Bloomington City Manager Tim Gleason said he's projecting a $500,000 budget surplus for the coming fiscal year which starts in May.
City revenue exceeded expectations in the last year, which Gleason said is the result of conservative budgeting. The city made considerable cuts in services, particularly in public works, and increased fees to balance the 2019 spending plan.
He said city staff is developing a list of capital projects where the money is needed.
“There is a list of capital projects that arguably need to be done,” Gleason said. “That’s not an ongoing number but it is in fact $500,000 that can be identified as a funding mechanism for some of these projects.”
Gleason referenced replacing aging O'Neil Pool as one possible project, but said city staff is developing a list of priorities.
Gleason said the council will take its first step in the budgeting process at a Committee of the Whole meeting on Jan. 22 at 6 p.m.
Gas Tax Increase
Gleason said he will include a gas tax increase among a menu of options for the city council to consider during the budgeting process this spring.
The city considered a gas tax increase last year but decided against it. The state is also considering raising the gas tax to pay for infrastructure needs.
Gleason noted a 1 percent increase in the tax would generate about $575,000 annually for the city. He said he would recommend the city dedicate that funding for specific projects and consider a sunset clause for the tax hike to roll off the books at some point in the future.
“That’s for the community to realize that this is not a new revenue stream that’s going to get lost in the general fund and get foolishly spent by government,” Gleason said.
Grossinger Motors Arena Opt Out
Gleason said all options remain on table with the city-owned Grossinger Motors Arena as the city explores ways to make it more financially viable.
Gleason says VenuWorks has done a good job running the arena, but the city could still entertain opting out of its contract with the company this spring if there's a better option.
“While we are satisfied (with VenuWorks), are there greater, better opportunities out there? There might possibly be," he said.
Gleason said some private companies have expressed interest in buying the facility.
“There is some interest out there from different entities of owning the arena,” Gleason said.
Gleason says the ongoing cost of the venue and some of the public backlash has cautioned the city council against pursuing what he calls “new opportunities.”
Gleason said the city still owes about $22 million in debt service on the facility. It opened in 2006.
VenuWorks took over the former U.S. Cellular Coliseum in April 2016. The Ames, Iowa-based company reported a $665,000 operating loss in the last fiscal year which ended in April 2018.
You can also listen to the full interview:
WGLT depends on financial support from users to bring you stories and interviews like this one. As someone who values experienced, knowledgeable, and award-winning journalists covering meaningful stories in Central Illinois, please consider making a contribution.