a sales tax abatement agreement with the Lexus car dealership. The dealership was unable to produce development expense documentation needed to receive the abatement payment, officials said.

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