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Illinois nanny city may choose flamingos over taxpayers

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[April 29, 2014]  By Benjamin Yount

SPRINGFIELD  Two things appear all but certain in Bloomington: Taxpayers are going to pay more, and the city will get its flamingo exhibit.

TAX HIKE FOR THE BIRDS: Bloomington's mayor wants to raise taxes to pay for flamingos.

Bloomington city leaders are trying to hammer out a new budget by the end of the month, and it appears the city will rely solely on tax increases to get the job done.

Mayor Tari Renner wants to raise more than $5 million in new taxes to pay for additional spending in Bloomington's proposed $91 million budget.

Last week, alderman approved $4.1 million in new taxes, but Renner vetoed the plan, saying it wasn't enough.

Bloomington must have $1.5 million more for police and fire pensions, but Alderman Judy Stearns said the city doesn't need to spend $250,000 on a flamingo exhibit at the city-owned zoo, nor does the city need to spend $1 million on outside lawyers or another $250,000 on food and travel.

"For early city meetings, I favor Council bringing their own food or paying for it, and I just do not see the need for Directors or Managers to take people to lunch," Stearns wrote in an email to Renner. "I know it's good for morale, but how many of us would dream of getting this perk in our own jobs?"

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Stearns has a list of almost $5 million in spending cuts that have largely been ignored.

Renner has brushed off her requests, saying Bloomington's "quality of life would suffer."

That line, about quality of life, is popular with some other alderman.

"We have to remember that people must continue to enjoy living in Bloomington," Alderman Mboka Mwilambwe said in an email. "So for me, it is all about achieving balance: careful cuts, raising a little bit of revenue and being conservative in how we spend the allocated revenue through the upcoming year."

[This article courtesy of Illinois Watchdog.]

Contact Benjamin Yount at Ben@IllinoisWatchdog.org and find him on Twitter: @BenYount.

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