Champaign Officials Consider Strategy for Covering $6 Million Budget Gap

March 13, 2009

A plan to fix a six million dollar shortfall in next year's Champaign City budget comes before the City Council next Tuesday.

City Manager Steve Carter is proposing a combination of spending cuts, budget transfers and fee increase to fill the budget gap. Mayor Jerry Schweighart says the fix is necessary, because current tax revenue isn't keeping up with Expenses.

"The sales tax, which goes into our General Fund, is way down," says Schweighart. "So that's hurt quite a bit. The other thing is unfunded mandates that the state keeps putting on us, in lieu of pensions and stuff. Most of our property tax goes for pensions".

A memo to city council members from City Manager Carter reports that the city sales tax is down 3.56% from a year ago. In addition, income tax revenue (the city's third largest revenue source) has fallen 8.79% from a year ago.

To fix the problem, City Manager Carter wants to cut 2 to 3 million dollars from the General Fund budget. He says that might mean police and other staff might take longer responding to low-priority calls. The General Fund would get an infusion of money from other city funds --- capital improvements would feel most of that impact. And the city would raise fees on liquor licenses, cable TV and other items that focus on specific users, not the general tax payer. Mayor Schweighart says that Champaign's liquor license and cable fees are substantially lower than Urbana's, and that the proposed increases are reasonable.

The city of Champaign will hold three public forums on the budget strategy. The first is scheduled for Saturday, March 14th, at 10 AM at the Douglass Branch Library. The 2nd is Monday, March 16th, at 7 PM at the Champaign Public Library. And the third is set for Tuesday, March 17th, at 2 PM at city council chamber. The Champaign City Council will discuss the budget proposal during a special study session Tuesday the 17th, following the 7 PM regular meeting.

Story source: AP