PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — City leaders are faced with a problem and working daily to find a solution. COVID-19 restrictions caused a major loss in revenue, leaving Peoria City Council to fill a gap of 31.5 million dollars in the city’s budget.
Peoria’s City Manager, Patrick Urich said a reduction in capital spending may not be enough to fill the gap, forcing city leaders to dip into the operating budget. The funding in that budget preserves operating services like Peoria Public Works, the police department and the fire department.
Peoria Mayor Jim Ardis said nothing is off the table, adding that although cuts to public safety is not his first choice, it is a possibility.
“When it comes to what the majority of our citizens expect from their government I think public safety is right at the top of that list and it’s for good reason,” Ardis.
Peorians who depend on officers and firefighters during an emergency said cuts should be made elsewhere.
“That’s the backbone of the society keeping the people feeling good, feeling safe, we don’t want more people to flee out of Peoria,” Kim Garcia of Peoria said.
Urich said keeping the city financially afloat could mean departments like police and fire may have to cut 10-20% percent out of their budgets.
Peoria Firefighters Local 50 Union, President Ryan Brady said budget cuts will impact staffing levels and ultimately diminish the quality of emergency response services.
“10 percent reduction for us, obviously this all depended on council action, will mean that we will lay off for the first time since 1954 Peoria firefighters,” Brady said.
Brady said this will affect the livelihoods of employees and the community. “I haven’t slept for more than six hours in the past two nights I’ve walked in the shoes of being a lay off employee,” he said.
Councilman Chuck Grayeb said before making a decision he implores council members to weigh each and every option.
“They’re trying to stampede the council into doing the DEFCON 4 response before it’s appropriate we need to use these other tools I delineated before we start taking a look at cutting our infrastructure investments and cutting our public safety workers,” Grayeb said.
He said there is a platter of opportunities, mentioning applying for a robust loan package, waiting for federal assistance and dipping into the reserve.
“We can come back from this stronger than ever if we respond in a smart fashion and not get stampeded doing stupid things,” Grayeb said.
In addition, Grayeb said state legislators should consider decreasing the amount of money municipalities pay this year to cover the pension obligation.