Peoria Still Awaiting Federal Relief; Vote On Early Retirement Incentive Deferred

Jul 28, 2020

Peoria Mayor Jim Ardis said Tuesday the city is still waiting on federal assistance to help address its budget shortfall from the COVID-19 pandemic, while at-large council member John Kelly said he doubts a real estate tax intended to help close the deficit would pass.

“We haven’t got one penny yet. Not a penny,” Ardis said during Tuesday night’s city council meeting, adding that Peoria’s congressional representatives have indicated a vote on a new relief package is expected in the next two weeks. “We really do need their help in this situation.”

The council voted to receive and file the 2020-21 budget restructuring plan that includes the assumption of a property tax increase. However, Kelly said he would not support that increase.

“All of these tables that we are given week after week after week have within them tax increase--a real estate tax increase,” said Kelly. “I think it is a reasonable guess that such an eventuality may not pass this council. I certainly would not vote for (it).”

Kelly said he doesn’t want to leave city administrators in a bind when the proposal comes to a vote before the council has even discussed any property tax increase and suggested an alternate plan be developed.

“There’s a lot of give-and-take, a lot of difficult decisions you have to make. I think we all understand that,” he said. “But I think it is prudent to give us a pro forma on what happens without a tax increase.”

At-large council member Elizabeth Jensen said she believed the latest report was not fully up to date, as it showed a total debt service figure of $30 million that has since been revised to $15 million. She also said it did not account for some cost-cutting actions the council already has approved.

In June, the council narrowly voted to cut 45 jobs to narrow the projected $50 million budget gap. The city had planned to begin those layoffs on July 1, but Assistant City Manager Deborah Roethler said the earliest date the administration is currently considering is Sept. 1. City Manager Patrick Urich did not participate in the meeting.

The council also deferred a planned vote on approving an early retirement incentive for fire department employees until the Aug, 11 meeting. The proposal would offer $25,000 toward health insurance premiums to sworn, full-time employees who retire before Aug. 31 and have at least 20 years of service.

Ardis said the possible new federal relief package could clarify the city’s financial outlook.

“That will impact a lot of the information that comes back to us in terms of the next steps,” he said. “My guess is at the Aug. 11 meeting we’re going to have some pretty hard numbers in front of us and (see) what we’re going to need to do.”

Sheridan Road project

In other action, the council voted unanimously to move forward with completion of the Sheridan Road reconstruction project, reinstating a $526,625 expense into the 2020 budget while delaying payment of the remaining $3.9 million cost until the 2021 fiscal year.

“We actually cut this project from the budget and then were approached this month with what we see as an opportunity to execute this project that was moved to 2021,” said Public Works Director Rick Powers.

The work will require the total closure of Sheridan between West Eleanor Place and West Richmond. Traffic will be rerouted to Columbia Terrace, McClure Avenue and University Street.

“Any work that needs to be done will be done in a closed construction environment,” said Powers. “But it also will require detours and things along those lines, which we have worked around and have a plan for.”

The entire project began in 2016 as part of a Community Investment Plan (CIP). The 2020 amount covers $316,625 for Phase 3 engineering and a contractor mobilization cost of $210,00 that was approved in February. Ardis noted the expense includes a 3% reduction in pricing by Illinois Civil Contractors, Inc. (ICCI).

“The effect on the economy, and this contractor working and putting people to work, we see as a benefit to this as well,” said Powers. “The CIP in a nutshell is our ability to move those dollars and improve our infrastructure, but it’s jobs outside of the city that are affected as well.”

Powers said notifications will be sent to area residents on Wednesday and work will begin next week with completion expected by December. The project will add a new roadway, sidewalks, storm water sewers, lighting and a bike lane.

Responding to questions from council members Denise Moore and Jim Montelongo, Powers said the Western Avenue and Glen Avenue projects are next in line, with targeting early next year for Western and next summer for Glen.

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