Budget cuts are never easy, as they usually affect people and cause emotions to run high. Nothing was truer Monday night at the Toulon City Council as they faced what Mayor Rick Collins called a sad situation.
“We are operating hand to mouth right now,” said Collins to the council, referring to a lack of payment from the State of Illinois for income tax revenue due and piling bills and payroll expenses.
Currently the State of Illinois is four months behind in payments and the city has not received any money in 6 weeks, which is estimated at being $30,000 in unavailable revenue.
“I said 22 months ago if they hiccup, we’re in trouble… well, the State of Illinois has the flu,” added Collins.
The initial discussion of finances took place under discussion of an appropriation ordinance, which sets limits of what the city could pay for bills. It was later approved unanimously.
Art Whittaker gave the TIF report. He stated that the 2009 and 2010 TIF reports which we submitted to the Comptroller’s office were rejected, and that the whole process will have to be started over.
Additionally, several requests for TIF funds were made. Those include one from the city to pay for water and sewer work done, and another for sidewalk work at the Methodist Church (which is already underway). The county is requesting sidewalk work in front of the courthouse from West to East Court streets and for any financial help to restore the cupola. Finally, the school requests curb replacement at the buildings in Toulon in addition to the already approved sewer line replacement project there. All projects are TIF eligible.
Councilwoman Misty Turnbull expressed that she felt like the city needed to get their own finances in check before giving out money.
Mayor Collins replied that this money is separate from the general fund and cannot be used to operate the city. TIF administrator Whittaker also pointed out that both the county and the school are two of the taxing bodies negatively affected by the TIF districts, as in they are missing out on the money that would have gone to them, and their requests should be given significant weight.
No action was taken on any of the requests.
During the police committee report, Councilwoman Turnbull stated that she had received a letter at about 4 p.m. that day from the two Toulon police officers and then proceeded to read it to the council.
The letter stated that both officers were approached the Mayor and Councilmen Frank Galleciez about cutting police hours to a total of 20 hours per week, two hours in the morning and two hours in the evening on five days a week.
Mayor Collins emphatically stated that “the city council will not be whipsawed by their employees.” And later adding, “business is conducted here, not at Casey’s, not in the newspaper.”
No action was taken at the time.
City engineer firm Bruner, Cooper and Zuck presented a street maintenance plan. The road work will be paid from the motor fuel tax fund and the council approved such work for $48,000.
In the finance committee report it was stated that the city has about $11,200 in bills to be paid; however, there is only $7,700 in the general fund to pay them, plus payroll to be paid. Mayor Collins said the city had an option to pay payroll or the bills, but not both, and they were required to do the former.
Despite not having the funds, the city approved submitted claims to be paid as funds become available.
The council then went in to a two hour executive session to discuss personnel and real estate.
Following the executive session, finance committee chair Rob Finney announced the council had discussed and decided to make some cuts. All appointed position would retain their current status and hours. However, as of September 1, 2011, all non-appointed employees would become part-time. This affects just one employee, James Gerard.
In addition, councilman Galleciez reported police hours would be capped at 30 hours a week with no single officer working more than 20 hours.
Both items were apparently voted on in closed session, a violation of the Illinois Open Meetings Act, which requires the closed session be adjourned before a vote is taken.
In new business the council reported they had already signed a two year contract with Ameren for electricity. A similar contract last year saved the city $8,000.
Finally, an ordinance for prevailing wages for projects that involve grant work was approved before the meeting was adjourned.