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Local News

Joliet takes last look at proposed budget before vote on Tuesday

Mayor Bob O'Dekirk speaks to City Manager Steve Jones on Wednesday, Dec. 11, 2019, during a city council meeting on the city's 2020 budget in Joliet, Ill.
Mayor Bob O'Dekirk speaks to City Manager Steve Jones on Wednesday, Dec. 11, 2019, during a city council meeting on the city's 2020 budget in Joliet, Ill.

Much is at stake in the proposed 2020 budget for Joliet.

A remodeling of the Joliet Public Library building downtown could be launched if the budget passes as is. The average Joliet homeowner will pay about $8 a year in property taxes to fund it.

A replacement program will be launched for an aging fleet of city vehicles and equipment. Motorists will pay for it with a 3-cent increase in the city gas tax.

A fund could be started to ensure a source of revenue for the deficit-prone Rialto Square Theatre, the Joliet Area Historical Museum and city-owned baseball stadium. Money would come from the city hotel tax, which will be raised from the current rate of 7% to a new rate of 10%.

The City Council is scheduled to vote on the budget Tuesday.

A public hearing on the budget will be during the council’s workshop meeting at 5:30 p.m. Monday.

So far, local groups have shown the most interest in the budget.

Advocates for the Joliet Public Library in November urged the council to approve the $6.5 million bond issue that would be added to $4 million in library funds to pay for the $10.5 million renovation plan.

One council member has voiced opposition to the library funding.

“Looking at this budget, I just don’t see how we can do it,” Councilwoman Jan Quillman said last week, suggesting the bond issue be put on a referendum ballot instead.

Hotel representatives argued last week against the hike in the hotel tax, saying it would hurt business at the 26 hotels in Joliet and threaten some of the 500 workers they employ. But the hotel tax has not even been a topic of debate among the council members.

Rialto Square Theatre representatives also went to the council to ensure the theater would get $475,000 requested for 2020, a $25,000 reduction from what the Rialto got this year.

So far, the strongest dissatisfaction shown for the spending proposals has been from Mayor Bob O’Dekirk, who has argued against the gas tax and dismissed a staff projection that the city is headed for an $11 million deficit at the end of this year.

“I appreciate that you’re erring on the side of caution,” O’Dekirk said of the deficit. But, he added, “I don’t believe we’re going to see an $11 million deficit.”

But as of last week, neither the mayor nor the council had forced any changes to the proposed budget.

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