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Local News

Joliet holds hearing Monday on Rialto-less budget

JOLIET – The Joliet City Council will hold a public hearing on the 2017 budget on Monday with no money in it for the Rialto Square Theatre.

At least there was no money on Friday.

“It’s not in our budget,” Mayor Bob O’Dekirk said when asked whether Rialto funding was still a possibility.

Asked whether he considered Rialto funding an issue anymore, O’Dekirk repeated, “It’s not in the budget.”

It could still be an issue.

The Rialto has asked for $500,000, which is less than the $600,000 it had received for several years. The theater received $700,000 before that. But clashes between Rialto and city officials this year amid growing financial problems at the theater has led to a possible end to funding.

Councilman Michael Turk at a recent council meeting suggested that the Rialto question should still be discussed if for no other reason than to give a response to a Nov. 10 presentation by theater officials making a case for the money.

Turk said Friday that he expects there to be at least some discussion about the Rialto before the council votes on the $281 million budget on Dec. 20.

The budget vote date has been pushed back since it had been tentatively set for Dec. 6.

“I’d like to try to avoid having the theater close,” Turk said. “I know there isn’t a lot of activity there of recent. But I think the potential is there.”

Whether the Rialto would actually close without city money is not a certainty. But the Rialto’s future already is tenuous as it seeks donations to erase a $675,000 deficit projected for the end of 2016.

Even starting 2017 with a balanced budget, VenuWorks, the company that took over Rialto management in September, projects a $500,000 deficit for the coming year. The requested city contribution would balance the budget, according to the Rialto business plan.

Both Turk and O’Dekirk said they do not know of any other major budget issues likely to come up at the public hearing.

The budget includes a 1 percent increase in the city’s property tax levy. City officials said the increase in the levy, which reflects all property tax money collected by the city, should not hike individual bills because the revenue will come from new development.

The budget hearing will be part of the council’s workshop meeting, which starts at 5:30 p.m. at City Hall.

There are a few non-budget issues on the agenda, including:

• Potbellied pig rules that, if approved, would go into the city’s animal ordinance and allow the pigs to be kept as pets under certain conditions;

• An increase in the fine for illegal fireworks from $150 now to a minimum of $500;

• A 50 percent reduction in monthly and quarterly parking rates for Joliet Junior College students using the new downtown campus, which is scheduled to open in January.

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