With a unanimous vote, no public comment and little discussion beyond praise for city staff, the Bloomington City Council passed the city’s fiscal year 2021 budget Wednesday night.
Despite four new members on the council and a global pandemic, “This is the smoothest we have gone through a budget process, at least in my seven years,” said Bloomington Mayor Tari Renner during the virtual special meeting.
Renner and council members credited the welcome change to a new budgeting process put in place by City Manager Tim Gleason.
Council Member Donna Boelen stressed while the budget may seem large given the current financial climate, the document is subject to change.
“If the money is not coming in, we’re not going to be able to do a lot of the things that are listed in here,” she said. “So I don’t want you to think that we are just blindly going ahead and passing a $230 million budget.”
Gleason echoed comments from Monday’s council meeting that while the budget was drafted before COVID-19 became a global pandemic, the city remains flexible and able to respond to future financial impacts, whether through its new COVID-19 fund or roughly $22 million in unobligated cash reserves.
Council Member Jamie Mathy said he received several emails from residents calling for the city to make massive cuts to the budget.
Mathy said the city had to take care not to create a worse crisis than the one it currently faces.
“The city is one of the top 10 largest employers in Bloomington,” he said. “If we start cutting everything out of the budget, that’s actually going to have a significant ripple effect through our community, where if we’re not spending money on road construction or things like that, those workers aren’t getting paid, and they’re not going to grocery stores and shopping.”
Renner agreed the city couldn’t cut its way to a better financial position.
“I can tell you that ... there is not a city on the planet that is following that model, for the reasons that you have suggested,” he said.
The city council meets for another virtual meeting Monday, when they’ll hear from representatives from the Bloomington-Normal Economic Development Council and McLean County about the newly approved McLean County Targeted Development Loan Program.
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