The city of Peoria’s March 31 budget meeting laid out the financial plan for the year with a budget of $695 million.
Mayor Cathy Carlat kicked off the meeting by thanking the room for their hard work on the budget, despite the many challenges the pandemic has caused.
“Last year about this time, the COVID-19 pandemic shook our world,” she said. “In spite of all, the pandemic dulled out. As we approach a new budget year, I am proud to report that we do so as a fiscally sound city.”
Carlat said it is important that the budget reflects the city’s commitment to providing exceptional services that meet the priorities of Peoria citizens.
“Creating a balanced budget is one of the most important responsibilities of city government,” she said.
First to speak directly about the budget was City Manager Jeff Tyne.
The budget consists of five main points: balanced budget, commitment to essential services, supports council priorities, no tax increases, and modest utility rate adjustments.
Also, the city is proposing a 10-year capital improvement program (CIP) of $835.6 million.
The CIP provides a schedule of planned improvements over the next 10 years and identifies the revenue sources that will pay for those improvements.
As the community grows, new projects and amenities are needed to serve a growing population and maintain service levels. The proposed CIP funds major investments in parks, roadways, facilities, and water and sewer infrastructure. This includes the construction of several major projects already underway, such as the extension of reclaimed water to Paloma Community Park, renovations to the Peoria Main Library, construction of a new segment of Jomax Road from Vistancia Boulevard to the Loop 303, and the expansion of the Pyramid Peak Water Treatment Plant. Other notable projects in the CIP include the second phase of Paloma Community Park, trail system improvements, regional drainage improvements at 67th Avenue and Pinnacle Peak Road, a new fire station in northern Peoria, a planned replacement of the aging fleet building, expansions of the Beardsley and Jomax water treatment plants, and further expansion of reclaimed water infrastructure.
Equally as important to building new facilities is the responsibility to maintain current city facilities. As such, there are various projects throughout the CIP related to replacement and refurbishment of existing assets throughout Peoria. Of particular note this year is the addition of a five-year, $35 million undertaking to rehabilitate all streets with a pavement condition index (PCI) rating of 60 or lower. This will significantly reduce the long-term financial impacts of aging asphalt infrastructure.
The city’s top priority is to preserve the high quality of life of Peoria residents. The FY 2022 budget provides the financial resources necessary to do that in the following areas:
Superior public safety
Public safety is a vital aspect of Peoria’s overall quality of life. The majority of Peoria’s general fund is dedicated to public safety, and the FY 2022 budget reflects the city’s ongoing commitment to public safety.
Two new police officers will provide growth-related public safety support to the community.
The city will continue to invest in new technologies to preserve life and property. Examples include SCBA systems for SWAT team personnel, an explosive ordinance disposal storage day box for a K9 unit, ballistic helmets, and replacement of aging tasers.
New vehicles, contract staff and crime predictive technology will allow sworn officers to more effectively engage in proactive policing activities.
The Peoria Fire-Medical Department is continuing the community paramedicine program established in July 2020 and investing in new brush fire equipment and arson training.
To assist with service delivery, the department is also adding a redshirt position and an ongoing administrative assistant position.
The CIP also includes several projects to expand, rehabilitate or otherwise improve fire stations.
One of the keys to any community’s quality of life is a vibrant and diversified economic base, with a qualified workforce and quality jobs.
The recommended budget includes investments in a number of economic development initiatives and projects, such as business attraction consulting services for out-of-state relocation opportunities.
The budget includes some one-time funding to continue to foster small businesses, create partnerships and enhance efforts to attract and retain businesses in Peoria.
To promote healthy and safe communities, the budget continues a number of neighborhood-focused initiatives.
The longtime neighborhood grant program offers financial support to neighborhoods seeking to enhance their communities.
A new community assistance coordinator position will oversee the city’s continuing efforts to address the challenge of homelessness in our community.
The neighborhood park and retention basin refresh programs will continue to address existing landscaping and aesthetic improvements within and around Peoria neighborhoods.
Because continuous investment is fundamental to developing and maintaining Peoria’s roadway network, the budget includes a robust capital program for streets and traffic control. The operating budget provides the staffing and other resources needed to maintain all of this infrastructure. The proposed budget adds two new positions related to transportation — a lead technician specializing in traffic signals and street lighting and an administrative assistant to support the Transit Division.
Arts, culture and recreation
Peoria has long boasted premier recreation programs and facilities, special events, and arts and cultural programs. The city also has a long history of providing family-friendly and culturally diverse events, such as Somos Peoria, Second Saturdays and Young Artist Exhibits.
The proposed budget includes funding to continue these programs and events throughout the community, though some events may need to be canceled or postponed if the coronavirus pandemic persists.
There are a number of one-time requests to repair and maintain key amenities at various parks and community facilities throughout the city.
The budget adds a maintenance operations position and two trail maintenance positions.
Superior public services
Peoria residents and businesses expect that clean water will flow whenever they turn on the faucet, that their trash and recycling will be picked up on time, and that their concerns will be addressed in a responsive, professional manner. The proposed budget continues to provide the resources needed to consistently exceed customer expectations. Funding for increased recycling processing fees secures the city’s commitment to sustainability, while a new solid waste equipment operator and vehicle ensure timely trash removal.
One of the most important considerations of a growing city like Peoria is an assured water supply. This budget keeps pace with the increasing costs of water purchases and supports continued efforts to encourage the most efficient use of this precious resource. The proposed budget supports requests for contract inspectors to ensure that construction in the city complies with all national and local standards. Finally, the CIP identifies the infrastructure investments needed to keep up with new growth.
After summarizing the budget and the meeting agenda, Tyne passed the torch to budget manager Peter Christensen to provide an overview of the financial aspect of the 2022 budget.
“It has been a wild ride in the budget office to say the least,” he said. “But I am happy to report we have a much clearer financial picture today than we did a year or so ago at this time. And most of the news we are sharing with you tonight is optimistic,” Christensen said.
Christensen introduced the budget to the room, announcing that this year the proposed budget is listed at $695 million, a 4.5% increase from last year.
The budget consisted of four main spending categories: operating at 47%, capital 35%, contingency 11% and debt service 7%.
Christensen noted that the $329 million spent on operating expenses is and likely will always be at the top of the expenses.
The budget manager added that there are clear fiscal pressures, noting that it is important to recognize them.
Competitive pay plans including wages and health insurance, retirement and overall growth all contribute to the mentioned fiscal pressure.
“Growth by its very nature puts pressure on our existing resources,” Christensen said. “Those fiscal pressures are real, but they are also manageable, and we have accounted for them fully.”
Tyne concluded the meeting by stating the budget is “an ambitious but important capital plan.”
“Budget sessions are important. It allows us to explore a little bit more the dynamics that happened … and talk about some of the tradeoffs that we have to make a decision on,” Tyne said.
“This is a defining document for you all. The budget that we are putting forward of course is a recommendation based off of a lot of discussions.”
To download the proposed budget document, visit peoriaaz.gov/budget.