The Peoria County Board held a special meeting November 30 with all present except Members Pastucha and Windish. Member Reliford participated via phone.
The sole agenda item was final approval of the draft redistricting map based on the 2020 Census and that will be in place for the next decade. Former members Allen Mayer and Stephen Morris worked with the county IT and GIS departments to determine population gain/loss in each census track and then drafted a map that reflected these changes but also retained substantially same populations—the 18 districts vary in size by no more than 124 people. In general, heritage neighborhoods within the City of Peoria lost population while the Route 6 Corridor saw significant growth compared to the 2010 Census. All 18 members will be elected in 2022.
Members thanked Mayer and Morris for their bipartisanship and generosity for volunteering their time and expertise.
The map was approved unanimously on a 16-0 vote. The interactive map is available on the County website under the Departments/GIS tab.
During Citizen’s Remarks, Sherriff Brian Asbell surprised the board by announcing he would not stand for election in 2022. He cited unspecified policy disagreements with the board over the past year for his decision not to run again.
Jim Runyon, Observer
PEORIA CITY COUNCIL Budget Meetings Nov 16 and 23
The City Council members met for special meeting November 16, with focus on 2022-2023 biennial budget. The elephant in the room is how city will pay the public safety pension obligation over next two years. At prior meeting, council members voted to allow public safety pension tax to sunset as scheduled rather than ask property owners to continue paying a fee. This tax added two million dollars annually to city budget in 2020-2021 towards the pension obligation.
City Manager Urich provided the council with six options for upcoming budget including: whether to fill open positions in Police and Fire departments, restoring one engine for fire department and code enforcement positions. There was little support to cut $621,000.00 for public safety. By law, the city pension obligation for 2022 is approximately $27.7 million with an additional $360 million due before 2040. Mr. Urich reminded the members that pension obligation comes up every year with budget process and paying minimum amount puts city further behind and may mean city would have to dip into reserves to make pension payments in the future. He stressed importance of a long-term solution strategy.
All members agreed they did not want to cut public safety funding for police and fire departments. Another option put on table by City Manager was to take funds received in 2021 due to increased revenues to cover 2022-2023 Pension Fund obligations, giving the Council more time to consider long-term solutions. After much discussion on options provided, the Council deferred voting on request to approve the resolution adopting 2022-2023 biennial budget for one week to consider how to fund public safety pension.
During Public Comment period of meeting, Karrie Alms, concerned citizen, reminded Council that requesting names and addresses of citizens was a violation of Open Meeting Act (OMA) and asked staff to ensure compliance to OMA. She also cited lack of availability of handouts and Council correspondence to public as issue for transparency, especially in view of City Budget and Committee Meetings. Another concern mentioned was Robert’s Rules of Order and lack of respect for each other during discussions and asked Council members to be positive role model in community, especially to youth.
The Council convened on November 23 for regular meeting to conduct regular business and approve 2022-2023 Biennial Budget. A motion was approved to accept FY2021 Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Grant in amount of $78,319.00 and approve two-year agreement with Flock Safety for automatic license plate recognition cameras.
The main event of the meeting was how to address the $4 million gap in budget. City Manager Urich gave overview of revenue in general fund so far this year in addition to payments anticipated for last two months of 2021. Increased performance in sales tax, shared state revenues, funds from American Rescue Fund for 2021 and recovery from pandemic have exceeded expectations and are anticipated to be total of $17.4 million by year end. This will allow $4 million to be used for pension fund liability for 2022-2023, as well as fund reserve balance of general fund at 27.4%.
The Council approved a resolution to adopt 2022-2023 Biennial Budget for City of Peoria with vote eight to three with Councilpersons Oyler, Cyr and Ruckriegel voting nay. The funding for police and fire remained intact for upcoming biennium.
Connie Romanus, Observer
The Peoria County Board held its regular monthly meeting November 11 with all members present except Chairman Rand. Member Rieker participated via phone.
The meeting was preceded by a Redistricting Committee meeting that discussed recent changes to the draft county board district boundaries including recent modifications for the more rural areas in Districts 14 and 16. Four public comments were read into the record. The interactive draft map that will be recommended for approval is available on the County website under the Departments/GIS tab. Videos describing the redistricting process will be posted on the same site beginning November 24th. Additional public comments will be accepted through November 30 when the county board is scheduled to vote on the draft map.
One proclamation was read recognizing Small Business Saturday.
Ten items on the consent agenda were approved without discussion. Among these items were approvals of a contract extension for independent external auditing, a three year contract for health care provision for juvenile and adult detainees, technology improvements for the county board room, and a bid for rehabilitation of a bridge on Swords Avenue.
