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Public safety, ARPA relief funds at the forefront of Peoria budget discussions

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Wikimedia Commons

Peoria City Council members on Tuesday night received the 2022-23 biennial budget breakdown totaling $253,135,027 for 2022 and $238,455,102 for 2023. Within the large budget proposal, suggestions and concerns were raised on the use of federal recovery funds.

Over $10 million of the 2022 budget comes from the American Rescue Plan (ARP). The 2022-23 proposed grant funding would include $100,000 for economic development with Distillery Labs, as well as more than $1 million allocated to violence reduction programs.

The violence reduction programs were originally receiving $325,000. The $1 million budget increase came after council members spoke about the need for greater funding. Yet, during the special meeting, many council members viewed the sizable increase as not enough.

“I thought the council gave direction that we wanted you to front load the expenditures of this money because the city is in [a] very bad position coming out of this pandemic,” 2nd District Councilmember Chuck Grayeb said to City Manager Patrick Urich.

Urich said the council can make any policy changes to the proposed use of funding.

“Council needs to direct me with a motion and a second and a vote that says, ‘Here is the amount of money that we want to spend out of the fiscal recovery fund,’” Urich said. “I gave you my professional recommendation on how to spend these dollars and it’s up to the council to take that recommendation and say yes or you can say no.”

Mayor Rita Ali and Grayeb said they had no intentions of bringing up any motions during the special meeting. Ali asked council members to give Urich framing on how much should be used.

Grayeb suggested $20 million and 4th District council member Andre Allen pitched around $16 million. During the debate, it was clarified that only $23 million of the American Rescue Plan funds were currently in Peoria’s hands.

In all $10 million of the ARP funds were used to offset COVID-19 furloughs and an additional $10 million is slated for use in the 2022 budget. In the end, leaving more than $3 million for immediate use. The council seemed to agree the proposed budget should include that additional funding.

2022 Expenses Breakdown

  • Personal (including salary and wages) = $68 million — a 7.9% increase from 2021
  • Position Requests (total regular pay) = $53.6 million — a 10% increase from 2021
  • Overtime Expenses = $5.7 million — a 8.6% increase from 2021.([Finance Director Kyle Cratty expects this number to lower as more city employees are hired)
  • Longevity Pay = $1.7 million— a 12.6% decrease from 2021
  • Termination Pay = $1.1 million— a 45% decrease from 2021
  • Police Pension Costs = $14.5 million — a 7.47% increase from 2021
  • Fire Pension Costs = $13.2 million — a 6% increase from 2021
  • Healthcare Costs = $14 million — a 5.6% increase from 2021
  • Total Benefits = $323,000 — a 1% increase from 2021
  • Supplies = $19,000 — a decrease from 2021
  • Contractual Service = $12 million— a 19.9% increase from 2021
  • Stop-loss and TPA = $1.5 million — a 49% increase from 2021
  • City Health Insurance Contributions by Employees = $6.7 million — a 4.2% increase from 2021
  • Contract Labor Management of City Parking = $622,000 — a 20.3% increase from 2021
  • Street Lighting Costs = $950,000 — a 18.8% increase from 2021
  • Forestry Costs = $127,000 — a 110% increase from 2021
  • Weed and Litter Expenses = $600,000 — a 31% increase from 2021

SAFER Staffing

During the budget presentation, r Urich suggested the city expand the overtime budget of the fire department to restore an engine company. An engine company includes three individuals. Urich said Peoria meanwhile can apply for a Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) grant to hopefully restore 11 firefighters in the future.

Some of the council members were concerned about the path forward if the application would be denied. Urich said he feels Peoria is in good standing for approval.

The SAFER grant, if approved, would provide three years of federal funding for salaries and benefits for new or retained employees. There is an additional year of grant funding so fire departments can establish permanent hiring.

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