Peoria has $ 47 million to spend on COVID relief. How should they do it?
PEORIA – Ending time off for non-union employees and avoiding borrowing $ 10 million to balance the budget are two clear uses of the COVID relief money passed by Peoria City Council.
During a 90-minute political session held in the basement of the Peoria Riverfront Museum, council members expressed support for the two ideas which would commit about $ 10.2 million of the roughly $ 47 million the city owes. to receive.
No action was taken as Tuesday’s meeting was just a political session, but based on the comments council could order city manager Patrick Urich to cancel all holidays from next week and cancel the loan.
Mayor Rita Ali called it an exciting and unique time for the city, saying “we will never see this kind of federal money coming in our lifetime.”
Peoria is one of the cities that underwent a big change when Congress approved the US $ 1.9 trillion bailout. In total, Peoria will receive $ 47.09 million in two installments over the next two years.
Peoria County received some $ 34 million – and those two numbers don’t include money going to help schools, airports and other state and federal aid. Urich said his staff were looking for ways to work with other agencies to stretch the money further, noting that this was a one-off thing.
After: Peoria faces possible $ 50 million budget deficit due to coronavirus
The money can be used to support public health responses, tackle the negative economic impacts of the pandemic, give essential workers a ‘top salary’, pay for water and sewer infrastructure works, and improve the environment. broadband access in an area.
Last week, Urich said, the city received its first payment of $ 23.5 million. The money is in the bank, waiting for the city council to decide what to do with it. According to federal guidelines, the money must be spent by the end of 2026.
But the money comes with some restrictions. They are:
* The city cannot use the money to lower the tax rate.
* The town hall cannot use the money to cover its retirement expenses.
* Money cannot go to reserves.
* and it cannot be used to pay court settlements or judgments or debt service.
It’s up to the board to decide what to do with the money, but Urich had two immediate demands for some of the money – use it to write off the loans needed to balance the 2021 budget. And the other was stop giving non-union employees time off.
Removing them for the last six months of the year would cost $ 180,000, the city manager said.
And from the comments, it appeared that the board was ready for both. In fact, city councilor Denis Cyr wanted to approve this Tuesday, but due to the nature of the meeting, that would have to wait until the next regular council meeting next Tuesday.
But others, such as 2nd District City Councilor Chuck Grayeb and At-Large City Councilor Sid Ruckriegel, wanted Urich to investigate possible spending for “neighborhood stabilization” – a code to find ways to help homeowners in older parts of town.
Zach Oyler, also a city council member, wanted Urich staff to come up with a prize to demolish all homes and structures that did not follow the code and were either abandoned or owned by the city.
And City Councilor Beth Jensen asked Urich staff to consider how the money could be used to clean up the combined sewer overflow that will cost the city $ 109 million over several years as part of a consent decree with the federal government.
The city manager said he was open to more sessions and political discussions and may use the money as part of the upcoming budget process. A key issue facing the city is how to reverse the trend of spending that is growing faster than income. Federal government money, if used with other local entities, could go a long way, he said.
Andy Kravetz can be reached at 686-3283 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @andykravetz.