EAST PEORIA — The call went out months ago to city of East Peoria department heads and city employees alike — scour all budgets and examine all common practices to find ways to save money. With the city in a fiscal crisis, no saving was too small to consider.
So they discovered one way to save a few thousand dollars — cut out the last couple of blocks of the Festival of Lights Parade.
"Yes, this would count as a cost saving measure (that we are looking for)," City Administrator Jeff Eder said Thursday. "And that was the main reason we looked to change the route."
When the City Council chose not to raise property taxes or increase sales taxes by a half-cent this year, it left City Administrator Jeff Eder with a challenge to find other ways to plug a $2 million budget deficit. It might not sound like much, but stopping the Nov. 18 parade a couple of blocks before the Four Corners intersection at East Washington and North Main streets allows the city to cut its police presence, by half.
"As for the police, this year they are planning to have a total of 16 officers work the parade. Last year we had 35 officers. The detail will last about 3.5 hours so the overtime will be down by 66.5 hours for a savings of nearly $4,000 in police salary alone," Eder said. "The new route allows for Main Street to stay open and that itself eliminates at least 12 officers."
The parade starts on East Washington Street at Dolans Lane. It continues for about two miles down East Washington and then turns onto Taylor Street in front of the East Peoria Central Junior High School before stopping at Springfield Road in front of the post office.
Commissioner Tim Jeffers said he was aware of some negative commentary on Facebook about the route stopping short of the Four Corners, a popular spot for spectators, but did not think there was any groundswell of opposition.
"The route is two miles long so there is a change for the last four blocks or so, shortening it by maybe three blocks," Jeffers said Thursday. "So the easing of traffic at the Four Corners will be a huge advantage to hundreds and hundreds of people."
Jeffers said the parade always generates a lot of discussion in the community.
"We still get complaints about moving the parade to the Saturday before Thanksgiving versus the Saturday after. It's been a few years now but we still get a few darts," he said. "Changes can always be made in the future. Of course it gets floated about simply not having the parade, but just have the (drive-through) Winter Wonderland, but in my view (the parade) will stay around for many more years."
Scott Hilyard can be reached at 686-3244 or by email at email@example.com. Follow @scotthilyard on Twitter.