Under regular business:
Video of meeting (copy paste): https://youtu.be/Toy3OJ6oWy4
The PCC members continue to meet weekly to discuss proposed 2022-2023 Biennial budget, as well as, other business matters. Consent agenda of 8 items was approved with minimal discussion. Councilperson Jensen noted the CDBG public services funding includes support for survivors of domestic assault and stalking.
Joe Dulin, Director of Community Development, gave an update on restaurant license requirements related to Chapter 27 of City Code. This will be streamlined to be more business friendly. Businesses that fail to pay taxes to city will have increase in penalty to $5000. Councilperson Cyr was recognized for asking City Manager and staff to review outdated codes for local businesses.
The Council voted to freeze stormwater utility tax for 2022-2023; City Manager Urich is anticipating the rate of inflation growth will go down in 2023. The Council voted against extending the Public Safety Pension Fee, allowing it to sunset. The city collected approximately $2 million with the fee on top of property taxes. The council members acknowledged little control locally over the safety pension and recommended trying to work with legislature in Springfield and consolidated pension boards. This is an issue for most communities in Illinois and a lobbying effort may be considered. The public safety pension fund must be 90% funded by 2040. Councilperson Grayeb stated that some members around the horseshoe did not value public safety by not supporting the fee; Councilperson Ruckriegel was quick to clarify that judgement was inaccurate and unfair.
During budget discussion, Councilperson Oyler made motion to set aside $250,000 in 2022 and 2023 budget years as restricted funds to be used for due diligence of water works should the council decide to do so. In past, there has been criticism the council has accepted funds for due diligence from outside sources and this would allow for funding to be allocated. If the funds were not used for this purpose in 2023, they would be released to General Fund. The franchise agreement option between City of Peoria and Illinois American Water Company comes up every five years. Motion passed six to five with Councilors Allen, Grayeb, Jackson, Jensen and Mayor Ali opposed.
Reminder that you can check minutes and video of Council meetings on website: www.peoriagov.org.
Connie Romanus, Observer
video of meeting (copy paste): https://youtu.be/d3HhnSqQmy0
All were present at the November Election Commission meeting including new Commissioner Jeanne Williamson. The new rules were in effect covering public comments. That agenda item was moved to the beginning of the meeting, and speakers were limited to five minutes. This allowed the Commission to answer public concerns about the integrity of voting systems and the reason why local vendors did not tender bids.
The Request for Proposals went out in February, and two vendors returned bids. They were ES & S and Hart Intercivic. Both companies gave presentations to the committee formed to evaluate and recommend a new voting system. The committee used a weighted twelve point rating to compare the two companies’ proposals. Hart scored higher on 9 of 12 points, including 100% on security. Hart is set up to handle cumulative voting (which is used in the city of Peoria), while ES & S would have to set it up. Both systems would be accessible to handicapped voters. Both systems use secure paper ballots. The Hart system cannot be accessed without a code from Hart, and everything is encrypted. All ballots will look the same whether used for early voting, mail in voting, or on election day. The evaluation committee recommends Hart because of security, ability to meet the County’s needs, customer service, and ease of reporting. The exact cost of the new voting system will not be known until after negotiations. The number of precincts was not known in February when the RFP went out.
There was discussion about whether the Commission should pay for the return of vote by mail ballots. This has always been done in the past, but business reply envelopes do not require postmarks, which is sometimes an issue. A decision will be made at next month’s meeting.
Also discussed was the need to update the pollbooks and provide printers to do ballots on demand. This will also be decided at a later date.
The Board of Commissioners met for regular monthly meeting with a quorum present. Absent were Commissioners Alma Brown and Kim Furness. There were no community comments presented. New receptionist, Tenora, was introduced and welcomed. Current employee, Ernest Jackson, was promoted in the accounting department. There were no FSS graduates this month, but anticipate one in December.
Jackie Newman, Chief Executive Officer, reported on recent program she attended on “Choice Neighborhood” program. She sees this as an opportunity to begin positioning PHA and partners to pursue grant funding available for Housing Authorities with distressed properties, such as Harrison. The two-year grant would need to involve city planning, as well as other partners. A second two-year grant could be applied for, as well as other funding.
There was no update on CEO candidate search. Ms. Newman reminded the Board of the importance of employee training in available grants and other programs to position PHA for future success.
The next meeting of the Board of Commissioners of PHA will be December 6, 2021. Meeting schedule and agenda available at www.peoriahousing.org.
Connie Romanus, Observer
View by Date