Peoria City Council approves 2022/2023 budget, passes pension proposal

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PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — After just over a month of discussion, Tuesday night, Peoria City Council approved a biennial budget.

The budget will allow for $262.3 million in spending in 2022 and $242.1 million in 2023.

Before the budget was voted on and later approved during Tuesday’s council meeting, city council members had to come to a solution on how to fund a $4 million dollar gap in public safety pensions.

The motion that was passed to address this roadblock includes setting aside just over $4 million dollars from the 2021 general fund balance for pension obligations for the next two years.

City Manager Patrick Urich said the city had higher than expected revenues in 2021 due to factors such as recovery from the pandemic, increased state shared revenues, and strong sales tax growth.

Before the final vote on the pension funding proposal, which passed 8-3, at-large Councilman Zachary Oyler shared concerns about the measure.

“It’s the same motion that we had last week, just with a few more chips on the poker table. Saying we’re going to burn down reserves to pay our bills,” Oyler said. “It’s revenues and expenses and we’re budgeting to spend more money than we’re budgeting to bring in at a time where we have record numbers of both,” he added.

4th District Councilman Andre Allen said the pension proposal may not be the most ideal option but added that he believes it is the right proposal for the right time.

“We have excess revenues and it would be great to save those for a rainy day and continue to keep building our coffers up, but we’re able to fulfill our pension obligations and we’re able to do that without cutting public safety and we’re able to restore jobs that were lost to COVID-19,” Allen said.

At-Large Councilwoman Beth Jensen also spoke in support of the pension proposal, stating the benefit for public safety.

“We’re putting more money, more employees on the street. In the fire department. We’ve brought back an engine, we brought back 11 positions. We’re adding 30 police officers,” Jensen said.

The budget was approved by a vote of 8-3, council members Oyler, Sid Ruckriegel, and Dennis Cyr voted against it.

On Tuesday, the city council also unanimously approved 16 automatic license plate recognition cameras and a new gunshot detection system through Flock Safety for the police department.

Jack Nieukirk with the Peoria Police Department said the trial for the technology will overlap ShotSpotter, and added that it is a cheaper option and will capture images that help officers.

“This system will capture motion—description, make and model of the vehicle, links to leads,” Nieukirk said.

Nieukirk also said if the city decides to move away from ShotSpotter, there could be an influx of ALPR cameras.

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