Champaign combats declining revenues with budget cuts

Due to the recent decline in revenue, the city of Champaign is making budget cuts across the board in order to cut spending, according to city council members.

According to the city’s budget review team, spending is predicted to be cut by $2.3 million, as the city council proposed a budget for fiscal year 2009-10 of about $67.5 million. The projected revenues for the year are about $67,397,000.

The cuts will be made in police, fire and other public works’ sectors. There will be additional cuts in the administration department that are estimated to amount to $564,000.

No layoffs are predicted, however. Instead, the city will implement a hiring freeze. In order to reduce spending, three vacant police department positions will remain unfilled.

Despite this, city officials are confident that Champaign will still be adequately protected and kept safe.

“We don’t want people to feel like they are not protected,” said Richard Schnuer, Champaign’s financial director. “People should not be afraid that if they call 911, no one will come. We still have a solid police and fire department.”

In total, seven positions are predicted to remain unfilled. Cuts in the public works sector will amount to $523,000.

While Champaign is making necessary cuts in order to keep the city from spending more than it can afford, the Council is still moving forward with proposals to improve infrastructure, roadways and the surrounding areas.

If some cuts do need to be made, the projects will be extended over longer periods of time in order to save money, Schnuer said.

Despite the declining economy, there are areas in the city that need maintaining.

“I grew up in Champaign,” said Dave Johnson, Dist. 5 Councilman. “Some of those sidewalks are the same sidewalks I rode my bike down as a kid.”

The Council passed several resolutions on May 19 to allocate funds towards streetscapes, sidewalks and sewer cleaning.

The city hopes to repair an average of 12,000 potholes within two business days of the request of any resident, efficiently remove leaves from streets, improve sewers to prevent flooding and remove dead, hazardous trees. Another goal is to begin snow and ice response prior to major storms and apply anti-icing agents to streets and bridges.

Construction will be implemented in various areas along Green Street, as well as Prospect Avenue between Linden Avenue and Curtis Road. Additionally, the Council voted to annex a portion of Mattis Avenue.

With the Curtis Road Enhancement project near completion, phase 2 will begin shortly with the installation of handrails on the bridge and landscape. With the completion of this project, the city is hoping to see more growth.

According to Lou Braghini, resident engineer for the Public Works, the project has been on budget and timely.

Additionally, the city is eligible to receive $763,000 from the U.S. government through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. These funds may help the city cope with the decline in revenues.

In the meeting Tuesday night, the Council plans to discuss the budget further and address the Capital Improvements Plan, as well as, take Supplemental Budget Requests.