A Publication of WTVP

It’s that time of year again. Typically from mid-October through the first week or two of December, the Peoria City Council analyzes, discusses, and debates many issues relating to the budget for the following year. Much like your budget for home or work, the process is long and at times intense, but forces a prioritization of how money will be spent, as well as what investments you plan to make for your future.

The city manager presented the council with his proposed fiscal 2006 budget October 7. The total proposed budget was $144,650,000. The operating budget was $106,500,000, which represented a 7.8 percent increase over 2005. Sixty-two percent of the increase—nearly $5 million—came from increased employee benefits, most of which were imposed by our state legislature in the form of unfunded mandates. The proposed capital budget was $19,620,000, representing a 5 percent increase over 2005. Debt service is 17.2 percent higher than 2005 and came in at $18,500,000. Financing the Peoria Civic Center expansion accounted for the increase in that number. Also included in the city manager’s budget was a six-cent increase in the property tax rate.

I expect this proposed increase in property taxes will evoke strong feedback from the business community. The council will have serious discussions about what impact higher property taxes will have on our business community and weigh the pros and cons associated with them. The fact is, no one likes to pay taxes, and they continue to rise every year. We’re expecting an increase in the levy from the Peoria Park District, and our local school districts are all experiencing tough budgets too. What will happen if the city decides it needs additional help in the form of a higher real estate tax rate? It’ll be an interesting discussion.

Your guess is as good as mine as to how we’ll arrive at a balanced budget. My hope would be to work within the framework of our current levy—$1.29 per $100. But it seems everyone wants more services without paying additional money for those services. How about the garbage tax? We all know how controversial that was. That tax produces $2.1 million per year. If we eliminate it, how do we fill that revenue hole? It would take a 14-cent real estate increase to equal that amount. This works out to about $60 per year on a $150,000 home. Some would say $60 is no big deal, but $60 here and $60 there—and pretty soon you’re talking about a substantial amount of money.

What’s my point? The council is going to have some very difficult decisions to make. What are our priorities? Enhanced public safety? Improved services in public works, planning and growth management, and code enforcement? Where should we invest our capital dollars? Most importantly, how do we pay for it all? I don’t have all the answers, but I assure you a thorough, thoughtful, conscientious, and businesslike debate will take place in the next four or five weeks. I urge you to tune in, get informed, and express your thoughts to the council. IBI