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Big Cuts Needed In Bloomington Budget

Outgoing Bloomington City Manager David Hales pleaded with the city council during a work session Monday to not get bogged down in details of the new budget.

He said city staff needs clear direction which programs are worth preserving so others can be cut to stave off a trend that could result in $15 million in deficit spending over the next four years.

"For eight years I have seen this government whenever there has been a proposal to do something in the way of a service or a program, it hasn't happened," said Hales.

Hales said someone must start saying no. Without cuts, staff project next year’s structural deficit alone at $3 million. It would grow to $8.5 million by 2022 if revenue remains stable.

Aldermen indicated interest in an early retirement offering for city employees, as well as a study on the city fee structure to bring some program revenues more in line with costs.

Hales said entire programs need to go, not only to reduce spending, but because the city does not have enough staff to effectively run the ones it has.

Ward 2 Alderman David Sage said the city has reached the end of the road on efforts to cut costs around the edges.

"The reality is that staff cannot keep up with the natural progression and growth that result from the policy decisions of the council, so, the day of reckoning is at hand," said Sage.

Staff has stacked up a list of 160 programs and asked aldermen to say which ones they want to keep.

Hales asked aldermen to avoid getting bogged down in details and keep decision making at the program level. He said as soon as aldermen start looking at small adjustments they will not be able to affect the budget in the large way it needs to change to reflect the structural imbalance.

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WGLT Senior Reporter Charlie Schlenker has spent more than three award-winning decades in radio. He lives in Normal with his family.
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