Aldermen are reviewing recommendations to close a projected $540,000 shortfall in the city's General Fund for the current fiscal year, which began May 1.
In a memo to Mayor Mike Inman and the City Council, City Administrator Dean Torreson wrote, “This financial crunch has come about because of substantial increases in employee health insurance, fire and police pensions over the past two years, while revenues have been relatively flat.”
Torreson recommends a combination of spending cuts and revenue increases to close the gap.
The biggest recommended cut is to the police department, which would have its number of officers reduced from 27 to 24. The city believes it can achieve this through attrition rather than layoffs.
Mayor Inman said the reduction in force would correspond with a reduction in the city’s population as Western Illinois University’s enrollment and staff size have both fallen in recent years.
“It’s somewhat like a business. When you have less customer demand, you have to look at how many folks you need to supply services for those demands,” Inman said.
He said the drops in WIU’s enrollment and staff size have hurt city revenues, especially sales tax receipts.
“(There’s been) uneasiness in the community with not having a state budget for its largest employer for the last two years,” Inman said. “That’s been solved, at least for the time being. I think that folks in the community should be taking somewhat of a sigh of relief in that the state has a budget now (and) funding is somewhat certain for the university moving forward. I think that should help the psyche of the community a little bit.”
In addition to the proposed reduction at the police department, other possible cost saving measures include eliminating one public works position, eliminating the mosquito spraying program, and reducing the tree planting program by two-thirds.
Possible revenue enhancers include an increase in rental registrations, a hike in liquor license fees, and charging rent to Lifeguard Ambulance Service for housing the service at Fire Station No. 1.
The information was presented to aldermen during this week’s Committee of the Whole meeting. City Administrator Torreson would like them to approve a plan within 60 days.