Peoria Council Votes To Slash 45 Jobs

Jun 10, 2020

By a narrow 6 to 5 vote, the Peoria City Council voted to cut 45 jobs by August to address the city's $50 million budget deficit.

That includes 27 vacant positions across the city workforce, as well as 18 currently filled jobs in Public Works, Community Development, and in City Hall.

 At-large councilman Zach Oyler made the motion to implement the first wave of cuts. He said the council's been having the same conversations ad nauseum.

 "Let's wait until we have a whole picture in front of us. Let's ask some more questions. Let's get some more answers," he said. "We've done those things for almost 3 months now. Enough is enough, and it's time to do our job and take some action."

 The city also won't hire 28 temp workers this year. Ten vacant positions in the police department were spared to make way for a new class of cadets.

 2nd District Councilman Chuck Grayeb said the city should continue to wait a few more weeks for federal help before moving forward with cuts.

 "These positions are not just numbers. They're people. They're not people the way you think I'm thinking about people," Grayeb said. "They are the people in the 2nd District who rely on these services. They are the people in all of the districts who rely on these services."

 3rd District Councilman Tim Riggenbach said the council can't continue to defer action hoping for a rescue from the federal government, noting it will take time to implement the cuts locally.

 "If our dear friends in Washington, D.C. come back with a SMART Act, or the HEROES Act, or whatever acronym they want to put on it that would allow us to delay, reverse, mitigate some of this, I think that we'd all be standing there in line to do that, if that's a reality," he said.

 City Manager Patrick Urich said he doesn't expect enough rescue money to come through to stave off all layoffs.

 "Being around this for as long as I have, I would be incredibly surprised if we got more than $20 million from the federal government," he said. "And I think through the state, even with the reimbursement for coronavirus relief funding, I'm not sure that we'll see the full amount that we should be trying to avail ourselves of. I would be very surprised, but I hope I'm proven wrong."

 The council didn't act Tuesday on cutting 39 filled positions in police and fire. Those layoffs wouldn't hit until October under the plan drafted by Urich. Mayor Jim Ardis said more time was needed to talk about those cuts both within council chambers and with the community.

 Urich said he's spoken with all of the city's bargaining units. There's no appetite for a 10 percent across-the-board pay cut to spare the workforce from layoffs, he said, but there is interest in a voluntary separation incentive (VSI) program that provides $25,000 in healthcare coverage per employee upon separation.

 The council deferred their discussion on the VSI for two weeks so they could talk about the program in tandem with early retirement incentives.

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