EAST PEORIA — A new half-cent sales tax increase enacted in 2018 helped ease the city's financial plight, but it won't cover all the capital needs built up over the last several lean budget years.
"The operating budget seems to be in reasonable order," Commissioner Gary Densberger said Tuesday evening at the onset of the public discussion on the 2020 budget. "But the capital (expenses) portion of the budget will be a free-for-all, I'm pretty sure."
The City Council heard the first draft of next year's budget Tuesday, listening to presentations on public works, Eastport Marina and EastSide Centre budgets. Police and fire department officials will present their budgets to the council in two weeks. The council will vote on a budget in mid-March. While the operating budget is mostly committed to paying the salaries of city workers, Densberger said the hard decisions will be to choose between items on a vast menu of needs.
The council will have to set the city's priorities, Densberger said.
"Public works is going to need plows. The fire department is going to need a new truck. The Police Department is going to need an untold number of new squad cars," Densberger said. "(That's because) we didn't buy anything last year."
The budget includes $550,000 from the city's portion of the Motor Fuel Tax to fix city streets.
"I'm hopeful that this will not be the full amount," said Commissioner Dan Decker, who oversees the city's street maintenance program. "Every one of us on the City Council is concerned about the condition of the streets and would spend $4 to $5 million if we had it. They've taken a hard hit the last couple of snowstorms. Hopefully we will be able to find quite a bit more money for the streets."
Sales tax revenues are up $1.1 million to $9.25 million, thanks to the increase passed by the council last year. Gambling revenues continue a downward slide, from about $9 million 10 years ago to a projected $4.3 million for 2020. East Peoria splits the annual amount with the city of Peoria.
Mayor Dave Mingus, who will leave the council in April after 24 years split between time as commissioner and mayor, said the proposed budget appears to be leaving the city in a sound financial position.
"I think (the budget) is a step in the right direction," Mingus said after the meeting. "If the next council remains conservative in the financial decisions it makes, I think that looks favorable for the future. I think the city is going to be OK."
In other business Tuesday, the council:
Approved by a 5-0 vote the contract of Steve Roegge to succeed Dick Ganschow as the city's chief of police. Roegge, 54, a 31-year veteran of the Peoria Police Department, will be paid an annual salary of $120,400. His first day on the job is March 1. The council voted 5-0 to hire Roegge.
Scott Hilyard can be reached at 686-3244 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @scotthilyard on Twitter.