Urbana mayor vetoes part of city budget

Mayor Laurel Prussing vetoed an item of the city budget passed last week at the Urbana City Council meeting Monday.

Charlie Smyth, Ward 1, said he had not had to deal with a mayoral veto in 20 years.

Prussing vetoed the section of the budget that allocated $71,820 toward the Champaign County Convention and Visitors Bureau and offered 10 reasons to explain her rationale.

Prussing said the bureau, which is supposed to help attract tourism to the region, could not support many of its claims about how much it helps Urbana.

Prussing added that she could not find any Urbana businesses that have been able to say what effect the bureau has on their business.

She also said CVB has been inconsistent about its claims. Prussing said the bureau claimed it had an impact of $1.6 million on June 11 and then claimed an impact of $3 million just two days later. She found no documentation to support either claim.

“My rationale is that we have a huge budget gap, which is only going to get worse … I believe we need to invest our sparse tax dollars into what would be beneficial to our taxpayers,” she said. “After comparing their (the bureau’s) claims with their actual results, I cannot in good conscience recommend we give them anything.”

CVB President Jayne DeLuce has spoken at past meetings and said the bureau accounted for 7.5 percent of hotel business between Jan. 10 and Oct. 11, but she was absent at this week’s meeting.

The city council will discuss the issue at a Committee of the Whole meeting July 11.

They will have a chance to vote on it July 18. Overriding a veto requires a two-thirds majority vote.

The council also voted to annex 13 properties in the Scottswood subdivision to the city of Urbana. Every council member but Heather Stevenson, Ward 6, voted for the annexation.

“The reason I’m voting ‘no’ is because of the word ‘involuntary,’” Stevenson said. “Anybody who knows anything about me knows I’m all about homeowners’ rights.”

The council voted to approve everything it recommended for approval last week except for a redevelopment agreement at 203 W. University Ave., which was temporarily derailed because of concerns about a tree on that property.

It also voted to raise parking meter fees in Urbana campus area from 75 cents to $1 per hour, which was approved at last week’s meeting.

The council also voted to pass the liquor license regulations it discussed last week, including reducing the number of liquor licenses available in Urbana.

Dave Qattoum, liquor license applicant, emphasized how the potential tax revenue from his liquor store would benefit the city.

Qattoum assured the council that his business would not contribute to the crime problem on Philo Road.

“All I am asking is for a chance to prove ourselves,” he said. “If it creates any problems, revoke the license. Give us a chance first.”

The council also voted to approve a development agreement on East Windsor Avenue, along with one mayoral appointment and six reappointments.