The Watch | Budget woes



Your government officials are still Zooming, still adapting, still dancing backward around COVID-19. And the bills are just starting to arrive.

All members of the Peoria County Election Commission met via Zoom on May 12 to confront a knotty problem: whacking the budget while providing mandated services.

Director Tom Bride said the commission had been asked to cut 23.9% of its budget. (That would be, roughly, $200,000 of the $850,000 approved for 2020. Two days later, the Peoria County Board approved a $12.4 million cut to its overall budget — 10.5% across the board — because of declining revenues during the first phase of the pandemic shutdown.)

Bride said the cuts would be next to impossible, noting the Election Commission has costs other county departments do not. It is not housed in the Peoria County Courthouse, so it pays $73,000 for building expenses. And it pays $135,000 for licensing and support contracts involved in voting.

Savings might be found by reducing early voting days and polling places, as well as cutting a half-time worker. Election judges are the second largest part of the commission’s budget. But Bride couldn’t see a way to reduce expenses and meet statutory obligations — especially since no one knows what the elections will look like in November. He expects some money from state and federal governments, but has no idea how much.

There are three different scenarios being investigated for voting by mail this November: the same percentage as the March election, half of all votes coming by mail and all votes coming by mail. Without state payments, the last scenario would be extremely difficult.

Peoria Park District trustees “met” on May 13 and learned $8,000 worth of annuals purchased for flower beds could not be planted. Instead, they would be sold to make up the cost. (Contacted later by The Community Word, PPD Superintendent of Parks Division Matt Freeman investigated: The district was able to divert some of the shipment, sold $7,008 worth of plants “and on the day of the plant sale the community also donated $428!”)

Executive Director Emily Cahill told the board the district is evaluating an Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity grant to fund public infrastructure, which could be used to improve Glen Oak Park.

COVID-19-wise, PPD cancelled camps through July 3. Trustees heard the Partner to Play program lofted into the golf season with 2,000 rounds more than last year, then shanked with the virus. Re-opening on May 1 entailed a lot of adaptations, including limiting the use of carts to people who have physical limitations. New computer software/templates are being used for the new scheduling procedures and staffers are being trained in their use.

Given the restrictions, PPD will host a maximum of 25% of its regular golf customers. The course at Kellogg was used as an example. It would normally see 312 golfers a day; now, 78.

Trustees unanimously approved placing the Vernon Gudat Memorial Bench on Grandview Drive. Gudat was a firefighter who was killed on the job in 1993. His family will cover the expenses and the bench will be near their home.

Peoria Housing Authority Board of Commissioners met electronically on May 4.

Chief Executive Officer Jackie Newman said the staff has been on calls with regional and national Housing and Urban Development officials to cope with COVID-19. A draft transition plan for sheltering in place is being developed to ensure the safety of residents and staff.

Chairman Carl Cannon noted there had not been much activity at the Carver Center COVID-19 testing site. He asked if transportation was an issue and inquired about the methods of communicating with residents. Newman said she would follow up; Cannon volunteered to help coordinate transportation if it is needed.

Commissioner Kadar Heffner said groups have been gathering at housing sites once staff has left for the day. Pinnacle Security has been been present at the Taft and Harrison properties, and PHA has been working with a Peoria Police task force to deter unwanted activity.

In regular business, as part of the consent agenda, commissioners approved renovation of scattered-site bathrooms, modification of a Sterling Towers East booster water pump, repairs to plaster and drywall, roof and flooring replacements. Cannon said the repairs are ongoing maintenance to improve the properties.

For full LOGO reports of local meetings, check The Illinois League’s Voter Guide offers information about candidates at

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