Normal City Manager Pam Reece says the town’s efforts to tighten its belt last year have paid off.
Reece met with town council members for a budget work session Jan. 17. Staff told council members during that meeting the town is in a strong financial position ahead of fiscal year 2020.
“The good news is the difficult decisions that we made and that council supported now have set us up so that all 5 years we’re meeting our targets,” Reece said following Monday night’s regular meeting.
Reece said for every year of the next 5-year budget cycle, the town’s general fund reserves are projected to meet its 15 percent goal.
“(Last year's budget) did include significant cuts in expenses, primarily in personnel expenses, which has been unique to the Town of Normal,” she said. “We have not had to do that (before).”
The town cut a total of 24 positions last year, along with arts grants, a Martin Luther King Jr. banquet and a police substation to bridge a $3 million deficit.
The plan now is to continue on the straight and narrow with a “status quo” budget. “We are not expanding our operations; we’re not expanding services next year,” Reece explained.
That said, once the new fiscal year starts April 1, staff will shift their focus to capital projects.
The council adopted the town’s capital improvements spending plan back in December, detailing 122 projects from park upgrades to roadwork.
Reece said staff will be looking for ways to pay for the number of unfunded capital projects in the plan.
Higher than projected sales tax revenues could give the town some flexibility, she said.
Another option is to seek additional grant funding. Reece said the town recently applied for a $400,000 state grant to fund improvements at Champion Fields and Maxwell Park.
“We’ve got quite a list of improvements we’d like to make to Champion Fields and Maxwell Park if we are approved for that grant award, and we just think that there might be opportunities in the future for additional grant dollars,” she said.
Staff will bring a final budget to the council for approval in March.
Trail East Mural
Time is running out for council members to stop the demolition of three Uptown buildings as part of the Trail East project.
The town’s Historic Preservation Commission last month voted against plans to demolish 104, 106 and 108 E. Beaufort St, seeking to protect the historic buildings and a popular mural painted on the exterior of 104 E. Beaufort St. The vote triggered a 30-day window for the council to begin the historic place designation process or allow demolition plans to move forward.
That 30-day period ends Friday.
But Reece said the town can’t move forward with a decision until it hears back from the artists of the mural concerning a possible lawsuit against the town.
Reece said town corporation counsel Brian Day reached out to the artists’ lawyer after the town approved the updated project agreement, but hasn’t heard back.
The council resolved last month to seek reimbursement from the artists if per the federal Visual Artists Rights Act the town is required to relocate the mural.
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