This month marks the city council’s first full year of working together. This council has shown a strong ability and willingness to work in a business-like fashion and give policy direction to the city manager. And now we’re beginning the most difficult and important part of our job: budgeting for the following year.
When establishing priorities, there could be 11 different rankings of areas for consideration: streets and gutters, sidewalks, public safety issues, economic development projects, and more. We deal with limited revenues and many requests for funding. The city is a $130 million-plus business, and the taxpayers have entrusted this group to give direction to the city manager to maximize our resources and carry out our obligations to our citizen taxpayers. Year after year, citizens ask for more services but want them provided with less revenue. It’s a tough situation to juggle.
We’re beginning the budget process with a goal-setting session at 9 a.m., April 8, at the Workforce Development board room at One Technology Plaza. The public is welcome to attend this discussion. The council’s discussion of goals for 2007 will provide the framework for how we’ll allocate discretionary taxpayer dollars in the budget for 2007.
Like other businesses, the city council will evaluate costs for our medical, prescription drug, and dental programs, as well as pensions. Spiraling health care costs are the most significant issues we’ll face in the coming year. It’s going to take a considerable amount of hard work and compromise with our employees to reach an acceptable, affordable plan that provides fair coverage in line with the marketplace. You’ll hear a lot of discussion about GASB 45 requirements as they relate to post-retirement benefits. Early projections show the city’s liability to fund these liabilities is more than $81 million. The annual contribution to provide the assets necessary to fund this liability at the end of the valuation period is currently almost $8 million. The City of Peoria doesn’t have $8 million lying around to fund that requirement, which is why I mentioned compromise.
I also anticipate concentrated discussions on fire stations, law enforcement (particularly utilizing camera technology), and use of economic development incentives to increase job opportunities in Peoria.
I’m looking forward to discussions on the future of our commissions that will take place soon. The committee I appointed to look at our commission structure and provide recommendations to the council on how they could function more efficiently is comprised of council members Van Auken, Sandberg, and Morris. This group has put an enormous amount of time and effort in evaluating the commissions. I also look forward to open, public discussion on the feasibility of a new downtown convention hotel at the Civic Center.
Finally, there will be more information coming soon on initiatives I proposed in the State of the City address. A community leader has accepted my challenge to lead our efforts to fight litter in our community. More details on this plan, in addition to the summer jobs for kids program and the “Peoria Promise,” will be forthcoming. IBI