The Watch | Peoria council discusses cuts



“Normal” is not quite the right word. But a new reality is taking shape for local governments in 2020.

On July 28, Peoria City Council mulled changes to the 2020-2021 budget in the wake of COVID-19.

Staff was directed to reduce capital programs by $26.7 million, restructure Jan. 1, 2021 debt payments of approximately $10 million and seek a $20 million line of credit and/or working cash bond.

Servicing $30 million in debt requires more resources. The $2 million needed to restructure the debt could be absorbed by existing revenues, but $20 million in working capital needs a repayment source. Assuming that source is property taxes, the increase would cost the owner of a $100,000 home an additional $66.66 per year.

Recommended operating reductions — which means service reductions — include cutting 94 employees, as well as contractual and supply reductions of $3.3 million. Job cuts would include 37 vacant positions and 57 layoffs.
Voluntary separation for firefighters with 20 years of service was deferred to Aug. 11. Discussion of an ordinance amending the Unified Development Code which concerns short term rentals was deferred, as well.

The 50-year storm in mid-July created havoc in Councilwoman Denise Moore’s district. Homeowners have had issues of water back-up into their homes.

On July 14, Peoria County Election Commission members discussed and approved bids for equipment needed for the anticipated increase in mail-in voting.

First was a system for ballot packing, sorting, and scanning. Digital Copy Systems will handle 500 ballots at once, time stamp them, and verify signatures. Its service was considered cheapest and best at $49,512. Ballot packet printing and mailing services will provide 40,000 ballots/envelopes and mail them for $33,120.

Further expenditures needed include on-line ballot tracking for office and voters, approximately $2,500; PPE and cleaning supplies, $20,000; four ballot drop boxes for the office and early voting sites with infrared cameras, postage and extra judges, $312,000 to $315,000. Peoria County has a $335,000 grant to cover the extra expenses.

The Illinois Attorney General’s office contacted the commission’s attorney about non-compliance with the Open Meetings Act in May and June. A complaint had been filed by a member of the media. There will be no penalty, but things must change going forward.

Peoria Housing Authority’s Board of Commissioners met on July 6 via Zoom.

Tim McCall, Security Administrator from Pinnacle Security, was introduced. Pinnacle provides security for PHA properties.

The hot topic was security measures at Taft Homes over the July 4th weekend. While Chairman Carl Cannon and CEO Jackie Newman said the same security measures have been used since 2012, community comments indicate lack of communication to residents was a concern.

The main issue was that some access gates into Taft were locked. Friends and family members had to detour on foot to visit residents, bring food or groceries. Residents without cars had to walk farther to leave or enter the complex. On-street parking was a concern, as well.

Approximately five members of the public spoke on this issue. Most agreed ongoing communication was important. Suggestions included notices or newsletter updates on security measures and door to door communication. One speaker reminded board members there may be new residents unaware of the precautions. Another individual asked where police were during an altercation at Taft.

Cannon acknowledged more communication with residents would have been positive. Prior to this, there were many instances of disruptive and unsafe behavior by non-residents at some of the housing developments over the July 4th holiday.

Of note, the approval of a resolution for intergovernmental agreement with Springfield Housing Authority for management services was approved unanimously.

Peoria Park District’s July 8 meeting was cancelled but the July 22 meeting was held both in person and through streaming Zoom on Facebook.

On Sept. 1, the planning committee will discuss the results of a hearing about removal of the Christopher Columbus Statue in Laura Bradley Park. Trustees will receive a recommendation at the Sept. 23 meeting.

Trustee Joyce Harant said the Peoria City/County Board of Health declared racism a public health crisis. She asked fellow trustees to consider a position statement about the impact of racism. Following discussion, they decided to get additional information, including checking with other park districts’ statements. Harant also shared that a task force is being formed to address racism.

League of Women Voters of Greater Peoria observers attend and report on local government meetings. Check

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