City council approves $90,000 call center to answer questions about public safety pension fee; USF Downtown Outlet Center responds

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PEORIA, Ill.– Peoria City Council voted Tuesday to spend $90,000 dollars on a call center.

Since Peoria residents will soon be hit with a public pension fee, City Manager Patrick Urich says he expects thousands of residents to call asking about the new fee and where the money is going. The $90,000 will pay for six months of service over the next two years to answer those questions.

The city said the fees are necessary to help pay for one of the city’s fastest-growing budget items. It’s estimated to raise $1.2 million dollars for police and fire department pensions.

The amount of money each home or business will be charged is based on its square footage. For example, if your business is over 10,000 square feet, your annual bill will be $200.

The city says the fees are necessary to help raise $1.2 million for police and fire department pensions. Starting next week the city will mail letters to Peorians about this fee.

Co-owner of UFS Downtown Outlet Center Pierre Serafin says there’s only so much local businesses can take.

“Oh my god, how much more can the independent absorb? How many taxes and fees can be absorb and exist? We try to take care of our employees, minimum wage is going up, runoff tax has been instituted, more tax on garbage pickup, and now we have these fees,” Serafin said.

“We and other large facilities like auto dealers, we’re all gonna get hurt. It’s gonna hurt us. It’s truly an uphill battle to stay in business, take care of your employees, offer them the benefits that they need and are fair,” Serafin said.

Serafin says he believes this is a state-wide problem.

“Without the state doing something, I don’t know if there’s a lot the city can. The problem is, if the result is always, they like to use the word fee, if the result is always taxes, you can only do it so long and everybody runs out of money,” Serafin said.

“This is a problem that cities, not just Peoria, have to deal with.  You got to take care of your people that you hired,” he adds.

Serafin says these fees could impact prices on everyday items Peorians buy.

“What it does, it puts pressure on retail pricing.  Every time you have an increase in cost of business, everybody is going to have pressure on retail pricing,” Serafin said.

He adds that independent businesses are already battling enough in the market with large online companies.

“We feel the impact of online sales, and that pulls people away.  People are getting things shipped to their houses.  We want to bring people to Peoria.  I’ve got 70 employees that rely on me to make the right decisions everyday. You allow me to compete, you allow me to run my business, but the increased taxes and fees are killing us and we’re getting to the point where we can’t compete,” Serafin said.

He said these fees don’t put him at a place where he needs to close his business, but if things continue in this trend, that might change for many Peoria businesses.

“A lot of us aren’t going to be around if this continues to happen.  And the less of we independents, the less people are employed,” Serafin said.

UFS Downtown Outlet Center is located at 1800 SW Adams St, Peoria, IL 61602 .

The final decision council made Tuesday night was the approval of recreational marijuana sale tax in the city.

The Peoria City Council voted to approve taxing marijuana 9-2 Tuesday evening. The approval does not mean that the sale will be legal in Peoria. This approval just means marijuana will be taxed an additional three percent sale tax on top of the regular sales tax if approved.

The deadline for making these decisions to get added tax revenue as soon as possible by law. A decision whether to approve sell within the city will be Oct. 22.

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