Patrick Urich, Peoria City Manager, announced a revised budget plan. After getting rid of 20 city employees last year through voluntary retirement, Urich says that more cuts will be needed.
The latest plan is to cut $3 million and to generate $3 million in new revenue to account for the city’s $6 million deficit. The cuts would come from several places, but mostly from the Fire Department.
Fire stations #4 and #8 would be consolidated into one station on the south side. That process would eliminate 22 jobs. In addition, Fire Engine 2 and Rescue vehicle 2 would be decommissioned.
The Police Department would also be impacted. Currently there are 16 open positions that would not be filled. Urich thinks the city planners, fire, and police departments must work together. “The firefighter and the police unions, we all need to be at the table talking about the importance of this, and what that impact is going to have now and in the future,” explained Urich.
Ryan Brady, President of the Peoria Firefighters Union, says, “We’ve been at the table in trying to come and help the city because we understand the municipal struggle and the handcuffing.. but we’re not the problem, we’re trying to be part of the solution.
Brady worries that cuts at the Fire Department will increase response times on the south side from 9 to 15 minutes.Peoria Police Union President Craig Johnson fears the same, “By cutting public safety, you are increasing the risk.”
The budget plan also includes new ways for the city to generate revenue. “We tried to build in a combination of spending cuts and revenue enhancements. And so, you’ll see in the budget that was sent to the council includes $3 million in spending cuts and $3 million in new revenues,” explained Urich.
That new revenue would come in the form of a new ‘Public Safety Pension Fee’ of $50 per year for property under 5000 sq. ft. and $300 for anything over 5000 sq. ft. The city would gain about $2.2 million from the fee and another $700,000 from a proposed package liquor tax. The tax would charge 2% to any business that sells package liquor in Peoria.
Urich says under this plan the budget would be balanced for 3 years. The city council will vote on the revised budget in early December.