After the COVID-19 pandemic forced the City of Peoria to absorb a $20 million shortfall in 2020, city administrators are planning for another $16 million in lost revenue for 2021.
City Manager Patrick Urich presented an updated 2021 budget Tuesday during a special city council meeting, noting original pandemic-related revisions to a biennial spending plan approved a year ago anticipated a loss of $40 million over two years.
“The outlook continues to evolve,” said Urich. “There are a number of areas that are seeing some additional changes--some good for us, some that give us some significant pause.”
Urich said the pandemic remains the main cause for concern, with cases continuing to rise across Illinois and several regions stepping backward in the state’s phased reopening plan.
“I think we just need to be prepared as we move into 2021 that we act really just like we've been acting here through 2020,” said Urich, “and that we kind of keep continuing to look at this on a regular and recurring basis, because we just don't know yet if we're out of the woods completely.”
Urich also noted figures could change depending on the possible passage of another federal stimulus package, and a potential gap in state funding if Gov. JB Pritzker’s proposed graduated tax amendment is not approved by voters.
The 2021 budget presented Tuesday shows recommended expenses of $204.6 million with anticipated revenue of $208.2 million. That represents an increase of 8.7% in revenue and 9.7% in expenses over the final 2020 budget.
The budget anticipates hotel, restaurant and amusement tax revenues to start returning to normal levels, while cannabis revenue will produce an estimated $400,000 in its first full year of collections.
The city’s debt service will cost about $9.8 million after a restructuring, while operating expenses will increase by $539,000--0.3% over last year. Personnel expenses will drop by $370,000 as staffing cuts and management furloughs from 2020 will continue into next year.
The city also is planning to spend $26.1 million on capital improvements, with more than 72% of that going toward roads and sewers. Primary among those are Glen Avenue repairs ($3.6 million), Western Avenue improvement ($2.8 million), and converting Adams and Jefferson streets from one-way to two-way traffic ($2.4 million).
“The capital plan as presented is about $6 million higher than we had originally anticipated just a few months ago when we were talking about where we were,” said Urich. “That's really for two reasons. One, we've seen, the state has provided us with additional motor fuel tax dollars to do roadwork, which is going to be very helpful for us; and two, we're trying to address the backlog in stormwater management projects that we have.”
A public hearing on the 2021 budget is scheduled for next Tuesday’s regular council meeting. After taking Election Night off, discussions will continue the following Tuesday with a vote on the spending plan targeted for no later than Nov. 17.
In another matter, Pastor Harvey Burnett of New Bethel Church of God in Christ was the lone public commenter, reiterating his concerns about the Dream Nightclub at 2205 SW Washington St.
“I have asked this council to consider a temporary moratorium on operations for the nightclub to examine the business procedure, policy and business practices as it relates to the safety of his patrons and the community in general,” said Burnett, who sent a letter about issues with the club to the mayor and council last week.
Last month, four young women were killed in a crash not far from the establishment; Jerome Polnitz, 42, the alleged driver of a second vehicle involved in the incident, has been charged with aggravated street racing. In his letter, Burnett said the women gathered at Dream before the crash.
In December, 24-year-old Patrick Moton Jr. was shot to death in the alley behind the club. Tyrese Walker, 20, and Desmond Sanders, 29, are awaiting trial on first-degree murder charges in that case.
“As a community, we need to hold this business accountable to the best and most safe practices,” said Burnett, noting he does not blame club owner Mailika Bracey for the problems. “Patrons need to know the nature of the environment, and steps taken to protect them. We can't do any of those things until questions are asked and information is exchanged.”
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