At the moment the city does have a balanced document, but it hasn't
come from changing the employee health insurance plans, as they had
Mayor Keith Snyder said that when the figures were all put
together after Thursday night's meeting, considering all the cuts
plus the implementation of a hotel-motel tax levy, the gap between
revenue and expenditures was still about $68,000.
Currently the only way the city can find to fill that gap is
through a reduction in wages.
Snyder said that the firefighters had agreed to take 64 furlough
hours per employee across the 12-month period from May 1 this year
to April 30, 2011. This move will save the city $19,380.
In the police department, he noted that there is going to be a
vacancy that will not be filled in the coming year. This will save
A reduction of part-time hours for the mayor and building and
safety office and a cut in wages to the street department and
clerk's office will make up the balance.
Snyder said that in the street department and clerk's office, the
city will contact the Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund
administrators to look at offering some early retirements.
Alderwoman Melody Anderson, who chairs the finance committee,
said that the early retirements may not be as effective as the city
would like. Once offered, employees have up to a year to make the
decision to take the retirement.
If it is offered now but employees delay their decision, it will
not help the budget as much as if they would take it immediately,
and that is a decision the city cannot control.
The original plan had been to re-adjourn the April 19 voting
session meeting and pass a budget resolution.
However, Plotner and Anderson had discussed during the week
whether or not this had to be done before the beginning of the new
Because many of the decisions that brought the council to a
balanced budget had come in the 11th hour, the opinion was that if
the budget didn't have to be passed, buying a few more days to shore
up the figures would be of benefit.
Tuesday night, Plotner suggested that the council put off the
vote, based on the fact that the city is not required by state law
to pass a budget before the end of the year.
It comes down to state law that if the city has an official
budget officer, they must pass a budget and submit it to the state
of Illinois as their official record.
However, Lincoln does not have a budget officer, and they do not
file their budget document with any other government agency.
Instead, the city files an appropriations ordinance annually, and
that document is what goes on record.
In the last 15 minutes of the meeting, city attorney Bill Bates
arrived and was asked to quickly verify Plotner's opinion.
When the voting session from last week re-adjourned, Snyder said
that Bates had in a short period of time studied all he could find
and concluded that Plotner was correct. The vote did not have to
take place before the end of the fiscal year.
In the voting session, Alderman David Wilmert made the motion to
table the passing of the budget resolution. That vote passed 9-0
with all the aldermen present.
Bates advised the mayor that in order for the city to continue
operating into May, a motion needed to be made that permitted
department heads to conduct their business according to the 2009-10
appropriations ordinance. When that motion came to a vote, it passed
8-1, with Alderman Buzz Busby voting no.
The city does not intend to drag this process out any longer than
absolutely necessary. It is their intention to bring the budget
resolution to vote on Monday.
The mayor handed out a document showing the hotel-motel tax
levies of surrounding cities and pointed out that Lincoln is about 1
percent below the surrounding towns and cities, such as Bloomington,
Decatur, East Peoria, Morton, Normal and Peoria.
He told the council that passing a 1 percent levy would increase
city funds by $24,000 a year. However, there are rules as to how
this money can be used, and it comes down to promoting tourism and
Snyder said that with this money the city could support their
contributions to the annual Lincoln Art & Balloon Festival, the
Railsplitter Festival and Main Street Lincoln, with approximately
$9,000 left over.
He suggested that the $9,000 still locked into tourism and city
promotion could be invested in city marketing programs as well as
perhaps marketing and promotion grants.
[to top of second column]
Capital projects designated to general obligation
Plotner said that he has come up with a total of $170,925 in
capital expenditures that he is hoping to charge to the general
obligation bond in the coming year.
However, he has not yet received final approval on his list from
the underwriters of the bond.
He warned that if any of the items on his list are not approved,
they will have to "go out the window."
He also said that with the exception of fixed payments, such as
the City Hall roof loan, expenditures tagged to the bond would have
to wait until that money was received, probably sometime in January
He also noted that charging these expenditures is a one-time
deal. If revenues don't improve by the 2011-12 budget year, capital
expenses cannot be charged to the bond and will have to be
eliminated from that year's budget altogether.
Why are we in this crunch?
It takes approximately $15,000,000 a year to keep the city of
Lincoln up and running. Of that sum, about $8,000,000 is in
designated funds that can be used only for certain purposes.
An example of the designated funds is the motor fuel tax. These
funds are designated that they can be used only for infrastructure
expenditures. Specifically, certain roads within the city can be
repaired and maintained using these funds.
The other portion of the budget, known as the general fund,
amounts to approximately $7,000,000 a year of the city's working
Most of these funds are used to pay wages and fringe benefits for
all the city employees. These funds also support city buildings,
vehicles and specific offices such as the mayor's and city clerk's
offices, zoning and safety, and general operating expenses such as
supplies and telephones, just to name a few.
The crunch the city is suffering is in the general fund, and it
has come about not because anyone has busted the budget, so to
speak, but because the state of Illinois is seriously dragging its
feet on making payments to the city.
Plotner had cited at an earlier budget meeting that the payments
trickling in from the state are running about five to six months
Because of this, the city will be collecting money from the state
in the new fiscal year, beginning May 1, that should have been
received months ago.
Alderwoman Marty Neitzel said that this was something she really
wanted the citizens of Lincoln to know and understand.
"We have not made bad decisions or bad purchases," Neitzel said.
"We made our spending decisions based on what we should have had."
Anderson agreed, saying that the cash-flow issues the city is
suffering at the end of the fiscal year are because the state is
failing to make its payments.
Money that the state pays to Lincoln comes from sales tax and
income tax generated in the city.
Gov. Pat Quinn, as part of his plan to balance the state budget,
has proposed cutting the share of income tax going back to
municipalities. If his plan passes, revenues to Lincoln will be
reduced by approximately $355,000 in the coming year. Couple that
with slow payments and it should be easy to see that what is
happening to the city financially is not the fault of any city
official or any city department.
No flack against the unions, please
Anderson said that the entire budget process has been very
time-consuming this year. Not only has the council had to dig in
their heels, but so have the department heads.
She commended Tracy Jackson, street and alley superintendent, and
city engineer Mark Mathon for the work they have done and the
resulting move of $107,000 from the general fund to the motor fuel
She also commented on the unions, saying, "We really weren't able
to give them a lot of time to think about (the proposals), so I
don't want a lot of flack coming back on our unions."
[By NILA SMITH]