Peoria introduces $783M budget proposal

New capital improvement projects and 24 new full-time positions contribute to a $783 million proposed operating and capital budget for the city of Peoria.

It marks a 12.7% increase from the prior year.

“We always have funding sources for everything here, and I’m always really proud of that,” said Mayor Cathy Carlat.

“I know that a lot of places have these big books full of wonderful projects, and they are not funded.”

Peoria City Council reviewed the proposed budget plan for the fiscal year 2023 on March 30. The budget focuses on seven livability initiatives.

“We wanted goals that were not going to continue to change but also were meaningful that you could live with that made sense,” said Jeff Tyne, Peoria city manager.

The seven livability initiatives are:

Superior public safety: The majority of Peoria’s general fund is dedicated to public safety and the FY 2023 budget reflects the city’s ongoing commitment to public safety.

The city will continue to invest in new technologies to preserve life and property. Examples include a new command vehicle for high-stress public safety incidents, additional body-worn cameras, vehicle technology equipment, investigative equipment for crimes against children, specialized software for background investigations, training supplies, and surveillance devices.

New vehicles, contract staff and crime predictive technology will allow sworn police officers to engage in proactive policing activities more effectively.

The fire-medical budget continues to invest in critical equipment, including a utility task vehicle and trailer to support emergency response at Lake Pleasant, operational equipment, medical supplies, and extrication equipment.

A new, four-person medical response unit will be added to lower response times and alleviate pressure from Peoria’s three busiest fire stations.

A medical billing specialist will support the addition of a sixth ambulance.

The CIP also includes two new fire stations to accommodate the growing North Peoria area.

Economic prosperity: The recommended budget includes investments in many economic development initiatives and projects to support small business development and entrepreneurial growth, such as public-private partnerships like Pop-Up Peoria and the Smart City/Region Consortium.

The budget includes funding to continue to support business development through the Small Business Development Center and a new program to help interested home-based businesses scale and transition to brick-and-mortar locations.

Healthy neighborhoods: To promote healthy and safe communities, the budget continues neighborhood-focused initiatives.

The longtime neighborhood grant program offers financial support to residents seeking to enhance their neighborhoods.

The budget provides a new community engagement coordinator position and a second community engagement vehicle to enhance the successful neighborhood services program. This ensures more residents can be reached and connected in beneficial ways to each other, city programs, resources and services.

With a focus on helping those in need, the department is continuing its homeless navigation and shelter services.

An additional contract code compliance officer will allow the city to extend its services to Peoria residents from five days to six days by including service on Saturdays.

Integrated transportation: To develop and maintain the city’s vital roadway network, the budget provides a robust capital program for streets and traffic control. The operating budget, meanwhile, provides the staffing and other resources needed to maintain the infrastructure as well as the transit options that link people to their community. Under the proposed budget, two transportation-related positions are added: a public works project manager to coordinate the pavement management program and a street maintenance supervisor to provide focused supervision to the street maintenance team. To improve connectivity for Peoria residents, a Sunday bus service will be added to Route 106 on Peoria Avenue, and two, part-time transit operators will be converted to full-time, allowing for more capacity for Dial-a-Ride and Americans with Disabilities Act service.

Arts, Culture and Recreation: This department continues the city’s long history of providing family-friendly and culturally diverse events.

The budget provides funding for new library technology, StoryWalks to promote literacy, and the expansion of the library’s popular passport acceptance program.

In terms of parks and recreation, the budget supports a number of requests to enhance and maintain key amenities at various parks and community facilities throughout the city. To provide a higher level of oversight and community engagement at city parks, another park ranger position as been added to the budget.

The city will continue its support of the arts and special events with funding for art grants, art acquisitions, and free public events such as Second Saturdays, Old Town Holiday Festival, the All-American Festival, the Dolly Sanchez Easter Celebration, Parkfests, Somos Peoria, and musical performances at community parks.

The CIP includes $7 million for improvements at the Peoria Sports Complex to construct two full fields and replace existing parking that will be lost with the Stadium Point development.

Superior public services: Peoria prides itself on providing high-quality water, sewer and solid waste services to its residents at an affordable price. The proposed budget funds five new water services positions to support Peoria’s safe and assured water supply. Also, funding for two new bulk trash positions and an additional articulated tractor allows Peoria’s bulk trash program to meet community needs.

Smart growth: Strategic, long-term planning is essential to maintaining Peoria’s exceptional quality of life. To assist with the city’s continued growth, the FY 2023 budget funds an additional principal planner position, an impact fee coordinator position, and a utility coordinator position. In addition, the CIP continues to fund the infrastructure necessary to support new growth.

The proposed budget has four major categories: the operating budget at $370.4 million represents the day-to-day operations of the city; the capital budget at $286.5 million entails large, one-time capital projects; the debt service payments at $46.9 million; and the contingency reserve at $79.2 million. Concurrently, the city is proposing a 10-year capital improvement plan (CIP) of $1.1 billion.

The council will meet May 3, 2022, for the formal adoption of the capital improvement plan and tentative budget adoption.

The proposed budget includes a 3.2% increase in health insurance, which came in much lower than expected, according to Peter Christensen, the budget manager.

“We were pleasantly surprised. It’s lower than that state and national averages which speaks to how well those self-insured programs are being managed by HR and by the consultants that help us with that,” Christensen said.

State Farm Stadium will host the Super Bowl LVII in February 2023. The Super Bowl Host Committee, a nonprofit corporation acting as a catalyst between the NFL and stakeholders, approached the city to become an official partner.

“It provides inclusion and community outreach for the city, and the city will be looked at as a venue for committee events as well as potential private events for the super bowl events,” said Andy Granger, deputy city manager.

Peoria proposed a cash investment of $64,980 and provided the use of the Peoria Sports Complex as the Official Super Bowl LVII Operations Hub. In exchange, the committee will include the city’s logo on the website and allow the official partner designation in advertising and communications.

“We’ve been notified that we need to fund the project before the end of the fiscal year, so next Tuesday, we are going to come to council for formal action to approve the funding for that,” Granger said.

The developmental department requested positions to aid in strengthening capacity in long-term and strategic planning. Carlat raised concerns about whether these additions would suffice because of the different work needed with state land.

“I just hope that just two people are going to be able to fulfill all of these goals. It’s a tremendous amount of work that is going to have to go into all of this,” Carlat said.

If good economic development prospects and a need to meet certain time frames presents itself, then the need for additional staff may arise, according to Katie Gregory, deputy city manager.

“It would behoove of us to bring in some contract work from somebody who is familiar with state lands, and somebody who really understands that process,” Gregory said.

For the first time, the Arts, Cultural and Library Services department appeared in the budget, comprising arts, special events, library services and a few new elements, according to deputy city manager, Erik Strunk.

“We’re a big enough city that we need to start chronicling that we don’t want to lose sight of our history,” Strunk said.

According to Carlat, sometimes as cities grow, the city government does directly interact with the residents and can feel removed from the needs of the community.

“But with this department, we have been able to do the exact opposite. Even though we are growing and there are almost 200,000 people, we are still as close to our neighbors as we’ve ever been,” Carlat said.

Police and fire-medical departments added 15 full-time employees during the midyear budget review.

“The reason that we are not adding any new positions right now is primarily because we need to hire the 15 new positions in each of these departments and train them. And they probably won’t be on board and functioning their full responsibilities for six months,” Granger said.