Date: December 23, 2008
Released by: Alma Brown, Communications Manager, 494-8554, 453-4070
Subject: CITY ADDRESSES ECONOMIC NEWS
Peoria – As the national economy declines, and local businesses and families make financial sacrifices, the City of Peoria continues to prepare itself for any possible downturn in revenues. In early December, the City Council unanimously approved the budget for fiscal year 2009. This “maintenance budget” sustained service levels without raising taxes. The revenue projections that comprise the underpinnings of the budget were very conservative and reflective of the economic climate. The City’s finance staff has a long track record of correctly projecting revenues. Remarkably, especially in consideration of the national picture, 2008 revenues to date are generally 1% higher than estimated last year.
On the expense side, the 2009 budget made some realistic adjustments to operations that will save money. Each department made sacrifices, including the elimination of 3 positions. Some capital purchases and improvements have been delayed for one year. Reorganization of the City’s health benefits program has saved nearly $2 million.
“The 2009 budget process helped us lay the groundwork for better cooperation and planning,” says Mayor Jim Ardis. “The work is not yet done, though. Families in Peoria, especially in light of recent announcements from Caterpillar, are taking a hard look at their finances and deciding where they might need to make cuts. The City always looks to use tax dollars most efficiently, but those efforts will be re-doubled in the coming months.”
Beyond the measures taken during the budget process, the City is identifying a number of cost-cutting steps. Those steps include:
Instituting a sensible hiring freeze starting on January 1, 2009;
Implementing recommendations from a recently completed report by the Energy Efficiency Task Force that will reduce fuel and electricity costs;
Reducing the number of employee take-home cars; and,
Realizing a savings of approximately $150,000 in the City’s refuse collection contract.
In early January, at the direction of the City Council, the entire senior staff of the City will gather for a series of workshops that will identify further contingency plans to be enacted if revenues are depressed. The finance staff is constantly monitoring receipts in order to identify trends before they become realities.
Despite some negative news stories, there is also a good deal of positive news in Peoria. “Things really are better in Peoria,” added Mayor Ardis. “We certainly do not diminish the impact of recent announcements on area families and businesses, but considering the national economic climate, Peoria has been truly resilient.”
The Mayor pointed to a number of healthy signs, including the stability and affordability of the housing market, growth in the medical sector, and relative strength in the Peoria retail market. Further, a number of large construction projects, either in progress or planned, will help keep people employed. Those projects include Bradley University’s Athletic Performance Center, the expansions at Methodist Medical Center and OSF St. Francis Hospital, and the new terminal building at the Peoria International Airport. The recently approved Marriott Pere Marquette hotel project will create hundreds of other construction jobs in the coming months.
One key role of local government is to ensure the vitality of the economy, which is evidenced by the projects listed above and others. It is also the responsibility of the City’s leadership to be constantly monitoring its finances and adjusting and sacrificing when necessary. As stewards of the citizens’ resources, the Mayor, City Council and City staff will continue to live within its means while providing the best possible services to Peoria.