The 2019 budget appears headed for easy approval Tuesday now that a once-considered gas hike has been taken out.
A public hearing on the budget Monday generated comments from two residents – one suggesting that money spent on the Old Joliet Prison be used instead for sidewalk improvements and the other commending the budget including the money going to the prison.
Mayor Bob O’Dekirk and council members mainly appeared interested in emphasizing that there is no gas hike in the budget.
“No gas tax,” interim City Manager Marty Shanahan replied when asked by the mayor about the matter.
The budget originally included $500,000 in new gas tax revenue from a hike in the city gas tax that was to go to the council for approval. The hike was never proposed as Shanahan adjusted the budget to remove $500,000 in firefighter overtime that he said should not be needed since the department is back to full staffing.
The general fund, which covers most city operations, is balanced at $185.2 million.
The budget includes a $43.3 million property tax levy, up 4.2 percent from 2018. City officials say the additional revenue will come from land development and higher property values, not an increase in the tax rate.
Resident John Sheridan, president of the Cunningham Neighborhood Association, had some budget suggestions.
Sheridan said former City Manager David Hales had urged neighborhood groups to bring suggestions to the budget process.
He proposed an increase in city funding for sidewalk replacement.
“We have people struggling to redo their homes,” Sheridan said. If the city upped its contribution to sidewalk replacement from half the cost to two-thirds, he said, “that might be an option for them to put a sidewalk in.”
Sheridan said he also would like the city to create a “fast-track program” to demolish abandoned homes.
He said money for new sidewalks and blight removal could taken from funds the city has begun to spend on the Old Joliet Prison, which Joliet reopened in August as a tourist and visitor destination.
Resident Bob Hernandez, also a commissioner for the Housing Authority of Joliet, commended the council for the budget and favored spending on the old prison.
“We’re actually very excited about it – the people who live in the community,” Hernandez said of the prison.
Shanahan said the budget includes $36,000 to be spend at the Old Joliet Prison.
The budget also includes $500,000 for the Rialto Square Theatre. Prison and Rialto funding are to be voted on separately from the rest of the budget on Tuesday.