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Peoria Tries To Reconcile Deficit

The city of Peoria faces a projected budget deficit of nearly eight-million dollars next year.  The city council Tuesday night agreed to offer a voluntary separation incentive to employees in hopes of reducing that deficit.

Employees who decide to retire from the city would receive $30,000 to cover future insurance premiums. That money is not taxable.

City manager Patrick Urich says employees will have to agree to the offer by mid-November and retire on December 15. “If we were fortunate enough to get 15, I’d be pleased with that,” Urich said.  “This does not include our commissioned public safety employees so police and fire are not included in this.

Urich says some of the open positions will remain unfilled while others might be filled, but at a lower salary level.

While the voluntary separation incentive is not an option for Peoria police officers, they will receive cost-of-living raises over the next three years.

The city council approved hikes of two-and-a-quarter percent retroactive to last January, one percent in 2018 and two percent in 2019.

Councilman Zach Oyler was the lone vote against the increases. He is concerned after hearing a report from the pension commission that would worsen next year’s projected budget deficit.

“We need to kick in an extra six-million dollars a year that we’re not currently putting into the police and fire pensions, pushing us potentially to a $15-million budget deficit if we were to consider doing something like that,” Oyler said. “And then to have raises on the table when we don’t have a way to pay for them, I just don’t understand how we can go forward with that.

City manager Urich told the council it is difficult to hold the line on pay hikes. He said if negotiations hit an impasse, the city is subject to an arbitrator’s ruling, which could favor the police union.

AND Portillo's is coming...

Peoria is another step closer to Portillo’s Restaurant locating in the city. The city council also okayed a special use waiver to allow a convenience cash business to relocate from Sterling Avenue to Big Hollow Road.

Councilman Jim Montelongo says the move clears the way for demolition of the building where Portillo’s wants to build.

“The petitioner wants to be close to its current customer base that it’s developed. They’re doing us a favor by relocating to a new location to make way for this development,” Montelongo said.

The city council still needs to establish a Special Service Area that will allow Portillo’s to add one-percent to its sales tax rate. That increased income will go to the developer to help cover demolition and construction costs. Portillo’s plans to lease the building.

The council will consider the Special Service Area in November. If that’s approved, Portillo’s could open next spring.