By Steve Robinson | March 5, 2018 - 10:04 pm
Posted in Category: Normal Town Council, The Normalite

NORMAL – Normal Town Council members unanimously approved a 2018-19 budget of $105,324,432. However, the Town, when it is done making expenditures and taking in revenue will find it will be short on incoming money by over $1.5 million.

The Town anticipates taking in $125,647,117 in revenue. But after expenses are paid and transfers to accounts are made, the Town will find it has total expenses of $127,175,713, establishing the deficit. That $1.5 million deficit is related “to spending funds accumulated from previous fiscal years for major capital projects, including vehicle and equipment replacements, final construction cost of the new fire station, water fund restructure, and various storm water fund projects,” according to a report for the Council prepared by Town director of finance, Andrew Huhn.

The Town also finds itself with an additional loss of income from the deficit caused by a loss of $1.5 million the Town received as its part of the Metro Zone agreement which it had with the City of Bloomington for years until Bloomington City Council members unilaterally pulled out of the agreement with a Council vote over a year ago.

In addition to that, other causes for decreasing revenue for the Town include: Flat or decreasing revenue sources; Implementation of a new 2 percent surcharge for collecting the Town’s Home Rule Sales Tax; A 10 percent decrease in the Town’s share of income tax as a result of modifications the State made to the formula; and decreasing work force within the community leading to limited job and wage growth.

Council Member Chemberly Cummings likened the Town’s actions to when personal income drops, people cut back on frills and tighten their budgets. “That’s all we’re doing,” she said regarding the measures the Council approved.

Council Member Kevin McCarthy added, “Revenue streams are declining – that’s principally why we’re cutting.”

Mayor Chris Koos told the gathering of about 30 people sitting in Council Chambers on the fourth floor of Uptown Station, “I will congratulate staff for the work they did in a tough budget year. This was a hard one. They did a good job of getting the budget straightened out.”

A public hearing, required by State law, was held prior to the start of the Council session and only one citizen spoke to the budget. Former Town Council Candidate Ron Ulmer to Council members, “No reflection on Town employees, but taxes and fees can’t be raised fast enough. Increase taxes, decrease services, cut staff.” He said the Town must make a change in how it operates and part of that could include collaborating with other entities within the community. He added Normal could have “one of the biggest migrations of residents leaving in the State of Illinois.”

Water Bills To Begin Arriving Monthly Starting April 1: After coming every couple months for many years as residents have grown used to, Normal residents will begin receiving their water bills from the Town on a monthly basis starting April 1, the result of Council members unanimously approving the measure. But when this subject was discussed, Council Member Kathleen Lorenz recommended taking the subjects of increasing water rates and the billing cycle separately because the two items were joined in an amendment to an ordinance concerning those subjects. In the first vote, whether to keep the two items together for discussion and balloting on them, Council voted 4-3 to vote on separating rates from billing. Koos, and Council Members Jeff Fritzen, Scott Preston, and Lorenz favoring separating the two issues, while McCarthy, R. C. McBride, and Cummings opposed doing that.

Council members voted 6-1 to increase water rates effective April 1 by 2 percent, with Lorenz voting against it. The increase would boost the fee for per 1,000 gallons from $6.31 to $6.44, with the monthly maintenance charge going from $5.75 to $5.87. The Town’s Municipal Code would need to be modified for billing to be changed to a monthly basis. Currently, residents get their bill every two months.

Lorenz said she wanted to keep water rates flat for one year. But Fritzen countered that by saying were the Town to not increase rates as planned after that year, more than another year risked going by before the subject returned, risking presenting residents with an even larger unwanted increase. He called it a “strategic” move to go ahead at this time with the proposed increase.

As to changing the billing to monthly, Koos said Normal residents have been asking for the change. The current billing cycle, as City Manager Mark Peterson explained, “Sixty days, we’ve been told, makes it tough for budgeting.” He said the change would be more convenient for the residents desiring it. Saying the customer service angle put forth for this change wasn’t enough for him to support it, Preston joined Lorenz in the minority in the 5-2 vote which approved monthly billing.

Refuse Collection Fee Increase Approved: Council members voted unanimously to approve an ordinance establishing monthly user fees for refuse collection in the Town. Services such as garbage and recycling pickup, bulky waste and brush collection, leaf collection, and landscape waste collection will see fees for those services go up to $20 monthly, a $2 increase. The former $18 rate was passed by a Council ordinance vote three years ago.

City Manager Employment Agreement Approved For Reece: Council members unanimously approved a resolution authorizing an agreement for Pamela Reece’s term as City Manager which will begin at the end of the business day March 30. The contract runs through March 31, 2020. Reece, currently Deputy City Manager under City Manager Mark Peterson, was promoted to succeed Peterson, who will retire on March 30 after 30 years with the Town, 20 of them as City Manager. The first 10 years working for the Town, Peterson was Assistant City Manager under then-City Manager David Anderson .

The Town conducted a national search for candidates in seeking a successor to Peterson.

Under the terms of the contract, Reece will be paid an annual salary of $185,000 and receive an annual car allowance.

Omnibus Agenda Items Approved: Omnibus agenda items approved by the Council included:

• Approval of the minutes of the regular meeting of Feb. 19, 2018.

• Approval of Town of Normal expenditures for payment as of Feb. 28, 2018

• A resolution authorizing a contract extension with Bloomington-based Henson Disposal for processing of recyclable residential construction, demolition, and bulky waste collected by the Town of Normal at a rate of $55.51 per ton.

• A resolution authorizing execution of an agreement with Mr. Craig Onsrud for the operation of the Ironwood Golf Course pro shop and private golf lessons.

• A resolution authorizing an amendment to the supply and processing agreement with Midwest Fiber Inc. for the operation of a drop box recycling program in exchange for the use of Town equipment.

• A resolution authorizing intervention in a pending property tax assessment appeal before the Illinois Property Tax Appeal Board.

• A resolution conditionally and partially approving the final plat for the seventh addition to Constitution Trail Centre Subdivision.

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