Champaign City Council directs attention to spending, broadband project

City staff wants to address top spending priorities to the Champaign City Council at this week’s study session. A new report suggests “additional revenues” may be needed to bring back cut programs or fund new ones.

It is one of three topics to be addressed Tuesday night. Also on the agenda are procurement processes for the area’s broadband project and a community coalition on police-community relations.

Additional revenues refers to a possibility of more taxes or fees for residents. According to the report, the council has enacted $9.9 million in recurring budget-balancing measures and $5.9 million in one-time measures since fiscal year 2008-2009. The majority of these measures have been cuts to programs.

Champaign finance director Richard Schnuer said Champaign may need to look into creating measures to generate more funds for the city’s infrastructure needs. Last week, the city passed a motor fuel tax that will generate funds for these types of projects that Schnuer said is “a step in the right direction.”

In addition, Schnuer said the city will look into what areas require the most financial attention. He pointed to four: drainage, street repairs, the Urbana-Champaign Big Broadband Project and economic development. Addressing neighborhood flooding problems remains a top priority, as well as bringing back street improvement projects that were delayed or cut in the past few years.

Despite $29 million in federal grants to work on the broadband project, or UC2B, the city is already looking toward the phase after completion. According to the report, the city expects a deficit during the start-up phase and may need to address this until operating costs are matched by retail operations. Another concern is how the city will respond if service expands beyond the initial locations. A consultant hired by UC2B officials is currently developing a business plan that will project the amount such an investment would cost.

The meeting will be at 7 p.m. Tuesday at the city building, 102 N. Neil St.