BY JENNIFER BAILEY
Thanks to better than expected revenues, $500,000 in city job and budget cuts aren’t needed for a balanced 2013-2014 city budget.
Mayor Scott Eisenhauer presented a proposed budget Tuesday for the city’s new fiscal year that starts May 1. The proposed budget shows revenues increasing by 3.7 percent to make up for the gap in funding from the city’s property tax levy.
The additional revenue in state sales tax, corporate replacement tax, state income tax and home rule sales tax also is being looked at to pay off some of next year’s bills a year early.
The $22.7 million proposed general fund includes an increase in personnel expenses of $563,000. The increases are due to health insurance, the Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund and Federal Insurance Contributions Act.
There are no reductions in police or firefighter positions and no eliminations proposed of any other city positions. There still will be 63 uniformed police officers, 52 firefighters and 254 full-time city employees, Eisenhauer said.
This year’s general fund expenditures totaled about $22 million.
The budget includes salary increases for non-union employees of about 2 percent, in addition to union contract increases.
The budget also includes $275,000 for payment of retail incentives to Kohl’s, Ross Dress for Less, Pet Supplies Plus and This is it Furniture.
A federal grant allowing the city to hire three police officers also has ended, obligating the city to their full salary and benefits totaling an additional $264,987.
The city also is earmarking an additional $72,000 for police and fire pension funds to account for uncollected property taxes; and about $345,000 for the city’s infrastructure fund.
Eisenhauer said the budget is balanced, with revenues that mirror projected fiscal year 2012-2013 year-end totals.
City officials are not yet projecting increased sales tax revenues due to the addition of retail stores.
Eisenhauer said the city’s “diversification of revenue” is allowing the city to still pay for services.
Eisenhauer also walked aldermen through a basic city reorganization plan with public affairs, urban development, public safety and public works departments. Some changes proposed include moving code enforcement under the public works department; for solid waste workers and inspectors to work together more; more of a full-time focus on geographic information system mapping for infrastructure assessment, condition reporting and tracking; and a new housing development division.
Eisenhauer said the budget meets the needs of residents, but it still doesn’t address “all of our wants.”
Ward 1 Alderman Rickey Williams disagrees with Eisenhauer that the budget still doesn’t have fat and unneeded positions in it.
Eisenhauer said the city is changing duties and consolidating areas. It still will offer a voluntary severance package for employees, too.
The city also saw a savings in hiring eight new lower-paid firefighters in 2012, he added.
Williams said he doesn’t want people to lose their jobs, but this budget has the city “just getting by again.” He wants to see more substantial changes and the elimination of people “not doing their job.”
“We need to stop getting by,” Williams said, adding that he thought aldermen agreed in a previous closed session to position eliminations.
Eisenhauer however said each position is needed.
“I don’t believe there is any fat in this budget,” he added.
Aldermen will have a study session Saturday at city hall and continue budget talks through April.
Also Tuesday, there was a public hearing for the Vermilion Street rehabilitation project. Revisions include maintaining parking in front of the federal courthouse and making some minor lane width adjustments at Seminary and Vermilion streets.
Ward 1 Alderman Bill Black said he’s not found anyone in favor of the changes, particularly the medians proposed.
“Vermilion Street is a commerce street. It’s not a boulevard,” Black said.
Potential concerns brought up by Black and other citizens: large snowfalls and snow removal; fire trucks and ambulances getting through; parades being confusing; and the $70,000 cost for the medians, irrigation and plantings also was discussed.
“This is an extensive change. I don’t think it is necessary or vital … I need a lot more information on this,” Black said. “I’m not sure this has been given a thorough review.”
Williams added he can’t support creating more work for the city with maintenance, and it would limit downtown’s walkability.
City officials and proponents say there is emergency vehicle space, bike paths benefit the area and a calm, more beautified area would be more appealing.
There might not be a lot of traffic, but there is a lot of space, said Ward 6 Alderman Steve Nichols.
“I think (traffic) will slow down a lot around there,” Nichols said about the medians.
In other business Tuesday, the council approved: