Peoria City Council Observer Report
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
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