The Normal Town Council took the first step toward a new budget Monday night with the approval of a six-year Community Investment Plan.
It includes an estimated $94.5 million over the period for public facilities, capital assets, transportation development, parks and open space development, and utility service.
Only the projects for next year would be firm when baked into the budget that will first go to the council in January and back again for final passage in March, said City Manager Pam Reece. Other priorities are evaluated every year as staff prepares for council review.
The town would pay for projects in the plan with money from a variety of funding sources. The $94.5 million is about $6.2 million more than last year's plan. Finance Director Andrew Huhn said much of the increase comes from increases ($750,000-$800,000/year) in state motor fuel tax allocations to the town as part of the bipartisan capital plan. Other growth, Huhn said, comes from water and sewer fee increases approved by the town to pay for utility service, and sewer replacement. If more money becomes available, Reece said, they would like to do more projects.
Staff noted the plan does not include money for Veterans Parkway, Main Street and Kingsley Avenue (Rt 51), or some parts of Rivian Motorway. The transportation department is responsible for maintenance on those roads.
There are 134 capital projects funded in the plan and an additional estimated $140 million in unfunded projects.
"This document, including the capital investment program, has been staff driven, since about August we have been working on it," said Reece.
Council member Stan Nord was the lone vote against the plan after he asked when council members get to say what their priorities are.
Council member Kathleen Lorenz warned against "impetuously changing direction on projects already under way," such as planning money for the Trail East project. She said eliminating planning money from next year's spending plan would have enormous implications for projects already in progress.
"And so I would caution us from making a ready, fire, aim decision," said Lorenz.
Nord did not relent.
"Well, I just don't want my vote tonight to be something that approves the underpass, Trail East, and some other things. And I want to make sure that this is not what I am doing," said Nord.
"I would say that the culture of the council has been to defer to the expertise of the town engineer, the Public Works director, the Water director to understand professionally what needs to be done and to bring that to us," said Mayor Chris Koos. "We could completely disallow that if we chose to and realign all of this, but I don't see any will on the council to second guess our professional staff on what priorities need to be done. Why would we have engineers and water professionals if we're as laymen, here to oversee the budget, second guess their professional work."
The council also approved $25,000 for the McLean County Compact, a 501(c)(3) under the Chamber of Commerce, to use in workforce development projects. Reece said that money will come from reserves. The town also finished previous actions on fines for underage marijuana use and for providing marijuana to someone under the age of 21 and approved another year of a diabetes disease management program.
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