City Council Grapples With Budget Shortfall

Oct 4, 2017

The city of Peoria faces a budget gap of about $5.5 million this year, a deficit that grows to nearly $8 million next year if no changes are made.

Revenue for 2017 is coming in short of projections. To address the year’s shortfall, Mayor Jim Ardis asked the administration to approve all expenses for the remainder of the year, whether previously approved or not.

 

As for next year, several council members, including Zach Oyler made it clear there were two sources of revenue that would not be raised.

“The property tax topic has to come off the table and I would echo the same thing with sales tax. We’re fighting a losing battle when we have a sales tax that is

not competitive and we push people to go to other municipalities.”

At a budget policy session Tues., the council discussed several new revenue options. They include a stormwater utility fee and special event charges to cover overtime when city employees are needed. There is currently no fee when an organization holds an event and has need for city personnel.

Part of the balancing act involves overtime. Last year, the city paid $5.5 million for overtime. Council member Beth Akeson says that money could help resolve the budget problem.

"If we paid no overtime, we would not have to be trying to squeeze services in the city unless the overtime represents crucial work time."

But city manager Patrick Urich says vacancies in city staff throughout the year make overtime necessary.

"The fire department has 10 vacancies but they’re still staffing the number of engine companies that we have, so that means they’re generating a considerable amount of overtime right now because they have vacancies."

The council will look at new sources of revenue at future budget sessions. However, several council members made it clear hikes in the property and sales taxes should not occur. The council will approve the 2018 budget in November.