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City Budget Picture Grows A Little Less Bleak

Cass Herrington
Peoria Public Radio

After months of absorbing one bad piece of budgetary news after another, the Peoria City Council got a slight reprieve Tuesday night.City Manager Patrick Urich said more revenue than originally anticipated has come in over the last couple months as the economy reopens.

The city originally projected a 40 percent local sales tax drop. That's now 27 percent. More state sales taxes are also projected. There's also some immediate good news on personal and corporate income taxes, though those revenues are eventually expected to drop as the impacts of the pandemic stagger into 2021.

"With these additional stronger revenue projects, we're not anticipating borrowing $20 million now. It would be a working cash bond of only $15 million," said Urich.

But other sectors, like hotels, are still struggling. Peoria had a 17 percent unemployment rate at the end of May.

"We're thinking that the real impact so far of this pandemic is about $360 million to our local economy," said Urich, noting that number could change as better data emerges.

Peoria Mayor Jim Ardis urged the public to continue adhering to social distancing and mask-wearing to avoid the backslide on COVID-19 mitigation efforts seen elsewhere.

"If we do everything in our community that we can to keep each other safe, it's going to be worth the minor inconvenience in the long run," he said.

Urich said the city is waiting until September, when the first wave of early retirements takes effect, before implementing any layoffs.

The council deferred action on a voluntary separation incentive with employees until the next council meeting. It's paired with an early retirement incentive as a package meant to reduce the overall number of layoffs the city may need to implement later this year.

Urich also said Tuesday the city has spent just under $1.1 million total on COVID-19 expenses so far, including staff hours, personal protective equipment purchases, and the new Plexiglas windows installed around the council horseshoe as a social distancing measure. The Federal Emergency Management Agency can reimburse some costs at a 75 percent rate. $4.7 million in state "CURE" funds are also available.

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