From WILL - The Public Square -

Urbana Mayor Laurel Prussing on the Recession’s Effect on Urbana

Hi, I'm Laurel Prussing, Mayor of Urbana.

Every day we hear about the economic crisis our nation and our world is going through. Millions of jobs have been lost. Businesses are going under and many governments are going into huge debt.

How is the world-wide recession affecting Urbana? On the down side we have had some major projects delayed and we have some struggling businesses, like everywhere else. On the plus side, eight new businesses opened in January and February this year, despite the recession, a testament to the economic vitality of Urbana-even in hard times.

We have a wealth of fine local restaurants in Urbana. If you haven't been to breakfast, lunch, or dinner here lately, you are in for some real treats.

A remarkable 96 businesses have opened or expanded in Urbana during the past four years. The significant growth in retail stores and restaurants has brought in enough sales tax to cushion the city budget through this economic downturn.

Urbana will be able to continue providing the same level of services without raising taxes.

The Urbana city budget is lean, but not mean. Lean, in that we pay our bills on time and we have no debt. Not mean-Urbana is the biggest local government contributor to social service agencies. We recognize their contribution to struggling families and to the quality of life for all of us.

Champaign County did not suffer the housing market speculation that led to a sudden drop in home values in many parts of the United States. We are fortunate that our local economy, while certainly not recession-proof, does better than most.

In addition, we are being helped by the federal stimulus money, including $2 million dollars for Windsor Road improvements east to High Cross Road. This will free up local money for other badly-needed maintenance for both the city of Urbana and the county.

Many people do not realize the high degree of cooperation that exists between local governments in Champaign County. Representatives of Urbana, Champaign, Champaign County, Savoy, the University of Illinois and the Champaign-Urbana Mass Transit District were able to work out an equitable plan to divide the federal money.

Millions of federal dollars will be spent here to increase energy efficiency and lower utility bills. Urbana is committed to sustainable use of energy and water. Green jobs will be created in the process.

Considering all the factors at work, Urbana will be able to continue to provide excellent public services, despite the recession, and without resorting to a tax increase. When the economy eventually turns around, we will be poised to move forward.